Halad 2010 honorees
() - January 13, 2010 - 12:00am

(Last of 2 Parts)

CEBU, Philippines - HALAD 2010 will recognize a roster of musical artists and composers (some of whom posthumously) tonight at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel for their remarkable contributions to Cebuano music. The Freeman continues yesterday’s list with the profiles of four more musicians set to be honored. The songs of these awardees, as well as of those who were recognized in previous stagings of Halad, will be interpreted by our favorite Visayan divas, Pilita Corrales, Dulce and Raki Vega, together with the multi-awarded University of the Visayas Chorale, in what could only be described as an unforgettable and nostalgic tribute to Cebu’s copious musical tradition.

Manuel Cabase

Manuel “Mahnee” Cabase was touted among his many contemporaries and admirers as the quintessential musical genius. He was a singer, songwriter, musical director, computer musician, instrumentalist of at least 28 musical instruments, arranger, conductor, bandleader and musical director during the heyday of Visayan movies.

Mahnee was born on December 31, 1921 in San Nicolas, Cebu City to a musically-inclined family. He inherited his musical gifts from his mother who was a singer and his father who was a talented composer and guitar player.

He showed prodigious talent at an early age, learning to play the guitar when he was only six. By the time he was 13 years old, he was already a member of an orchestra as guitarist and vocalist. With his extraordinary voice, he was said to be an instant favorite with the audiences.

Soon enough, he was hired to play in a cabaret, getting paid for one peso and ten centavos a night. It was through his cabaret stint that he learned to play other instruments, which were locked up, if not left to rust, at the storage room.

At 15, he became a member of the group, Cebu Swingmasters, along with his equally talented brothers Narding and Siux. At 19, his excellent skills as a pianist, composer and arranger gathered acclaim that he got cited as the “nineteen year old sensation” of Cebu.

Mahnee then married his friend, Shiela Campuga (who would also be his musical muse), during the outbreak of the war. At the end of the war, Mahnee organized the group, Manny Cabase and Music Makers, together with his brother Siux. He also founded The Three Kings, which eventually evolved into The Vikings starring other Visayan musical greats like Stacs Huguete, Ramonito Del Rosario, and Art Maloy, until the group disbanded in 1962. In 1963, Mahnee again founded another group called Manny Cabase and the Sounds, which was also made up of his daughter Amapola on vocals. He eventually turned over the leadership of the group to his daughter, and under his guidance, Amapola and the Sounds became the country’s biggest musical sensation. Amapola eventually became one of Imelda Marcos’ Ambassadors of Goodwill and left for the States. Mahnee and his wife, Shiela, joined their daughter in the US. Father and daughter and their group played at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, and on the “Amapola Presents Show” on Channel 20, KEMO-TV.

Mahnee was known to have composed close to a hundred songs (now considered Visayan classics), many of which had his wife Shiela as lyricist. Some of his compositions are “Unsaon Ko,” “Patay’ng Buhi,” “Guihigugma Ko Ikaw,” “Awit Sa Damgo,” “Na-ibog Ako Kanimo,” “Unya Nahanaw Ka,” “Nahigwa-os,” “Carmen,” “Damgo Ko,” “Handumanan,” among others. Mahnee passed away in December of 2003, while his wife died only 28 days after, in February 2004.

Demetrio “Metring” Ylaya

Demetrio “Metring” Abellana Ylaya was born on August 14, 1908 in San Nicolas, Cebu City. He grew up in a household of musicians, with family gatherings always bursting with music and song. 

As detailed in his biography on demetrioylaya.weebly.com, Metring became a deft piano and accordion player himself, so skillful that he was capable of playing both instruments simultaneously. His right hand would be on the piano, with his left hand on the accordion. But it was particularly his mastery over the latter instrument, which he learned from a German musician in just two sessions, that would elevate his popularity even outside of Cebu.

Metring regularly played for the Lading Amigable Orchestra of the Yarrow Beach Resort in Talisay City. Yet, the biggest highlight of his career would have to be his solo performance at the Malacañang Palace for then-President of the Philippines, His Excellency Carlos P. Garcia.                                 

Thanks to his music, Metring was able to earn a steady income to support his family, but the passion he poured into it was unmistakable as it was incomparable. And perhaps, one could say, that his music reciprocated and returned the favor. It was his music, after all, that saved his life one fateful day during the time of the Japanese occupation in the Philippines.

When World War II broke out, suspected collaborators were summarily tortured and killed by guerilla forces in different parts of the country. According to his biography, Metring, while on the way to a gig, got the shock of his life when he was apprehended by a certain guerilla leader by the name of Mr. Fenton. He was then ordered to dig his own grave before he would face his execution. 

But as fate would have it, Mr. Fenton ordered Metring to play his accordion first. Metring did not protest or inquire further; he just went on and on, playing the accordion. “It was the greatest performance of my life,” the late Metring Ylaya recalled to family and friends sometime in the 50’s, “I played songs that endure forever. At the end of my last piece, I saw Mr. Fenton already in tears as he said ‘Go before I change my mind.’ He spared my life because of my music.”

Fr. Ponce jed bellones

Fr. Ponce Jed Bellones is an award-winning composer of both religious and secular songs. His most popular religious song (and perhaps, one of the most-played mass songs) is the evocative piece, “Way Sama Ang Gugma Sa Dios.” It was the third prize winner in the first Metropolitan Gospel Songwriting Festival as interpreted by Oscar Pagas. He again collaborated with Oscar Pagas for the song “Bag-ong Kinabuhi,” which emerged as the grand prize winner in the Metropolitan Gospel Songwriting Festival in 1993.

He also won the grand prize in the Cebu Popular Music Festival in 2003 with “Gipangandoy Nga Tingusbawan.” His composition “Among Gabayan” was included in the first and very successful debut album of Sheryn Regis dubbed as “Come In Out of the Rain,” under Star Records.

His other award-winning songs are “Ikaw Pa Gihapon ang Gimahal” (3rd prize winner in the 1993 Bohol Sandugo Pop Music Festival), and “Ang Banay Para-Iso Sa Gugma” (2nd prize winner in the 2003 Cebu Pop Music Festival).

Born in Mati, Davao Oriental on March 23, 1962, Fr. Ponce Jed Bellones is now the parish priest of the St. James the Apostle Church in Badian.

Oscar Pagas

Singer Oscar Pagas was born to Bol-anon parents in Baloe, Lanao del Norte in 1957, with his left eye blind.

This physical defect, however, was not a hindrance for Oscar to learn music. At the age of seven, he already knew how to play the ukulele, and at the age of 10, the guitar.

When Oscar’s family migrated to Cebu in the early 60’s, he was blessed with opportunities to further hone his craft, such as DYRC’s Wee-Wee Jamboree and later on, the Amateur Hour.

Oscar, currently a resident of Pasil, has become a sought-after guitar accompanist for holy masses, processions of the Holy Images in Pasil, and the Novena-Cantada. These activities also help him earn a living.

It has been this love for religious music that solidified his presence and participation in activities under the Archdiocese of Cebu, and it was also through his active church involvement, that he became acquainted with the songwriter-priest, Fr. Ponce Jed Bellones. Fr. Jed has made Oscar one of his favorite interpreters of his religious compositions.

After hoping for so long of having normal eyesight, he underwent an operation in 2002. But then, what was thought as a simple cataract grew into a glaucoma, causing him total blindness. Yet, as in past trials and challenges in his life, his music hardly diminished in importance because of this.

Apart from Fr. Jed, Oscar was also tapped as the interpreter of Emmanuel Abellana’s “Sto. Niño Kaluwasan Ko,” the grand prize winner of the first-ever Huni Halad kang Sto Niño (HUNIñO) competition of the Augustinian Friars of the Basilica del Sto. Niño.

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