Quezon City, May 27, 2003 Funfare By Ricardo F. Lo, (Star) Curtain-raisers:

• Did you know that Jose Mari Chan performs more often abroad than he does here? That indicates how nostalgic Pinoys out there are for enduring artists like Jose Mari who spices up his repertoire of romantic songs with witty jokes. Any day now, Jose Mari is flying to San Diego, California, for a concert at the Spreckles Theater on May 31, sponsored by Pentagon Cargo. It’s Joe Mari’s second time to perform in San Diego. From California, Joe Mari is going to New York to watch the new Burt Bacharach musical. Joe Mari is an avid Bacharach fan, in case you didn’t know.

• Did you know that Alice Dixson is currently shooting a yet untitled movie for international release, produced by the Leona Company of Japan? She co-stars with popular Japanese actor Yasuo Daiichi, With Hideo Nambu as director. The movie is being filmed in Manila, Baguio and mostly in Japan. Incidentally, many people continue to wonder if Alice and husband Ronnie Miranda are estranged. No, they are not. Alice is here because of her career while Ronnie has opted to remain in Vancouver where the couple stayed after their wedding a few years back. I saw Ronnie’s mom recently and she said that Alice and Ronnie’s marriage is as strong as ever.

• Did you know that Kris Aquino is again in the cast of the new Mano Po movie also produced by Regal Films as a follow-up to the successful Mano Po (I) shown at the Metro Filmfest in December last year (for which Kris won as Best Supporting Actress)? Kris will play the young Susan Roces. Susan Roces!?! Yes, Susan Roces!!! She has finally said yes to a movie comeback and that’s almost welcome news, indeed! Mano Po (II) will be directed not by Joel Lamangan anymore but by Erick Matti.

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Dingdong: It’s high time, indeed!

DINGDONGThe first time I saw Dingdong Avanzado was 16 years ago on Penthouse Live (remember the Fritz Ynfante-directed TV show where Martin Nievara and Pops Fernandez met and fell in love?). Dingdong was then a wide-eyed, innocent-looking fresh La Salle graduate, just "weaned" from Kundirana (the La Salle singing group). He looked like a little boy lost, groping in the showbiz jungle. It was so long ago that I don’t even remember what song Dingdong was singing – and how he was faring.

I was particularly curious because he mentioned that, like Boy Abunda and Aster Amoyo and yours truly, he’s also a Waray (from the revered Veloso Clan; his maternal grandfather, Fernando, after whom Dingdong was named, was a well-loved governor of Samar). Except for Nonoy Zuniga – and, of course, Madame Imelda Marcos – I can’t recall any other Waray who has made it really big as a singer...can you?

The last time I saw Dingdong was last Saturday at the Music Museum where he marked his 16th anniversary as a singer with a concert called High Time, an apt titled because it‘s high time Dingdong is recognized for his contribution to the industry. He has composed a dozen songs, released a few albums and continues to enrich your and my life with more and more songs. Through the years, Dingdong has remained boyish (would you believe he‘s into his early 30s?) and maybe we can attribute that to his petite build (he couldn’t be any taller than 5’5", I swear!).

It was drizzling that Saturday night but, surprisingly, the Music Museum was 97-percent full, with a sprinkling of celebrities in the audience (Marissa Sanchez was there and were Dingdong’s mom Carina Flores, and so Bojo Molina and his wife who came with the delegation from Guam). Even Aileen, mother of Dingdong’s very pregnant wife Jessa Zaragoza, was there, acknowledged by Dingdong with a big smile. "Okay na kami ng mom-in-law ko," Dingdong told the audience, referring to his and Jessa’s long-drawn misunderstanding with the mother who initially frowned on the couple’s romance. Also present was Dingdong’s 94-year-old grandmother Isabel Malvar-Villegas, the last surviving daughter of Gen. Miguel Malvar, who recounted the family history when Dingdong gave her the floor.

Directed by Louie Ignacio (who also helmed Pangarap Kong Ibigin Ka, Viva Films’ Manila Filmfest entry topbilled by Christopher de Leon and Regine Velasquez), High Time was opened by Jessa’s younger brother Lloyd (very promising!) whom Dingdong unwittingly failed to acknowledge at the end of the show (honest mistake, I assure you!).

Dressed bagets-style, Dingdong perked up the audience (which was getting impatient because the show started at 9 p.m., one hour behind schedule) with Tatlong Beinte Singko, followed by a lovely rendition of I Love You More Today Than Yesterday.

On hand to lend Dingdong support were friend Kyla, Regine Velasquez and Ogie Alcasid (with the Whiplash as Dingdong’s backup dancers). Kyla did a duet with Dingdong before launching into a solo number, Mariah Carey’s Through the Rain. What a voice! Very versatile! Give Kyla more time – and, knock on wood, a few heart breaks – and she’ll develop into a seasoned singer who could easily topple a few so-called "veteran" ones from their self-erected "thrones".

Regine also did a duet with Dingdong before singing the theme song of her Viva movie (yes, Pangarap Kong Ibigin Ka). She came dressed in something flowery, prompting my seatmate to comment in jest. "Look at her, wrapped in a table cloth and getting away with it with flourish!" Before she disappeared clotching a bunch of roses, Regine blew kisses to the now animated audience, jokingly saying no, there wouldn’t be any "encore".

It was fun watching Dingdong and Ogie exchanging fond recollections (did you know, for instance, that Ogie was a "front act" in Dingdong‘s show long ago?) and anecdotes. Their duet of Kailangan Kita (Ogie’s composition used as theme song of the Aga Muhlach-Claudine Barretto movie) and Paalam Na (composed by Dingdong for then girlfriend Rachel Alejandro).

For a while, Dingdong’s guest "threatened" to steal the show from him. But it’s all right. Dingdong understood, I’m sure. "Guests" have to be accorded special treatment; they’re there not to fully satisfy but only to whet the appetite of the audience.

The two-hour show was "verbose," meaning there was lots of talking before the singing, with Dingdong thanking everybody profusely at every turn, summing up his overpowering feeling of gratitude in the song You Made Me So Very Happy which he sang toward the end of the show, and That’s The Way I Like I which was part of his finale medley.

But the highlight of the show was Dingdong’s duet (We’ve Got Tonight) with wife Jessa (pre-taped) who couldn’t be physically present at the Music Museum because she is due anytime now (girl, according to the ultrasound, to be named Jayda). The number was reminiscent of the one Martin and Pops did via hook-up during their separate concerts last February.

Thank you, Dingdong (and company), for lighting up that wet Saturday night.

It’s "high time," really!

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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