Just a day after watching CATS, my husband and I were to stay up past our bedtime again, this time, with the much anticipated return of my favorite Filipino singer/actress Sharon Cuneta on stage. Okay, I admit it, I am a fan, a big one. I never miss any of her live shows, I have doubles of her albums (one for collecting, the other for listening) and her albums are always on constant rotation in our music systems (aka forced listening), much to the dismay of my Paramore-enamored seventeen-year-old son. I suppose that it is this die-hard mentality that has convinced my better half that the way to my heart is always through- tadah!- highly prized tickets to her shows.
Thus, August 7, Saturday night, found us at Araneta Coliseum, waiting for Ms. Cuneta’s appearance on stage. At a little past nine, after an hour or so of waiting, the lights dimmed and show opened with a resplendent Ms. Cuneta singing “Kahit Maputi Na Ang Buhok Ko,” a Rey Valera composition Ms. Cuneta popularized early in her career. Even now, it is difficult to fault the original recording done more than thirty years ago. Yet, Ms. Cuneta seems to perform this song better with each repetition, imbuing it with a beguiling lack of pretension about the stardom that has changed her life forever. Apt that she chose to open the show with this, a song that reminds us many years after she set foot in that recording studio as a twelve-year-old, that this life is still her dream.
Kung tayo’y matanda na (When we are old)
Sana’y di tayo magbago (I hope we will not change)
At kailan ma’y, nasaan ma’y (And whenever, wherever)
Ito ang pangarap ko ( This is my dream)
From there, it was a veritable OPM (Original Pilipino Music) feast, from songs of the Apo Hiking Society (ahh, I miss them, I do), to Jukebox selections of Mae Rivera and Imelda Papin, to the classics of Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, to melodies of inspiration and fervor, and to the ballads that her fans have grown to love as her personal anthems (“To Love Again,” “Bituing Walang Ningning,” “Maging Sino Ka Man”). Each segment was a drama on its own, with songs that reflected the different emotions and experiences of all her years in showbusiness.
As expected, guest performers flitted in and out of the stage with series of medleys. Ai Ai delas Alas and Pokwang held their own and brought the crowd to hysterical laughter with their punked-out Filipino version of Lady Gaga melodies sung with the lyrics of “Kahit Konting Pagtingin”and “Mr. DJ.” Ogie Alcasid, one of Philippine music’s most prolific songwriters of this era, sang a duet of “Ikaw Lamang,” “Ikaw Sana,” and “Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang” with Ms. Cuneta, the latter two among the best songs from the highly acclaimed 2005 collaboration album “Sharon sings Alcasid”. Meanwhile, Mr. Alcasid’s personal groupie and soon-to-be-wife Regine Velasquez was seen on the video walls seated in the audience and screaming “I love you, Ogie!”- now that is true love. XD
Piolo Pascual, seemingly unfazed by the intrigues of the past weeks (if you’re not much of a showbiz follower, just google Piolo + KC, haha) bravely shared centerstage with the Mega Star, their duet a mash-up of “Himala” and “Imposible.” Kuh Ledesma and Zsazsa Padilla sang the best songs of the night with Ms. Cuneta, a medley of Mr. Cayabyab’s “Ang Ating Musika,” “Kahit Ikaý Panaginip Lang,” and “Minsan Ang Minahal ay Ako.” For me, this medley’s arrangement is the most memorable of the night, highlighting these singers’ particular strengths (Ms. Ledesma’s clarity, Ms. Padilla’s high notes, and Ms. Cuneta’s honesty*) and bringing out the best of their voices together. Then too, another revelation of the night was Sarah Geronimo, touted as the next generation’s Sharon Cuneta, who impressed the audience in their duet of “Tell Me” and “Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin.” When Ms. Cuneta ended the show with her encore piece, “Sanaý Wala Nang Wakas,” we were loath to leave our seats and instead made a beeline to the front, where she gamely shook hands with her grateful fans.
It was a great show, and A and I throughly enjoyed every minute of it. Ms. Cuneta’s voice was whole and outstanding and in perfect form the entire night, in stark contrast to her 2008 concert when she was visibly sick and yet continued to perform her heart out for her audience.It was exciting just to be in the same room with her, never mind that there were thousands of others with us. After all these years, she still has the ability to make things personal and to connect with each person with ease and sincerity that you never remember that she is a star. That, I think, is what really sets her apart from her peers.
Aside from the good friends I met in the audience (Noel F- our friend since high school, back when he and A were still little squirts, and Eloisa M, who I like to think as my soul sister- we like so many of the same things ), I knew I was also ending the night with more good friends. Janus and Ernest are my friends and classmates from med school, and our reunions, while shortlived and rare, happen every time Sharon has a concert. (I have to mention that Janus was and still is the smartest in our batch and Ernest was and still is the most artistic. Both are practicing doctors and I am very proud to be their friend. ) If only for that reason, I want Sharon to perform in concerts as often as possible. Well, that night, over Dairy Queen Blizzards, we relived the show and fawned over Sharon (we like to call her by her first name, as we pretend we are close to her, haha), critiqued some parts (the parts where she was not on stage) and discussed plans for our next meet-up, hopefully very, very soon. We will always be Sharon fans, kahit maputi na ang buhok namin.
And then I went home and drifted to perfect sleep. I guess when you start the night with a star- Sharon Cuneta- shining brightly over you, end the night with dear friends, and come home with your bestest friend, then the world, even for just one night, is absolutely perfect.
* A friend took me to task over this, and I explain this to mean that she sings with real depth and emotion, unlike other self-proclaimed divas who seem to put on an act when they perform. It’s honesty, folks. You can’t get any more real than Sharon there. 🙂