MANILA -- Theater veterans Maribel Legarda and Liza Magtoto were in grade school when the Hotdog band came to national consciousness in the 1970s. Their hits were among the soundtracks in their young happy lives, covering their high school up to college years.
"I have two favorites, 'Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko' and 'Manila'," Legarda, artistic director of the 52-year-old Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), told ABS-CBN News.
"Hotdog was the soundtrack of my youth! It opened my eyes (or ears) to local pop music. Even my barkada in high school got 'Ikaw ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko' as our group theme song," said Magtoto, the acclaimed, prize-winning playwright of numerous plays and musicals for PETA.
"My personal favorites when I was young were 'Pers Lab', 'Ikaw ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko,' 'You Make Me Blush' and Bitin sa Yo. I would sing along to 'Manila' and 'Badaf Forever.' Ngayon pinakagusto ko yung 'Bongga Ka, 'Day', and I guess 'yung 'Panaginip,' 'Langit Na Naman' and 'You Make Me Blush' pa rin," Magtoto added.
So it's just but destiny that they've been tapped by Full House Theater Company to create the musical "Bongga Ka Day." Using the songs of Hotdog, it's the newest original Pinoy musical being cooked for staging in June 2020, at the Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts World Manila (RWM).
Full House had just announced through its official Facebook page that the open auditions will be held on November 11-13 at House Manila of the Holiday Inn Express Manila in Newport City.
Auditionees must be from 18 to 50-years-old and prepared with one Hotdog song or any song from musical theater in minus one, saved in USB flash drive. They must also know how to dance.
Legarda and Magtoto are working with musical director-composer Myke Salomon. He wasn't born yet when Hotdog recorded their first album, "Unang Kagat" in 1974 and altered the local music scene. Salomon is the most sought-after music director-composer when it comes to adapting songs from a popular band into a musical like Resorts World's hit musical "Ang Huling El Bimbo," as well as "Ako Si Josephine" from Yeng Constantino's discography and "3 Stars and A Sun" featuring the songs of Francis Magalona.
'Rak of Aegis' team
If you're a theater lover, it's easy to recognize those names if placed together in one sentence. Legarda, Magtoto and Salomon are the creative minds behind the "Rak of Aegis" phenomenon.
"Rak of Aegis" ended its seventh re-staging last September 29, logging in 449 performances at the PETA-Phinma Theater.
"They're the ones doing 'Bongga Ka, 'Day' and we're all very excited," Michael Williams, co-artistic director of Full House, confirmed to ABS-CBN News.
"Menchu and I will both be there to support Maribel at the auditions," added Williams, referring to Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, co-artistic director of Full House.
This would end speculations that director Dexter Martinez Santos and playwright Dingdong Novenario, plus Salomon, or the same team behind "Ang Huling El Bimbo" the musical, will be the core of the artistic team for "Bongga Ka Day."
"Ang Huling El Bimbo" is an original musical using the songs of the Eraserheads and had 115 performances that started in July 2018 and ended on August 18 this year.
The announcement of "Bongga Ka Day" was made on the closing of "Ang Huling El Bimbo" by RWM president and CEO Kingson Sian.
"We're bringing now world-class Filipino musicals at par with West End and even Broadway. I truly believe that," Sian said at the time.
Before leaving the stage, Sian told the audience to keep their tickets to avail of a special discount for next year's musical.
He added that part of the ticket sales goes to fund college education of select students chosen by the Original Pilipino Performing Arts (OPPA) Foundation, the scholarship-granting arm of RWM. The grant is focused on those taking up music, theater and creative writing.
Hotdog was founded in the early 1970s by Garcia brothers Rene and Dennis. It is credited for giving birth to Manila Sound, which in turn ushered Original Pilipino Music or OPM.
Their hits that include “Bongga Ka Day,” “Manila,” “Annie Batungbakal,” “Ikaw ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko,” and “Langit Na Naman" encouraged local musicians to compose and perform their own songs.
The songwriting skills of the Garcia brothers are now considered by most music writers as pure genius. Their lyrics are combination of English and Filipino, or Taglish, infusing colloquial expressions during that period like "kadiri to death," "you're so baduy" and yes, "bongga."
The mid-1970s were the height of Martial Law and in Hotdogs' hits like "Annie Batumbakal" the escapist nature of the common Filipino was mirrored. That despite poverty and hardship, one can be faboulous and dance the night away with the rich and famous at Cocobanana.
Said to be inspired by a real female jeepney barker at an intersection in Frisco, Munoz, Quezon City, Annie Batumbakal was also adapted into a movie in 1979 starring Nora Aunor and directed by Maryo J. delos Reyes.
Rene, 65, succumed to cardiac arrest on September 2, 2018. Dennis continues to play with the new batch of Hotdog in special shows here and abroad.
The influence of the band among the younger generations is very much palpable. For his tourism campaigns, the charismatic Manila Mayor Isko Moreno uses the familiar line "Simply no place like Manila." Here and there, we may hear a cover of "Manila" or a few chords of "Bongga Ka Day" used in TV or radio commercials.
But it can't be denied Hotdog's music is heard all over the world.
Ask older Filipino immigrants if they know a particular song that reminds them of home, it's Hotdog's "Manila."
Just like "Ang Huling El Bimbo," this new original musical is expected to be patronized not only by local theater-going audiences but "balikbayans" as well.