Juan dela Cruz is back in 'Pinoy super bands' concert

Rick Olivares

Posted at Sep 10 2017 09:21 PM | Updated as of Sep 11 2017 01:35 PM

Mike Hanopol and Joey 'Pepe' Smith today. Photo provided by author

MANILA -- Mike Hanopol walked inside a fast food restaurant along ever busy Katipunan Avenue in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. 

No one recognized the man who has written hit songs such as “Balong Malalim,” “Mr. Kengkoy,” “Laki sa Layaw,” “Legs,” “Katawan,” and many others from his heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Hanopol personified the hippie or rocker image of that era – long hair, a bandana on his head before Axel Rose made it mainstream, and lots of facial hair with a pair of sunglasses covering his eyes.

Now Hanopol walked in wearing a skullcap from Venice and in a collared polo shirt after coming from a religious service.

“I am Mr. Anonymous,” he quipped as his old Juan dela Cruz bandmate Joey ‘Pepe’ Smith sauntered in the restaurant where the Saturday lunch crowd immediately recognized him. 

Even the young crew members working the counter knew the tall and lanky rocker. “Si Pepe Smith!” they gushed.

Only when the two legends of Pinoy rock sat close to one another for a meal -- before they set out for Quirino province for a show – did people put two and two together. “That’s Mike Hanopol,” said one lunchgoer to another. 

Hanopol sat down for a chicken meal eschewing soda for a glass of water, then talked about the upcoming "Full Blast Pinoy Super Bands" concert slated for October 19 at the Cuneta Astrodome became the topic.

The concert will feature the likes of Queso, Basti Artadi, Dong Abay, Razorback, the Youth, Asin, the Wuds, and Maria Cafra with the Juan dela Cruz Band the headline act. 

“I am worried about these big shows,” shared Hanopol. “Back in the 1970s and the 1980s, it was the norm. We filled places like the Araneta Coliseum, Folk Arts Theater, Ultra…”

“We, of course, also played shows where there weren’t that many people. Kaunti lang,” he admitted. “But the performance we gave – and it was always about a quality and high performance – was always there. Para pag uwi ng tao ay sasabihin nila, ‘I went to a rock ‘n’ roll show.’”

Glory days, I enthused. 

Hanopol nodded then smiled. “Kanta ni…” he groped. 

“Bruce Springsteen.”

“Bruce Springsteen,” smiled the man. “Isa pa na tulad namin na sige pa rin. Rock and roll pa rin. Glory days.”

“Iba 'yung music audience ngayon,” pointed out the rock legend. “Ang bilis magpalit ng mga uso. Sikat ka ngayon bukas hindi. Nakakatuwa na meron mga nakakakilala 'yung musika namin pero siyempre, hindi mo alam kung paano ka ire-receive ulit ng tao.” 

With Smith not the performer he once was after health issues have curtailed his singing and guitar-playing, Hanopol has taken on the vocal duties of the Juan dela Cruz Band. The band would dearly love to record a new album. 

“Depende sa kanya,” segued Hanopol pointing to Smith (Wally Gonzalez is still in the United States and is set to return by September’s end). 

While each member of the Juan dela Cruz Band is a Pinoy rock icon in his own right, Smith, his height notwithstanding, is the draw. He’s got the looks, attitude, showmanship, and the moxie to front a band. Smith, who had been mostly listening to the interview, opting hfor is bandmate to do most of the talking, cast an appreciative eye to Hanopol. 

“One for the road,” gleefully teased Smith who raised his cup of water as a toast. 

He wants to do it. He believes he can still do it. During an interview at Handlebar a few months back, he bared his desire to record once more. “I have one more story to tell,” he announced. 

As much as Hanopol is happy to perform his songs as a solo artist or with the Juan dela Cruz Band, he concurs with Smith. “I have these new compositions that need to be heard,” he said. “Sana.”

Health-issues or not, Smith is determined to check off the last few items on his personal bucket list. 

“Sa ngayon, I am looking forward to the 'Full Blast' concert. Dun muna tayo. Then pagusapan what’s next for me and for the Juan dela Cruz Band.”