MANILA, Philippines?Perhaps echoing the new administration?s vow to right many wrongs in government, the most anticipated performer at the Aquino inaugural chose not to take liberties with the National Anthem, avoiding the musical faux pas she and other singers earlier committed.
The two-hour ceremony at Quirino Grandstand also brought back to the national stage a folk singer-activist and a retired pop trio known for their patriotic songs; a renowned symphony orchestra; up to five choral groups; and other A-list entertainers who gave Mr. Aquino?s oath-taking its soundtrack of unity and new hope.
Thankfully, international singing star Charice Pempengco avoided belting out ?Lupang Hinirang? and sang the 1898 opus in its original (or state-sanctioned) tempo.
In an earlier TV interview, Charice admitted being nervous about her number?having been criticized before when she tinkered with the hymn to open one of the blockbuster fights of boxing champ Manny Pacquiao.
Accompanied Wednesday by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra with Ryan Cayabyab conducting, Charice toed the line this time, rendering ?Lupang Hinirang? in its simple, marching tempo and delivering the final notes with elegance, not histrionics.
The Aquinos themselves hand-picked Charice to sing the National Anthem at the June 30 inaugural. Her mom Raquel said they were in the United States when she got the call from the President?s celebrity sister Kris.
Raquel said her daughter stuck to the anthem?s traditional version because ?we?ve learned our lesson from past controversies.? She was referring to the pop-like interpretations by other singers, like balladeer Martin Nievera and rocker Arnel Pineda, which then drew censure from the National Historical Institute.
Cayabyab only had one main worry during rehearsal hours before the program: ?I hope (Charice) hears the orchestra cue. It will be disastrous if she doesn?t. But she will definitely sing it full voice.?
Charice went onstage in a yellow-and-black gown, a gift from Kris, by Avel Bacudio, the Inquirer learned.
But of all the performers at the nationally televised event, it was folk singer-songwriter Noel Cabangon who probably gave the most soul-stirring numbers, judging from the reactions of both the VIPs at the grandstand and the masses in the open field.
On his acoustic guitar, Cabangon?a member of the 1980s protest folk band Buklod before going solo?led off with ?Tungo sa Pagbabago, Para sa Pagbabago,? a song of hope and optimism which he wrote for the Aquino campaign.
His second song, ?Ako ay Isang Mabuting Pilipino,? visibly enthralled the crowd and got the VIPs including Mr. Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay to rise from their seats and the audience to sway their hands.
At one point, a smiling Mr. Aquino was seen trying to mumble the lyrics, which were essentially reminders on how to be a model citizen. This was when Cabangon mused about refusing bribes and being honest in public service: ?Pabor o lagay ay ?di ko pinapayagan/Tapat ang serbisyo ko sa mamamayaan/?Di ko binubulsa ang pera ng Bayan ??
Cabangon ended with the loud cheer ?Mabuhay si President Aquino! Mabuhay si Vice President Binay! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!??with TV cameras again catching Mr. Aquino as if responding, ?Mabuhay si Noel Cabangon!?
The day before his inaugural, Mr. Aquino reportedly went to a record store in Quezon City to buy a copy of Cabangon?s latest CD.
?It was Ate Vi (reelected Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos) who asked me to sing it again,? Cabangon later told the Inquirer, referring to ?Mabuting Pilipino,? which he first played live three years ago on FM station NU 107.
?I thought it was a very good opportunity to sing it again at the program proper,? he said. ?It was surreal ? two former Presidents (Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada) behind me, thousands of people in front. I just hope the song?s message works.?
The APO Hiking Society, the recently retired trio of Jim Paredes, Danny Javier and Boboy Garovillo, reunited for the event and sang ?Minamahal Naming Pilipinas.?
Pop stars Ogie Alcasid and girlfriend Regine Velasquez did a duet, with La Salle Green Hills? all-boys group Kundirana on backup vocals. They sang a reggae-flavored Aquino campaign ditty.
Velasquez followed it up with the melodramatic ?Hindi Ka Nag-iisa,? another Aquino campaign jingle which had been aired on TV as a music video featuring an all-star cast.
The Aquino inaugural song, ?Bagong Pilipinas,? a collaborative work between Alcasid and Cabangon, featured a number of big-name artists including Gary Valenciano, Christian Bautista, Jed Madela and Nina. Its pop appeal, however, did not immediately connect with the crowd.
The renowned PPO performed a solemn piece titled ?Sabihin Mo,? while the globe-trotting Philippine Madrigal Singers sang its version of the classic protest anthem ?Bayan Ko.?
Like most of the performers, Velasquez beamed that, in her 25 years in show biz, it was her first time to attend and sing at a presidential inauguration.
?Apart from being excited, I also feel proud because three of the songs in the lineup were written by [boyfriend] Ogie.? said the power-singer hailed as Asia?s Songbird, who came in an old velvet terno by Patis Tesoro.
Show of unity
?We are here to show that Filipinos are united,? Alcasid said.
?We are here to celebrate with our new President. We don?t have just one color here ... but all the colors of the rainbow. Not just one political or network affiliation. We are all here for our country,? Alcacid said.
?During our rehearsals last night, the new song [composed by Cabangon and Alcasid] sounded so beautiful and heartfelt. The people who were watching the rehearsals felt the song?s message,? Valenciano said.
?I campaigned for (another presidential candidate) Bro. Eddie Villanueva,? Valenciano said. ?But even Bro. Eddie himself said that we should all pray for and support whoever God chooses to win as president. Noynoy symbolizes what the country has been longing for so long: Unity.?
Stars, indeed, crossed network lines to welcome the new President.
Nina, who wore a green Vivo Nazareth terno, pointed out: ?Stars from rival shows like ABS-CBN?s ?Asap? and GMA 7?s ?Party Pilipinas? performed together.?
?It?s a good start,? said Bautista, who donned a Francis Libiran barong. ?This administration can bring people from different networks together.?
All sorts of ?K?
ABS-CBN?s Madela, who wore a barong by Joey Samson, said: ?It?s a rare opportunity. I?m so happy that I got to work with artists from the other station. Later at the street party, I will also sing with JayR and Kyla who are from GMA 7.?
Valenciano quipped: ?There are all sorts of K?s here today: Kapamilya, Kapuso, Kapatid, Kabayan, Kaibigan and Kundirana (whose former members included him and Alcacid).?
According to Cayabyab, the inaugural choir also included the Pansol Choir, Coro de Sta. Cecilia, Kilyawan and Cic Chorale.
Among the stars spotted in the VIP row were Sharon Cuneta and daughters KC Concepcion and Frankie and Miel Pangilinan; the comedienne Pokwang; and sweethearts Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes.
Sharon came in a ?recycled? Fanny Serrano gown. ?She previously wore it at the Paris Cinema film festival in France two years ago. We didn?t have time to make a new gown . . . So I just embellished the terno with a yellow ribbon,? Serrano said.
?Miel and Frankie?s dresses were ?recycled, too, worn in school programs,? Cuneta added. KC came in a vintage-style gown by Jun Escario.
Though she?s the daughter of a politician, the late Pasay City Mayor Pablo Cuneta, Sharon said it was her first time to attend a presidential inauguration.
?It was awe-inspiring,? the Megastar said, describing her view from the gallery. ?I told my sleepy 5-year-old Miel that when she grows up, she will be proud that she witnessed this day right where it was happening.?
?I am especially proud to be Filipino now,? she said. ?I am filled with new hope and aspirations. Our country deserves much, much better than what it has received.?
?I?m so emotional, I couldn?t help shedding some tears, especially when Regine sang ?Hindi Ka Nag-Iisa,?? Sharon said. ?I know (President) Noy is not the only solution, but all of us. We are not alone on this.?
For Dantes, Mr. Aquino?s address, was ?a wake-up call (for us) to roll up our sleeves and work hand in hand with this administration.?