Last update: January 06 2008, 11:56 PM
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The year of living scandalously

January 06, 2008

“Of course, I’m happy that I’m always in the news. Without intrigues, I don’t have a career.” ―Gretchen Barretto to a news crew, December 2007

MANILA, Philippines - There you go. Infamy seems to have become a profession in these parts―and it looks, as we recall the year just past, like a very competitive one.

Barretto’s statement succinctly captures what sounds like “career philosophies” of many media celebrities who hogged the headlines in 2007.

Hollywood overdosed on Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan―disparagingly, if jokingly, referred to on a cable entertainment channel as the Four Bimbos of the Apocalypse.

Well, the local scene went to town obsessing about reigning shampoo-ad queens Ruffa Gutierrez, Kris Aquino and yes, Barretto.

Greta expectations

Remember: There was that photo of Barretto in a torrid lip-lock with John Estrada, supposedly taken in the home of Rufa Mae Quinto during a party.

The shocking snapshot was all over the Net in June.

In October, another series of incriminating Greta photos with a man other than partner Tony Boy Cojuangco was “leaked” to the media, via the World Wide Web.

Barretto remained intriguingly nonchalant. Turned out, it was part of a PR campaign for her latest commercial endorsement―to drum up publicity for the model and the product.

It has to be pointed out that the skin-care item and the shampoo that Barretto endorses are from the same giant company.

This made Rushes wonder: Were all those previous controversies―messy breakups, awkward cleanups―involving other shampoo beauties similarly concocted?

There is another crucial and valid question: Will we be made to endure more scandals of dubious origins this year? Abangan.

Good grief, 2008 is the Year of the Rat!

Hope springs eternal

Awards are in order.

Most Outrageous Soap Opera goes to the Hope Centeno-James Yap-Kris Aquino debacle, akin to something that hit the fan (appropriately) in February, Love Month.

The resultant media circus cast preggy Aquino as a Deepak Chopra-quoting warrior woman; befuddled (or at least that’s how he looked throughout the embarrassing fiasco) Yap as a hen-pecked husband and body-scrub aficionado; and hitherto unknown Centeno as beauty clinic receptionist-turned-instant talk show fixture.

Of the three protagonists, note that Centeno was the only one who remained true to her pledge―to return to virtual anonymity after a brief flirtation with notoriety. But she’s reportedly back in town, looking for work. Hmmm.

Brutus, Olive Oyl and friends

Most Stunning Reality Show Gone Berserk goes to... the Bickering Bektases!

In May, Ruffa Gutierrez and Yilmaz Bektas exchanged heated words in the media over alleged spousal abuse and neglect of maternal duties in May.

He called her Brutus. She said she’d rather be known as Olive Oyl.

No one wanted to be the hero Popeye.

It was ugly and maddening, and everyone jumped in, or was thrown onto, the bandwagon―“The Buzz,” “Showbiz Central,” even the feminist group Gabriela and, of course, Gutierrez’s pugnacious mom Annabelle Rama.

These days, Gutierrez continues to exchange calls and text messages with the man she has accused as a sadistic tormentor―who, by the way, flew into town for a brief kiss-and-make-up visit when the coast was clear. Along the way, Gutierrez bagged additional modeling, television and movie contracts.

She now describes her relationship with the “father of my children” as “complicated.”

Got that.

Again, one question remains unanswered: Where in the world is Richard Daloia―the man Gutierrez supposedly married in Las Vegas, pre-Yilmaz?

Strange bedfellows

Ruffa’s Vegas wedding to Daloia was traced via the same US government web site that bore information about Mark Lapid’s marriage to Korean Yuri Park, and Nora Aunor’s supposed wedding to her manager and fellow female Norie Sayo.

Kris crisis redux

Kris Aquino gave birth to son Baby James in April. Even before the infant could turn on his side―okay, at least before he could walk―he had co-starred with mom in a TV commercial and with mom and half-brother Joshua on a billboard!

Non-singer Aquino has also achieved the seemingly impossible, a platinum record award for a CD collection of sappy love songs―sung by uncredited artists and interspersed with bits of New Age philosophizing by the TV host.

Baby bonds sisters

This birthing is a harbinger of good news, for a change.

When Rodrigo Santino, son of Claudine Barretto and Raymart Santiago, was born in July, among the early visitors was sister Gretchen―with whom the new mom had been feuding.

Baby Santino mended the fragile relationship, inspiring Aunt Greta to exclaim, via SMS to Inquirer Entertainment: “I am thrilled by the arrival of a new family member. Santino is such a joy. [He] gave us a grin, which made the trip to visit him worthwhile.”

Amalia on the warpath

With a hilarious one-liner, 1960s Sampaguita star Amalia Fuentes ended her nearly three-decade marriage to golfer-businessman Joey Stevens.

The quotable quote: “I am proud that [another] woman would still want that 75-year-old relic.”

Against all odds

While other stars around them were breaking up, singers Ogie Alcasid and Regine Velasquez finally announced they were in a relationship, via a string of well-orchestrated media revelations that virtually shut out tabloids.

The fact that Regine was promoting a movie with Piolo Pascual didn’t escape the radar of discerning media critics who were only too quick to connect the Regine-Piolo film’s failure at the tills with the trouncing that the couple got from miffed tabloid columnists.

Angel flies the coop

After weeks of speculation, Angel Locsin decided not to renew her various deals with GMA 7 and signed up with bitterest rival station ABS-CBN 2 in August.

Angel’s departure allowed Marian Rivera, Maxene Magalona and Jewel Mische to land plum roles in Kapuso shows.

It also fueled the raging network war to fever pitch levels.

Noontime war

Speaking of that war...

Willie Revillame dared engage Joey de Leon in a word war after the latter insinuated on “Eat Bulaga” that there was cheating in the “Wilyonaryo” segment of “Wowowee” in August.

Willie’s on-air meltdown made it to YouTube!

Censors chief Marissa Laguardia had to step in and remind the dueling duo that their job was to entertain and not engage in an ego joust.

This nasty episode had a nastier epilogue: A seemingly “suspicious” (Sen. Francis Escudero’s observation) rehearsal video of Willie’s “Wilyonaryo” segment was again posted on YouTube in December.

Daddy Dennis

After nine months of barefaced denials, Dennis Trillo finally admitted that he was the father of Carlene Aguilar’s baby, Calyx Andreas, on “Showbiz Central” in October.

Was it purely coincidental that he had just launched “Zaido” at the time? We doubt it.

Daddy Dennis redux

Wonder of wonders, Carlene Aguilar’s supposed confrontation with Cristine Reyes on the set of “All Star K” was caught on camera in November.

The bone of contention? Trillo, of course, supposedly Cristine’s current beau.

Ara Mina’s not-so little sister promptly filed a slander case against Carlene. But the girls quickly patched things up, leaving the flighty guy high and dry.

Libel and Lolit

Just as litigious were Piolo Pascual and Sam Milby, who slapped Lolit Solis with a P12-million libel suit in November―for insinuating, in a tabloid column, that the two ABS-CBN heartthrobs were gay. The case is ongoing.

Feuding over pirates

On the eve of the Metro Manila Film Festival, Bong Revilla and Edu Manzano were enmeshed in a verbal tussle over the fight against piracy.

Revilla was quick to apologize, but Manzano remained stern. It was subsequently revealed that Revilla’s camp was grooming Cesar Montano to replace Manzano, whose term as head of the Optical Media Board ends this year.

This prompted Leo Martinez, head of the Film Academy of the Philippines, to quip: “Actors shouldn’t be tapped to head the OMB. It should be a policeman or a military man, since the job is mainly enforcement.”

Big fight

His battle against cancer is the biggest fight of action star Rudy Fernandez’s life.

Fernandez made public his ailment, peri-ampullary cancer, in March.

And as if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Fernandez’s wife, Lorna Tolentino, had to duke it out with Rosanna Roces over him in print and on air.

Rustom vindicated

Rustom Padilla (“Zsazsa Zaturnnah”) tied with Mark Gil (“Rotonda”) for Urian Best Actor and, as bonus, starred in an on-cam reconciliation with brothers Robin and Rommel and mom Eva Cariño on “Showbiz Central” and “Deal or No Deal.”

Final bow

This year, the industry mourned the loss of actors Ace Vergel and Ramon Zamora, scriptwriter Rene Villanueva, and TV host Pete Roa.

Last two minutes

Just in time for newspaper and talk shows’ year-end reports, Sunshine Cruz packed her bags in a huff (again!), leaving husband Cesar Montano at the peak of the holiday season allegedly because of a teenaged Brazilian model.

Montano was quick to dismiss his wife’s tantrum as “childish,” and she refused to comment, to “protect my three little angels.”

The shocked public may have overlooked the fact that ABS-CBN had cast the warring Montanos in the upcoming action series “Palos,” set to premiere early this year. Like, real soon. Suspiciously soon.

The last time Cruz acted up―remember the Air Force One runaround?―the couple was opening a restaurant.

And as we went to press... “Many people were surprised to hear the announcement that Jennylyn Mercado was pregnant by boyfriend Patrick Garcia”―said a show biz segment of prime time newscast.

Uh, we weren’t.

Thing is, we really wouldn’t mind mishaps of this sort if the personalities involved backed these up with solid pieces of work that their jobs (careers) require.

Like so: After they ran away together, Brad Pitt produced “Babel” and Angelina Jolie did “A Mighty Heart.”

This is all we ask.

Ranting over ratings

The last month of 2007 saw ABS-CBN questioning the methods of AGB Nielsen in gathering ratings’ data.

In a report aired on dzMM (ABS-CBN’s AM radio station), it was alleged that AGB Nielsen had named GMA 7 as the culprit in the purported bribery scandal.

GMA 7 filed a P15-million libel suit against ABS-CBN.

H’wood encounters

Hollywood actor Josh Hartnett caused a major commotion in Mount Diwalwal in Mindanao while shooting the movie “I Come With the Rain,” directed by Vietnam’s Tran Anh Hung, in August.

Hartnett spent a week in the southern province, where he was guarded by an army battalion, about 1,000 troops. The amused (annoyed?) actor had to ask, “Do we really need all these men?”

Also in the cast was Japanese superstar Takuya Kimura, who also shot some sequences in Diwalwal for a day.

As Hartnett flew out, maverick Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino flew in.

Tarantino, a fan of Filipino filmmakers Eddie Romero and Cirio Santiago, came to conduct a workshop, attend the Cinemanila International Film Festival, whose organizers gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award, ride the padyak to Malacañang Palace, and have one massage after another.

Great beer, great Batanes

Earlier in July, Chinese martial arts hero Jet Li visited Manila to shoot a beer commercial.

In November, the country played host to another Asian superstar―Taiwanese singer-actor Ken Chu of F4 fame.

In spite of his management company’s reluctance, Chu accepted the offer to co-star with Iza Calzado in Adolf Alix and Dave Hukom’s “Batanes,” shot in November.

Chu and Calzado were subsequently declared “adopted children” of the country’s northernmost island-province. Chu wondered aloud, “Does this mean I can buy property there?”

Iza in H’wood

Calzado slipped in and out of town to shoot the Hollywood version of Yam Laranas’ “Sigaw” in Toronto. Calzado said working with foreign actors like James Bradford in “Sigaw” and Ken Chu in “Batanes” taught her one thing: “We are all the same.”

Define “best”

Flashback: “Enteng Kabisote 3” accomplished the seemingly unthinkable―it was declared Best Picture in the 32nd Metro Manila Film Festival (2006), and promptly got the goat of the Catholic Initiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation.

The film body of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, CINEMA dismissed the fantasy flick as “brainless, morally disturbing.”

Even so, “Enteng” won the top plum at that MMFF, announced midway through the festival, because of the “commercial success” criterion. By the end of the film fest, however, “Enteng” had been edged out by Second Best Picture winner, “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo” as top-grosser.

Fast forward to the 33rd MMFF, ongoing. As of Jan. 1, “Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo,” sequel to “Kasal,” has overtaken “Enteng 4” at the tills.

Thank heavens for real industry news

IN APRIL, Unitel president and chief executive officer Tony Gloria made Optima’s post-production and Opticolors’ printing facilities available to independent filmmakers.

The program gives emerging directors and producers access to the company’s digital cameras and state-of-the-art equipment. To date, only indie films “Ataul for Rent” and “Banal” have taken Unitel up on the offer.

Cheers and jeers

The past year was a good one for the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board in terms of enforcing rules and regulations, according to its chief, Marissa Laguardia. “Movie and TV producers practiced self-regulation more intently,” Laguardia reported. “Hindi na sila pasaway.”

Still, the board found itself at the receiving end of jeers for giving X-ratings to several short films and documentaries.

In January, former president Joseph Estrada’s bio-documentary, “Ang Mabuhay para sa Masa” was rated X because the reviewers deemed that the part about Edsa 2 tended to “incite political rebellion.”

In September, the board ruled that “Rights,” a collection of short films on human rights issues, was “not fit for public viewing.”

Last month, independent films “Mendiola” and “A Day in the Life of President Arrovo” re ceived “X” ratings partly because a three-member review committee found both films “libelous” and “defamatory to the good name of the President.”

Indie revenge

The independent movie industry was at its busiest in 2007, with more films winning awards and getting invited for screenings around the globe.

A major breakthrough was the opening of IndieSine, a theater dedicated to alternative movies made by independent filmmakers. The movie house, located in at Robinsons Galleria, Ortigas Center, became fully operational in January. It is a joint project of the Independent Filmmakers’ Multi-purpose Cooperative (IFC), and Robinsons Malls.

Also in January, five Filipino indie filmmakers landed on the cover of “Daily Tiger,” official newsletter of the 36th Rotterdam International Film Festivals in The Netherlands.

Directors John Torres, Khavn dela Cruz, Alexis Tioseco, Raya Martin, and film producer Arleen Cuevas were photographed playing indoor football with Iranian lensman Jafar Panahi. The works of the filmmakers, plus two other Filipinos, were screened during the week-long festival.

Winning streak

In May, Brilliante “Dante” Mendoza’s “Kaleldo” ("Summer Heat”) won the critics’ prize from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema at the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) in Korea.

Mendoza’s “Foster Child,” a film on the state of foster care in the Philippines, had its world premiere at the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival, also in May. This film, written by Joel Jover, was featured in the Director’s Fortnight section, which showcases the works of talented up-and-coming filmmakers from around the world. A total of 24 films were featured in the special section.

VIP guests

Still in May, Cameron Bailey, one of six international programmers of the Toronto International Film Festival, visited the country to watch local movies and meet with filmmakers.

Bailey, who has worked with TIFF for the past 12 years, picked two Pinoy entries to the festival’s 2007 edition: Mel Chionglo’s “Twilight Dancers” and Jeffrey Jeturian’s “Kubrador.”

That same month, Geoff Gilmore, artistic director of the celebrated Sundance International Film Festival, largest indie cinema fest in the US, also flew in to join a symposium on independent filmmaking.

Industry road map

A convention to formulate a development plan for the survival of the movie industry was held in June. Top officials of the IFC, Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP), Directors’ Guild of the Philippines and Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Pelikulang Pilipino signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that would formulate an industry “road map.”

In July, Bong Ramos’ “Hwa-Ang,” a digital film that chronicles the struggles of a nun in her quest to educate tribal children in Ifugao, received a rare endorsement from the Department of Education (DepEd).

Network’s first

“Sindié: Sa Pagsisimula ng Indie,” GMA 7’s first festival of short films, was held at the IndieSine in July. A total of 14 films, products of the film and TV production and acting workshops in June and October 2006 and April 2007, were screened.

Workshop facilitators were Bembol Roco, German Moreno, Tina de Guzman, Roence Santos and Nanding Josef. Film and TV production were handled by indie filmmakers Jon Red, Raymond Red, Robert Quebral, Cesar Hernando and Paolo Villaluna; and TV director Ruel Bayani.

Moonrise Film Festival

In August, Donnie Sacueza’s “Lawa ng Bae,” a documentary on the state of Laguna de Bay, bagged the Grand Charlie Award and a cash prize of P100,000 at the third Moonrise Film Festival.

Nine documentaries shot across the country―from Mt. Province in the north to the Caubian Island in Southern Visayas―competed for the trophy.

Inquirer roundtable

Jim Libiran’s “Tribu,” which chronicles the activities of real-life gangsters, was declared Best Picture in the 3rd Philippine Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. The first-time thespians featured in “Tribu” collectively won as Best Actors.

The Inquirer hosted a roundtable discussion on the Philippine indie movie scene in August. Invited were filmmakers Libiran, Auraeus Solito and Gene Cajayon; thespians Cherry Pie Picache, Irma Adlawan and Gina Pareño; post-production expert, Ignite Media’s Dave Hukom, and film producer Arlene Cuevas.

That same month, Redd Ochoa ("Baliw”), Brillante Mendoza ("Foster Child”) and Neil Tan ("Ataul for Rent”)” were featured in the Montreal World Film Festival’s “Focus on World Cinema” section.

Academy Awards bet

In September, The Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) announced that it had chosen the indie film “Donsol,” by Adolf Alix, as RP’s entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 80th Academy Awards in January (this month).

Organizers of the Global Lens 2008 series in September declared that Jeffrey Jeturian’s “Kubrador” ("The Bet Collector”) would open the week-long film festival in January 2008 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

“Kubrador” will be one of 10 award-winning narratives to be screened in Global Lens 2008, along with feature films from Indonesia, China, Argentina, South Africa, Croatia, Iran, Lebanon and India.

Mendoza’s “Foster Child” bagged another award in October― the Special Jury Prize from the 2007 Eurasia International Film Festival in Kazakhstan.

One-stop shop

In November, Malacañang issued a presidential executive order (EO 674) for the creation of the Philippine Film Export Services Office, which “shall facilitate the institutionalization of a one-stop-shop system for foreign film and television productions.”

“Neo-Lounge,” a film directed by Joanna Vasquez-Arong, was named Best Documentary Film in the 34th Brussels International Independent Film Festival held that same month. The film portrays the effects of the SARS outbreak on people’s lives.

In December, three of the eight Bollywood film producers who flew in for a weeklong visit pledged to make films here. “We plan to get assistance from local talents―action directors, set designers and cinematographers,” said Huzeifa Lokdawala of Popcorn Motion Picture PVT Ltd.

Feather in our cap

The Inquirer Entertainment staff, which covers the indies as a proper news beat, find the scene dynamic, infectious in its excitement, and therefore rewarding.

A precious feather in the cap we proudly wear is this note from acclaimed indie filmmaker Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil:

“Thank you for the wholehearted and enduring support that you have given to indies. No other newspaper, I believe, has given it as much space and importance, covered it as diligently, and pushed it with as much faith as the Philipine Daily Inquirer has. I tell my friends at the IFC not to hesitate to approach your team if they have news to share.

“I think I can safely say that I am not alone here―all indie filmmakers truly appreciate this editorial commitment of yours to cover not only mainstream cinema, not only box-office and star-driven projects, which would of course cater to the majority of readers, but also small projects that may actually be redefining Philippine cinema. “That you have been giving it this much attention means you are our partner in making a difference.”

... and thank you for the music

The country’s biggest rock band and a pop singer from the ’80s showed in 2007 that there are infinitely better ways to revive old songs.

Because it was always busy with concerts, the band Bamboo didn’t have time to record a new studio album after 2005’s “Light Peace Love.” But its all-covers work, “We Stand Alone Together” (EMI Philippines), yielded two gems, Anak Bayan’s “Probinsyana” and Buklod’s “Tatsulok.” The first had a bursting, brass-like arrangement that gave more life to its romantic overtures; the second featured haunting guitars that lent more power to its social justice theme. Bamboo’s brilliant interpretation of these classics redesigned the template on how cover songs should be chosen and reworked.

Top of the crop

But as far as covering foreign material was concerned, Raymond Lauchengco’s jazz-inspired “Full Circle: The Big Band Album” (Viva) was tops. It allowed listeners to appreciate, in a new light, a bunch of ’80s pop hits― Jo Boxer’s “Just Got Lucky,” Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go,” Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” etc.― which, in their original versions, might never have appealed to current music consumers.

Still on the subject of covers, the non-original tracks in Luke Mejares’ “Pangako” (Sony BMG) and Jimmy Marquez’s self-titled debut (Viva) managed to sustain interest because of the great vocals. These are good albums that they might have been better had the producers cared to go beyond the usual practice of using programmed music. Marquez deserves a follow-up album, if only because his debut contained only five tracks. It was actually released in 2006 but is worth mentioning here, lest his producers forget about him.

Blame it on the bossa

A word on the local bossa nova trend, which apparently gets its sustenance on cover versions of just about any song that fits the easy-listening nature of this Brazilian music genre: The reason that Sitti became such a big hit was not exactly her voice, but the memories she revived with the songs. But this formula sort of went overboard in Sofia’s double CD, which combined an earlier album, “Bossa Latino Lite” (Ivory) with the follow-up, “In Love with Nova Bossa.” Sofia claimed to have explored new territory (“nova bossa” or new bossa), in which “bossa meets pop, jazz, dance and so on…”

The idea sounded okay, except that the listener was of course bound to ask whether Pinoy bossa nova artists were only as good as covering Jobim and company till kingdom come.

The real deal

But Eileen Sison and Guarana’s “Musica Brasileira” (Viva) was different. Not only did it cover Jobim in Portuguese, it dared perform the music in some tracks with Filipino lyrics. A Bong Peñera original was also sung in Portuguese, which could be confusing for one who didn’t understand a word of it. What Sison and Guarana (composed of some of the best Pinoy session musicians like Richie Quirino, Michael Guevarra, et al.) wanted to say was that the beauty of bossa nova (the album has actually more of samba) should be heard in its native tongue. Sison studied the language, went to Brazil to soak in the culture, and started performing the music long before Sitti and the rest cashed in on it.

Of course we don’t have to learn Portuguese to like “Musica Brasileira.” The emotions expressed in the album connect to the soul in the same way that joy, sadness and romance affect everyone.

Best pop album

6cyclemind proved it could offer more than its previous set of covers (Teeth’s “Prinsesa,” Cocojam’s “Dinamayan Mo Ako,” etc.) with the release of “Fiesta! Magsasaya ang Lahat” (Sony BMG), written while on a nationwide tour.

But the best pop album by a band would have to be Orange & Lemons’ “Moonlane Gardens” (Universal Records). The creative tension between the band’s main songwriters, Mcoy Fundales and Clem Castro, reached a productive high here, with cleverly crafted tunes that utilized old music forms (the waltz-based “Ang Katulad Mong Walang Katulad,” for instance) and studio effects in a conceptual work about an imaginary paradise where love reigns supreme. This has aptly become the band’s legacy, after an untimely breakup.

Invitation to Ellen

Speaking of pop, four new artists broke into the scene by way of a reality TV search competition. The respective debut albums of Yeng Constantino, Jay R Siaboc, Chad Peralta (all released by Star Records) and Ronnie Liang (Universal) were fairly impressive. Each of these albums bore a couple of hits, even as Constantino enjoyed a head start since a number of her compositions “Hawak-Kamay,” “Salamat,” etc.) had been airing on TV for the duration of the competition.

Fourteen-year-old Charice Pempengco made it to the Ellen DeGeneres Show on account of the buzz generated by her lung-busting performances captured on video and posted on YouTube. (If you ask us, DeGeneres needs to come over ... to find more prodigies like Pempengco with the same style and possibly equal lung power.) Turns out, a Swedish record label had previously heard the girl and flown her to Stockholm, where she recorded tracks for an upcoming CD.

Noteworthy debuts

Two female singer-songwriters, Lala and Nityalila, delivered noteworthy debut CDs. Lala’s “Stars” (Warner) contained ear-pleasing melodies. Nityalila’s “Ako’y Isang Pinay” (Manna Records) had spiritual and philosophical observations on the human condition. It could be quite affecting―we hope radio would allow more to people hear it by playing not only the carrier track, a cover of the Florante classic.

Pinoy hip hop discovery Gloc-9 recorded a near-masterpiece, “Diploma” (Sony BMG), which not only showcased his 300-words-a-minute motor-mouth, but likewise revealed the sensitive lyricism of rap music.

The college band Kastigo came out with its independently produced debut, “Our Daily Riot.” Riding on the strength of hype (“the future of Pinoy rock,” proclaimed a fan, drummer Wolf Gemora) and the adulation of its school fan base, the group displayed confidence with its metal-influenced sound and taunting lyrics on teenage guilt and confusion. However, it would definitely take more than one album before one can fully believe the hype.

Thumbs up, thumbs down

Another indie release, Noli Aurillo’s “Meanderings: The Prelude” (released in 2006 but hardly written about) should be heard by filmmakers and producers. It contains materials that capture different moods and emotions fit for soundtracks.

Parokya ni Edgar’s late December release, “Solid” (Universal Records), offered a few refreshing takes on its patented humor-laden music. The portrayal of religious tolerance, school rivalry and gay pride in “Anti-Matter” was commendable. And the satirical bent in its adaptation of the Village People’s “Macho Man” still worked. But there were more tracks that didn’t pack enough strength. Several numbers dwelled too much on alcoholism, and sometimes the humor failed to take off (especially in “Cell Phone Wallet”). Chito Miranda’s serious note-for-note cover of Robin Gibb’s “Boys Do Fall in Love” could leave fans disoriented.

2007 was also the year when such a thing as Pinoy neo-soul emerged―with Up Dharma Down, Julianne, Sino Sikat? and Bituin Escalante showing the way with fine albums to boot.

Feel bad, sound good

Which brings us to Amy Winehouse, the British singer-songwriter who dug deep into her soul influences (The Shirelles, Motown, mainstream jazz) and came up with “Back to Black” (MCA), a thoroughly absorbing album that made feeling bad sound good.

Still about the past: a couple of retrospectives, Eric Clapton’s “Complete Clapton” (MCA) and Led Zeppelin’s “Mothership” (Warner) should serve as crash courses on guitar-playing and hard rock appreciation to budding musicians and young fans alike.

To top it all, the 1970s supergroup Eagles recorded “Long Road Out of Eden” (MCA), a new 20-track double CD that flies high with insights on relationships and the environment, set to that familiar folk-rock sound that left us daydreaming: Will we ever get to see this band play at the Big Dome?

Foreign acts

And speaking of concerts, it was apparent that the Philippines had become a viable market of foreign acts of every stripe―be it contemporary rock (Fall Out Boy, Vertical Horizon), pop/R&B (Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Babyface, Taylor Hicks), hip hop (Akon), jazz (Flora Purim, Diane Schurr), retro (Paul Williams, The Association, John Ford Coley), classic rock (America) and pop-opera (Il Divo, Josh Groban). All these gigs were well-attended by Pinoy fans from different generations. If our local promoters can really bring in Madonna next year, then other rock and pop stars should follow suit.

***

Let’s all RUSH into the new year now with enthusiasm and high hopes!

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