The Buskers and Musicians of Taguig
Buskers and musicians find their place under the sun.
KATRINA ANNE PASCUAL // 6 MIN READ
Published August 7, 2018
They stand in their designated spot, their instruments all set up as mall goers pass by and shop owners ply their wares. Thanks to them, the concrete jungle is alive with the sound of live music – from soothing saxophone music accompanying Top 40 songs, to an ensemble of stringed instruments interpreting pop and rock standards.
At BGC, buskers and musicians find their place in the sun.
Never Out of Wind
Leonard Regis – more popularly known for his stage name Saxybeast – is a familiar sight at Bonifacio High Street every day from 8pm onwards. Since March 2017, the full-time Filipino musician has been part of BGC Impromptu, which showcases live music and art performances from the community and provides artists a platform to share their work to the public.
While busking is yet to fully blossom in the country, Saxybeast is no stranger to it. For four months, on the heels of a bad breakup with a girlfriend and a band he helped form, he busked in Melbourne, Australia, and enjoyed its bustling street culture.
“It’s just heaven for any musician, where you’ll see musicians of different nationalities play in every corner and delight converging crowds,” he said.
As BGC’s own sax master, Saxybeast has learned to evolve with the crowd’s musical taste. From a lean lineup of 10 love and slow rock songs, he now has a playlist of about 500 songs made up of dance, jazz and funk, rhythm and blues, and pop favorites from Bruno Mars, Jason Mraz, and Sam Smith.
Saxybeast has also played with the country’s major DJs, as well as before ASEAN delegates and no less than President Rodrigo Duterte. “Thanks to Mayor Lani Cayetano and Teena Barretto Events, I got the chance to play for the President, whom I heard is a saxophone lover himself.”
He considers busking a great way to expose one’s music and personal brand, although it is no surprise to see him wearing his signature panda head once in a while to entertain kids while playing.
A busker’s natural expectation is that no one would stop to listen to his music – people, after all, are trying to catch up with the natural rhythm and flow of daily life. But if someone does, then he hit the gold mine. “Just play with your heart and as if you’re playing for the world and the Big Guy up there.”
Vocalist and acoustic performer Ma. Eloisa Jayloni may have been busking far longer or since August 2014, but being a musician is only one among the many hats she wears. A Taguig native and graduate of the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP) Taguig campus, Jayloni is an engineer by day and a busker by night.
One day while hanging out with friends at BGC, she came across street musicians and felt the same desire and energy to perform for that kind of crowd. She emailed BGC Impromptu, auditioned, and got accepted into the program.
“I’m partial to mellow and old tunes, as they say. I also sing my original compositions; audiences can hear a piece of my soul every time as I really play songs that have significance in my life,” she shared.
Busking gives her a wealth of memorable experiences. People would leave food and treats in her “music station”, while a 7-year-old boy once lifted her spirits after a long day when he shouted and cheered her on: “Go Eloisa, God bless you!” As a street musician, she also feels safe and secure performing in BGC with the presence of security personnel.
Jayloni views busking as a source of “grace after grace after grace.” While she is yet to truly decide on her ultimate goal in life, she is convinced of the important role of busking in achieving it. “It’s one of the vehicles that will take me to that endpoint, whatever that is. For now I’d like to enjoy and rock it.”
Light and Darkness
For Balikatan Rondalla Group, a quartet of blind musicians positioned in the outdoor food area of Market! Market!, music is an avenue to both live and survive.
Formed some two decades ago, the group – composed of Florencio Amaki (bass), Querico Eborde (bandurria), Ricky Baldo (drum pod), and Elmer Gonzales (singer and guitarist) – plays from 10am to 9pm every day at the mall’s outdoor space near the Pasalubong Center and food court. They are driven by a rented van to Taguig and marshaled to safety every single day by Ate Virgie and an alternate guide.
From looks alone, there was hardly any indication that 69-year-old Tatay Querico had a colorful musical past. He was a graduate of the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music, the only visually impaired student in his batch. He recalled how sighted classmates would read test questions aloud to him, while helping write down his answers.
He managed to graduate and had a long career of playing music at a fast food chain, doing piano work for a popular singer in the 1970s, and spending years with Balikatan, a band whose repertoire consisted mainly of Beatles hits.
Living on his social security pension, his earnings from the rondalla, and doing massage, Tatay Querico is all about survival. “Hindi ko na masyadong iniisip ang savings. Basta makatawid kaming mag-asawa sa araw-araw at wala kaming sakit, masaya na ako (I don’t worry too much about our savings. I’m happy as long as my wife and I are able to sustain ourselves everyday, and are in good health).”
Tatay Florencio, who used to do odd jobs such as selling sweepstakes and making soaps, echoes his bandmate’s wish to land more gigs playing at private functions and events.
“Gusto kong makatugtog para sa mga foreigners. Sana makapag-abroad din kami dahil sa aming musika (I want to perform in front of foreigners. I wish we could go abroad and share our music),” said the group’s bass player, pinning his biggest hopes on music and music alone.
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