[PHOTO AT LEFT - Michelle Junia recently launched Back in Time via a concert MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, JUNE 23, 2009 (STAR) On her third solo show, Michelle Junia paid tribute to her dad, businessman Ray Junia, and to all daddies with the launch of her debut album, Back in Time. Titled Daddy’s Favorites, the concert and album launch was held last June 26 at the Music Museum in Greenhills.

“What more can a father ask for? The album has my favorite songs, those I grew up with and still cherish up to now. I’m blessed,” says Ray.

Michelle performed all the songs on the album, which include upbeat renditions of Connie Francis’ Stuck on You, Return to Sender and Lipstick on your Collar; and bossa nova versions of Elvis Presley songs Jailhouse Rock, Blue Suede Shoes and Don’t Be Cruel, among others. Music genius Kettle Mata did the new arrangements and composed an original titled Lambing, a song about longing for someone special but needed to be part of one’s past. It will soon be aired on radio stations as a carrier single.

Michelle started singing at a young age and was inspired when she experienced a show by Lea Salonga, then still a child performer. Michelle has trained with Ryan Cayabyab and became one of the original members of the 14K.

Before she graduated from high school, she has toured the US with Fr. Sonny Ramirez for a series of shows featuring inspirational songs. Instead of pursuing the conventional career path for local solo singers, Michelle opted to stay in school and graduated cum laude at the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor of Music degree, major in voice. — Riya Mata-Cagahastian

Every day is Father's Day NEW BEGINNINGS By Bum D. Tenorio, Jr. Updated June 21, 2009 12:00 AM

[PHOTO AT LEFT - Illustration by Phoebe Marquez]

Every weekend that I go home to Laguna is always a celebration of Father’s Day. When I arrive, my father’s face always lights up; the creases on my old man’s mien are happily stretched because he unabashedly displays the joy to see his Junior’s return.

“Mano po,” I tell him as I kiss his hand.

“Kaawaan ka ng Diyos (God bless you),” he answers my respectful gesture as he gives me his blessings. The breeze coming from Laguna de Bay highlights more the blissful father-and-son weekend encounter. I sit beside him on a wooden hammock tied to the branches of the himbaba-o tree in our backyard. Dried leaves momentarily shower us as we swing together, with my right arm perched on his shoulder.

As we gently go up in mid-air, he tells me stories, anything under the sun. I listen intently to him. From time to time he cracks a joke. I am already in stitches long before he lets go of the punch line.

And when suddenly the wind stops from blowing, he will court it again by whistling. He will whistle a tune — a kundiman or harana song — that is always familiar to me. After all, he and my mother used to lull my brothers and me to sleep with those songs.

I anticipate the coming of the weekend like a kid waiting for Christmas Day. I am the kid, my family members are the gifts. For one, I know that my family is always awaiting my return in the morning of every Saturday; that has always been the case for 14 years now ever since I started working in Manila. I am equally excited to touch base with them in the weekend because my family is my natural energizer. Even if I check on my family every day of the week, no amount of phone calls can match the happiness I feel when I see them, when I am with them physically.

My parents are my happy pills. In times when I feel low, just the thought of them lifts me up. Their rays shine upon me on a rainy, dreary day. When I see them, my worries dissipate — just like that. I always think our parents are magicians; they cast a magic spell on us so we will be insulated even if we are far away from them.

In moments when I cannot sleep in my room, all I have to do is to go inside my parents’ room and sleep in between them. The 37-year-old in me sleeps like a baby, comforted by the snoring presence of my 74-year-old father and 65-year-old mother. Ahh, indeed, they are my very loving human Dormicum.

My father has even lovingly “imposed” on me that my weekend should be spent with them. Therefore, when I automatically accepted the challenge, my Saturday and Sunday have been non-negotiable. If ever my job will require me to be far away from my father for a weekend or two, I have to let him know a week or two in advance, perhaps because he has to prepare himself of not seeing me on the days that we both agreed we would have each other. Oh how he wishes I can spend more days with him! But I have to be in Manila five days a week, to better provide for them.

His “imposition” is not at all asphyxiating. I enjoy it as much as I enjoy showering love to my loved ones. I espouse that we should celebrate our family while the time still counts, while the moment still matters.

I always find it a magical moment to share with my father my thoughts, too, as we do our catching-up on the swing, every weekend. I tell him about the things I do on weekdays. As always, he finds time to enter my world that he has never seen. He now knows that a yak is used to transport farm produce from the fields of Chengdu, the same way his carabao was his beast of burden when he was still agile in tilling the soil so he could provide for his family.

I told him once that if Laguna de Bay — where he used to fish to put food on our table — was properly developed and protected before, it would resemble the Jimbaran Bay in Bali.

I once described to him the intricately awesome castles I saw in Europe but regaled him also that the best castle I have seen is our humble home because there I can serve him and my mother as my King and Queen. Despite its simplicity, I still consider our home a castle on its own.

Every time I tell my father about my sojourns, I can feel that he wants to fly one day. He has never experienced riding a plane, just like most members of my family, but I’m sure that time will come when my father regains his stamina. Ever since he suffered a massive cardiac arrest in 2006 that made him now half the man I used to know, my father has declared his oxygen tank his new best friend. That humongous green tank has been a regular fixture in our little sala. Meanwhile, I’m preparing to buy him a portable oxygen tank that he can use when we ride his car to travel to the beautiful destinations around Laguna.

So every weekend, I go home to celebrate and dream with my father. His weak body gives me strength. Well, I shower him with love and I feel that it also makes him stronger.

There’s a lump in my throat every time I leave Laguna on Monday morning. But the thought of coming home in the weekend keeps me going. As long as there is a weekend for me to anticipate, there will always be a Father’s Day to celebrate.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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