Friends and colleagues of revered bass guitarist Roger Herrera turned up at his wake Wednesday night at Santuario de San Antonio Parish in Forbes Park, Makati—and paid tribute to his well-spent life by singing songs that would’ve made him smile.
“Megan (Roger’s wife) is very glad we’re doing this,” said Veronica Tapia-Merk who, with husband Richard Merk, brought musical equipment to the funeral chapel and spread the word about the jazz soiree.
Jacqui Magno was singing “Misty” when we arrived past 10 p.m.
“I met Roger in Thailand when I was 13,” recalled Richard, whose mother, Annie Brazil, used to perform with Roger in that country. Richard, with Elhmir Saison on keyboards, got into a somber mood as he sang “The Autumn Leaves” and “Here’s That Rainy Day.”
Skarlet turned emotional when she rendered “God Bless the Child.”
But Jeannie Tiongco, earlier seen in tears, lifted the mood with “Cheek to Cheek” and “All Is Fair in Love.”
Pianist Tess Salientes—who, with Jeannie and drummer Jorge San Jose, had been performing weekly with Roger at Manila Hotel’s Tap Room until the latter fell ill—played “Too Close for Comfort,” which she said Roger had found very challenging.
Enjoying the music from the sidelines was drummer Jun Regalado, who told the Inquirer that he and his buddy Roger played in virtually all the records of the top singers in the 1970s—a golden age in contemporary Filipino music. “Basil Valdez, Celeste Legaspi, Hajji Alejandro, Rico J. Puno, VST & Co., Apo Hiking Society, too many to recall,” said Jun. “This went on through the ’80s, with Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera …”
Jun laughed as he recounted times spent with Roger: “We always cracked jokes before going onstage and played pranks on the other musicians.
He would put masking tape on the piano keys …”
Asked what made Roger stand out, Jun said: “He was gifted with precision. He was also very professional, always there before call time.”
Past midnight, Megan thanked everyone for an “unforgettable” night. Cajoled to sing, Megan—an Australian who was lead vocalist of Roger’s band that played at Vineyard and other jazz clubs in town—smiled and said, “Sorry, not now.”—Text and photos by Pocholo Concepcion