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“Once there were Filipino entertainers in Japan” story still lacks contents

This was how entertainment writer Dave Rojo described my story “Once There Were Filipino Entertainers in Japan” which appeared on my wall on Friday, September 4, 2020.

Dave called my attention that the singing idol of the 60s and 70s Eddie Peregrina was one of the first popular Filipino singers who were able to break in the Asian entertainment circuit with a bang. According to Rojo in his research about Eddie, the singer who made famous the already cult cuts “Three Lovely Flowers,” “Mardy,” “I Do Love You,” “Since You’ve Been Gone” and many more mass appealing music was invited to sing in Japan.

Tapos, may kinanta siya na isang Japanese song at pagkatapos ay nilagyan niya ng English lyrics na talagang mabibiling-mabili nang i-record niya rito sa Pilipinas (Then, he sang one Japanese song and later, he adapted the song with English lyrics which he recorded in the Philippines which sold like hotcakes),” recounted Rojo.

The title of the song: “Memories of our Dreams.”

It went on to become a monster hit in the four corners of the archipelago. 

Grabe ‘yon. Kahit sa amin sa Panganiban, Camarines Norte, sa bawat baryo at kahit sa bayan, panay ang patugtog ng (That was something. Even in our town in Panganiban, Camarines Norte, every barrio and even in the town proper, there was an unrelenting play of) ‘Memories of our Dreams,’” recalled Dave who would later be a publicist of a recording company. 

Sa mga sayawan sa mga linang, talagang ‘Memories of our Dreams’ ang nangingibabaw (In dance parties even in the far-flang barrios, ‘Memories of our Dreams’ was prevalent on the air),” shared Rojo.

According to a YouTube credit space, “Memories of our Dreams” was a Vicor Music Corporation property.

Although I believe Peregrina had also a recording stint with Alpha Recording Corporation of Buddy de Vera, Eddie before he died on a road accident had other home studios.

In his same recollection, Dave said novelty singer Max Surban (who he mistook for Yoyoy Villame, another novelty artist) was also a hot item in Japan. Rojo was already in Vicor Recording Company at the time. He was one of the publicists of Blackgold Recording, an affiliate of Vicor. According to Rojo, Max was a regular fixture in Japan. He was an idol among the fun-loving, entertainment-savvy Japanese.

Nagkukuwento ‘yan sa akin, sabi ni Max, talagang busog na busog daw siya sa Japan (Max was telling me he was indeed full in Japan),” exclaimed Rojo.

Ito pa. Marami raw siyang uwi pag dumarating siya sa Pilipinas. Mga TV set, tape recorder, component set at iba pa. Grabe. Tanong ko, anong ginagawa mo? Sabi niya, lagi siya sa labas ng bahay, ng mga Japanese, sa mga bangketa. E, no’ng time na ‘yon, kokonti pa ang mga Pinoy na nagpupunta sa Japan (Here’s another one. Max said he would always bring home a lot when he returned to the country. TV sets, tape recorders, component sets etc. Oh! My God! I asked him how did he do it? He told me he was always outside in front of the houses of the Japanese, in sidewalks as well. That time there’s only a few Filipinos who were going to Japan,” Dave gushed.

Namumulot daw siya ng mga home appliances na itinatapon na ng mga Hapon kahit hindi pa luma. E, dito sa atin, hanggang hindi nagkakalasug-lasog ang mga kasangkapan, hindi pa natin itinatapon (He said he was picking up slightly used home appliances of the Japanese. In the Philippines, until appliances aren’t broken we don’t care to throw them away),” he quipped. 

The singing group “Nailclippers” was also a hit in Japan. At the time, the young teeners, boys and girls, who composed the youth musicians was under contract with Vicor where Rojo had the first-hand information about them.

Nang pumunta sila sa Japan, ikinontrata sila ng Sony Japan kaya ang dami niyang opportunities doon. (When they went to Japan, Sony Japan signed them up so they had many opportunities).

Alam mo, nang pumunta ako sa bahay nila, naku, grabe, kumpletung-kumpleto sila ng mga gamit sa bahay at ang gaganda ng mga bahay nila (You know, when I went to their respective houses, oh, wow, they were brimming with home appliances. And they had beautiful houses),” Dave remembered.

There were other singers and luminaries who made good in Japan with their natural musical gifts.

We can cite Marlene de la Peña who made a big name in Japan albeit her nebulous star in the local Tin Pan Alley. Maritess Temple who was not as popular as her contemporaries built a superstar name in Japan. One of the former Board of Directors of the Katipunan ng mga Artista ng Pelikulang Pilipino at Telebisyon (KAPPT) or Actors Guild of the Philippines Pamela Amor was once a household name in Japan as a singer. Eventually, when she went back to the Philippines, she established a talent agency that dispatched Filipino entertainers in Japan. Singer Christie Gatchalian was also a Filipina talent in the House of the Rising Sun who made fortune there and when she went home, she also organized a talent agency.

Former bold actress Lampel Cojuangco was a model in Japan. Lampel was even with husband Hassi Romero when she was performing in bars just to make sure his wife was secure. Later, when Cojuangco saved enough money, she, too built a talent agency.

Until the Japanese government had imposed stricter rules on migration that Filipino talent agency owners were restricted to send talents for entertainment export and the usual happy days were transformed to sad memories but at least, life still went on for these enterprising managers.

All were not bed of roses in the transnational entertainment industry, though, because there are also problems going with it. 

In the late 1980s there were movements by Filipino talent managers and talent agency owners and impresarios which rallied against the directive of the government for more standardized and professional approach to entertainment export. TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) was born which screened truly professional artists to be sent abroad because there were reports that entertainment export was a harbinger if not a leeway for prostitution.

To earn more or simply, just to earn a living is the main reason for entertainment export especially in the case of the majority of poor talents who want to mitigate their desolate situation given the uneven distribution of wealth in our society.  

Poverty then and now is the most potent force and a come-on in the burgeoning business of immorality so the government should address this pronto.     

Photo Credit: CTTO

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