Tribute to Diomedes Maturan

STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco (The Philippine Star) - April 11, 2002 - 12:00am

A musical in the morning? Since the advent of television in the Philippines, musical programs (the very few we’ve had, anyway) have always been scheduled late at night (Your Evening With Pilita, Carmen on Camera, Ryan, Ryan, Musikahan, etc.).

Last Tuesday, however, I caught a musical on TV – in the morning. It turned out that Janice and Gelli de Belen’s Sis on GMA-7 was honoring three musical greats who recently passed away: Lucio San Pedro, Levi Celerio and Diomedes Maturan. And what better way to honor them than by way of song – songs they created and popularized?

That whole hour of Sis thus turned into a musical – with songs of San Pedro, Celerio and Maturan interpreted by three of the country’s most underrated performers: Ana Fegi, Mae Rivera and Jeffrey Hidalgo. (On the side, Janice and Gelli de Belen also paid tribute to other showbiz personalities who passed away this year and late last year: Nida Blanca, Lita Gutierrez, Maria Teresa Carlson, etc.)

Although Fegi, Rivera and Hidalgo aren’t exactly the most popular performers in the land, they are undeniably among the finest. And what a great musical hour that was on Sis last Tuesday morning. Imagine these three really good singers singing some of the best works (in the case of Maturan, songs identified with him) by three great musical artists.

Here’s hoping Sis would have more musical episodes. But next time, on a happier note – and not necessarily to pay tribute to our musical geniuses who have left us to make more music with the choir of angels in heaven.

* * *

Diomedes Maturan’s ascent to stardom in the late ’50s was quite phenomenal, especially in this industry where good looks count a lot. Tall, dark, but not quite handsome, he became a sensation on the sheer strength of his remarkable singing voice.

Representing Central Luzon, he became a grand champion in the 1958 Tawag ng Tanghalan. Since his winning created such a huge impact on the public, LVN Pictures decided to make him a movie star and cast him in the film Rose Tattoo ng Buhay Ko, which actually praises the pains and triumphs he went through before he became a Tawag ng Tanghalan champion. The film, which also starred Charito Solis and Eddie Rodriguez (now both deceased) was a box office hit. LVN obviously had in its hands a goldmine in the golden voice of this golden boy and the studio set out to strike more gold by casting him in more pictures.

Ginintuang Tinig – still with Solis and Rodriguez – cast him as an aspiring singer who later achieves stardom. Then, there was Maturan at Lagman, which dramatized his rivalry with another product of the amateur singing contest circuit, Cenon Lagman. The late Pugo and Bentot provide comic support in this film.

Aside from his great musical ability, Diomedes Maturan also displayed a knack for comedy. In the 1959 film, Private Maturan, he comically reports to the army dressed to the nines – in a shimmering suit with matching sunglasses. He is supported in this comedy film by Pugo, Patsy, Bentot, Lopito and Hector Reyes (all deceased). In Detective Maturan (also filmed in 1959), he goes undercover in one scene by dressing up like a woman – wig, dress and all. Nineteen fifty nine was clearly his year – with all his films making money at the box office.

Maturan continued making movies for LVN in 1960: Lovingly Yours with Mila Ocampo (now better known as Snooky Serna’s mother, she was actually a Miss Philippine Press Photography winner, introduced by LVN to film via Biyaya ng Lupa), Botika sa Baryo (with Marita Zobel) and Doon Po sa Amin (with Ocampo and Zobel).

Before LVN Pictures folded up in 1961, he managed to do one more film with the studio: Prinsipe Diomedes at ang Mahiwagang Gitara – still with Marita Zobel as leading lady.

Diomedes Maturan’s rise to stardom may actually be likened to that of Nora Aunor. Both were Tawag ng Tanghalan grand champions. Both were dark-skinned, but were able to penetrate an industry kinder and more hospitable to those with fair complexion.

But unlike Aunor, Maturan wasn’t able to maximize the power of mass media to further strengthen his career in show business. When he stopped making movies, he concentrated more on stage shows, then already on the decline.

Although he made several guest appearances in Oras ng Ligaya, I don’t remember him having his own show on television – unlike Pilita Corrales and Carmen Soriano who had a firm grip on the public, thanks to their respective musical programs on TV.

But in spite of the fact that he wasn’t backed up by television, Diomedes Maturan’s name still became synonymous with good singing. Again, it was his singing talent and not just media packaging that made him coast along after his days of glory at LVN.

And he was never really lacking in offers to sing – at lounges, hatid-saya shows in the United States, Canada and other parts of the world populated by migrant Filipinos and even at private weddings where he often delivered a haunting rendition (usually with singer Dulce) of the Lord’s Prayer.

Now, Diomedes Maturan is with the Lord. He may have left us, but his songs, particularly his signature, Rose Tattoo, will forever be tattooed on the hearts of many music lovers.

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