Job Lowill Calumpang Benuya: Sings the Blues and Rocks with Country Music Like No Other

JOB LOWILL  CALUMPANG BENUYA: Sings the Blues

and Rocks with Country Music Like No Other

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

I first met Job when I was checking in for my flight back to Manila many years back when he was yet with Philippine Airlines that he joined on May 26, 1988. Unfortunately, when the airline underwent a spin-off in December 1, 2015, he was among those who reluctantly accepted the offered package.

 

I did not know then, that he is a multi-talented singer as his voice range covers country/folk, blues, rock and roll, aside from deftly playing the acoustic guitar. I first got the information about him from a friend who told me that there’s a PALer who performs at the Outback Grill. I forgot all about it until a PAL employee at the Davao airport confirmed the information, adding that it is Job, so I googled his name and true enough, his facebook is filled with photo showing him during animated performances and with his band. I was thrilled as I was also a folk singer during my early years in Manila to earn extra, a job on the side which my boss in PAL did not know. Compared to Job, however, my skill pales to his versatility.

 

Twice, I tried to connect with him while I was in Davao but failed due to his hectic schedule. I had no idea about the schedule of hi gigs so that I was at a loss as to where to find him. What I did was ask friends in Davao if they are familiar with him and aside from saying yes, they even added the information about his kerchief-covered head which they added, could be his distinct statement. And, they told me that he, indeed, is a singer.

 

With those confirmations, I decided to go ahead with this blog and just catch up with his live performance at any of the venues, after which I would write another one. Luck was with me when finally, we got connected and he agreed to send me the latest information about his gigs. I want to make sure where to find him, as soon as I got time for an overnight stay in Davao the next time I fly south.

 

So, here folks, is his schedule: Monday – Reggae Grill (Torres St.);  Tuesday – Outback Grill; Wednesday – Barukan Grill (Ma-a); Saturday – Uptown Grill (Cabantian); Sunday – Comus Grill (Mamay Road). Although, he performs solo, sometimes he plays with his band, JOVI AND THE COWBOYS, especially, when they are contracted.  The band members are Val Mat (acoustic guitar/vocalist); Edgar Echavez (bass); Jun Mercado (lead guitaris); Lito Bosque (drummer); Randy Avila (vocalist). Aside from playing the acoustic guitar and the band leader, he is also a vocalist of the band.

 

I relate with Job as we are both artists and I also sympathize with him when he confided that with a heavy heart he left PAL. Unlike me, however, I got burned up with my job in PAL so that leaving it gave me some sort of a relief, although, nothing can stop me from looking back to the airline that became so much part of my life. Perhaps, when I can have another chance to talk again to Job, I would advise him to move on with his music, as I did with my writing…and still remain a member of the original PAL family.

 

Si Eboy at ang Kanyang Musika (para kay Eboy Jovida)

SI EBOY AT ANG KANYANG MUSIKA

(para kay Eboy Jovida)

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Sa dami ng gustong niyang gawin

Upang maibulalas ang nasa damdamin

Musika ang piniling maging kasangkapan

Upang ang pakikibahagi ay sa kaaya-ayang paraan.

 

Sa pagitan ng isinulat na mga talata

Na binigyang buhay ng makukulay na nota

Nakapaloob ang mga nais niyang ipahiwatig

Umaalagwa mula sa pusong buhay ang pinipintig.

 

Sa pagtipa ng gitara at hihip sa pluta

Ligaya ay mababanaag sa kanyang mata

Na animo ang musika ay kanya na ring buhay

Kaya para sa kanya, ito ay hindi dapat mawalay.

 

Marami sanang nais niyang maibahagi

Musikang buhay na talagang katangi-tangi

Naudlot ng kapalaran, nakalaan para sa kanya

Hindi kayang iwasan dahil sa palad ay nakaguhit na!

 

Alaala niya, sa diwa nati’y di mawawala

Mababanaag ito sa bawa’t himig ng musika

Na naging kasingtunog na ng kanyang pangalan

Pahiwatig na kapiling natin siya magpakaylan man!

 

(pluta – flute)

 

 

Ang Bamboo Xylophone Band sa Roxas Boulevard (Manila)

Ang Bamboo Xylophone Band

sa Roxas Boulevard

ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

 

Sa paglalakad sa Roxas Boulevard ay natawag ang aking pansin sa mga nagkukumpulang tao at may narinig akong tugtog mula sa isang instrument. Bigla kong naalala ang inusyuso kong bamboo xylophones na tinugtog sa iniistambayan ng mga seafarers sa TM Kalaw. Noon ko pa gustong makausap ang may-ari ng bamboo band tungkol sa grupo nila. Nang umagang yon ay nagkaroon ako ng pagkakataong makausap ang may-ari mismo ng banda na si Doy Tamparong at ang maganda niyang anak na si Anne. Habang tinutugtog ni Doy ang isang xylophone, ang isang paa naman niya ay ginagamit naman sa tambol. Si Anne naman ang tumutugtog ng isang xylophone. Marami na raw siyang naturuang tumugtog ng xylophone at ang pinakahuli daw ay ang kanyang anak na si Anne na palagi niyang kasama ngayon.

 

Taga-Pandacan sina Doy Tamparong at matagal na raw silang tumutugtog. Ilang pista na rin ang kanilang tinugtugan at ang nag-imbita pa ang mga opisyal. Inuupahan din daw sila upang tumugtog sa mga birthday party. Kung tumugtog sila sa mga public areas ay naglalagay sila ng garapon sa harap upang lagyan ng mga donasyon mula sa mga nasisiyahang usyuso.

 

Makokontak ng mga interesadong umupa ng kanilang grupo si Anne sa cellphone niya: 09056886681.

 

Love is Sweetest…the second time around (for Sol and Rod Retaga)

Love is Sweetest

…the second time around

(for Sol and Rod Retaga)

By Apolinario Villalobos

I saw Sol first along the highway outside our subdivision many years ago and was impressed by her dusky beauty, always smiling, yet. I did not know that she was our neighbor. Later on, because of our homeowners’ association, we became close, especially because she was also active in our projects just like me. What impressed me was her being down-to-earth, easy to get along with and most especially, her husky singing voice that she can manage to fit any style. I learned that she was working in a bank, but found still later on that she also moonlighted as a lounge singer.

She was a picture of happiness and contentment with her husband, Rey and their two children. But it was cut short by her husband’s death during the early part of the 80’s. Despite the loss, she moved on and took the misfortune as some kind of a challenge. From then on, she worked harder as a single parent, with her mother lending a hand.

Nobody knew about her colorful love life until she got married again, this time to Rod, a former classmate in third year high school (Jose Abad Santo High School/Arellano University – Pasay City).

Sol shared that Rod was her best friend in high school, and who provided her instrumental accompaniment every time she sang in their programs. The intense love for music made Rod decide to pursue his musical career after graduating from high school. At 18, he joined a band that had contracts abroad. Rod decided to pursue his studies in 1975, during which time, the two met again, although Sol was already married to Rey, her boyfriend of 8 years.

Since 1986 Sol had been helping her alumni association organize their annual reunion, by tracing the whereabouts of their former schoolmates. In 1999, for the 2000 Grand Reunion, while checking directories, she came across the name of Rod’s brother. Instinctively, she requested that the information about their reunion be relayed to him. She even wrote to Rod but got no reply. Then one day, she received a call from Taiwan and found out later that it was Rod who divulged that she just got divorced from his Taiwanese wife. He had three kids.

From then on, Rod would call and they talked for five to six hours. He was still with the band, performing in clubs and other joints, while she was still connected with a bank in the Ayala district of Makati City. As fate would have it, she decided to resign from the bank and joined Rod in Taiwan. Their common denominator was love for music which made them decide to get married, for which Rod was given the blessing by his children. As for Sol, her two children who have families of their own, were more than glad that they were getting a “brand new father”. Their marriage was very simple, no fanfare. They just wanted to tie the knots in public, among friends and relatives on hand, to show how sincere they were for the belated vow. That was in March 24, 2001.

Rod and Sol are still in Taiwan singing together and bowed to do it for as long as their God-given talent will allow them. Life can be mysterious, at times….and with love, Rod and Sol proved that it can be sweetest, not only sweeter, the second time around.

The Reluctant Musician of PAL…Eboy Jovida

The Reluctant Musician of PAL

…Eboy Jovida

By Apolinario Villalobos

Friendship is oftentimes forged on a common denominator. That is how groups of hobbyists are formed. We know of people whose passion is nature tripping such as birdwatching, mountaineering, scuba diving or simply trekking. Some are grouped as motorcycle riders or bikers.

When I just transferred to Manila from Tablas where I was assigned as PAL’s ticket/freight clerk to Manila to work with its Tours and Promotions Office, I met Eboy Jovida, a colleague who was assigned at the domestic airport ticket office. He was unassuming and full of energy every time he was sharing stories. His attitude was so contaminating such that, every time I talked to him, my problems just vanished.

The first time I felt that he was not an ordinary guy was when he got hold of a guitar and did some plucking and simple strumming while he was humming a song. With that, I became closer to him because of my love for music. Later on, I learned that he was also a flutist and was doing gigs in cafes and lounges in Manila and some hotels along Roxas Boulevard, as his side job. Much later, I also learned that he was adept in arranging musical pieces and even conducted choirs.

He was practically a guy oozing with musical talents, as he was into composing and singing. He was also a member of an acoustics group. I was then, expecting him to go places, especially when I learned that his group was becoming popular among the café habitués in Greenbelt Park of Makati City. I egged him to go on composing, especially, haunting tunes to jibe with his flute. The last time we had a serious talk that included my collaboration with him using my poems was when I visited him in their home in Cavite, during which we frolicked in the rain like children, when there was a sudden downpour.

Years have passed since our last meeting and I was surprised to learn that he tried his luck in finding a greener pasture in the United States. Though surprised, I understood his predicament in view of the cut-throat competition in the local music industry. The best memory that we in PAL have about him, was his conducting of groups of employees that rendered songs during special occasions.

The Philippines is a country of musicians. It is sad to note, however, that politics have also intruded the local music industry. Even singing contests are not free from its stain. Singers like Charise Pempengco became known as an international singer via an American TV program. She never had a chance of fair exposure while in the Philippines. The same is true with Lea Salonga whose singing with international caliber was given a better recognition when she joined “Miss Saigon”. Today, her name has become synonymous to the said musical play.

There are plenty of musical talents in the country, who just like Eboy Jovida, hesitated to assert his own, knowing that it would just go to naught. Wherever he may be, I wish that due recognition be given him so that he can have a chance to share his God-given talent.

Philippine Center for the Arts and Sciences

Philippine Center for the Arts and Sciences

…a suggestion

By Apolinario Villalobos

Being a third world country, the Philippines’ only other resources aside from the natural endowments such minerals, wildlife, forests, marine life, and rich agricultural land, that it can be proud of, are the people – the talented Filipinos. It is a shame that the human resources are treated only as some kind of an exportable “commodity” in the form of labor. There is dignity in labor, but there are more that the Filipinos can do other than work in hospitals, hotels, construction sites and homes in foreign countries. The Filipinos are oozing with talents, but unfortunately, are not supported by the government.

Filipino talents in the fields of invention, literary and music are relegated on the sidelines. Singing contests in village fiestas, TV programs and those organized by private entities bring out world-class singers, but after the announcement of their winning and limited appearance in TV shows, nothing is heard about them. The popular adage is about the need for the Filipino singers to go to other countries to be able to earn recognition that they deserve.

There is the so-called National Institute of Science of Technology (NIST), the government agency that is supposed to be charged with responsibilities on Filipino inventions. It seems that even in the issuance of patent, the agency is lagging. The Filipinos know of inventions only through the media, when resourceful researchers of TV programs are able to scour the countryside for low-profile inventors. Most often, these inventors confess that they have gone to the NIST but outright, they get the feeling of being inadequate due to so many requirements. The standard alibi of the NIST is that they need to check the inventions’ authenticity before they can be recognized, but how long will it take them to do it? Additionally, they also mention the lack of budget!

Also, the inventions are brought to the attention of the consumers only during exhibits which charge high entrance fees to the interested public, and exorbitant charges for inventors who would like to participate. And, to think that these exhibits and shows are supposed to be “sponsored” by the mentioned government agency in cooperation with the inventors’ organization. The NIST should sustain the expenses, as the event is held only once a year. It will not cost the NIST millions of pesos to shoulder the rent for a venue.

The local market is flooded with gadgets from other countries, especially, China, and these are gadgets that can be manufactured locally. So many times, the media expose local inventions that are supposed to curb expenses on electricity, as well as, fuel consumption, even nature-friendly insecticides, and many more. Unfortunately, these inventions are just showcased, waiting for the government support! And, sadly, some of them end up in other countries for mass-production to be brought back to the Philippines as finished products bearing foreign sounding brand names.

Filipino literary artists also suffer from government neglect and utter lack of support. While colleges and universities offer mass communication courses, the graduates are left to fend for themselves after graduation, with most talented writers ending up as clerks in offices. I once talked to the former Director of the National Library of the Philippines, Ms. Nani Cruz, who confided that the institution, for long, has been in dire need of Filipino-authored books. That was more than five years ago. Today, not only is the National Library of the Philippines STILL wanting for the said kind of books but even the bookstores are showing their lack of concern by preferring imported books – best sellers in countries where they come from! These book outlets gladly and proudly announce arrival of foreign authors for book signing!

My suggestion is for the government to expand the scope of NIST’s responsibilities by adding the aspect of permanent showcasing of inventions, be they with issued or pended patent. This can be done by moving the said agency to a big facility complete with equipment for testing and a showroom- a one-stop shop of sort, located in an area accessible to the consumers and patent buyers/manufacturers. The facility should also accommodate those that concern literary and music. It should be a complex that aspiring artists can visit, not only for copyrighting of their works but also for marketing purposes. It should also include audio-video recording facilities. The Copyright office should be based in this center. It should also provide office spaces for organizations that cater to the development of artistic talents of Filipinos. It is suggested that this complex be called “The Philippine Center for the Arts and Sciences”.

If the former President Ferdinand Marcos turned dictator, was able to build hospitals and research institutes for the heart, kidney and the lungs, additional building complex for the Philippine General Hospital, a vast complex that includes Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theater, Philippine International Convention Center, Coconut Palace, and Philippine Trade and Exhibition Center, why can’t the current government build what is being suggested – the Philippine Center for the Arts and Sciences?

If Pnoy Aquino would really want to be remembered, this, he should do. He should stop warbling about “reforms” for there is nothing that needed to be reformed. He has done NOTHING YET! What he meant could be the “eradication” of corruption which has just gone from worse to worst! He even refuses to acknowledge the fact that some of his trusted guys are not “clean”…hinging his support to them on the premise that unless they are proven guilty in court, they are innocent of any guilt. How can they be investigated when he, himself, is insinuating that they are innocent? He should stop talking about reforms because the inadequacies of his administration just add up to neck-deep atrocities already committed by past administrations. If he wants to leave a legacy, it should be tangible enough to be seen and remembered…and this is it, the Philippine Center for the Arts and Sciences.

Gitarang Basag

Gitarang Basag

ni Apolinario Villalobos

Hindi aakalaing ang mataginting na tunog

mula sa tinipang kwerdas ay galing sa isang gitara

na maliban sa kupas ang pintura, basag pa ang mukha.

Sa pagtipa ng matandang bulag pala at pilay

pumapainlalang ang himig ng awit na mapang-akit

sinasabayan kung minsan ng silindro, o di kaya’y paswit.

Mga biyak sa mukha ng gitara ay pinagdikit

halos binalot naman ang tangkay ng tape na plastik

subali’t sa pagtipa ng matanda, animo siya’y nagmamadyik!

Lata na nasa harap niya ay iniitsahan ng barya

may lima, sampu, pero ang papel ay inaabot sa bata-

habang tinatanggap ang pera, mukha niya’y nababalot ng tuwa!

Sa bawa’t tipa ng gitara, mga tao’y napapalingon

napapangiti sa kasiyahan, mayroon din halos maiyak

kaligayaha’y idinaan na lang sa malugod at taos-pusong palakpak!

Kamangha-mangha na ang gitarang halos ay sira na

Nakakagawa ng musika na talaga namang nakakaaliw

Parang tao rin na gusgusin man at sa tingin ay walang pag-asa

Kakikitaan din ng magandang ugali, basta bigyan lang ng tiwala!