Certified exclusive: The day Pinoys rocked New York

Baby K. Jimenez - The Philippine Star

NEW YORK — Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York. In sports parlance, it’s home to the New Jersey Nets and the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League.

To music aficionados, the most recent recall is that Barbra Streisand did her hit concert there last August though the eternal wild gossip on the streets if you ask the hood (today the communities of north and east Brooklyn are largely Black) is that in 2013, Beyoncé broke all existing records — adding additional 8,000 seats to the 10,000 sold-out tickets.

But wait now, last Sept. 3 (to celebrate the Labor Day weekend), Filipinos made history there — ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel (TFC) brought in ASAP, a musical extravaganza starring more than 50 entertainers (and also featuring its own Philharmonic Orchestra) the very, very first Filipino concert ever to grace Barclays, or rather New York, which played to a responsive cheering jam-packed crowd. You’re there lost in the passionate screaming and deafening applause of rabid fans thinking you’re in Manila.

“Ohoh, awitin mo at isasayaw ko!... Tayo’y magsayawan!... Kaya join na lang kayo, let’s all have a good time!”

Early enough, fans had started camping in Marriott where all of the Pinoy entertainers were billeted. There was some Coco Martin fever in the air as some diehards had hoped to catch a glimpse of him at the lobby that the mere sight of Onyok, his sidekick in FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, had drawn so much interest.

Ricky Resurreccion, ABS-CBN Global Events Business Unit bigwig, admitted that “ASAP Live in New York was a grand dream and we really worked hard to see its fulfillment. It is our honor to have made Filipino event history in New York with our beloved Kapamilya, and their tremendous support inspires us to continue providing them with meaningful and memorable live entertainment experience. We were thinking of doing the event at Madison Square Gardens, so expensive though and we were fortunate to get into Barclays.”

They were aware that doing ASAP in New York was tough. “It’s a different city, rich in history and culture. Hollywood celebs take the subway sometimes unnoticed… and we know we were banking on mainly TFC subscriptionists — but could we get massive patronage?” Tickets in the better section sold at $155 each. “And they got sold out the day before, unbelievable!” Pinoys from nearby cities flew in or drove from Chicago, Boston, Virginia, Washington DC, Florida and Toronto, reminiscent of the huge crowd that trekked to ASAP in LA two years ago. Bruno Mars of Pinoy origin almost came. He sent his apologies as he had a previous commitment already scheduled the year before.

There’s an extreme tight security branded very New York-ish. Entertainers as well got filtered and had to carry special IDs to pass heavy screening. During a break, I spotted Maja Salvador, Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson in close proximity and engaged in a lively banter — a once-upon-a-time controversial triumvirate but now together in a dance number showing big smiles and their beat in perfect unison.

Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo never stopped holding hands as LizQuen (Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil) had only eyes for each other. Elmo Magalona and Janella Salvador were simply quiet together but not excitingly romantic.





In between musicals were stories of hope, despair turned to success, happy over sad tales of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) that included Conchita Singson, Amor Villasin, the late Ma. Teresa Santillan, Mark Bustos, Nicole Ponseca and Jhett Tolentino as narrated by Jolina Magdangal.

A hush fell over the crowd as Charo Santos-Concio (now a talent/star, after her being prexy/CEO) appeared in a fab red gown by Carey Santiago, speaking the lines in Tagalog from that famous poem Desiderata written by Max Ehrman in 1927 which focuses on the idea that people should see the world, with both its joys and its troubles, with hope and placidity. This is part of her commemorative album produced in cooperation with Star Music and some of the best OPM icons in the country.

Nostalgia took over as the focus turned to the great composer Cecille Azarcon (on keyboard now residing in California) with her all-time hits that include Lift Up Your Hands (by Carol Banawa and Daryl Ong), I Think I’m in Love (by Joey Albert), Sana’y Ikaw na Nga (by Jolina, Yeng Constantino and Jay-R), Reaching Out, How Did You Know (Chiqui Pineda with Zsa Zsa Padilla) with all the singers led by Martin Nievera doing a reprise of Ikaw ang Lahat sa Akin.

It was Coco who brought the house down with his familiar Totoy Bibbo gyrating moves as Onyok came in with his “quack, quack, quack.” Almost everyone noticed how Zsa Zsa teared up when she did her ballad.

2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, escorted by dashing Piolo, celebrated her birthday live as Luis Manzano brought in a birthday cake. Not to be outdone, the Birit queens in a tribute to Modern Divas stretched their vocal chords into a quaking high pitch: Morisette, Klarisse de Guzman, Jona and Angeline Quinto. Vocal support also came from Billy Crawford, Erik Santos, Jason Dy, Jay-R, Kyla, KZ Tandingan and Yeng. KathNiel fanatics reacted as the off screen lovebirds did their Barcelona theme song, I’ll Never Love This Way Again.

There was a brief 15-minute intermission for the second part. The audience was mesmerized as a medley of hits from the stage was performed by Pinoys who are Broadway performers themselves: Jaygee Macapugay, Karla Garcia, Jon Viktor Corpuz and Ali Ewoldt. How could it not be better when support came from the ABS-CBN Philmarmonic Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Gerard Salonga.

At the dressing room, Vice Ganda was getting ready for his number and shared that he’s able to sell several copies of his first book, President Vice: Ang Bagong Panggulo ng Pilipinas, earlier in the hotel. Gary V knocked on the rooms of all his co-performers doing a selfie, “I am doing this for my collections — one day I will come up with a surprise package!”

It was past 9:30 (yes, on overtime) when the curtains were about to drop. A Christmas song was being sung and almost, there’s not a dry eye in the house. To celebrate ASAP’s big success, the entire cast was directed to TAO, this enormous, clublike Pan-Asian eatery known for a huge Buddha centerpiece and a trendy crowd. Hosting were Gabby Lopez and current president and CEO Carlo Katigbak. We spotted Martin, already eliciting laffs from invited guests. Before 12 midnight struck, we found ourselves headed for the exit with Charo. As we got into the car and cruised on a Manhattan street, Charo called our attention. “Look at the Empire State Building!” she announced. It was lit up in red, white and blue — the colors of our own Philippine Flag and remembered that it was declared Pinoy Day. A historic night for all of us — 9,000 Filipinos present, a show of force at Barclays Center saying we could make it anywhere!

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas and thanks to ABS-CBN.

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