The first Noel
Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Have you ever watched a singer perform live and you got so moved by his songs that you didn’t want to let him go, and just wanted to listen to him forever? Have you ever listened to a musical artist and deeply felt what he was saying straight from his heart? This is exactly what I experienced while watching Noel Cabangon for the first time at a concert a few years ago. I instantly became a Noel devotee.

When he starts strumming his guitar so perfectly and singing his songs so beautifully, I am always reminded of the ’70s song that went “strumming my pain with his fingers… singing my life with his words…” And I would always think — this guy is incredible. He does not even seem aware that he is an amazing performer. As the show goes on, he would seem to me like a cult leader before a gathering of his faithful where everyone would obey whatever he would ask them to do. Most of those in the audience, young and old, and from different walks of life, when asked by Noel to sing along, would know his songs, whether they be his original patriotic and pro-environment hits, Pana-panahon, Tao, Panaginip, or his repertoire of standards like James Taylor’s You’ve Got a Friend, the Beatles’ Here, There and Everywhere and old-time Filipino favorites like Hotdog’s Manila, Manila, Florante’s Ako’y Isang Pinoy and Sharon Cuneta’s Kahit Maputi Na Ang Buhok Ko. As he starts his rendition of ‘Di Na Natuto (my all-time favorite), I always feel the piercing pain that goes with the message of the song. Sometimes, I even fail to hold back a tear or two.

Noel is an enigma in this day and age. How can you explain someone so simple, so humble, so ordinary looking and “so not-so-young” to have such a great impact on his audience? He does not even look at the audience and has his eyes closed about 85 percent of the time. Even Pres. Noynoy Aquino must be a fan considering the big role given to Noel during his presidential inauguration.

A graduate of Quezon City High School (QCHS) and a product of choirs at the Sacred Heart Parish Church in Kamuning, who has no college degree to boast of (he only took some units at the U.P. College of Music), Noel is one of the most intelligent singers in the country today. Proudly an Ilocano and soft-spoken that he is, he fights for and stands up for what he believes in — environmental protection, freedom from debt, protection of Filipino singers and composers and freedom of expression. He is currently the president of the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (Filscap); the vice president for External Affairs of the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM); the ambassador for Peace of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; and the vice president of Dakila (Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism).

I am closely working with him in a concert to raise scholarship funds for deserving students? The show, featuring Noel, titled Himig ng Pag-asa will be on Oct. 26, 6 p.m. at the Moomba Bar Café, Mother Ignacia St., cor. Roces Ave., Quezon City. The concert is being produced by the alumni of Kamuning Elementary School from where I graduated valedictorian so many years ago and Quezon City High School where most of my elementary classmates, and Noel himself, went for secondary education. (For ticket reservations, call Anne Armeza at 0935-7783156 or 922-8632.)

(E-mail me at or text me at 0927-5000833).

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