In a tete-a-tete with musicians Mar Lopez and Pablo Vergara, I was able to gather the following snippets.
Cenon Lagman, the kundiman singer, married his pretty fan Lilia Duran. “Kaso iniwan siya ni Lilia,” says Mar. “Matapos yun ay hindi makapag-record ng maayos si Cenon dahil naiiyak siya bago matapos ang kanta.”
Unlike the new technology where snapshot recording is allowed, the recording of songs in those days would start from the very start and end at the very end. “Dapat tuloy-tuloy ang recording ng kanta. Kundi pa ko nagalit eh hindi matatapos,” Mar says with a sigh.
Novelty singer Mar Lopez behind famed composer Pablo Vergara
For his own reminiscings, Pablo Vergara tells of his experience in live stage shows. He was a one man team who does the concept, script and all other aspects of production including the casting in his shows in Gala Theater.
“Ang mahirap sa stage show ay yung protection,” Pablo states with mixed emotion. “Dapat magaling kang makaramdam lalo na sa mga pulis. Noong araw yung PC ang matindi.” He was referring to the Philippine Constabulary.
During the days of martial law, Pablo Vergara was arrested. In the office of the PC chief, Pablo was berated by Prospero Olivas, the PC chief himself. “Ang tindi mo, bata, Martial Law na pero nagpapalabas ka pa ng mga hubad.”
Not wanting to land in jail, aside from tapping his connections, Pablo used his wisdom and called for Marilou, the sexy lead actress in his live shows. Upon seeing Marilou, the PC Chief instantly changed his combative stance.
Eventually, Pablo’s case was relegated to the Manila Police. An amiable police officer named James Barbers asked Pablo to be a judge in a chorale singing contest for police departments. Naturally, the choir of Barbers won which led to the release of Pablo.
Another problem in live shows is the competition. “Kalaban ko kasi si Mianong Magat kaya laging nare-raid ang mga shows ko.” But incidents like that can easily be cured by protection money.
Speaking of money, the live show business is a gold mine. Pablo used to have 6 cars with drivers. “Laging makapal ang pera sa bulsa ko,” beams Pablo. “Kaya lang talagang nakakapagod kasi araw-araw ang show at dapat iba-iba.
Monza Production was the outfit of Mon Zamora during his heydays. “Kamukha kasi ni Bruce Lee. Eh magaling din sa martial arts kaya nang sumikat si Bruce Lee sa Amerika eh di sumikat naman si Ramon dito,” explains Mar.
Mar and Ramon used to be good buddies when they were still young. “Yang si Ramon laging pumupunta sa LVN para umistambay. Ako naman,” says Mar with a chuckle, “ naghihintay lagi dahil pagdating niya siguradong may dalang pagkain.”
Showbiz had been good to those two poor boys. Ramon Zamora got noticed in his stints with Super Laugh-In on television while Mar Lopez was able to make a name via his talent in music.
“Si Nelly Aragon ang naging asawa ni Ramon,” Mar explains. “Maganda si Nelly pero nung sumikat na si Ramon, iniwan niya si Nelly.” Ramon’s second wife was the reason why he died poor. “Matalino yung pangalawa, nakopo lahat ng pera.”
Mar Lopez started with Sullivan Bros, a team up with Boy Santos. Their theme was novelty songs, mostly adaptations of popular English songs. When Vicor was established by cousins Vic Del Rosario (now of Viva) and Orly Ilacad (now of OctoArts), Mar Lopez helped Buddy De Vera in establishing Alpha Records.
“Hindi lang magkakaibigan kundi magkukumpare pa yang sina Vic, Orly at Buddy,” Mar says of the friendly competition between Vicor and Alpha records. “Noong araw kasi ay madaling magkapera sa kanta dahil wala pang pirated music.”
There was a time that Mar’s partner Boy Santos was jailed for homicide. “Nasa Café Aroma sa Avenida si Boy,” relates Mar of the fateful incident. “May nakataluhan (argument) na hindi naman niya kilala.”
When the petty argument got heated, “Sinabuyan ni Boy ng kape ang kalaban.” That gesture led to a physical encounter. “Umalis yung kalaban ni Boy tapos maya-maya bumalik,” Mar relates with excitement in his voice.
When Boy’s unknown enemy came back with an ice pick, a scuffle ensued. Boy was fortunate to win the fight that killed his enemy but he was unfortunate to receive a jail sentence of 8 to 20 years.
In Mar’s visits of his jailed friend, they formed a group of singing prisoners. “Nakakarating kami sa iba-ibang probinsya,” Mar boasts of his share in caring for his jailed friend. With Boy’s permanent absence, Mar formed the Big 3 Sullivans.
Another unfortunate incident was what happened to Cleng Diaz. “Director namin yan si Cleng,” says Mar. Coming out from his office on the 3rd floor of a building in Manila, Cleng was surprised to see a rumble going on.
“Ewan din niya kung paano siya napasali. Basta ang natatandaan ni Cleng, may sinuntok siyang lalake,” Mar explains. Maybe the director had a good fist because after hitting, the man fell from the building. That was another homicide case.
For some afterthoughts, both Pablo and Mar cherish the olden days where your talent can make you rich. “Parang namumulot ka lang ng pera,” Pablo and Mar chorused.
So much for the golden years of music.
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