By: - Columnist
/ 08:40 PM October 09, 2013

THE REPEAT of “The Legends and the Classics,” featuring (from left) Cecile Licad, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde and Lea Salonga, with Gerard Salonga conducting the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, is set on Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 13 at 5 p.m. at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Main Theater. COURTESY OF BALLET MANILA

And just like that, I was on a plane to San Francisco, only one day after the season finale of “The Voice of the Philippines.” My time as a coach on the show was over (for now at least), and it was time to return to my day job. With suitcases packed, script in my iPad and plenty of new material swimming in my head, I was off for a weeklong visit to the City by the Bay.

My reason for this trip to San Francisco was to help kick off Filipino-American History Month via a special concert benefiting PhilDev (Philippine Development Foundation), chaired by Filipino-American Silicon Valley legend Dado Banatao. He is a self-described son of a farmer, an engineer by education (Mapua Institute of Technology and Stanford University), a chips designer (whose work has been used by many computer and consumer electronics companies), an entrepreneur (helping to fund startup companies) and someone whose heart still resides in his beloved country.


PhilDev’s specific programs are numerous and it would take more than this allotted space to outline them all, so I ask that you check the details on However, its mission can be summed up in one phrase: empowering the nerds. (I cannot claim credit for that spark of cleverness; that belongs to one member of PhilDev’s board of trustees, Paco Sandejas.) This and their “teach a man to fish” approach to philanthropy are the reasons why I am honored to be aligned with them for the benefit concert.

The Banataos (Dado and his lovely wife Maria) hosted me, my concert director Victor Lirio and my musical director Larry Yurman at their home, a stone’s throw from Silicon Valley. Their personal chef, Cocoy Ventura, prepared the most amazing and healthy meals each night of our stay. Jet lag was not going to stop me from enjoying the artful preparations, or Dado’s Silicon Valley stories, featuring Jobs, Wozniak, Gates and Dell, among others.

The following days included visits to TFC (The Filipino Channel) for some promotional appearances and the Google Campus for a fireside chat. We did start rehearsing my stuff in earnest on Wednesday for a few hours to get the new materials into my body (and there was a ton of it) and on Thursday, upon the arrival of my backup singers (affectionately called the Lealets) Chris-Ian Sanchez, Karl Josef Co, Loresa Lanceta and Liz Casasola, our lighting designer Chris Dallos and stage manager Andrea Hager, we got down to work.

Many of the new materials required the backup singers to perform: Jason Robert Brown’s “A New World,” Stephen Sondheim’s “(Not) Getting Married Today,” Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” Cy Coleman and David Zippel’s “You Can Always Count on Me,” Ryan Cayabyab’s “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika,” the Beyoncé hit “If I Were a Boy” and Gary Granada’s “Tagumpay Nating Lahat” (that final number also featured a 50 person-strong choir). Add to this, the musicians from New York and LA who accompanied us all—Larry on the piano, Paul Viapiano (guitar), Warren Odze (drums) and John Belzaguy (bass). It made for a fun rehearsal.

Our arrangements came from New York (Larry, David Dabbon, Fabian Obispo and Michael Dadap) and Manila (Gerard Salonga, Bond Samson and JD Villanueva), which made for a great mix of Broadway, OPM, pop and jazz. To all of you, thank you for your beautiful work!

Makeup and hair artists were magical. To Maxi Tone and William Soriano, you guys are nothing short of amazing. Many thanks! You sure know how to make this girl look and feel wonderful. And by the way, my wardrobe was exclusively by Filipino designers Rajo Laurel and Monique Lhuillier.

The stay in San Francisco may have been brief, but worth it for a good cause. Empowering the nerds just may be our way out of poverty, by educating our brightest science and engineering minds and aligning with other like-minded organizations to nudge our nation toward development. This nerd was only too happy to do it.

* * *

Shameless plugs: And now I am back in Manila, getting ready for the repeat of “The Legends and the Classics.” Immediately following that, Bamboo, myself, Mitoy, Klarisse de Guzman, Myk Perez and Janice Javier, along with some ABS-CBN stars, will head to  Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, on Oct. 18, and at Great America in Santa Clara, CA, on Oct. 20 for “One Kapamilya Go!” There will be singing, dancing, and plenty of meeting and greeting. We hope to see you there!


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TAGS: Cecile Licad, concert, Lea Salonga, Lisa macuja-elizalde
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