After a long absence, Joe D’ Mango is back. The longtime DJ and love guru has recently been dishing out love advice again but this time via YouTube, and from Australia where he’s taken up residence since 2012. Lovesick radio listeners and TV viewers of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early 2000s would no doubt be familiar with his voice and his insights to modern romance.
In 2012, the DJ-turned-missionary left a flourishing career in the Philippines to live in Australia with his family. Contrary to what many assumed, burnout wasn’t the reason Joe left the country. Moving to Australia and starting from scratch was a test of faith.
“I had a lucrative construction business with the potential to earn millions. There was no reason for us to leave the country,” says Joe in an interview with The Narrow Door Podcast, hosted by DJs Sam Oh and Tina Ryan. “But God said, ‘Leave it all behind.’ And when he said leave it all behind, wala syang pinakitang picture of a happy family somewhere in Australia, enjoying life, wala. He just gave us an open door. Here is a door. It’s open. Just go.”
The Sulits—Joe is Rolando Sulit in real life—have been members of Victory Christian Church since 2012. In Australia, their family runs a café called Sunday in Canberra, now one of the go-to places in the capital city. Joe and wife Bing are also pastors at the church they established eight years ago.
Why did he think of reviving Love Notes? Joe says he’s been praying about it for quite some time. He started a YouTube channel in 2015 but had only uploaded three videos. “Lately, parang sinasabi ni Lord, I have given you a gift, use that gift to bless others. So ang take ko doon, whatever talent that God has given you, use it to serve others and glorify God.”
Why Joe D’ Mango?
Joe got into radio after joining a DJ search on RPN 9 back in 1985. He was 19 and a second year student at AMA Computer College at that time.
The stint opened doors for the aspiring disc jockey. Bernie Buenaseda of DWBL, known in the airwaves as “Burning Bernie,” one of the judges in the DJ search, approached Joe and asked if he wanted to work in a real radio station. Joe readily said yes.
Joe’s radio career officially started in October of 1985. He first used the name Roland Dees, inspired by the American radio personality and voice artist Rick Dees. But in February 1986, at the height of People Power, 89.9 DWTM was born, and Joe was moved to the new FM station which held office at the 18th floor of the now defunct PhilComCen building in Ortigas.
“Sabi ng mga senior DJs, kailangan daw palitan ang pangalan ko para mas madaling tandaan,” Joe recalls. The name Joe D’ Mango was suggested, a localized play on the name Joe DiMaggio, the famous ‘50s baseball player. The other senior DJs gave their approval, and Roland Dees officially became Joe D’ Mango.
“I hated that name,” Joe admits. “But I had to live with it. Little did I know that it would be a big catalyst in my career, kasi the name itself was a novelty. People started asking what’s behind the name.”
You could say Love Notes came about by happenstance. He remembers hosting Friday Magic Madness where he got to play a lot of old love songs. He would get letters from listeners requesting him to dedicate songs to their loved ones. “May mga sumusulat, asking me to play a song for a friend, a boyfriend. ‘We had an argument last night. Can you play this song for me? Tell him that I’m sorry.’ Dun nag-umpisa yun.’”
Joe still remembers the usual plots of the letters he received. “Classic yung may tunay kang mahal pero hindi na pwede kasi you are already committed to someone else. So they would ask me to play (sings) ‘We had the right love at the wrong time’ ni Barry Manilow. Tapos I would always give a short piece of my thoughts about their situation and play (sings again) ‘It’s so sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.’”
Until he started getting bags and bags of letters at the radio station. So sometime in August of 1988, he asked his boss Bernie if he can do a program where he could read letters and give advice to listeners. He wanted to call it Joe D Mango’s Love Notes. Initially, Bernie was understandably hesitant. The idea was not aligned with the format of 89.9. Talk shows and letter-readings were usually on AM and back then FM was mainly a music station. But Bernie eventually said yes. He gave Joe a month to try it out.
Needless to say, Love Notes became a big success, eventually spawning one of the most successful multi-media franchises in Philippine media which lasted over two decades. In 1994, ABC 5 started producing the Love Notes series, which would become a Friday night habit for many. Shortly after, Viva Films would produce a two-part movie of the same name starring Keempee De Leon, Donna Cruz, Vina Morales and Gary Estrada. Joe also published his Love Notes advice column in the Manila Times, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and in several magazines for overseas Filipino workers. Universal Publishing released several volumes of the Love Notes pocketbook series, while Sterling Publications churned out several issues of Love Notes in comics form.
There were also three Love Notes albums released by BMG Records—“Love is All that Matters,” “Feeling Blue” and “Soul Seduction”—which featured the all-time favorite Love Notes theme songs Joe played on the radio.
Joe was only 21 when he started Love Notes. At that time, he didn’t have a wealth of experience in the love department to pull wisdom from. He had his first girlfriend only when he started his career on radio. So people naturally asked where did he get all that relationship advice.
“Actually hindi ko alam,” he says. “I think it’s a gift. It just comes out from somewhere inside of me. I can’t explain it.”
Joe ended up marrying his first girlfriend Bing in 1988, the same year Love Notes was launched. Theirs was literally a radio romance—she was one of his avid listeners. “Mama Mango was my first girlfriend so wala pa din akong masyadong experience,” says Joe. “Wala talaga akong basis for what I was saying.”
But there was one thing he knew for sure: he enjoyed listening to other people’s problems. “I enjoyed learning from them and the value that I found in it was being able to help them see from a different perspective. Kasi if you’re in certain a situation, you know naman what to do e, it’s just that you’re blinded by your emotions. And feelings don’t think. Solid thinking is what is needed when feelings get too strong, so you need the perspective of someone else,” he says.
After listening to love problems for decades and having his own set of personal battles and triumphs over the years, Joe’s fans can only expect an improved Joe D’Mango this time around. “Everything that we experience happens for a reason. I never planned for any of these to happen but I am thankful that I have been truly blessed beyond measure,” he recently told his viewers. In true Joe D’ Mango fashion, he ended the video with heartfelt advice—and this time it’s from personal experience. “Let us always remember that the best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today,” he said. “Whatever you do, do it sincerely with all your heart and use whatever gift or talent God has given you to serve and to bless others.”