Why Marco Sison decided to come home after migrating to the US
Whether you live in a bustling tiger city like Mandaluyong or in a rustic community like Padada in far-off Davao del Sur, it’s almost impossible not to hear emboldened karaoke-loving neighbors bursting into repetitive servings of Marco Sison’s “My Love Will See You Through.”
That immortal hit ballad, along with “Make Believe,” “I’ll Face Tomorrow” and “Always,” is the jukebox staple that has turned Marco into an OPM icon.
Marco likens his songs to gifts that keep on giving. “When I was just starting out, it was my dream to wax a hit record and sing to people forever,” he told us over Zoom last week. “At the time, the goal was to be the ‘Jaworski of the music industry.’ But my former manager (Nestor Cuartero) told me to stop comparing myself to the basketball legend, insisting that I could carve my own path.
“Then, I got very lucky with ‘My Love Will See You Through,’ whose enduring appeal has also rubbed off on my other songs, like ‘Make Believe’ and “Si Aida, Si Lorna o Si Fe.’ It gives me immense satisfaction to realize that so many people still know it by heart. Para s’yang walang katapusang flattery—hindi natatapos ang sarap (laughs).”
After grudgingly deciding to migrate to the United States about two decades ago, “My Love Will See You Through,” which is marking its 40th year this year since its release in 1982, was also the song that reminded Marco why he needed to return home.
“I did migrate, but I wasn’t happy about it,” Marco said. “I told myself, ‘What am I doing here? At ano’ng gagawin ko dito?’ My songs are a treasure I could continually mine. It felt like I was throwing all my hard work away! So I came home.”
It didn’t take long for Marco to realize that home is truly where the heart is—and the stage is his playing field.
On June 11, the singer is set to perform at Teatrino in Greenhills via “An ’80s SaturDATE,” his first solo show since the pandemic began two years ago. Helmed by Calvin Neria, and with musical direction by Bobby Gomez, the show will also feature singer-actress Rita Daniela, among others. Call TicketWorld at 8891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph.
What sets Marco’s concert apart? If you think it’ll be a been-there, done that” kind of show, you’ve got another think coming.
In fact, “SaturDATE” will allow music lovers to see Marco in a different light, said director Calvin: “What excites me about it is the chance to direct Marco in a show where 70 percent of the songs are upbeat or dance music. I’ve worked with him several times and, most often, the repertoire is mostly made up of sentimental songs.
“We will also be presenting stripped down version of ’80s music. Teatrino is an intimate venue, so we decided not to use a full band. Artistically, the most challenging part was choosing which songs to include in the repertoire, because ’80s music is known for its diversity—there’s New Wave, modern rock, pop, electronic, etc.
“So what we did was to determine the artist who would fit Marco’s image and vocal range. Ayokong magmukhang pilit. In fact, I went as far as asking Marco to cover songs by ’80s superstars like Madonna and Whitney Houston, but I didn’t push it kasi alam kong hindi babagay. Another consideration: How do I convince Marco to dance while performing a Rick Astley song (laughs)?”
Asked to react to his “dance-heavy repertoire,” Marco told me it was something he had always wanted to do. “I’ll be able to move a little bit,” he admitted. “That used to be one of my frustrations because I’m not just a balladeer—I just got trapped in that packaging… where I’m expected to sing nothing but ballad after ballad.
“Although, for those who are fond of ‘senti,’ meron din akong ‘Hugot Medley’ from the ‘80s, featuring the hits of Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera, Basil Valdez, Rico J. Puno and Rey Valera—sobrang ganda n’ya! Come watch, I’m sure matutuwa ka because this will bring back lahat ng magaganda at madidilim mong kahapon—maaalala mo lahat (laughs)!”
This interview also served as our reunion of sorts with Marco, whom we’ve acted in the stage musical “Pag-ibig sa Bayan,” about the life of Sen. Nene Pimentel and his family during martial law.
Marco portrayed Tito Nene in the original production, but when he couldn’t reprise the stellar role for the play’s 2009 restaging, I was “forced” by director Nestor U. Torre and producer Lourdes “Bing” Pimentel to step in and take over—with only about 12 days left before opening night!
Complicating that tricky situation further was my scheduled interview in Tokyo with Channing Tatum and his coactors (for “G.I. Joe Retaliation”) in the middle of those rigorous rehearsals. You can imagine how crazy those weeks were leading to the musical’s opening night at Meralco Theater.
Our chat with Marco was as much about nostalgia as it was about fine music. When we would give suggestions to the concert’s exciting lineup, he would sometimes burst into song—or we would sing sections of those together. Break a leg, Marco!
Our Q&A with Marco:
What’s unique about “SaturDATE” for you as a performer?
I see it as a rare opportunity to perform the songs of Rick Astley, Spandau Ballet, or even Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana.” I’m thrilled for the chance to revive them because I feel like ‘80s music is coming back with a bang.
How does it to feel to return to live or in-person concerts?
It’s heaven! For two years, everything was virtual. I did a couple of concerts that I grudgingly performed in… because what else was there for a singer to do? I had to work. But all you see are small faces watching you from all over the world on a computer screen. You see them clap, but you don’t hear it or feel it. So I just decided to give it my best shot and decided, “Gagalingan ko ‘to.”
But there’s really nothing better than seeing your audience face-to-face because that’s where you also get your energy.
You were a singing champ in “Student Canteen.” Any advice for those who wish to do well in singing competitions these days?
Preparation is key—that’s where my Nanay was so good at. She made me follow a “ritual” before a show or recording. I still do it up to now. Producers like working with me because I make sure I’m prepared by the time I report for work. So every time I record, I never exceed the two-hour mark.
I’m speaking from experience. If you want to pursue singing as a career, you can’t give up easily—basta, sali lang ng sali because that’s the nature of this business. Ang swerte, hinahanap at pinagtatrabahuan—it doesn’t just come to you. And always do your best.
Don’t do the things that can harm you or your performance. How do you expect to achieve your goal if there are so many distractions and “bisyo” around you? Do away with any form of vice. Tsaka ka na mag-bisyo ‘pag narating mo na ang goal mo.
Kalaban ng singer ang puyat—and I don’t drink. I only smoke when I’m happy. When I’m sad, nandyan lang ako nakasubsob sa kama.
Make sure you’re 100 percent prepared for the task at hand. Don’t let your nerves get the better of you. Just focus on what you need to do. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s doable if you set your mind to it.
You’re also part of The Hitmakers group, composed of Rey Valera, Nonoy Zuñiga, Hajji Alejandro and, before his death, Rico J. Puno. If you can record some of their signature hits in an all-covers album, which songs would you like to sing?
From Hajji, I’d like to sing “May Minamahal.” I’ve already sung Rico’s “Kapalaran” a couple of times.
From Nonoy, I’d love to cover “Love Without Time.” And from Rey, “Kung Tayo’y Magkakalayo”… because, based on a personal experience, I can relate to it.
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