Random thoughts as the country’s most enduring, most prolifi c and most ‘covered’ artist celebrates three milestones in his life
The durable Jose Mari Chan
CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - March 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Can you spell “durability” with 12 letters? Easy does it: Jose Mari Chan. The word has been attached to some local artists and, to this perception, it’s the perfect and fitting adjective to describe Joe Mari who is celebrating three milestones in his life this year — his and wife Maryann Ansaldo’s golden wedding anniversary, his 75th birthday (March 11) and his 54th year as a singer-songwriter.

I asked Joe Mari if we could stop and talk awhile and, thankfully, he obliged. Here are some of his random thoughts as he basks in the glory of his triple celebration.

I have written many songs over the years. Some have not even left the paper on which they were composed. Many of my earlier songs were derivative. But they were all from the HEART, rarely contrived. My songs are like my children — they are all special. There were quite a few that didn’t become “hits.” They are like children who had talents and potentials but were not given the opportunity.

I have had a few disappointments in my music career — yes. But, with God’s grace, these setbacks turned into blessings. In 1973, my song Can We Just Stop and Talk Awhile was picked to represent the Philippines at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo. Performing with a full orchestra, it was my first time ever to sing on an international stage in front of 10,000 people at the Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo.

I was nervous especially because my parents flew to Japan to watch me sing at that festival. The song did not win but it paved the way for a series of television specials back home, spotlighting my words and music, and eventually enabled me to be honored as one of the TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men) for Arts.

The setbacks that did not break me strengthened me. In two Metro Pop Song Festivals here in the Philippines, my song entries in both competitions did not win any of the major prizes but they went on to become perennial favorites, Minsan Pa and Hahanapin Ko which Lea Salonga has recorded and sung so beautifully.

 I’ve been blessed to have covered a wide spectrum of showbiz activities — a drummer in a band at 14; a student member of the high school dramatics society at 16; a vocalist in a college band at 19; a host of Metro Manila campus concerts at 20; television host of ABS-CBN’s 9 Teeners at 21; and released my first record in 1967 at 22.

At age 11, I guested in The Children’s Hour Radio Show on DYRI in Iloilo hosted by Ray Parreno. The song I sang was Granada. In the middle of the song, I forgot the rest of the lyrics. I thought that was the end of my brief singing career. Hahaha!!!!

At age 13, I became a Sunday afternoon DJ on radio station DYHP in Iloilo City. My first show was called Fun Time from 3 to 4 p.m., then I was assigned two more shows and a “hit parade” 6 p.m. show called Platters on Parade.

 It has been a wonderful romantic journey for me and Maryann these past 50 years. The same year she and I met, I knew that she was going to be the girl I would marry. We have been blessed with five wonderful children and eight grandchildren. Every day, we thank God for all His blessings.

No sign that Joe Mari is resting on his laurels. His creative juice continues to flow very much like a river that gently sways its way to the sea. In fact, he has just collaborated with Freddie Santos on a yet untitled song waiting to be sung by, according to Joe Mari, “a new, young singer who could give it the vigor and the conviction of the lyrics.”

Here’s part of that song, fresh from the paper on which Joe Mari has written it: We’re gonna be alright!/We’re gonna win this fight!/We will survive the night/And see the light/Is there one thing that we’re sure of?/We need each other now/Our kindness and compassion, let’s show each other howWe’re gonna win this fight!/ We’re gonna be alright!

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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