Phones were lit, illuminating the jam-packed venue like a starry night.
The crowd had waited all afternoon for this. The audience: the student body of Access Computer College. The event: a university's battle of the bands.
The drummer and guitar players were the first ones to brave the deafening roars inside the Smart Araneta Coliseum for a brief sound check. Things only got louder when the frontman and his backup finally arrived.
Rarely does a band become transcendent to the point that concertgoers sing along to every lyric in their entire set, especially considering that this particular group of musicians hailed from a different generation altogether.
In the early ’90s, during what is now considered the golden age of alternative OPM, two bands dominated the airwaves and public consciousness. Back then, no other act was able to take the lion’s share of the commercial pie outside the first lineup of Rivermaya—Bamboo, Rico, and all—and the four-headed music behemoth that was the Eraserheads.
At that time, slowly emerging from a university in Katipunan was another band that would eventually swoop in and conquer the Philippine stage. That band was Parokya ni Edgar.
Composed of Chito Miranda (vocals), Vinci Montaner (backup vocals), Gab Chee Kee (guitars), Buwi Meneses (bass), Darius Semaña (guitars), and Dindin Moreno (drums), the six-piece rock group formerly known as Comic Relief, made a name for itself through shameless parodies, cheesy love songs, and more fillers than tracks for their initial records.
Fast forward to 26 years later, and Parokya is still commanding a listening audience that may very well consist of the sons and daughters of their pioneering fan base.
Indeed, Chito, Vinch, Gab, Bu, Dar, and Din have all matured and are now in their 40s. These days, they have less crazy outtakes and more unwanted flabs, but are still rocking in the name of good-natured fun.
Days before the highly anticipated release of their newest album, Pogi Years Old, FHM sat down with the boys, er, men to talk about their artistic maturity (or lack thereof), getting sick of each other, and listen to Vinci suck up to his bandmates.
So, is Vinci back for good? And what’s the real score with Buwi?
Chito: With Vinch, ever since kahit umaalis siya, always open naman yung banda kung gusto niyang bumalik anytime. Walang pressure to stay with the band.
Vinci: Thankful ako na ina-accept nila ’ko kaagad, wala nang try-outs, mga ano…
Gab: Yun ang akala mo. Ha ha!
Chito: Si Buwi sa US na naka-base, pero siya pa rin ang bassist namin. Siya yung nag-record ng first half ng album, via online. Eventually, pina-record na rin namin si Paolo (Bernardo) ng Moonstar88, pero si Buwi pa rin yung official. Actually hindi namin alam plano niya, kasi dati, bigla na lang kaming nagulat na nagpaiwan siya dun. Ever since naman, hindi namin alam kung kelan o anong oras sisipot si Buwi.
Dindin: Baka next month biglang mag-decide na naman siyang umuwi dito.
Chito: Mahirap na kabanda si Buwi, he’s very complicated. He goes wherever he pleases, plays whatever he wants.
It's a good thing that you’re fine with that kind of setup—people coming and going every now and then.
Chito: You can’t force people to stay, but there’s also no leaving Parokya kasi eh. Like Vinch, three times na siyang nag-take ng break or nag-quit. When he feels like playing again, balik lang siya. Okay naman kami; it’s not a school where you need to enroll.
Darius: Pwede pala yun?
Chito: Oo. Bakit, gusto mong mag-break?
Darius: Hindi, joke lang! Ha ha!
Dindin: Sabagay, matanda ka na Dar eh.
For sure, though, these slight changes must’ve had an impact, one way or another.
Gab: Nung nawala si Vinch, naging mas…seryoso.
Dindin: …malaki yung kinikita natin. Ha ha!
Chito: Naging divided by five yung TF kesa divided by six, nag-adjust kami kung pa’no namin gagastusin yung share ni Vinch, ha ha!
Gab: Performance-wise, mas rock, mas mabigat.
What about on Vinci’s end? How did leaving affect you?
Vinci: Mahirap ding umalis at bumalik, both sa banda tsaka family business namin. Nung una ’kong umalis, alam kong hindi naman sila mahihirapan. I left na hindi pa sila kinakausap, which I do not recommend to anyone. But, on the positive side, pagbalik ko ngayon, super professionals na yung tawag ko sa kanila.
Chito: Without Buwi and Vinch, hindi naman professional, but we take it more seriously. Yun talaga yung ina-add ni Vinch na flavor sa Parokya, siya talaga yung kakulitan eh. He’s like a monkey wrench in a well-oiled machine, which works for the band. We love having Vinch play onstage with us.
Vinci: Basically, ang nangyari lang talaga sa’kin, I always try to help my family, tapos nakita ko na lang na hindi pala nila kailangan ng tulong ko, ha ha!
Correct us if we’re wrong, but it seems that the band sort of laid low in recent years, particularly in producing a studio album. Your last record was Middle-Aged Juvenile Novelty Pop Rockers, which was six years ago.
Chito: It took the band so long to come up with a new one because we were too busy doing tours. Every album, you have to promote for two years. Also, our management really pushed us to play gigs almost every day, so wala kaming free time to sit down and write the album.
We’ve been constantly working on Pogi Years Old since 2011; never siyang nagkaroon ng lag. Actually, hindi nga kami nagpahinga eh. What happened was, we worked too hard. We took our sweet time. Pag tinamad kami, talagang tamad. We don’t write songs. We’d rather hang out with our families and stay away from each other pag walang tugtog.
Gab: And give chance to others [bands].
Has that become the band’s mantra, especially now that you’re all grown up, taking your sweet time in everything that you do?
Chito: Medyo. Most of the time, we’re away from our families for weeks, especially during out-of-the-country tours. We’re not taking things slow, rather, we prioritize our free time differently now. Our collective mindset now is, “We’re old, we already have families,” so we try not to push ourselves tulad ng dati na sobrang aggressive namin at constantly work, work, work. Before, we had no money to buy anything, we had no distractions. Tuloy-tuloy kasi yung work eh, so wala kaming choice but to slow down whenever we have the chance.
“We’re not taking things slow, rather, we prioritize our free time differently now.
Our collective mindset now is,
'We’re old, we already have families,'
so we try not to push ourselves...”
Dindin: Dati, meron kaming usual conversations na, “Tara, practice tayo. Kelan? Sa jaberday?”
Chito: Never na nangyari. We try our best to stay away from each other. We’re sick of each other. We see each other every day. We’ve been working together since 1990.
Dindin: Si Chito, since prep ko pa nakikita yan eh.
Chito: Sawang-sawa na talaga kami sa isa’t isa. Pero whenever we work together, we still have fun, so it’s still fresh. I could compare it to a successful marriage.
What did maturity bring to the group’s working dynamic and habits?
Chito: In terms of attitude, siguro we’re more relaxed. Especially me, I used to be bossy. Ngayon, ako na yata yung mas tamad sa kanila eh. When it comes to music, we figured out how to work more efficiently. We go to the studio, record a song in a day instead of five. Now, we know what we’re doing. With each other, mas mature na kami, we don’t get into fights anymore…lalo na nung wala na si Buwi.
Vinci: Pero bumalik naman ako eh.
Chito: Oo, so I guess we’d be getting into fights again.
Vinci: Kinukuha lang nila ’ko kasi yung foundation niyan plastikan. Ha ha! Kidding aside, it’s true friendship; magkakaibigan nga muna kami bago kami nag-banda, except Darius, teacher nga namin siya nun. There’s no secret to it. It’s like inviting your old friend back to your home, after niyong mag-away.
Darius: Para siyang prodigal son na lumayas tapos bumalik.
Most of your predecessors point to artistic differences when explaining why their members eventually parted ways. Are those kinds of things the least of your worries?
Chito: Hindi naman kami talaga mga musikero na umaabot sa point na nagka-clash when it comes to musical directions. We just want to play, enjoy being in a band. Never kami nagkaron ng differences pagdating sa artistic integrity because we have none of that. Ha ha!
Vinci: Except me.
Chito: Except si Vinch, so medyo, “Ay, ayoko yang kanta na yan, quit ako.”
Darius: Alam na namin yung capability of one each person, kung hanggang saan kaya, so hindi na kami nag-e-expect ng more than that.
Gab: Mediocre to a fault.
Vinci: Coming from the outside, nakita ko yung development nila as musicians. Masyado na silang magaling, nagulat talaga ako nung pinakauna naming tugtog.
Dindin: Na-miss mo lang kami, Vinch.
Chito: Na-picture mo lang kami na sobrang sablay, na pagbalik mo, “Tangina hindi naman pala ganun ka-sablay!” Ha ha!
Gab: Hindi mo na kailangang mag-suck up, tinanggap ka na namin.
Vinci: Si Gab, okay yan! Si Dindin, okay din! Ha ha!
Chito: I think the mediocrity and lack of skill worked for us as a band and a group, because it makes our music more accessible to everyone—hindi masyadong technical and deep. Even if we want to make it like that, we can’t.
“I think the mediocrity and lack of skill worked for us as a band and a group, because it makes our music more accessible to everyone”
Dindin: Di namin kaya yun.
Gab: Pinakanatural na po yun.
Vinci: Obviously, they still see na nag-e-enjoy pa yung banda—yun yung nagdadala ng lahat na yun. Kung wala yung enjoyment, wala na rin yung banda.
What about songwriting? How have all the years you’ve shared contributed to the lyric-writing process?
Gab: Sa songwriting, ganun pa rin eh, kung ano yung nag-a-affect sa’yo eh, di ba?
Chito: If you put some songs from the old albums sa pinakabago, you wouldn’t know the difference. Walang pinagbago eh. Don’t get us wrong. We try our best to improve our craft, but unfortunately that’s all we have. And it works in making us comfortable with each other. Okay na kami sa drums ni Dindin, ganun din kay Dar…pag may kanta ko na hindi ganun kaganda, I give it to them and they’ll make it better.
How did growing old affect the patented Parokya humor?
Dindin: Tito jokes na kami ngayon eh.
Vinci: Part of the reason why I left a number of times before this is because I see it, nagiging seryoso din ako; ayoko nun eh. I want it as fresh as it can be… Okay yan si Dar, okay yan si Gab. Ha ha!
Fans are fond of your backstage stories. Now with less time together outside of performing, do you still share candid moments and crazy anecdotes?
Chito: Wala na si Buwi eh, ha ha! At this age, normally after ng tugtog, we just go to our hotel rooms and sleep. Minsan magbi-beer kami ni Dar, kasi kami lagi yung roommates.
Gab: Nagki-kiss sila.
Vinci: Basa muna ng konting FHM, pasok ng banyo… ha ha!
Chito: Yung mga iba naming ginagawa ngayon mga ilegal na, so hindi na namin pwedeng ikwento!
Gab: Next question!
Chito: We started at the age of 17, so lahat talaga ng kagaguhan nagawa na namin. People imagine that our life is one big party. Well, it is—pero behind the scenes, iba na, nood lang kami ng TV, masaya na kami sa History Channel o UFC.
It pretty much looks like you don’t miss the stuff that you were able to do when you were younger.
Chito: We don’t miss anything because we still get to live our lives every day as we did 20 years ago.
Dindin: Sawa na tayo.
Gab: Dati bumabiyahe tayo ng malayo, ta’s hindi tayo natutulog, nagkukulitan lang tayo the whole time? Eight hours tuloy-tuloy.
Chito: Pero now that we’re old, may kanya-kanya na kaming bunk beds so we sleep. Napaka-boring na…
Gab: …ng backstage life namin.
Dindin: Walang girls, walang buffet.
Chito: Walang alak, we just have water, a few sandwiches.
Vinci: Pero masaya na kami dun!
Chito: I think we lived too fast, eventually, we slowed down early. Nag-retire kami at the age of 40, and it still feels good because this is what we want to do. Kung nasan man kami ngayon is what we want at the moment. We have the ability, capability, and blessing to do just that.
Dindin: And we’re still having fun.
Chito: Oo. Eto na yung masaya sa’min eh, mga tito hits.
Despite not completely leaving the scene, like some of your contemporaries, you guys are still able to induce nostalgia amongst your fans. Why do you guys think that is?
Chito: The reason may nostalgic effect is because we’re so old. We’ve been in the scene for so long, so whenever we play our old songs, para siyang nostalgic. It’s nice having people na kasabay sa sound trip yung mga anak nila. That’s very flattering for us.
Darius: Tuloy-tuloy lang kasi natin ginagawa tapos hindi natin napansin na ganun na pala katagal.
How does your upcoming album, Pogi Years Old, represent the brand's current identity?
Chito: Eksakto yung term na "pogi years old." Galing kay Buwi yun eh. Feeling ko nasa certain age na kami (except for Darius) na mas chill pero makulit at mabibigat pa rin naman. Ang albums kasi namin hindi naman siya concept-concept eh, it’s a snapshot of that particular stage of our life. Kung anuman yung lumabas dun, sense of maturity or relevance—or irrelevance—chopsuey lang siya. Yung itsura namin dun, pangit man o maganda, masaya man o malungkot yung kanta namin, it’s a point in time na na-capture namin sa recording. Twenty one tracks na solid na solid; you should listen to it. We had so much fun recording it, ang tagal lang talaga ng proseso.
Gab: Parang pinanganak talaga namin.
Vinci: Well, with me, parang sumabay lang ako, parang nakinood lang ako sa giving birth na yun.
Chito: Kumbaga nung nag-sex kaming apat, nakinood lang, pavideo-video lang siya! Ha ha!
You mentioned earlier that being in Parokya is just like being a part of a successful marriage. Do you have any tips on band longevity that can be applied to romantic relationships?
Vinci: Wag kayong paalis-alis, pabalik-balik! Ha ha!
Chito: Wag kayong on and off sa relationship.
Gab: Kailangan steady.
Chito: I think we’ve grown na na-embrace, na-appreciate, at natatawa na lang kami sa ugali ng bawat isa, both positive and negative. It’s just a matter of respecting and accepting the personalities of each individual. Parang sa kasal, you love the imperfections of the person that you’re married to. Kung papanindigan mo yung gusto mo lang, it won’t work out. It’s always good vibes and compromise, two-way. Sometimes three-way, okay din. Ha ha!