With a Song in His Heart

- Ricky Lo () - August 1, 2010 - 12:00am

Ogie Alcasid sure knows that the best way to a loved one’s heart is through the stomach.

Rested for only a few hours after taping for his GMA Friday-night gag show Bubble Gang, he showed up on time at the 8 Spices Thai restaurant at Il Terrazo on Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City. He checked the tummy-feeling food laid out on the table and before he took a bite, he took a fancy on the Pomelo Shrimp Salad and ordered two servings to be taken out.

“For Regine,” he said. Velasquez, that is, the beloved who, according to rumors, he might marry before the year ends.

The interview was supposed to focus on his latest latest album on Universal Records, Ogie Alcasid Ngayon at Kailanman (A Tribute to George Canseco) which carries 14 of the great Canseco’s haunting love songs which Ogie himself and UR lady boss Kathleen Dy-Go personally picked, including Yakap, Hanggang Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan, Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo, Kaibigan, Siya Na Ba, Kapantay Ay Langit, Kastilyong Buhangin, Dito Ba, Langis at Tubig, Kahapon Lamang, Ikaw, Ngayon at Kailanman and Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan.

“It’s truly an honor for me to pay tribute to a gentleman who I consider to be one of the greatest songwriters of contemporary Filipino music,” wrote Ogie on the album cover. “A self-taught musician, Canseco left a body of work that has a universal appeal…He has been a strong influence on my work, truly my idol…”

UR publicist Ernie Pecho gently reminded me to refrain from asking Ogie “personal” questions, as per request of Kathleen, although Ogie really has nothing more “personal” to hide — except the exact date when he and Regine will tie the knot.

But the best way to a man’s heart is, indeed, through his stomach so I decided to kick off the following Conversation by talking about food, Ogie’s take-home order of Pomelo Shrimp Salad having been brought in by the waiter. Soon, without my prodding him to, Ogie was getting “personal.”

What’s Regine’s favorite food?

“I would say…Japanese food. Everytime she craves for food, it’s always Japanese. Mayroon siyang favorite, ‘yung Ikura. It’s fish.”

Same favorite kayo?

“Medyo. But as a rule, I don’t eat meat. But sometimes I am tempted. It’s not good for me because I have a slightly high cholesterol. Everything with me is okay, except my cholesterol level. My doctor advised me to take red wine, one or two small glasses at night. Red wine daw raises your good cholesterol. I also do yoga. It relaxes me. I just did a while ago. After a while, I felt like dozing off. I’m doing the new program called P-90X, consisting of 14 exercises which you must do every day, one at a time until you complete all 14. In 90 days, you achieve the body that you desire. I’m on my eighth day. But you also have to follow a certain diet.”

Does Regine do the same exercises?

“Tamad ‘yon, eh. Itutulog na lang n’ya yon. She did boxing for a while but when she started taping for Diva, ‘yon…ayaw na niya. She stopped na.”

She should maintain her body. After all, she’s No. 8 in FHM mag’s 100 Sexiest.

“Eh, papano kapag nagka-baby kami?”

Oh, when will that be?

“Well, we don’t know. When God grants us a baby, then that’s it.”

Are you working hard at it?

“No. Actually, no. Hahahahaha! Well, I think she wants to finish first her work. Then, we’ll see how things go. I think it’s hard when you are both very busy especially at our age. I’m 43 and she’s 40. A woman needs rest if she has to get pregnant. It needs some planning. It’s easier for younger couples.”

What keeps you and Regine together?

“Movies, among other things. We love to watch movies. Kaya lang we don’t have enough time. I love comedy and horror, gusto naman n’ya mga love stories.”

Don’t you compromise?

“Sometimes we do. Like one time, we were at Rockwell. She wanted to watch Eclipse and I wanted to watch Toy Story 3. We ended up watching Eclipse together. Nagustuhan ko naman.”

Why didn’t you just watch Toy Story 3 and let Regine watch Eclipse, and then meet somewhere between the theaters?

“No way. Minsan na nga lang kami lumabas, eh, maghihiwalay pa kami.”

Come to think of it, when are you getting married ba talaga?

“Matagal na kaming kasal.” (Breaks into laughter; seriously now) “In our hearts and in our minds, we are married.”

What’s so significant about Dec. 22, the date that Regine keeps mentioning in interviews, as if hinting that you are tying the knot on that date?

“Basta. If something is bound to happen on that date, it will happen.”

I’m sure it will be a family affair, just like the wedding of your ex-wife Michelle van Eimeren and Mark Murrow. How nice your photo, Regine and you together with Michelle and Mark and your daughters Leila, 12, and Sarah, seven. One big happy family. Parang Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, and Demi’s ex-husband Bruce Willis. By the way, how’s your relationship with Michelle?

“We’re okay. You know, she has become more my buddy. She considers me her brother.”

Oh, the brother that she wanted but never had.

“She called me the other day. She was excited. She’s active right now. She’s into events, specifically weddings. She also does floral arrangement; she studied that for a year. If you hire her as a wedding planner, she organizes everything. She’s got a van and she’s the one who delivers everything. Since they live in a highland in Sydney, parang Tagaytay, huli na niya ‘yung market doon. She’s doing very well in her business.”

How are your daughters doing?

“Leila is a very talented writer; she reads a lot.”

She’s taking after her father.

“Michelle will deny it. She will say that it came from her. Actually, Michelle is a good writer. (She was a scholar at Sophia University in Japan. — RFL) She has written a children’s book titled Butterfly. Si Sarah naman sings, she’s also a good comedian. They used to study in the same school, at St. Paul’s Catholic School, but Leila has moved to Chevalier which is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, more like a prep high school. Medyo mahal but a really good Catholic school. Sarah is still in St. Paul’s. Both schools are two hours away from their home. It’s a nice place. They go to Sydney only to watch concerts and to shop.”

How are you as a long-distance father?

“Via e-mail, texting, phone calls. But of course, I get a lot of help from Mark.”

Are you sending Michelle and Mark a copy of your new CD? I’m sure they’ll love the songs on it. With her sufficient knowledge of Tagalog, she can translate the lyrics to English for Mark.

“Actually, they have a copy already.”

Your CD is a tribute to George Canseco. Whose idea was it?

’Yung last album ko kasi, which did very well, is a tribute to great songwriters like Louie Ocampo and George Canseco. Siguro naisip ng UR na parang bagay ako sa mga ganoong klase. Tamang-tama because Canseco is really my idol. Before he passed away, I had a conversation with him during one of the Aliw Awards nights.”

That was the night when you won.

“Yes. He talked to me about songwriting; he gave me tips. He asked me, ‘Ikaw ba ang sumulat ng Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang?’ I said, ‘Opo!’ He said, ‘Mayroon kang mali.’ I said, ‘Ha, saan ako nagkamali?’ He said, ‘Yung rhyme scheme mo, dapat ayusin mo.’ For example, the line ‘ikaw sana ang aking yakap-yakap; ang ‘yung kamay lagi ang aking hawak.’ He corrected me. Dapat daw, ‘ang ‘yung kamay lagi ang hawak-hawak.’ Rhyme scheme ang tawag niya d’un. I should use daw more figures of speech. Instead of ‘pilit binubuksan ang sarado ko nang puso,’ I should have written it ‘pilit binubuksan ang ‘yung nakapinid na puso.’ I think what he was trying to tell me was for me to use more of my imagination.”

Precious pointers talaga.

“Some of the lyrics that are being written now are too literal kaya nawawala na ang pagka-figurative ng ating language. Songwriting kasi is actually poetry with music, so you’d like naman your audience to feel like drifting and get drawn to the feelings you want to convey in beautiful words. Canseco was a master of that style. For example, Gaano Kadalas Ang Minsan. That phrase makes you not only enjoy his music and but also think, ‘Oo nga, gaano nga ba kadalas ang minsan’” (Proceeds to sing) “Gaano kadalas ang minsan mo akong hagkan…You know at once na nagdadalamhati na ‘yung tao. No other Filipino songwriter can write lyrics as beautifully and poetically as Canseco did.”

Which of the 14 songs is your personal favorite?

Ngayon at Kailanman. Why? Theme song namin ‘yan ni Regine. I love the lyrics.” (Proceeds to sing again) “Sa bawat araw na pagibig ko sa’yo liyag, lalo tumatamis, tumitingkad. Bawat kahapon ay daig nitong bawat ngayon na daig ng bawat bukas. Beautiful, isn’t it?”

I think Canseco’s being a great lover of women helped him write beautiful lyrics.

“I guess so.”

He has a very colorful love life. As far as I know, he loved several women. In your case, you must be a one-woman man.

“Well, from now on.” (Laughs) “Wala. I think my themes have changed. I’m starting to write more nationalistic songs (Like Bagong Pilipinas which he co-wrote with Noel Cabangon who sang it during P-Noy’s inauguration as 15th President of the Philippines last June 30. — RFL).

What’s the story behind Bagong Pilipinas?

“I started writing a song for Noynoy in 2009 when Kris texted to thank me dahil nag-Platinum ‘yung album n’yang The Greatest Love (also released by Universal Records and dedicated to her mom, former Pres. Cory Aquino whose first death anniversary is being commemorated today; on the album, Kris introduced each of the songs, one of them Ogie’s. It was around that time when Noynoy was contemplating whether he would run or not; he was in seclusion with the nuns. I told Kris, ‘Please tell Noynoy that I have a song for him,’ which I had not written yet pero may title na, Hindi Ka Nag-iisa. So I wrote it and asked Regine to sing a demo. I gave it to Kris and said, ‘Bahala na kayo. I don’t know what you want to do with that song; it’s up to you.’ They listened to it and they loved it and told me, ‘We’re using it for the campaign.’ That was the song used for the TV plug in the early part of the campaign. ‘Yon ‘yung mga nakahawak kami ng mga torch. Two weeks before Election Day, I called up Tita Maria Montelibano, ‘Tita, I think we need a song na medyo upbeat, ‘yung medyo celebratory. Tama na ‘yung siraan. That song, ‘yung…si Noynoy…was what we sang during the last stage of the campaign. During the inaugural, pinagsama-sama ko ‘yung mga kantang ‘yan. Anyway, before the elections, I invited Noel over for a few drinks and told him, ‘Alam mo, kailangan sumulat na tayo ng isang inaugural song,’ even if we didn’t know yet that Noynoy would win. That song was Bagong Pilipinas. So I gave it to UR (Universal Records); I told Kathleen, ‘I’m leaving for the States, I’m touring with Regine, Dingdong (Dantes) and Marian (Rivera), at bahala na kayo d’yan.’”

And, of course, the rest is history.

“Yes, history.”

I’m sure you will write a special song for your and Regine’s wedding.

“Of course, I will. I did already but everybody will hear it when it happens.”

On Dec. 22, 2010?

“Basta, when it happens.”

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

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