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Eddie Mesa revisited

Eddie Mesa and wife Rosemarie Gil (center) with their children and grandchildren. They will reunite in Eddie’s homecoming concert Sing Us Your Song Again: The Music and Legacy of Eddie Mesa at the Meralco Theater on Sept. 23. — Photo by Magik Liwanag, reprinted from Hola! magazine               

Elvis is in his pelvis but Christ is in his heart.

Funfare readers loved that subhead to a story about Eddie Mesa when he came home from the US in 2008 and starred in a concert called Then & Now at the Teatrino produced by the late German “Kuya Germs” Moreno.

In that concert, Eddie sang The Impossible Dream with so much passion that the audience imagined him reaching for that “unreachable star” which wasn’t unreachable after all — you know, This is my quest, to follow that star; no matter how hopeless, no matter how far…

That “star” is the profound peace that Eddie has found with The Lord. In his shows here and abroad, Eddie includes gospel songs in his repertoire (as he will do in his homecoming concert Sing Us Your Song Again: The Music and Legacy of Eddie Mesa at the Meralco Theater on Sept. 23) and, perhaps one or two Elvis Presley songs as a nod to Presley whose 40th death anniversary was commemorated last month. Although he’s now an evangelist, Eddie is still fondly remembered by his fans as The Elvis Presley of the Philippines, a “title” that catapulted him to stardom.

As pointed out in that 2008 story, Eddie now is a changed man whose main preoccupation is spreading the word of God. To put it briefly, Elvis may still be in his pelvis (“I’m doing it purely for fun now”) but it’s Christ who reigns in his heart.

Here are more excerpts from that story:

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Eddie: “You know, I never heard of Elvis when I was in high school at the Arellano High School in Pasay, pero mahilig na ako kumanta. I would sing songs of Mario Lanza, Jerry Vale, Vic Damone and Sammy Davis Jr., who became my favorite. But never Elvis Presley. In fact, when I auditioned for the dzMB show Oras ng Pananghalian, I sang a Sammy Davis song, Six Bridges to Cross.

“Then, one of the Donato brothers, told me, ‘Sing Elvis Presley songs. Magtayo tayo ng banda.’ I hadn’t even heard an Elvis song then. After several months... I was already out of school then, I never finished high school...I heard an announcer on the radio, ‘Elvis will be singing I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine.’ So, I turned the radio on full blast and listened. I thought, ‘I couldn’t sing like this guy!’ Elvis was mumbling. I thought kasi, if you are singing dapat malinaw ang delivery.

“Not long after, the Elvis movie Love Me Tender was showing and I watched it at a third-run theater in Paco. Wow, I said, Iba si Elvis!’ Iba ang beat niya, iba ang showmanship at mapapaindak ka talaga. Everybody inside the moviehouse was dancing! Back home, I stood in front of the mirror and studied how I could comb my hair like his. I shaved my sideburns para kumapal-kapal. Then, somebody taught me how to play the guitar.

And that’s how you became Elvis Presley?

The story about Eddie Mesa when he came back in 2008

“Not yet. I started joining contests. Dito sa La Tondeña hosted by Rosa Rosal at the Luneta (now Rizal Park), at nakasabay ko pa doon ang Reycard Duet. I sang another Sammy Davis song...(Proceeds to sing)...Love, your magic spell is everywhere... I won second prize. There was also the Boy Watsonal Castoria singing contest. I joined several other singing contests and I was winning first, second and third prizes. But I never won when I sang an Elvis Presley song kasi hindi pang-contest ang songs niya.”

Were you already known as Eddie Mesa then?

“I was using my real surname, Eigennman. But when I joined the Boy Watsonal Castoria contest, my cousin said the surname Eigennman was hard to remember so he suggested that I use my mother’s surname, de Mesa. But Eddie de Mesa didn’t sound okay, very redundant, so I decided to drop the ‘de’ even while I was using another name, Eddie Robles. And I won first prize.

“Later on, the Donato brothers got in touch with me and we formed a band called The Trippers, so called not because we were tripping on drugs but because we always went on tripsto fiestas, funerals, etc. But before The Trippers, I auditioned for Don Jose Zarah, producer of the shows at the Clover Theater, pero hindi ako masyadong pinansin because he thought I was another Bobby Gonzales you know, sshboom-sshboom, tralalalalala, sshboom-sshboom. But when we auditioned as The Trippers, singing Elvis Presley songs, we were taken in.”

You met and fell in love with Rosemarie at Premiere Productions, right?

“No. I met Rosemarie at dzRH where Sta. Rita de Casia, her first-starring movie, was being dramatized sponsored by Hermoso Drugs which was also owned by the Santiagos (of Premiere). I was asked to sing during the intermission. Nagandahan ako kaagad the first time I saw Rosemarie. I was too shy then to approach her. Instead of talking to Rosemarie, I talked to her mother and asked for Rosemarie’s picture. Rosemarie would later recall that when she heard me singing Hound Dog, she became curious who the guy was na humihingi ng picture niya.”

How soon after that did you start courting her?

“We met again at Premiere. I was there to sign a contract with Premiere and Rosemarie was also there, waiting for her turn after me, also to sign a contract. Sta. Rita de Casia was produced by Balatbat Pictures. It was a hit and Premiere wanted to sign her up. She would later tell me na ang yabang-yabang ko daw dahil hindi ko siya pinansin. Soon after, we started shooting Aawitan Kita and that’s when the courtship started.” (Adding with a laugh) “Naawitan ko talaga siya! We were married in 1961.”

How many movies did you do with Rosemarie?

“A few. Aside from Aawitan Kita, there were Hawaiian Boy, Gitarang Ginto and Diyes Isang Kanta. She was supposed to be my leading lady in Pitong Gabi sa Paris but she backed out because she was pregnant with Mark. Ang theme song namin ni Rosemarie was an Elvis Presley song, Is it So Strange.”

You and Rosemarie were separated for 16 years (from 1970 to 1986). And you’ve been back together again since then. Love is lovelier and more comfortable the second time around, as the song says.

“In God’s grace, we’ve been together for more than 21 years. (Take note: This story was written nine years ago. —RFL) In September, we’ll be celebrating our 22nd year as a reconciled couple.”

How is it the second time around?

“I have had other relationships but I have never been in love with any other woman except Rosemarie. She has forgiven me so many times that I have lost count. When I look back, I realize that I took Rosemarie for granted. I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too.

“One thing about Rosemarie...she never made the children turn against me. The love and respect have always been there. After I came back from the States, I was a changed man. I was convinced that I had been born-again, that I experienced Christ in a very personal way. As I read the Scripture, nakita ko ‘yung maraming mali na ginawa ko noong araw...What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?”

Do you think you have reached your unreachable star?

“I’ll answer you poetically — The Unreachable Star is The One who has reached down to me. Did you know that one of the names of Jesus Christ is The Bright and Morning Star? As far as my dream on this earth is concerned, I believe that it is coming into place.”

(Produced by Cherie Gil, the concert Sing Us Your Song Again: The Music and Legacy of Eddie Mesa will feature the children of Eddie Mesa and Rosemarie Gil, led by Cherie herself, and their grandchildren. Also performing are Pilita Corrales, Christopher de Leon, Edgar Mortiz, Tirso Cruz III, Ciara Sotto, RJ Jacinto and The Hotlegs. Sponsors are St. Francis Square, Caliraya Hotel & Resorts, Power Mac, McCormick, Jing Monis Salon, Make Up Forever Phil, SIP (Stylist in Pocket), Freeway, JTS Manukan and Rebelde Film Camp, For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999.)

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com.)

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