(UPDATED) Veteran actress Shiela Francisco "almost fainted" after getting a hug and "beso" from Ely Buendia, while funny man Reb Atadero didn't mind showing his "kilig." Such is the rock icon's effect on both sexes of varying ages.
It was Thursday night, the gala performance of the original Filipino musical "Ang Huling El Bimbo," which stars both Francisco and Atadero. During the curtain call, Buendia surprised everyone when he joined the cast and creative team on stage.
To die-hard fans, it was like Jesus Christ coming out of Gethsemane, making them scream, "Oh my god!" repeatedly and jumping for joy.
Prior to Buendia's unexpected appearance, director and choreographer Dexter Martinez Santos had just finished thanking everyone in the production. He made special mention of the Eraserheads and thanked Buendia, drummer Raimund Marasigan, bassist Buddy Zabala and lead guitarist Marcus Adoro.
"I was assigned to call the members of the creative team," Santos recounted in a Facebook post. "I planned to thank the Eraserheads in my closing spiel. But since the legendary icon was there, do we acknowledge him in the audience? Will he even think of joining us in the curtain call? Or he just wants to be incognito for the night? Of course, we didn't want to pressure him. It was a dream for the company to have the members of the band to see the musical so the mere fact that Ely was watching the show was more than a gift."
Suddenly from the right side of the stage, there was a commotion, and screaming. As Santos recalled, "Towards the end of my spiel, I saw Jun Bartolome running towards the stage (like super running) giving a thumbs up."
Bartolome is part of Ultimate Shows, Inc., the company of line producer Mark Manalang. “My fastest sprint, ever,” said Bartolome. It was the go-signal to announce the presence of Buendia, who, as it turned out, has been there since the start of the show.
Santos was among the first to say, "Oh my God!" before anyone in the audience did. "Ely is joining us for curtain call. Oh, eh ayun na, dedma na, naging 'Showtime'/Araneta Coliseum hosting mode on," he added, in jest.
After shaking hands, kissing cheeks, hugging old acquaintances like Jon Santos, posing for more selfies and giving a short interview backstage, Buendia joined the cast members' after-party at the mall's plaza. Photos that emerged later on showed he was with members of Cruiserheads, a group of Harley Davidson riders.
For years, Buendia has been a well-known collector of Harley and Ducati bikes and has been joining days-long rides to provinces. For instance, he drove with Cruisherheads from Las Pinas all the way to the Cordillera mountains for a Sagada concert, where he performed with Apartel, and as a solo artist.
Buendia's attendance at the gala show was a surprise to most, but expected by some.
He is known to be an avid theatergoer after all. He is almost always present in preview shows of 9 Works Theatricals and The Sandbox Collective. At the Newport backstage, he recognized Atadero as Prince Herbert in Upstart Production's "Monty Python's Spamalot."
We asked Jon Santos why while on stage, Buendia went out of his way to shake his hand and hug him like a close friend, or a classmate in UP Diliman.
"Nagkakilala kami in the '90s, as artists in the live entertainment scene. Once in a while, nagkakasama kami sa guestings, awards nights, other events. May common friends kami na nandoon din kagabi (Thursday gala show) and may konting catching up kwentuhan. Professional mainly ang aming relationship," Jon Santos told us.
From the stage, Buendia went down and joined the audience. As proof of his appreciation, he threw the bouquet of flowers given to him by an usher back to the stage, landing before Gian Magdangal's feet. Magdangal plays Hector, one of the main characters.
Video courtesy of Day Cabuhat
Facing the audience, Buendia raised his hands telling them to stand up and give another round of applause. It was probably the longest standing ovation so far. As our phone video shows, from the time Buendia went on stage, obliged to pose for a group photo with the cast members, until the moment when people were cheering and singing the last few lines of “Alapaap,” the applause lasted 10 minutes.
At this point, it was pretty obvious Buendia liked the musical a lot. His co-manager and friend, Day Cabuhat, who was there with him, told us: "He said quite a lot [about the musical], I can't really summarize it. We had a fantastic night. Suffice it to say, actions speak louder than words — going down from the stage and giving the cast the accolade and adulation."
Dexter Santos, who spoke with Buendia backstage, said, "Not verbatim but he told us, the artistic team, that he was apprehensive to come because he thought it would suck. Years ago daw madami na lumapit sa kanya. He was glad na kami daw ang gumawa. It was world-class daw."
Hazel Grace Maranan, who is part of the ensemble, said: "Ang sabi niya lang sa amin, manonood ulit siya with his family. Sobrang nagustuhan niya, e. He even stayed for the after party."
Buendia came with Audry Dionisio, formerly the rhythm guitarist of the all-female rock band General Luna. She has directed several music videos for Apartel and “Lutang,” the collaboration of Buendia and The Itchyworms. She told one of the cast members, who declined to be identified, that Buendia “was in a really good mood.”
"Hindi daw 'yun usually nag-stay after shows, e. Pero last night daw was different. And he was very accommodating to everyone," the cast member said, quoting Dionisio.
On Friday night, Resorts World Manila posted a video of Buendia's interview about the musical.
"I really like it. It's really awesome," he said. "I was telling people here how unpredictable [it was]. This show showed me how beautiful those songs are, how funny and how sad those songs are. I never really appreciated it [the song 'Huling El Bimbo'] until I sat down in the audience and watched these awesome actors and singers and musicians perform it."
He went on: "Don't miss this show. This is one of the best times you'll have this year in Filipino theater. I highly recommend it."
"Ang Huling El Bimbo" will run until September 2.