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Olongapo mayor fights stress through music

When you're the big boss of a booming city, you can't help but face a lot of problems.

Olongapo mayor Bong Gordon has a solution for fighting the stress that comes with the (political) territory: music.

"Kesa naman sigawan ko ang mga tao,  kanta na lang ako ng rock and roll, productive pa," he explains.

Bonggo, as people fondly call him, has parlayed his musical talents even further by coming up with a new album, his third.  It's called "Let's Celebrate!" and features 22 songs, some of which the singing mayor of Olongapo himself composed.

The songs are about something Filipinos are known worldwide for: celebrations.   The happy birthday song has a Lennon-McCartney feel to it. "It's Good to See You Again" is a reunion song. "Pasko sa Pilipinas" is calculated to make balikbayans realize that yes, it's more fun in the Philippines, especially at Christmas.

"Valentine's Day" is a love song designed for the young.

The mayor is not above thinking of the inevitable as he says, "I don't have anything for death anniversaries, but I think the song 'Thank You, Salamat' will do."

Turns out that's just the tip of the so-called iceberg.  "Let's Celebrate" also toasts something dear to Bonggo's heart: Olongapo, of course.

"Maraming magagaling na nahasa sa Olongapo," he points out.  "Si Arnel Pineda, kumakanta sa patay noon.  Nahasa siya sa Amo Band."

The mayor also mentions  Joey 'Pepe' Smith and Mike Hanopol.  And who can ever forget Freddie Aguilar, who started out as a folk singer in an Olongapo bar before he hit the  big time with "Anak?"

Bonggo can't believe what he saw when the Japanese kept coming over to Olongapo to hear "Anak" sung in their native tongue.

That's why the mayor wants to bring back the good old days when Olongapo was teeming with entertainment establishments — nightclubs and discos that became the birthplace of talented musicians.

Promoting the city

He can't bring back the US bases teeming with  Americans sitting in rapt attention as the likes of Freddie and Pepe Smith performed before them.  But the music-loving mayor is bent on  promoting his beloved city the best way he knows how. "Kailangan gumawa ng kanta to promote the city," he declares.

So he composed "Himno ng Olongapo" which has two versions -- one for men, another one for women.

Bonggo wants the song to be as closely linked to the city as the song "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" is to  the said state in the US, or the bouncy "new York, New York" to the Big Apple.

"Kung magaling ang mayor or governor, dapat magpa-compsoe sila ng song tungkol sa lugar nila sa mga composers natin.  Ang daming magagaling na composers diyan," he relates.

The mayor is not stopping at patriotic songs.  He wants a just-as-patriotic film about Olongapo to go with it.

Since it's Bonggo's last term as mayor (he will run for congressman in 2013), he is banking on  wife Anne to  continue what he started if she succeeds in inheriting her  husband's post next year.

She neither sings nor writes music like her husband does.  In fact,  Bonggo recalls how she found his rock and roll songs corny when he was courting her.   But she can take a cue from her husband on how to fight stress — the non-violent way.


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