Review: Jon Santos, Company concert shows depth of OPM

Posted at 10/09/12 2:52 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- Comedian Jon Santos, the vocal group The Company and singer Bo Cerrudo have teamed up for a musical tribute to the Philippine capital in the concert series "I © Manila" at the Music Museum.

With the parenthetical title, "Kasi Nga It's More Fun in the Philippines," the concert proudly celebrates Filipino pop culture with a repertoire consisting only of original PIlipino music (OPM) with the colorful history and development of Manila as the background.

The concert is powered mostly by nostalgia. A giant screen is placed on center stage, showing photos of Manila's old landmarks and scenery side by side with shots of the metro today, as well as classic movie stills and posters.

The Company, Jon Santos and Bo Cerrudo perform an OPM number in "I © Manila." Photo by Wilson Chua provided by Dino Domingo

In his comedy routines, Santos makes constant references to the past, whether discussing the glory days of disco or reviving the rivalry between Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor.

The repertoire too is filled with classic songs, some harking back to the kundimans, as well as hits from the golden age of OPM in the 1970s.

But more than the repertoire, the idea itself of a concert series -- at the Music Museum, no less -- brings back fond memories when local concerts had over-riding themes and are not just extended live versions of TV variety shows. The Music Museum hosted many of these concept concerts in the 1990s headlined by the likes of Kuh Ledesma, Apo Hiking Society and Regine Velasquez.

"I © Manila" is definitely a throwback to that era.

But while TV variety shows also regularly dish out "retro" numbers, one gets a deeper sense of Filipino musical history in "I © Manila" with songs that are rarely performed by today's artists.

The entire cast of "I © Manila" form a jeepney for the finale. Photo by Wilson Chua provided by Dino Domingo

From the opening number, a medley of Ryan Cayabyab's "See You In Manila," "City is a Song" and "Maynila," the concert immediately sets itself apart from the usual OPM tributes.

After doing his impersonation of veteran actress Vilma Santos, Jon Santos launched into Celeste Legaspi's "Movie Fan," while covers of old showbiz magazines were flashed on the screen.

Even the medley of theme songs from Viva movies by Viva recording artists The Company unearthed beautiful yet seldom-heard ballads such as "Mahawi Man ang Ulap," "Kapag Puso'y Sinugatan," "Pati Ba Pintig ng Puso," "Init sa Magdamag" and "Sana'y Maghintay Ang Walang Hanggan" before launching into the more familiar "Bituing Walang Ningning" and "Pangarap na Bituin."

Cerrudo, who has reinvented himself as a more classic-oriented singer, showed great technique in tackling well-loved kundimans such as "Maalaala Mo Kaya," "Dahil Sa Isang Bulaklak" and "Kapantay ay Langit," while a slideshow of black and white photos of LVN and Sampaguita-era movie stars were shown on the screen.

Cerrudo also gave a different patriotic fervor to Bamboo's "Noypi."

The musical arrangements were brilliant to say the least. Not content with coming up with a list of songs that veer from the usual, the artists also gave modern touches to these classics.

For the harana portion, Cerrudo, Santos and the male members of The Company updated the combanchero with an a capella version of "Ikaw Ang Mahal Ko" complete with beatboxing effects.

Instead of the usual medleys, they mashed up the '70s hit "Yugyugan Na" with "Disco Inferno" and Madonna's "Music." Even the encore had this eclectic pairing -- LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" contributed the back beat to VST & Co.'s "Rock Baby Rock," which had the audience dancing in the aisles.

The finale again showed superb musical taste. It started off with Jose Mari Chan's "Big Beautiful Country," the station ID of the martial law-era BBC Channel 2, then segueing to Cayabyab's "Limang Dipang Tao" and Joel Navarro's Metropop entry "Swerte Swerte Lang." When it was time for Hotdog's "Manila," they gave it an a capella treatment. This then culminated in Anthony Castelo's powerful balikbayan anthem "Hahanapin Ko."

The cast of "I © Manila" receive a standing ovation from the Music Museum crowd. Photo by Wilson Chua provided by Dino Domingo

Santos hit the nail on the head when he remarked that "I © Manila" will likely attract an older audience. Indeed, it was a more mature crowd that packed the Music Museum and the choice of songs will probably appeal to them more.

But with its well selected repertoire and strong performances, younger audiences would benefit from this entertaining field trip through pop history. "I © Manila" indeed reminds us that when it comes to music, it's really more fun in the Philippines.

"I © Manila" will have shows on October 10, 17, 23 and 24 and on November 7, 14, 21, 22 and 28 at the Music Museum in Greenhills.