A Night of Second Chances at the Metropop Song Festival
By Gay Ace Domingo
December 09, 2003

IT was a night of second chances, second looks, second tries, and twin successes at the most recent Metropop Song Festival 2003, arguably the country’s biggest and most eagerly awaited songwriting tilt. Since its revival by GMA Network in 1996, it has recognized non-mainstream musicians such as Gary Granada and Angelo Villegas, and boosted the singing careers of the likes of Jaya and Carol Banawa.

Last Saturday’s finals night had the spotlight shining brightly for folk singing icon Bayang Barrios who received the first prize for the song, “Malayo Man, Malapit Rin.” Bayang, who wrote and also interpreted the composition, cried unabashedly when host Ryan Cayabayab announced her name. Bayang’s ethnic-sounding tune was chosen as the best among 12 entries by a panel composed of— among others—TV director Bert de Leon, broadcast journalist Jessica Soho, actor Edgar Mortiz, musicians Mel Villena and Jimmy Antiporda, and singer Basil Valdez who was the chair of the board of judges.

The members of the audience at the AFP Theater then turned misty-eyed when Bayang’s mother, who had traveled from Mindanao to Manila, went onstage to hug the winning composer. Metropop project director Marla Teopaco then joined the two with tissue in her hand to wipe the eyes of Bayang, who was then set to belt out a command performance of the winning piece.

For her feat, Bayang received half a million pesos and a glass trophy sculpture by Ramon Orlina.

After the show, Bayang admitted that she still could not believe her good fortune. “Panaginip ba ito?” Bayang said. “Akala ko wala na akong puwang sa industriya. Naiyak ako kasi ngayon lang na-recognize ang musika ko.”

This year was Bayang’s second time to be part of the Metropop. In 1996, her song “Bagong Umaga” was one of the finalists but it did not win. Bayang confessed that she had thought that she’d come home empty-handed all over again. “Sabi ko (sa asawa kong) si Mike (Villegas), uwi na lang tayo . . . ”

Julie Weidanbach, Bayang’s friend who lives in the United States, was the inspiration for “Malayo Man, Malapit Rin.” Bayang said that she met Julie when the latter sponsored a show for Joey Ayala’s Bagong Lumad, when Bayang was still part of that group. “Si Julie ang sumusuporta sa akin all these years,” Bayang added.

She also said that the half a million-cash prize money would definitely go a long, long way in helping her family and relatives in Lanao. “Sana ngayon, mabigyan ko na ng comfort ang nanay ko. Marami na rin akong mapapa-aral na pamangkin.”

And what does the future hold now for Bayang Barrios? She said that her success at the Metropop would not change her nor her life’s goals.

She urged songwriters, struggling artists, and everyone for that matter, to keep pursuing their dreams, even if it means trying for a second or a third, or for several times.

Bayang’s husband, Mike Villegas, took home the second prize for his song “Pretend I Don’t Love You,” interpreted by Cooky Chua, winning for the guitarist/jingle maker/record producer P300, 000. Like Bayang, it was also Mike’s second try at the Metropop.

“Hindi sila mag-aaway ma-maya,” Ryan Cayabyab kidded, referring to Mike and Bayang’s twin successes.

Twenty-something Jonathan Manalo’s “Buti Na Lang,” sung by Kyla, was the Metropop’s third placer.

Kapuso Award for Yoyoy Villame

The most recent Metropop was also a night that paid tribute to novelty songs as comic-singer Yoyoy Villame was honored with the Kapuso Lifetime Achieve-ment Award. Comedian Joey de Leon gave a “crash course” on history by singing a medley of Yoyoy ditties “Mag-Exercise Tayo Tuwing Umaga,” “Magel-lan,” and “Butchikik.” The pro-duction number ended with Joey singing about Yoyoy’s birth on November 18, 1932, in Bohol, a significant event that the medley said contributed to changing of the landscape of Philippine popular music.

Yoyoy’s acceptance speech was like his songs—short, direct-to-the-point, and truthfully funny. He even managed to poke fun at the institution that was giving him the honor. “Ngayon lang ako tumuntong ng Metropop,” he said with a wide grin. “Noon gusto ko sumali pero sabi nila pang-inuman lang raw ang mga komposisyon ko.”

He thanked the supporters of Filipino music, particularly the Metropop, GMA, and even those who continue to buy counterfeit compact discs and cassettes. “Salamat sa pakikinig sa mga pirated na awitin ko,” Yoyoy said. “‘Yong huli namin na pinrodus [na album] hindi na nag-release. Kung may order na lang. Baka ma-pirated lang, sayang. Kung saan kami mapunta, doon na lang kami magbenta ng CD.”

Repeat performance

In this night of “second chances,” singer Arnee had to perform the entry “When You Smile,” a composition by Gino Torres, twice. The finals night started at around 8:00 P.M., and was taped live for airing on GMA Network at 9:30 P.M. Music videos of the songs, which were made by college students, were shown on a big screen in the middle of the stage while the interpreters performed the entries.

During Arnee’s initial perfor-mance, the screen displaying the music video of “When You Smile” suddenly went blank. Arnee continued till the end of the song. Afterwards, host Pops Fernandez came on stage to request Arnee for a repeat, explaining to the audience that the reason for it was a “technical glitch.” “That was a great rehearsal,” Pops said diplomatically, referring the Arnee’s previous performance.

And though Arnee gave an equally energetic and powerful rendition the second time, the song’s composer Gino Torres, member of the Bukas Palad Music Ministry and a musical arranger, however feels that the first one was much better. “Arnee did not have a break so she was catching her breath the second time,” said Gino. “I feel that it is not right that it was the second performance that was documented for television.”

But no matter, Gino still treasures his Metropop experience, if only for the fact that he finally got in after several years of trying. “I am grateful that I’m part of the Metropop legacy and I thank the Metropop for opening doors, giving chances to songwriters like me.”

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