Saturday, June 7, 2008

Gary V @ 25 to rock Nokia Theatre Los Angeles June 7

Panoramic photo by Ver Penaranda

By Jay Fermin

Los Angeles: It was very good seeing Edgardo Jose Martin Santiago Valenciano briefly again last night in Glendale. And I can’t believe it has been 25 years since Gary V, as he is popularly known, went solo from the de La Salle ‘Kundirana’ as well as the ‘Hotshots’ days of 1983 and the first solo concert at the Araneta Coliseum in April 1984. His popularity was being felt throughout the Philippines (there was no internet then) when news from Manila would sometimes hit the provinces weeks late.

I can still remember when family and friends of mine decided to bring Gary V to Bacolod in Negros Occidental for his first ever Bacolod concert! I was put in charge of security and crowd control. I took the job thinking it was easy. I underestimated his then fast growing popularity with the droves of young fans. When he went for a ‘live’ radio interview at Bacolod’s Magic FM 103.5, I have to reroute his exit to the back of the radio station as we cannot move thru the huge throng of excited fans waiting in front!

One of the concert sponsors then was the sugar bowl of Asia, Victorias Milling Co. (VMC) and so Gary had to go on an out of town drive to Victorias which is 35 kilometers due North from Bacolod City. I assigned the security hands-off point from the Bacolod side to the Victorias side at the landmark Malogo Bridge just outside of VMC enabling the Bacolod detail to prep the concert venue, San Agustin Gym, for the night’s concert. Little did I know that the adventurous Gary was literally driving towards VMC. He was in the driver’s seat of the concert producer’s Opel Manta (with the producers as passengers), a car that’s a little too fast for the police cruisers that were to escort him. Gary arrived at the VMC luncheon a good 15 minutes early than his security escorts to the delight of the waiting fans!

1983-84 were good years for Gary as his songs steadily climbed the charts with the release of his first album entitled ‘Gary’. This has been followed with more than 24 albums thru the years including the latest release (May 2008) entitled ‘Rebirth’ which includes songs like ‘Mary, Did You Know’ and ‘Natutulog ba ang Diyos’ reflecting Gary’s strong Christian faith. Listening to Gary’s podcast on his son Gabriel’s remix of Gary’s all time hit “Shout For Joy” included in the ‘Rebirth’ album is also quite fun and exposes Gary’s strong love & commitment to his family, engaging them in his projects.

The next time our paths met again from those nostalgic early days was here in Los Angeles. It was the first ever Filipino concert at the world famous Universal Amphitheatre in 1994 (well, ok, it’s called the Gibson Amphitheatre now). I remember it well because my role that time was to photograph (using film cameras - no digital cameras yet) the concert for various Los Angeles Fil-Am newspapers I was writing for. Gary demonstrated his international appeal to the world-wide stage, I was in awe as there were a lot of mainstream American musicians & record producers at the 'orchestra pit', the first few rows of seats at stage center where I was shooting from.

Going back to the Philippines for a short sabbatical from 1997 to July 2001, I was able to work with Gary on countless projects again in Bacolod. I did photography in a concert he did at De La Salle University Bacolod Coliseum in 1998. And when a local Christian radio station needed a new AM transmitter for broadcasting, Gary did another Concert in 1999, and I again was in charge of security. I picked him up from the plane at the tarmac (airports still used actual stairs at that time) and it was like seeing a good friend once again. Gabriel was smaller then and boy was I surprised when I met Gabriel last night, he is so much taller than me now!

That concert in 1999 also threw in a few challenges for the production crew and I was privileged to see behind the scene how Gary & Angeli, inspite of the ups and downs of the career they both have decided to take, have managed to glue it all together amidst the sudden storms on the concert road away from Manila. Their secret: Prayer. Really intense prayer. And Gary is a living testimony to that.

Everybody knows that Gary suffers from Juvenile Diabetes - what they call Type 1 diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes which has the potential to damage the eyesight, heart, kidneys and nerves if it is not properly controlled. Angeli daily make sure that Gary has the right diet at each waking moment and especially onstage during performances so that his body has the correct amount of sugar. Not too high, neither too low. Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) are usually near the backstage at all of his performances. But the strongest medicine so far that I have seen to work thru the years is ‘covering prayer’ from Angeli and the family as well as the network of prayer partners worldwide!

Coming back to Los Angeles, we met once again at the ASAP Summer Caravan at the Rose Bowl in 2005. Gary winded down the rehearsals the night before with the all star cast of singer / performers forming a circle onstage and being led in prayer by Gary under the enveloping light of the Rose Bowl. For Gary, I know this is the perfect way to end the day and the best way to start one - in prayer.

Seeing Gary, Angeli, Paolo, and Gabriel, even briefly at Glendale last night was truly hearthwarming, even for just a short moment. Having worked with Gary and Angeli (in different roles) thru time and seeing the difficulty amidst the glory is truly amazing. I know that as Gary celebrates his 25 years in the performing arts as a musician, composer (he loves best to do movie soundtracks), actor, producer (with Angeli & Manila Genesis Productions which handles also 35 other famous talents), gospel singer, dancer, and being a husband to Angeli, and father to their three children Paolo, Gabriel, and Kiana, this is only a small landmark on a great and continuing mission.

June 7, Gary together with sons Paolo and Gabriel will be celebrating a ‘Special 25th Anniversary Concert’ with special guest Martin Nievera, ‘America’s Best Dance Crew’ - the Jabbawockeez, and of the Black Eyed Peas at the newest venue in town, Nokia Theatre Los Angeles. This will be a concert moment to watch. Gary has proved thru the past 25 years that it is not the length of time that matters, it is what happens in the series of tiny moments that can create lasting legacy forever. Continue on Mr. Pure Energy!