The Hitmakers celebrate nearly 5 decades of music

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Jun 25 2022 07:17 PM

'Four Kings and a Queen' stars Hajji Alejandro, Nonoy Zuniga, Rey Valera, Marco Sison and Pops Fernandez. Handout
'Four Kings and a Queen' stars Hajji Alejandro, Nonoy Zuniga, Rey Valera, Marco Sison and Pops Fernandez. Handout

MANILA -- With countless entertainers in the music industry, The Hitmakers – Hajji Alejandro, Rey Valera, Nonoy Zuñiga and Marco Sison – attested to their longevity in the business. That surprised not a few of just their fans and followers, but even their fellow artists, most of whom are no longer performing.

“It’s so easy to make a name for yourself with today’s technology,” Alejandro told ABS-CBN News. “Mag-champion ka lang in any one of the contests on TV, anywhere in the world na may Pilipino, napanood ka na. Sikat ka na agad.

“Kami, it took us several years. Sikat na kami dito sa Pilipinas, wala pang nakakakilala sa amin abroad na mga Pinoy. Kung hindi pa dumating ang mga magazines sa kanila, hindi nila malalaman that we exist.

“You need to love what you do para magtagal ka. Music is not something that you work. You play music. Ako, almost 50 years na akong naglalaro. That’s how I feel about this business.”

The Hitmakers undoubtedly experienced fame through the years and they are not throwing in the towel when it comes to performing.

Similarly, concert queen Pops Fernandez is not retiring after being in showbiz for more than four decades now.

The Hitmakers are sharing the stage for the first time with Fernandez in “Four Kings and a Queen,” an eight-city concert tour in the US this June and July. Come August, the concert will also go onstage at Resorts World Manila.

Fernandez clarified she didn’t have anything to do with the title of their concert, “Four Kings and a Queen,” that will go to Graton Casino in San Francisco, California (June 25), Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, California (June 26), Sahara Event Center in Las Vegas (July 1), Bally’s Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nevada (July 3) and Atlantic City (July 9), Copernicus Center in Chicago, Illinois (July 10), Doubtletree Hotel in Portland, Oregon (July 15) and Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu (July 17).

“It has to be clear, guest lang ako sa show,” Fernandez said. “But at the end of the day, it’s really my desire to work with these guys. First time nga. At least, masasabi ko, after so many years in the business, I finally got to work with them.”

The Hitmakers readily gave their nod when Fernandez’s name was brought up to join them onstage.

“There were a number of other names who were all in the US, suggested earlier,” disclosed Sison. “But when the name of Pops was mentioned, we all agreed, eksakto siya.”

“It has been a long time that we always worked with artists who are of the same age or generation as ours,” Zuñiga said. “Working with Pops for the first time is something to look forward to.”

“In other words, kailangan nila ng millennial na artist,” Fernandez smiled. 

Among the four guys, Fernandez earlier worked only with Sison in her first theater venture in the stage musical, “Sarungbanggi,” presented at the Metropolitan Theater in 1985.

The musical also had Sylvia La Torre, Rene Requiestas, Beverly Salviejo., among others in the cast. “That was an experience for me to work with all of them,” Fernandez said.

With social media, it’s easier now to make a name for yourself today. “It was harder before to sustain having that name,” Fernandez admitted. “Today, looking back, tama lahat ng sinabi nila. Huwag kakalimutan ang mga tumulong sa inyo before.

“You really have to be dedicated. Training na very professional, importante ‘yun. Lahat ng makita mo na kakilala mo, bibigyan mo ng respeto. It’s easier now to be known and to make it. Kami, marami kaming pinagdaanan.

“Lahat yata ng fiesta, pinuntahan ko dati. Hindi ko nai-intindihan 'yun noong araw. But it was our way of telling the people, ‘Ako po ito. Si Pops [Fernandez] po ito. Ito po ang kanta ko.

“Once you know what you want and what you love and you are so dedicated, it will come naturally. You will realize it’s not about pay or work. It’s about what you love to do.

“Always be grateful, that’s important. Always show respect to the ones who have been there before

Valera cited the importance of the people they worked with from the time they started in the entertainment business.

“Nu’ng nag-uumpisa ka, ang mga fans namin mga estudyante, walang pera ‘yan,” Valera explained. “Kung paano ka mag-stay long enough para din magtagal ang mga fans mo, kailangan mong gawin ‘yun.

“Huwag mo silang maliitin, kasi ang istorya nila makakarating sa director. Magiging director din sila in the future. Gagamitin ang kanta mo sa pelikula nila.

“Even ‘yung nagtitimpla ng kape, ikakalat ang mga sinabi mo. Babanggitin niya sa pamilya niya at ikakalat naman ng pamilya niya sa ibang tao ulit. Namu-multiply. So kung tinaasan mo ng kilay, kakalat din ‘yun.

“Ang gumagawa ng kwento about you, ang legend mo, ‘yung mga taong nakaka-usap mo. ’Yung nagtitimpla ng kape, maliliit na writer, pwedeng hindi mo pansinin. Ako, pinapansin ko sila.”

Sison advised other artists, even the younger ones, to take care of their fans through the years. “You have to take care of each other. Your fans and your relationship with them.

“You grow old together appreciating each other. You value each other. Kahit na ano’ng edad ng fans mo, it’s how you treat them.”

For an artist to last long in the entertainment business, it’s important that he stays grounded, according to Zuñiga.

“Mahirap ‘pag lumaki ang ulo,” he said. “Lilipad ka na lang at wala ka ng kilala. But if you’re grounded all the time, you will establish good relationship not just with your family but your good friends.

“Kailangan lagi kang tumitingin sa pinaggaligan mo. You also need the right attitude to last long in this business. Maging professional ka sa mga kasama mo sa trabaho at sa mga fans.

“One more thing, para mas matagal mong makasama ang mga fans mo, you have to make them happy by staying healthy. Of course, ‘pag healthy tayo, mas tatagal ang buhay mo. Longer mo makakasama ang fans mo.”

The Hitmakers originally included Rico J. Puno until he passed away in 2018. “Before the pandemic, whenever we did shows in the US, there was always a 15-minute part where we paid tribute to Rico by singing his songs,” Alejandro recalled. “Then he would come out sa big screen to also sing with us.”

“Ang tagal naming kasama si Rico sa Hitmakers. Up to now, ‘yung mga jokes ni Rico, ginagawa pa rin namin. Ang pinaka-magaling mag-deliver ng green jokes ni Rico, si Rey,” Sison added.