"A Memorable Gig" from Ruben Nepales with Philippines Inquirer

“Jazzipino” exponent Charmaine Clamor recently landed a memorable gig—a private concert at the Malacañang Palace.

The LA-based singer, who was one of the guest artists at the recent Philippine International Jazz and Arts Festival (Pijazz), performed on Feb. 26 at the Palace by special request of the United States ambassador to the Philippines, Harry Thomas.

President Aquino and Thomas—who are both jazz fans—and about 30 invited guests reportedly enjoyed the show.

Charmaine shared several of her celebrated jazzipino creations, as well as standards in English and Spanish.

“It was my first time inside the Malacañang Palace,” said the Zambales native, who is back in LA. “The event was held at the Guest Office, directly in front of the main building. I was told that the event would be a gathering among friends in ‘a very casual setting.’ How fortunate that I decided to dress up, as this was the grandest ‘very casual’ event I ever attended!”

According to Charmaine, the private concert was the idea of Ambassador Thomas and the embassy’s counselor for public affairs Rick Nelson, who are admirers of her music. She said, “When we finally met at Malacañang, Mr. Thomas asked me to autograph my first album, ‘Searching for the Soul,’ for him. I was touched.”

Apparently, President Aquino has also become a fan. Charmaine reported: “The President heard my latest album, ‘Something Good,’ courtesy of a great friend from Los Angeles, Prosy Dela Cruz.”

She said that the guests were “mostly people from the government, including Sen. Mar Roxas, and the US Embassy. I met a lot of them over cocktails. Then we were ushered into the performance space, a cozy room with tables and chairs, like a large library. I sang with Filipino guitarist Tonet Lipana, whom I often perform with when I’m in Manila.”

Charmaine’s set, she told us, “was mostly jazzipino and timeless kundiman in Tagalog. In honor of Ambassador Thomas and the Americans in attendance, I also sang ‘The Nearness of You,’ a classic American torch song. It gave me a thrill to realize that the ambassador and our President seemed to be hanging on to every word.”

She also performed a song, originally a poem, that Ninoy Aquino wrote for Cory Aquino. The song, “I Fell in Love with the Same Woman Three Times,” was set to music by Jose Mari Chan. “President Aquino told me later that it was the best version he ever heard,” the chanteuse said.

Then Charmaine did a surprise number. “To close the evening, I sang ‘Dahil Sa Iyo,’ which many people associate with the Marcoses,” she recounted. “But I explained to the audience of dignitaries that I strongly believe that now is the time to bring this beloved kundiman back to the people where it belongs. They agreed! And they honored our concert with a standing ovation. Seeing President Aquino standing and clapping was one of the highlights of my life.”

“Then, even better, President Aquino and the Secretary of Budget and Management, Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad, joined me on ‘Watch What Happens.’ ”

For the singer who, at age 3, was entertaining passengers in Manila-bound buses, “the whole Malacañang experience was even sweeter because my parents (Baldomero and Nieves Clamor) were present. Singing for President Aquino is particularly meaningful because of what his family has done for our country, and he is the symbol of hope and change for a better Philippines.”

Of her sixth appearance at Pijazz, Charmaine said: “I had a wonderful trio accompanying me—David Starck on piano, Roger Herrera on bass and Glen Velarde on drums. We had a standing-room-only concert at one of the hottest venues in Manila, Salon De Ning in the Peninsula. We had a blast.”

Charmaine went from singing for P-Noy in Manila to doing a live in-studio appearance on the BBC/PRI radio program “The World.” She also made her debut appearance at Regattabar, Boston’s premier jazz club.

Charmaine is likewise due to perform in Montreal (House of Jazz, May 6 and 7), Paris (Hotel Le Bristol, June 3) and New Jersey (Kean University, June 19).

In LA, she is the featured performer in the 39th anniversary awards benefit dinner of Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (Sipa) on April 28 at the Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown. We hope to see our LA friends at this gala to raise funds for Sipa’s various projects serving the multi-ethnic Historic Filipinotown and the greater Los Angeles Filipino-American community.

by Ruben Nepales, for Philippines Inquirer, MARCH 18, 2011