Holiday icon: Jose Mari Chan in our hearts

Jose Mari Chan could be the most dynamic Pinoy pop singer at the incredible age of 78.                          

He turned up at the media conference for a 1 December concert all by himself. No alalay. No cane. All smiles. Always ready to reveal something about himself and to launch into any song (while piano-playing with his fingers on the table). 

Chan is a very engaging short-anecdote person. He can sing snippets of any of his songs or those of other artists (he knows many songs of The Platters, for instance). 

The mediacon was held 3 November at the Villamor Air Base Museum. Chan’s forthcoming concert with Roselle Nava and Christian Bautista is called Yulestars, a three-night show with different artists each night at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Makati Circuit on 30 November to 2 December. 

Chan, Nava and Bautista will have theirs on 1 December. Joey Generoso and Angeline Quinto kick off the series on 30 November with special guest Ice Seguerra. Capping off the series are Ogie Alcasid and Nina with Seguerra again as special guest on 2 December.

The concert series is for the benefit of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, which is raising funds to assist PMA graduates who are quite sickly now or who have left behind families needing assistance.

For this reason, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro is urging the public to come and watch the shows. “I wholeheartedly support this (project) of the PMAAAI. Sana daluhan po natin. Tangkilikin po natin,” he said.

(FROM left) Jose Mari Chan, Roselle Nava and Christian Bautista.

First song

The first song Chan recorded was “Afterglow” in 1967. (Before that recording, he was host of the dance show 9 Teeners at the old ABS-CBN studios in Roxas Boulevard, Manila. He was still a college student at that time). 

We dared him to sing the first five lines of “Afterglow.” He did. We were floored. The song became part of his first album, Deep in My Heart, released in 1969.

“Because I wrote them myself from my heart and soul, I will never forget the lyrics,” he said. 

Chan was born and raised in Iloilo and began to live in Manila only when he went to college in Ateneo, where he studied Economics. 

In 1978, he joined the first Metro Pop Music Festival with a love song whose lyrics were written by now National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio. The song “Minsan Pa”, interpreted by Janet Basco, was among the finalists. 

In 1980, he again joined the contest with a song that came to be identified with its interpreter, Antony Castelo: “Hahanapin Ko.” Again, the song emerged a finalist. 

He then wrote songs for films such as Lino Brocka’s iconic “Stardoom” and “Cadena de Amor” and Nestor Torre’s “Crush Ko si Sir.” Through Google, we also learned that he composed songs  for a Dolphy movie called Carioca Etchos de America

From 1970 to 1974, Chan composed more than 20 theme songs for Pinoy movies while also composing jingles for commercials. 

For Philippine Airlines, he created “Love at 30,000 Feet”), for Barangay Broadcasting Corp. he wrote “Big, Beautiful Country”) and for Commercial Bank and Trust Co. he penned “We Share the Same Horizon.”

In 1973, upon the prodding of music producer Vic del Rosario, Chan emerged from a three-year hiatus to wax the album Can We Just Stop and Talk Awhile. He performed the hit carrier single at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo, also in 1973.

Chan and his family moved to the US in 1975 to handle his family’s sugar business there, staying abroad for more than a decade until Wea Records’ Bella D. Tan and Ramon Chuaying released his comeback album, A Golden Collection, in 1986.

It was a compilation of his previous hits along with a brand-new composition, “Tell Me Your Name,” a massive radio hit that reintroduced the singer-songwriter to younger audiences.

Music history

In 1989, Chan made music history when he released “Constant Change,” produced by Universal Records. The album went on to become the first in the Philippines to reach Diamond Record status, selling more than 400,000 copies.

Its carrier single “Beautiful Girl” was a hit in Asia, covered by the region’s music superstars like Aaron Kwok, Paula Tsui, Sally Yee, Tomomi Akimoto, Sandy Lam and Kamahl.

As if the success of “Constant Change” was not enough, his1990 Christmas album Christmas in Our Hearts reached an unprecedented Double Diamond Record Status, with sales exceeding 800,000 copies.

Despite all the accolades for his now-classic Christmas album, Chan gently rejects being called the “Father of Christmas Songs,” reasoning out that Christmas carols have long existed before he was born.

But he said he does enjoy what some people have come to call him: “Chan-ta Claus” and “Little Drummer Boy of Pinoy Christmas.” 

 Chan is not afraid to admit also that all his minus ones (or pre-taped musical accompaniment) are now one key lower, “because I can’t reach anymore the high notes of my songs.” 

Big fan

Christian Bautista, meanwhile, is a big fan of Chan. He has, in fact, a studio album of all-Jose Mari Chan hits, some in duets with the likes of Regine Velasquez, Morisssete Amon, KC Tandingan and Jonah. 

“I want to be like Joe also in terms of a healthy long life. After all, my name is Chris Chan!” Bautista quipped.

Roselle Nava, on the other hand, is back to singing aside from mothering her two pre-teen sons. She served for several terms as a Parañaque councilor. Her businessman husband is the new councilor. 

Tickets to the YuleStars Christmas Concert series are available at