Monday, 20 February 2012

Manila artist ‘reggaes’ his way into hearts of Pinoys in Port Moresby

                                                      Blakjak … pinch-hitting for Ms Gretchen 
                                                      unable to come for the concert due to 
                                                      some health complications. 

       Filipino singer-stand-up comic Blakjak in reggae mode at his dinner-concert in 
       Port Moresby on February 18, 2012, with  able backup from a group of Papua 
       New Guinean musicians. – MWBuzzpics by AP HERNANDEZ/Port Moresby, PNG

Batch ’65
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

FILIPINO concerts put together by the Filipino Association of PNG (FAPNG) over the years have always been a hit among Pinoy expats here in Port Moresby.

One reason is that there’s a captive market for this kind of show, which had assured of a sell out. Another reason is that there’s a dearth of entertainment that caters to the taste of Filipino expatriates. Obvioiusly, when things like this come to Port Moresby, the Pinoys are sure to grab it – hook line and sinker.

So every Valentine’s month and Independence week, Pinoys would always be treated with a live concert by Filipino performers from Manila.

One of the regulars here is Richard Villanueva, a talented performer and a stand-up comic. He has always delighted us, Pinoys, with his repertoire.

On Saturday, February 18, comic-singer Blakjak – a mix of Pinoy-African-American – performed and we were not disappointed.

Although Blakjak has been absent in Metro Manila’s concert circuits, having been overseas for most of the time with his own band -- “to raise money for his family’s first home” -- he was still one with cool recall among reggae lovers.

The 32-year-old musician specializes in Jamaican music – mainly reggae – and do recordings, too, using his own materials.

That night, he brought the house down with his antics – joking joking -- while belting out Jamaican tunes with Pinoy contents.

Under the original bill dubbed “My Funny Valentine”, Blakjak was supposed to be the opening act, because the night actually belonged to the well-known songstress – Gretchen Espina.

In fact, Gretchen had been here last year and due to “insistent Pinoy demand”, she agreed to do this show.

A day before her supposed flight to Port Moresby, alongside Blakjak, she suffered a heart attack!

A quick replacement was arranged but sadly, the artist of similar caliber Gretchen could not get an artist’s visa owing to time constraints.

Obviously, Pinoys and expats alike were disappointed – including me --when her absence from the show was announced that night just minutes before the curtain was raised.

The audience knew Gretchen and her sensual prowess to engage the audience with her songs.

So Blakjak headlined the night and did his best to compensate for the fun that we lost that night from what could have been an enchanting noment with Gretchen.

Anyway, he made us laugh and made our feet tapped the floor to the beat of his reggae. And of course, his songs were known to many among the audience, particularly the younger set.

Funny, a lot of Pinays had their pictures with Blakjak, who, in his own-written song “Sino ba ang tatay ko?”, hinted his frustrating effort to find his African-American father who once had a tour of duty at Subic Bay during those days when the Americans lorded it over in Olongapo City.

In an online article featuring him, he said that he’s trying all means to get connected to his father, wishing that he’s still alive.

I’m not into reggae but I like the beat and rhythm. So, my night was not spoiled.

The dinner-concert ticket cost K200 (about US$91/Php3,900) and came with Malaysian cuisine.

It was a fundraising drive by FAFNG for the construction of a clubhouse costing K3 million (Php58.5 million). Once built, this facility would be first to be owned by an expat community here in Port Moresby.

Bulk of the funds comes from the sale of an association-owned property which FAPNG sold sometime ago.

Located at the industrial district of Gordon, in Port Moresby, the facility features parking space, sports centre, outdoor dining area, kitchen facilities, children’s playground and a mezzanine office on its 1,500sqm floor area.

Target date of completion is June this year, with the main portion already set up, including the roof and one side of the walls.

Of course, the property is owned by the association, whose quest for the land title began 30 years ago and had it only a few years back.

     An artist’s concept of the K3 million-FAPNG Clubhouse.

      Initial works have been started at the Clubhouse project, which is targeted to 
      be completed this June. – Photo supplied by FAPNG

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