“We’re on the road
We move from place to place”
It was labor day. One must have minded working on a holiday. I would have. But since it was field work and I would be working with a Filipino music icon, I jumped out of my bed and proceeded to Manila Hotel, one of the historic hotels in the Philippines.
Manila Hotel’s lobby is simply majestic. It juxtaposes home and high-end hotel, since there’s something comfortable yet intimidating about it. The lobby’s ambiance seems to be a place fit for high society. But the hotel’s friendly staff has made it accommodating for every guest regardless of attire or stature in life. We chatted, preparing the grand piano at the lobby, while waiting for songwriter and balladeer Jose Mari Chan, who has achieved a Triple Platinum Award for his album Christmas in Our Hearts.
“And oftentimes when I’m about to call it home
We’d have to move along
Life is a constant change…”
We were oblivious of the guests that came streaming through the hotel. We were on the lookout for Mr. Chan. When he arrived, we shifted to work mode, trying every angle we can to get the best photo for a book project.
“The friends we know we meet along the way
Too soon the times we share form part of yesterday”
He was very gracious as he posed in front of the camera and also waved and took time to chat with passers-by and onlookers. My late father worked for him before in his family’s sugar mill. I’ve known him as someone who is kind and approachable. I didn’t expect him to remember my father but he did. He engaged me, and everyone else in the team, with his warm talks.
As we ended our photo shoot, courtesy of Manila Hotel, he treated us for lunch at Manila Hotel’s Mabuhay Palace. Sous Chef Josephine Candelaria, with her cute children Jasmine and Darren, greeted us at the restaurant’s entrance. She led us to the restaurant’s private room, with a large round dining table, a sofa at the side, and an interesting carving by the wall.
While Mr. Chan ordered for our lunch, the waiters served us house tea and fried wanton chips. I opted for their house blend of red iced tea to quench my thirst and the summer heat.
We started with soup, warming our tummies. The food came in – Yang Chow fried rice, Chinese cuisine filled with fish, chicken, beef with broccoli, and pork – I couldn’t name all of them as I was preoccupied eating them and indulging myself with conversations about life, love, romance, movies, good works, and songs.
Yes, every now and then, Joe Mari, as he is often called, will break into beautiful songs blending them into the discussion. It was like listening to a private concert. “And the acoustics here is good,” he said jokingly. I told him that my favourite song of his is Constant Change because it seems to sum up life, in general, and my own as a traveller, in particular.
Mabuhay Palace provided us with the great venue for such friendly tête-à-têtes. Most of all, the food was so overwhelmingly good that I even forgot to jot down what they were called. Later on, time has passed and it was time for us to bid adieu. Josephine and her kids entered our room once again to make sure we did have a great dining experience. At that moment, I was glad to have shared my labor day lunch with those people at the table – some of them I met for the first time.
Most of all, it was great to spend lunch at Mabuhay Palace. It was such a privilege. And it was great to have spent it with Mr. Jose Mari Chan. It was such an honor.
‘Cause life’s a constant change
And nothing stays the same, oh no
Clouds that move across the skies
Are changing form before our very eyes
Why couldn’t we keep time from movin’ on?
Hold on to all the years before this moment’s gone?
Why must we live the days at such a frightening pace?
We’re all like clouds that move across the skies
And changing form before our very eyes
Have we outgrown our Peter Pans and wings?
We’ve simply grown too old for tales of knights and kings
‘Cause life’s a constant change
And nothing stays the same, oh no.”
By Jose Mari Chan
The day after, I found a small package on my office desk. Inside was the autographed Manhattan Connection album of Mr. Jose Mari Chan. I hope that despite the constant changes happening within and around us, he will continue to be as gracious as ever. What I know of him is that through all those changes, he remembers a lot of things and he keeps them at heart.