MANILA, Philippines—“It was love ... and sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” says Sampaguita, reflecting on the heady days of the mid-1970s when she became the queen of Pinoy rock.
“It was ‘magulo’ (riotous),” she adds, “but it was a happy time, like one big party.”
Sampaguita, now retired from the scene and busy tending to her farm in Tagaytay, has agreed to perform again, for old times’ sake, in a concert that reunites her with Pinoy rock’s other big names.
The show, “Ugat: The Legends of Pinoy Folk Rock,” will be held December 3 at the Araneta Coliseum. It also features the Juan de la Cruz Band, Florante, Lolita Carbon, Heber Bartolome and Banyuhay, Gary Granada and Noel Cabangon.
Exclaims Sampaguita, upon seeing Joey “Pepe” Smith, Wally Gonzalez and Mike Hanopol of the Juan de la Cruz: “Gosh, this is like a class reunion!”
The artists burst into hearty laughter upon recalling anecdotes to the media.
JDC, which broke up as a group also in the mid-’70s when its members pursued solo careers, has been playing together again. Recently it went on a six-month tour of the United States and Canada. It performs in special gigs around Manila. The last time it played at the Big Dome was in 1981 to promote its last studio album, “Kahit Anong Mangyari.”
“The only difference now is that Pepe doesn’t play the drums,” says Gonzalez. “Wala na yung (There is no longer the) Ginger Baker sound.” Gonzalez, JDC founder and lead guitarist, was referring to Smith’s heavy rumbling drum patterns heard on the band’s classic recordings. JDC’s trio lineup was then being compared to Cream, the British supergroup composed of guitarist-vocalist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Baker. The Inquirer asks Smith whether Pinoy rock still matters to him on a personal level. “It’s in my heart,” he says, “nothing can take that away from me, although I don’t want to write songs anymore.”
He sounds a bit frustrated, but his face lightens up when he looks at the prospect of performing again before a full-packed crowd. “Rock ’n’ roll is about having fun,” he declares. “We want people to have a party on December 3.”
In that regard, will Sampaguita sing Pinoy rock’s party anthem, “Bonggahan”?
“I guess so,” she says, unmindful that she’s now lots of pounds heavier.
It doesn’t seem to matter either that Smith is turning 62 on Christmas Day, and that Hanopol, once the most prolific Pinoy rock songwriter, has turned into a religious preacher.
It would be great if Hanopol could minimize his “Praise the Lord” spiels on concert night and just do what he does best: play bass and sing his JDC masterpieces “Balong Malalim,” “Kagatan,” “Pagod sa Pahinga,” “No Touch,” to name a few.
Pinoy rock’s roots
The photo for this story might as well be captioned: “Never too old to rock and roll.” (The best proof is the music’s godfather, Chuck Berry, who’s 83 and still actively playing.)
The show’s title “Ugat,” by the way, aside from referring to Pinoy rock’s roots, was the name of a sub-label of Vicor Records that launched a number of artists from the late ’70s to the early ’80s. One of them was Lolita Carbon, who recorded the reggae-flavored single “Usok” (flipsided with the blues-inflected “Ganyan Lang”) after breaking up with Asin. And this is where the “folk” part of the concert comes in. If Pinoy rock is basically party music, Pinoy folk is the social conscience.
Carbon, for sure, will include some of Asin’s greatest hits in her set; Bartolome has enough material for the crowd to remember.
Granada and Cabangon do not really belong to that ’70s Pinoy rock and folk generation, but their inclusion in the gig is a precious plus-factor, given the excellent quality of their works.
But if there’s a most anticipated artist in the concert’s lineup, aside from Sampaguita, it is Florante—the singer-songwriter who gave us “Pinay,” “Ako’y Pinoy,” “Musika,” “Daliri,” “Si Tatang” and “Handog,” among other Pinoy folk gems. He now resides in the United States and, in a few occasions, has played some gigs here. His return to the Big Dome should be cause for jubilation.