The music legend
SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - April 26, 2019 - 12:00am

Jose Mari Gonzalez was a man of many accomplishments. Today’s generation probably knows him best as the father of Tacloban City Mayor Cristina Gonzalez-Romualdez. He was present during a crucial meeting among government leaders about the rescue and rehabilitation of the province in the aftermath of Yolanda.

With future historians in mind, Gonzalez decided to record the proceedings. Later on when some of those present reneged on agreed upon items or lied about what they said, Gonzalez shared the suddenly sensational recording with the media. I believe that the recording got the devastated Tacloban the aid needed from the government. It stopped the lies, scolded the arrogant and changed the future of some public figures.

That Gonzalez would record a meeting was only to be expected. An Electronics and Communications Engineering graduate from De La Salle University, recording was a long-time and a very important part of his life. Recording made him one of the prime movers of the local music industry. In fact, he was elected the first president of the Philippine Association of Recording Industry (PARI) which was also the first time that recording companies became a united force during the late ‘60s.

Before that and during his days as a teen-aged matinee idol known as Jose Mari of the devastating mestizo looks at Sampaguita Pictures, he was also a singer and songwriter. He was part of the popular band Electromaniacs of the big hits Lovers Guitar and I Miss You So for which he sang the vocals. He composed songs like Love at First Sight for the movie of the same title where he played the lead opposite Tessie Agana. He also did a lot of singing and dancing in films like Baby Face, Beatnik, Operetang Sampay Bakod, Joey Eddie and Lito, Amy Susie and Tessie and others.

His biggest contribution to the development of original Pilipino music though was his recording studio, Cinema-Audio Incorporated. Nestled in a small quiet street at the junction of San Juan and Mandaluyong, the basement studio started off with four-track recordings. Then went up to eight and then 16 tracks. Cinema-Audio could have gone on to 32-tracks if Gonzalez, who got into public service, had not decided to sell the studio. The buyer was movie legend Fernando Poe Jr., who did a lot of singing in the facility.

But before that happened, Gonzalez offered producers the best possible recording studio in the country. The place was conducive to creativity with the best engineers in the business and top-of-the-line equipment. Most of the legendary recordings of the golden era of Filipino music were made in Cinema-Audio. Remember Nora Aunor’s The Music Played or Victor Wood’s Eternally and Edgar Mortiz’s My Pledge of Love and the glorious Kapantay Ay Langit, composed by George Canseco and sung by Pilita Corrales? Those were all recorded in Cinema-Audio.

 It was there where talents were discovered, unknowns turned into stars and Filipino music was made all the richer. Can We Just Stop And Talk A While by Jose Mari Chan; The Way We Were by Rico J. Puno; Mr. DJ by Sharon Cuneta; Ngayon at Kailan Man by Basil Valdez; Manila by Hotdog; Maging Sino Ka Man by Rey Valera; Balatkayo by Anthony Castelo; Nananabik by Didith Reyes; Awitin Mo At Isasayaw Ko by VST & Co.; Bonggahan by Sampaguita; Farewell by Raymond Lauchengco; Masdan Mo Ang Kapaligiran by Asin; Katawan by Hagibis; and Tukso by Eva Eugenio. 

There were also times when the mood hit him that Gonzalez himself would turn producer and engineer and take over the controls. One of these was when he launched the band, The Dawn with the single Enveloped Ideas. One cannot help but think. Maybe one day somebody will make a list of all those artists who made recordings at Cinema-Audio.

Gonzalez passed away last April 16 of pneumonia and cardiac arrest. He was 80 years old. He is survived by his wife, the former Charito Malarkey, children Cristina, Jose Luis, Michael, Anna Margarita and Jose Mari Jr.

Gonzalez was also a top executive of the TV channel RPN-9 and is credited with introducing Mexican telenovelas dubbed in Tagalog to the Philippines. Without Jose Mari, there would have been no Marimar or La Traidora. He was also the elected representative of the Lone District of San Juan City, Metro Manila during the 11th Congress in 1988.

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