Did you know that in 2015 when he suffered a stroke, Rico J. Puno lost his voice? It was caused by the life-support tube inserted into his throat.
“Doctors said that his vocal cords were traumatized,” recalled Tosca Camille Puno-Ramos, one-time councilor of Makati City and the eldest of Rico’s four children with his ex-wife Doris Tayag. “While he was at the ICU recovering from open-heart surgery, I held his hand and said, ‘Dad, I’m going to sing you a song.’ I choked a bit as I started singing May Bukas Pa and I saw a tear fell from Dad’s eye.”
May Bukas Pa is one of Rico J’s hit songs which was used as theme song of a Kapamilya soap and which Rico sang when he guested on Willie Revillame’s Wowowin’s recent tribute to the Marawi soldiers.
“It’s a very touching song,” said Tosca (named after the opera). “It’s about having hope if you have faith in God.”
Rico will surely include it in his repertoire for Tatak Rico J, A Tribute to 40 Years of the Total Performer set for Dec. 2, 8 p.m. at The Theatre of Solaire Resort & Casino. Produced by Starmedia and directed by Rowell Santiago with Louie Ocampo as musical director, the concert features as special guests Willie Revillame, Ogie Alcasid, Randy Santiago, Imelda Papin, Claire dela Fuente, Gloc-9 and Ai-Ai delas Alas. (For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or log on to www.ticketworld.com.ph.)
Of course, the show won’t be complete without Rico’s trademark green jokes.
“I think those jokes click with the audience because of the way dad delivers them,” said Tosca who has inherited her dad’s musical gift and has guest performed in some of her dad’s concerts. “His jokes are like Andok’s Chicken. Kahit pauli-ulit mong kainin, OK pa rin. Ganoon din ang jokes ni Daddy. Even if you have heard them again and again, natatawa ka pa rin.”
After his brush with death, Rico has changed a lot, according to Tosca.
“He has realized that life is short and he values the time that he has now,” revealed Tosca. “One time, I asked dad, ‘Can I ask you a question?’ He nodded. I said, ‘What did you learn from the experience?’ He sighed and replied, ‘After I regained my voice, I realized that it was the best gift God has given me, so I have to take good care of it.”
Although Rico has been with Queen (“Younger than me,” smiled Tosca) for more than eight years, he has remained friends with Doris who opted not to remarry. “She doesn’t say so but I could feel that my mom still loves my dad. Every time I would visit my dad, she would say, ‘Ikumusta mo ako sa Daddy mo.’ Ganoon.”
After serving three terms as Makati City councilor, Rico quit politics for a while and ran again and won.
“At 64,” noted Tosca, “he was appointed in-charge of the city’s senior citizens. Masipag na konsehal si Daddy, just like Jhong (Hilario, also a Makati councilor).”
Describing Rico as a “very supportive” dad, Tosca noted that Rico continues to grow and has become “more expressive, more cuddly and more open” after he recovered from his illness.
“Mabait si Daddy; hindi ka niya matiis. He said that he has been realizing many things as the days pass by. Sabi niya, ‘At the end of the day, what really matters is the family.’ He loves us the best way he knows best.”
Punong-puno best describes Rico’s life now.
“I have a new grandchild. I have a caring Queen with me,” said Rico, “and I have become closer to my children who visit me on Sundays.”
Asked which of his songs would he choose as theme song for his biopic, if ever, Rico smiled, “Kapalaran.”
Then he proceeded to sing a line from it, “Kapalaran kung hanapin di matagpuan. At kung minsan lumalapit nang di mo alam…”
Ogie Alcasid and Regine Velasquez with children Leila van Eimeren Alcasid and Nate Velasquez Alcasid during their concert at the Town Hall in New York City. Left: Regine with Funfare contributor Felix Manuel.
Alcasids sell out New York’s Town Hall
Several Filipino artists have performed at the Town Hall in New York City but Ogie Alcasid and wife Regine Velasquez were the first Pinoys to ever have a sold-out concert there last Nov. 5 as part of their Mr. & Mrs. A in the USA five-city US tour.
Die-hard fans of the couple, many coming from the nearby states, ignored the cold and damp autumn night and waited patiently for hours for their turn to enter the venue. They also bought CDs of both Ogie and Regine.
The show was sponsored by Starmedia Entertainment, Philippine Airlines, the Lewis Law Group and GMA Pinoy TV as the official media partner.
Mountaintop Entertainment, Inc., the New York producer of the show, announced that there were only a hundred tickets left a week before the show. The venue accommodates nearly 1,500 guests.
Fil-Am leaders headed by Consul General Theresa Dizon de Vega and Ambassador Mario Lopez de Leon and wife Eleanor were present to support OPM’s Power Couple.
The most emotional part of the show was when Leila van Eimeren Alcasid and Nate Velasquez Alcasid joined the couple onstage and sang the iconic I Can from the 1996 movie Do Re Mi (which starred Donna Cruz, Regine and Mikee Cojuangco). Many in the audience cried. An old lady behind me whispered how she missed her family in the Philippines. “I hope one day we can be together like them — singing happily together.”
Songs from different movies and teleseryes somehow transported the audience home, even for a fleeting moment.
A meet and greet followed shortly after the concert. It is interesting to note that even if the show was on a Sunday evening, people still flocked to see the show. Sunday evening shows have usually lower audience turnout, but Regine and Ogie broke the record. — Reported by Felix Manuel
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