How Tito Mina keeps the music playing

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - February 2, 2008 - 12:00am

His hair has turned silver, all right, but his voice remains the same — and so does his music.

Let him sing a line or two from his old, familiar, love songs — Both In Love, Ikaw Pa Rin (his vernacular version of the American song There’ll Never Be Another You), Got To Let You Know, etc., found in four of the CDs he has recorded so far — and you give an approving nod. Yes, he does sound the way he did back in the early ’70s when he burst onto the music scene, along with such promising talents as Rico J . Puno, Hajji Alejandro, Basil Valdez and many others.

Gone for more than a decade, Tito Mina is back for an extended long-overdue vacation from Luxembourg where he and his wife, Viviane Irthum, are staying. They arrived in mid-November last year (purposely to sell their condo unit) and postponed their departure from Dec. 15 to mid-February.

It’s music that made him stay for a little while. On Feb. 6 (Ash Wednesday), he will topbill Ikaw Pa Rin, An Intimate Concert with Tito Mina at the RJ Bar (Jupiter St., Makati City), with his good friend Ramon “RJ” Jacinto, owner of the bar, as co-performer. He has just also recorded for a CD compilation of songs for The Global Filipino, an organization which tries to alleviate the plight of OFWs.

“The last time I was here was, I think, in 1998,” Tito told Funfare in an exclusive interview (The STAR was the only paper he agreed to talk to). “Many things have changed since then. It took a while before Viviane and I got adjusted.”

Tito decided to live in Luxembourg after he and Viviane got married in 1977. They are childless.

Why so?

“Oh, it’s a long story,” said Tito. “We were traveling a lot during the first few years of our marriage.”

Viviane was Miss Luxembourg in 1970 (and Miss Photogenic in the same contest), qualifying her to represent Luxembourg in the Miss Europe and Miss Benelux contests. (Benelux is composed of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.) In Luxembourg, the Minas run an export business but Tito continues, as he put it, “ to do music” not only in Luxembourg but in other parts of Europe.

They met — and fell in love — in Manila when Viviane came as a tourist several times, intrigued as she was by the Filipino faith healers.

Did he win Viviane’s heart with his song(s)?

“Ask her,” said Tito. “I guess (my) music was a big factor.”

“I fell in love with Tito at first hearing,” recalled Viviane. “I saw him at a folk house. It was dark and I couldn’t see him, but I fell in love with the song he was singing, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. I was with my friend then. Soon, we were living together. One time in Baguio, I cried while listening to him singing James Taylor songs. My friend saw me crying and she asked, ‘Why are you crying?’ I said, ‘Because I’m in love with Tito’.”

“The last time Viviane came,” Tito said, breaking into a wide smile, “I went with her to Luxembourg. Instead of making Viviane stay, what happened was the other way around. Before I knew it, I was there for six years before I came back. Actually, I’ve been coming and going quite regularly once every two years since 1983, until I stopped coming after my 1998 visit.”

That was after Tito recorded Ikaw Pa Rin, which was a hit.

How did he adjust to life in Luxembourg?

“Luxembourg is very different from the Philippines. First of all, the climate is different. They have four seasons; they have snow, you know. The culture is different, too. Having an Asian background, I found Luxembourg interesting. Luxembourg has an ancient culture, very much different from those of other European countries. It has also a small population, more or less only a million. There are not too many Filipinos in Luxembourg. Most of them are married to Occidentals, you know.”

No, Tito hasn’t ceased being a musician in Luxembourg.

“There, I perform regularly for the Tourism Office of Luxembourg, usually in open-air concerts. I also play a lot in Spain. I get invited to perform in shows put up by Filipino communities somewhere else, in England, Germany, Holland, etc. Once, I even went as far as Sydney where I performed with Pilita Corrales.”

Volunteered Viviane, “Tito also sings in Spanish, Italian, French and German. He has recorded an album in Luxembourg, called Are You Ready?, for Radio Music International.”

And what does he miss most about the Philippines?

“It seems that my creative juices were revived when I came back. I met a lot of people who asked me, ‘How come you don’t back and do more things here?” What touched me was the common folk  whom I met. I guested in a concert at Metrowalk and somebody came from I don’t know where with an old long-playing album of mine; he asked me to autograph it. Sometimes, I would be in a cab and when the driver recognized me, he would smile and say, ‘Ah, kayo pala ‘yon! Paborito kita!’ Comments like that touch me. Nakakataba ng puso.”

In the next breath, Tito said, “I think I should come home more often.”

Well, he should.

Okay now. Play it again, Tito Mina!

(Note: You can reach Tito Mina and Viviane at e-mail viv01@pt.lu.)

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph or at entphilstar@yahoo.com)

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