The Soundtrack Of My Life

As far as I can remember, music has always been a constant companion.
Certain songs have bookmarked particular episodes in my life.
And if an autobiography could be embodied through songs, this would be my soundtrack.

Dad was a big Sinatra fan. And once in a while, he tinkered with the piano to play his rendition of Glenn Miller’s In the Mood. So it goes without saying that music has been a regular fixture in our household.

Theme from a Summer Place (Percy Faith)

Though my recall of music may not go as far back as when I was two or three years old, Dad must’ve been spinning some of his records to put me to sleep. Not so sure, but I vaguely recall that this might be one of them. This song must have been special for me because I secretly enjoyed listening to this even throughout my teenage “rock-rebellious” years. I had to listen to it in the solitary confines of my bedroom though.
Hey, any card-carrying Zep Head couldn’t be caught dead with a Percy faith record! 🙂





Wooden Heart (Elvis Presley)
Blue Star (Linda Scott)

This was my first, real recollection of music. I was four years old then when an aunt (my mom’s step-sister) came to live with us to study college in the Metro.
She took care of me during my early pre-school years.
She was my first real “best friend”.

If Dad had Sinatra, it was Elvis for  aunt Gloria. A big fan of the “king”, her preference leaned towards the love songs – Love Me Tender, Falling In Love With You etc. But for the life of me, I don’t know how Wooden Heart landed to be my lullaby :D.

My aunt married a few years after college and turned out to be a successful businesswoman, being the owner of a popular appliance store chain in the 70’s -80’s.

When I started to work in the early 80’s, I always made it a point to drop by her office whenever I was in her area. And no matter how busy her calendar was, she’d drop everything just to have a chat with me and reminisce those days of Wooden Heart.

Blue Star was the first song I remember singing as a kid. I was probably around four then. I never really got to ask the story behind how I got to sing this. The only three people who would really know the real score are my mom, dad and aunt Gloria. Alas, all three have since long been gone so the story behind this will forever be a nagging but pleasant mystery to me.



Punch and Judy (Cascades)

My passion for sixties music was largely influenced by my older cousins. We’d spend most of our summers in Baguio – all thirteen of us. Again, music was a constant.
Being the youngest of the brood, I was normally tasked to flip the records when the playing side is done. Much like their human jukebox! The difference was that no coins ever came my way! 😦
But going thru those 45s gave me that early exposure to names like The Critters, The Turtles, Peter & Gordon, Dave Clark 5, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman’s Hermits etc.

But alas, being the youngest hardly ever gave you the chance to play your song of choice. I had to step back and give in to the picks of the older ones. So in the rare occasions that I had that portable record player to myself, this song was played over and over and over and over. . . .



Girl (The Beatles)
It’s Not Unusual (Tom Jones)
Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head  (BJ Thomas)
Living Loving Maid (Led Zeppelin)

 I was eleven. She was twelve.
My first “crush”.
My first proposal. . . .
My first rejection. 

But not to worry, preteen rejections are resilient. I was over it in about an hour.
All it took was a bag of chips with a bottle of Coke and I was good to go.
More than my feelings, I guess my pride took most of the blow .

Memories from that broken heart, from that broken pride.


From a broken heart, some 11 year-olds seek refuge in comic books; some to basketball, some to other conquests.
Me, I moved on to . . .
. . . Tom Jones!

Yup, the man himself!
He, with the trendy sideburns.
He, with that exquisitely tailored bell-bottoms.
That gyrating dynamo that could sweep women off their feet with just his wink or a whiff from his perspiration.
My main man!
I tried to be like him – following his footsteps . . . or rather dance steps.
Yes Virginia, much like annoying preteens who now mimick hip-hop moves of Tupac, I was that disgusting 11-year old singing and dancing to It’s Not Unusual.
Just recalling it now sends embarrassing goose bumps up my spine.

I was one confused kid!

So, was I destined to sport trendy sideburns for the rest of my life?
Or forever be dressed in tailored bell-bottoms?
Or clad in huge rings, gold necklaces, and glimmering bracelets?

Two angels by the name of Burt Bacharach and Hal David saved me from such fate.
They penned Raindrops Keep falling On My Head.

Some songs turn us on to music – converting the casual listener to that music aficionado, we sometimes tag ourselves to be. In the early  seventies, it could have been the complex rock classic Stairway to Heaven or that poetry-laden Bridge Over Troubled Water.

I opted for something simpler. No complicated instrumentation or thought-provoking lyrics here. Raindrops did what it was cut out to do – it made me feel good!

“But there’s one thing I know
The blues they sent to meet me won’t defeat me.
It won’t be long till happiness steps up to greet me.”

Up to now, decades after first hearing this song, Raindrops still manages to put that smile on my face.

Searching for this song would then lead me to the radio, switching between the different pop stations just to catch Raindrops – and in the process, eventually getting to appreciate other songs as well. Little did I know then that this simple ukelele-introed song would be the springboard to my fascination with the Temptations, Jackson 5, Tower of Power, Young-Holt Unlimited. . .

Yes, lots of R&B.

. . .and that thing called rock.

My first serious rock encounter was when my parents gave me my first  portable cassette player, together with 3 cassette tapes. The first The Supremes with the Temptaions. The second one was Booker T. & the MGs.  Not knowing what lind of music lay beneath the last tape, mom and dad gave me Led Zeppelin 2.
The house would never be the same again!

Mom: Did you hear that noise, disguised as music, coming out of your son’s bedroom?
Dad: Don’t worry. It’s probably just a phase.

Yeah right! A phase that would go on for the next 40 or so years!


See Me, Feel Me   (The Who )
More Today Than Yesterday  (Spiral Starecase )


– Knock! Knock!
– Who’s there?
– Woodstock!
– Wood who?
– Oh, you must be from Mars!

Who wouldn’t have heard of Woodstock? It is probably one of the 10 most recognizable words in rock – next to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Marijuana. Woodstock espoused a counter-culture this former wannabe Tom Jones now wanted to emulate – Long hair, faded jeans, Indian mocs, tie-dyed shirts – all the works needed to attain that hippie look! And these “threads” needed some “sounds” to go with it.
To the dismay of my parents, Hendrix, Santana, The Who and other icons of rock further disrupted what was once a serene household.
Woodstock was my baptism to Rock; its music and culture was a rite of passage, you might say.


1970 was also the year I bought my first records:
Santana – Santana
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja vu
Spiral Starecase – More Today Than Yesterday


Blossoms  (James Taylor)
Make it With You  (Bread)

Though rock continued to be a staple throughout my adolescent years, mine ears needed to have that break.
The singer/songwriter movement at the onset of the 70’s was just what the doctor prescribed. Off the top, James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James, Neil Young’s After The Goldrush and Carol King’s Tapestry were albums that attained heavy rotation in our record players.
The laid back soft rock was a respite from the heavy guitar riffs of Zep and Sabbath. Music took on a more personal experience as the poetry in lyrics invited me to be in terms with both the singer and the song.

And just like the music, my transformation to a more placid tone unfolded. From Tom Jones’ tailored bell bottoms then switching to Woodstock bohemian hippie – I settled for the sedate chambray workshirt, jeans and boots.

Probably what James Taylor and Neil Young might wear? You guessed it!

This was and still is my comfort zone. Forty years after, I still wear chambray shirts just as much as I still listen to Taylor and Young.


The summer of 1971 also allowed me to discover my schmaltzy sentimental side …  and peanut butter sandwiches.
I spent that whole summer over at my cousin’s place.
She was my “best friend”.
She made me laugh.
We’d talk for hours on end with only a break for peanut butter sandwiches. We’d talk about her big crush to Michael Cole of The Mod Squad and I to Peggy Lipton.
She made me laugh.
She made me peanut butter sandwiches …
made me laugh some more.

No money. No cable TV. No internet at that time. But amusing each other with conversations mundane – of topics about  pimples or nail-biting and dissecting it into a humorous discussion that would last all night, was the magic of those gentler days.

People toast to the joy of life with a glass of Dom Perignon.
I toast to the memories of youth with a bite of that peanut butter sandwich.

Here’s to you, cuz’




Betcha By Golly Wow  (Stylisics)

 High School sophomore year
Summer of 1972.

I was thirteen. She too was thirteen.
My second crush.
No proposals.
No rejections.
I just admired her from a distance.

I did phone her once then . . . but that awkward silence between hello and goodbye said it all.
The spirit of Tom Jones, which I fooled myself into thinking that I had, was long gone.

Fast-forward 40 or so years.
I bumped into her not so long ago. But betcha-by-golly-wow, that awkward silence between hello and goodbye once again invited itself. Yet, as I watched her walk away, I caught myself with a smile and silently thanked her for making me thirteen once again filled with memories of innocent tongue-tied youth.




Super Strut  (Deodato )

Dad’s record albums were my earliest recollection of Jazz. I did flirt with jazz rock courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Mark-Almond, Traffic and other bands that played in a jazz-like manner, even as their rhythms maintained the basic rock structure.

But my first significant encounter with jazz fusion was by way of Hill Where the Lord Hides by Chuck Mangione. I was intrigued by how rock could be fused with my dad’s Glenn Miller Big band music. The search for other artists with the same style directed me to Deodato, Bob James, Ramsey Lewis and others who were starting to plant the seeds of this genre.

Another benchmark for this year was when the first youth-oriented FM station began to hit the airwaves. Though primarily labeled as a pop station, DWKW (K101) sprinkled their pop programming with a generous amount of fusion.

This further established my fascination for this genre – an affair that would last thru the coming years.


Sun Godess  (Ramsey Lewis )
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed  (Allman Brothers Band)
The Hurt  (Kalapana)

 I got my first real stereo system as a grad gift from mom and dad.
The heart of this stereo system was a 35 watt Pioneer SX650 receiver. (for the sake of this story, let’s call her Betsy.) She was to be my loyal ‘friend’ for the next several years as Betsy and I would spend endless days and nights playing music together.

Betsy would play rock, jazz, Motown, some oldies, back to rock, and then . . .

. . .The Hustle, Rock the Boat, Donna Summer.

Disco began to rear its “ugly head”. . . well, ugly for guys like me with two left feet.
The dancers got all the girls so I nursed my dancing inadequacy thru more music, pushing my interest in jazz further with records of Less McCann and Donald Byrd leading to the realm of mainstream via Miles, Baker, Ellington, et al.
But then again, Miles Davis don’t make for a good social life. – The dancers still got the girls! 😀

But wait!  . . .

Freshman College
I was sixteen.
She was fifteen.
She was just past of a recent break-up and I was that proverbial shoulder to cry on.
I met her just once and phoned her. And in a whimsical moment of folly, I proposed.
She accepted.

But hey, don’t bring out the marching bands just yet though. It was a silly 2-month affair wherein I never even got to see her shadow. Just phone calls. I spent that freshman year in the college dormitory so ten minute calls using the dorm payphone, with a dozen guys queued behind you, aren’t exactly ingredients for an
Ali McGraw-Ryan O’Neil Love Story recipe.
Towards the end of the second month, she confessed that her former boyfriend was making a comeback.
She was confused.
I was screwed.

Thus, I did the noble thing to do – and let her go. . .
Besides, the guy was 4 inches taller  and 20 pounds heavier than me.
No, thank you. I’d rather keep my face in one piece at the moment

So, no broken hearts here; Just my broken pride upon realizing that I spent the last two months as a “spare tire”.
Oooh, that hurt.


Never Get Your Love Behind Me  (Faragher Brothers)
Haven’t We Met  (Kenny Rankin)
Las Vegas Turnaround  (Daryl Hall & John Oates)

After that “spare tire” affair, I realized that this “relationship thing” just wasn’t cut out for me.
Hanging out with the guys was less complicated and the way to go.
Again, music and Betsy were there to tag along during those next few years of youthful abandon

DWRT introduced the Album-Oriented-Rock format in its initial airing that year.

Though I was still hooked on fusion, 99.5 RT sidetracked me to the tunes of Stephen Bishop, Faragher Brothers, Kenny Rankin, Jim Messina, early Hall and Oates, etc.

Good music. Good friends. Good times

I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy I’m Sad   (Michael Franks)

1977 was the year I got my first car, a second hand 2-door Colt Galant, equipped with a Pioneer KP 500 and Jensen Triaxes. This gave Betsy some needed rest.

It was also the breakout year for jazz fusion here in Manila. Initiated by the previous years’ release of George Benson’s Breezin’,  CTI session artists such as Ronnie Laws, Harvey Mason, Joe sample, Freddie Hubbard, and many others jumped into this commercial Jazz bandwagon.

But not to be out-done, rock did come out strong with Steely Dan’s Aja, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, Kenny Loggin’s Celebrate Me Home, Pablo Cruise’s A Place In the Sun to name a few.

Learn to work the saxophone,
I play just what I hear.
Drink Scotch whiskey all night long . . .

Good music. Good friends. Good times

Cascade  (Spyro Gyra)
Superwoman   (Noel Pointer)
Mind-blowing Decisions   (Heatwave)

Even if I had been buying records ever since that first Santana-CSN&Y- Spiral Starecase purchase, I was not a serious collector yet. Some records were given away. Some were borrowed, forgotten and never returned.

Also, choices in the local market here were very thin to be able to start a decent collection.

So during a trip to the US in the summer of 1978, stepping inside Tower Records for the first time, was like a spiritual experience for me. Bringing back home close to a hundred LPs, set in motion the start of my serious record collection. Betsy was ecstatic, to say the least. Most of my later travels would be devoted to increasing this collection – one that would balloon to 4000 records at its peak.

Good music. Good friends. Good times
No attachments. . .
No complications. . .
I thought I had everything until . . .

I was nineteen.
She was eighteen.
Feelings that have been on slumber mode for some time unexpectedly stirred back to life the instant I saw her.
Was it anxiety of what happened past or excitement of what could be?


The previous years didn’t really hone me in the skills of courtship; and now, my comfort zone was being intruded by unusual feelings.
Then a little birdie by the name of Tom Jones whispered me something.
No, he didn’t instruct me to grow sideburns or to turn on that swagger.
He simply winked and said, “It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone”.
I took the cue knowing that the specter of rejection was still a possibility.
Was this girl worth that risk?
To complicate matters further, she was just past of a breakup.
Here we go again!
Will I be that spare tire the second time around?

Must decide how to go,
Is she mine? I want to know . . .
. . . Mind- blowing decisions

Thirty-four years after, as I write this now, I smile as I watch her sleep beside me.
Yup, she truly was worth all the risk.

Thank you Mr. Jones.


1979  – 1982
You Know Like I Know (Ozark Mountain daredevils)
Two Cups Of Coffee  (Bebu Silvetti)

We did get together this year and the following years allowed us to get to know each other better.
We did share a lot of things in common.
One of which was music!
Hey, a girl who can talk about Antonio Carlos Jobim and Ozark Mountain Daredevils in the same breath is surely a rare catch.

She also introduced me to Bebu Silvetti, Lincoln Mayorga and Willie Bobo.



Breaking Us in Two  (Joe Jackson)
Woman  (John Lennon)

We got married 1983.
I was listening to my records the night before the wedding and  particularly remember playing this album right before sleeping – my last song as a single guy. My last night with Betsy.
Not appropriate, considering what was to happen the next day.

But in retrospect, this was the swan song to my relationship with Betsy.
Much like Andy and Woody, there is an intimate bond between a guy and his stereo. In a peculiar way, this relationship personified the recklessness of teenage years which had to step aside and give way to a new chapter unfolding.

Thank you for those years Betsy.

The morning of the wedding, I broke into a rash.
My bride, on the other hand, was a vision beyond compare.
I can still see her now walking down the aisle as the church was filled with strains of “All the Things You Are” – a long time favorite of my mom and dad.

Another song I requested to be sung during the ceremony was Woman by John Lennon.

Woman I know you understand
The little child inside the man,
Please remember my life is in your hands,
And woman hold me close to your heart,
However, distant don’t keep us apart,
After all it is written in the stars,
oooh well, well,
oooh well, well,



Limehouse Blues  from Jazz At The Pawnshop

My interest in audio equipment began with my affair with Betsy back in high school. I tinkered with her adjustments and connections, learning the basic rudiments of hifi stereo.
This interest moved up a higher level when I entered into the arena of High end audio. Starting with an entry level system, this hobby would take its course to different equipment upgrades for the next several years.
Bless my lovely wife for allowing me to house those humongous speakers that would occupy a major part of the bedroom and patiently endure as my listening would further aggravate the heat of those warm summer nights when I’d fire up those tube amplifiers.

My Audio Journey Pt.1

Unfortunately, “music” took a back seat during these high end audio years.
Focusing my record collection on specialized audiophile recordings that showed the potential of the stereo system, I was listening to the sound of the equipment rather that the music itself.


Just To See Her  (Smokey Robinson)

Mom was diagnosed with cancer December of 1986 so I spent a good part of 1987 in the US where she was being treated.
I distinctly remember one sunny day while driving mom to one of her checkups. My hand was on the shifter and she placed her hand on mine. She then gently tapped her fingers as this song played on the car radio.

Hardly any words were spoken during that drive. But in spite of that, those few minutes are one of the most meaningful moments in my life.

She left us a few weeks after that morning drive.

Little did I know then how much more meaningful  those lyrics would be now – 26 years after that sunny morning drive.

Just to see her
Just to touch her
Just to hold her in my
arms again one more time

If I could feel her warm embrace
see her smiling face
Can’t find anyone to take her place
I’ve got to see her again

I would do anything
I would go anywhere
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do
just to see her again



1988 -1994

An audiophile recording sounds fantastic.
But that’s just about it.

Despite the quality of the recording,  I missed that toe-tapping, head-bobbing music on my regular LPs and made a U-turn back towards the albums I really enjoyed listening to – back to Clapton, back to Stevie Wonder, hey even back to the Village People. That realization pushed me to further my record collection.

1988 was also the year I landed my first contract as a graphic designer.
No PC, no Photoshop. Cut and paste literally meant cutting and pasting paper on the final artwork board.

One night, while rushing for a presentation the following morning, I was pleasantly interrupted by a song on the radio. It was Basia’s Miles Away – a tune that would usher in, for me, a different genre of pop jazz. Similar artists such as Matt Bianco and Workshy would be my musical flavor for the coming years. Up to now, this genre gets heavy rotation in my iPod’s playlist.













 to be continued


3 Responses to “The Soundtrack Of My Life”
  1. gary thomas says:

    You are a man after my own heart,a song can transport you back to any time of your life in an instant.
    Your website is fantastic, i am at present looking for a Sansui amp/receiver after having gone through most of the modern day HI-Fi.

    Keep up the good work

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