What is the secret behind their staying power in showbiz? This was my question five of the country’s biggest OPM icons addressed last week at Victorino’s restaurant in Quezon City during the press conference for their US concert tour “Four Kings and a Queen.” Nonoy Zuñiga, Haji Alejandro, Marco Sison, Rey Valera, and their guest Pops Fernandez talked about their showbiz longevity.

Nonoy Zuñiga, Haji Alejandro, Marco Sison, Rey Valera, and their guest Pops Fernandez (middle)

Iconic singer-songwriter Rey Valera told Random Republika, “Ah, in my case, Ahh siyempre pag uumpisahan, yung mga fans ko mga estudyante. Walang parents, sa totoo lang. Kung papaano mag-stay long enough para sila makabili ng ticket sa mga show mo, ‘yun kailangan mo gawin ‘yun. In my case, may mga taga timpla ng kape, may mga maliliit na writer na kung tutuusin hindi mo papansinin. Ako pinapansin ko sila. Kasi later on narealize ko, yung mga writer na yan nagiging director yan. Gagamitin yung kanta mo sa pelikulang yan, gagamitin yung- etong ano, etong nagka- nagtitimpla ng kape, ikakalat yung mga ginawa- sinabi mo, minsan napaka liit na bagay sayo, sa kaniya, babanggitin niya sa pamilya niya, at kakalat naman ng pamilyang ‘yun, sa ilang taong yan, sampu, nag a-ano yan eh, nag-mumultiply.”

The musical genius also added that it is the people behind the scenes who make them stars. “Napansin ‘ko yun, na ang gumagawa ng legend about you, yung kuwento-kuwento, is yung mga tao mismong nakausap mo eh…’Yun ang isang napansin ko na kailangan ‘wag mong mamaliitin yung mga maliliit dahil sila yung gagawa ng stories about you.”

OPM heartthrob and ageless singer Marco Sison supported the idea. “’Yung mga maliliit, lumalaki rin ‘yun. You have to take care of each other, ‘di ba? Fans mo, and your relationship with your fans. And you grow old together, appreciating each other ‘di ba?” Sison was realistic not to take all the credit and added that luck also have a part in one’s lasting power in the industry. He said, “Siyempre, with a little bit of luck din ‘di ba? Kasi ‘di ba? I’m from the ’80s. And the ’80s was talagang the golden age of OPM, ‘no? So, sa totoo lang po, lahat ng kilala niyong major artists, are from the ’80s. Ah, ’70s and ’80s, I’m sorry. I’m also proud to say that Lifetime Achievement Awardees po kaming apat. So, nagbibiruan po kami every project palagi, ano ba yan pang lifetime achievement award ba yang show na yan?” In the end, Sison reinforced that it is the relationship with the fans and how they are treated that matter. He said, “Kung paano mo sila bigyan ng importansya kahit na anong edad, kahit na anong edad.”

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For Nonoy Zuñiga, staying grounded is the key. He shared, “Mahirap ‘pag lumaki ulo eh. Lilipad na yan wala ka nang kilala. But if you’re grounded all the time, you will establish good relationship with your family rin, with friends, mga friends mo nung- alam nung gaano ka kapobre noon pa . Kailangan lagi kang tumitingin sa pinanggalingan mo. So ayun, Tas number 2 yung ano, right attitude sa trabaho, ‘no? Kung puwede ka dumating na ‘di late, maging professional ka.” He also added that staying in shape is a major factor in lasting long at work.

“You have to make them happy by staying healthy, ‘no?,” Zuñiga offered the advice. “Siyempre ‘pag healthy tayo, mas tatagal ‘yung buhay mo, and longer mo makakasama ang fans mo. Kaya nga may joke kami eh, pano mas tumagal sa business? Ah basta yung mga fans namin buhay pa, mabubuhay pa kami.” Everyone burst into laughter.

Another known heartthrob, Hajji Alejandro echoed what his contemporaries said. “Simple lang, ‘yung attitude kasi ang mahalaga eh. Kung napansin niyo ngayon, pinakamadaling sumikat sa ngayon, because of technology. Mag-champion ka lang in any one of the contests sa TV, anywhere in the world na may Pilipino, napanood ka na ‘eh. Ang daling sumikat ‘eh. Kami, it took several years na sikat na sikat na kami rito, wala pang nakakakilala samin abroad na mga Pinoy. Hindi ba? So, kung hindi pa duamting ‘yung mga magazine, comics sa kanila, tsaka pa lang, ‘di ba? So, we, we’ve really earned our place and ang masasabi ko, kinakailangan mahalin mo ‘eh para magtagal ka.”

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Loving the work you do is something Alejandro also deems important. “Dahil hindi mo mamamalayan yung oras talaga when you’re doing something that you love, ako nga close to 50 years na ‘eh. I feel- I always said this many times, to be in music, is not something that you work, you don’t work music, you play music. So, almost 50 years na akong naglalaro. That’s how I feel about this business. And I’m enjoying it,” he said.

When it was the country’s Concert Queen Pops Fernandez’s turn, she agreed to what the senior artists had to say, “Parang sinabi na nila lahat, ‘di ba? Lahat ‘yun totoo.” She added, “Appreciate what you do, what you love. Narito po kami because we love what we do. Ako po kasi nag-umpisa ako ang bata ko pa. Akala ko laro lang siya. So ang gusto ko lang mangyari dati is makita ko yung sarili ko sa TV tapos okay na ‘yun. ‘Yun pala narealize ‘ko, hindi pala ganun lang. Ah, you really have to be dedicated, totoo ‘yun.”

Fernandez also shared the value of practicing respect for others. “‘Yung training namin noong araw is be professional, lahat ng makita mo, na nakikilala mo, bibigyan mo ng respeto, ako dati maski na ibang dressing room, pupunta pa ako sa ibang dressing room para bumati lang.”

Loving what you do is another thing she emphasized. “When you think about it, ‘yun na nga, once you know what you want and you love, and you are so dedicated about your art, your craft, it will come naturally, I think. Kasi ‘yun na yung makikita ng tao ‘eh. Mare-realize mo na, it’s not about fame anymore, it is about what you love to do.”

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Fernandez also went back to the basic idea of being grateful to those who have been there from the start of their journeys. “Tama lahat ng sinabi nila ‘eh,” she said. “Huwag ninyong kakalimutan ‘yung mga tumulong sa inyo dati, yung mga, nakasama ninyo. Always be grateful, it is very important, and always show respect to the ones who have been there before.”

What really makes the bunch stand out and last long, in my opinion, is their shared sense of humor. How they inject fun into their work is a gift, just like how Valera asked if he could add to what Fernandez was saying. He said, “Dagdagan ko lang ha. Dagdagan ko lang ‘yung sinasabing fame at kilala, minsan kasi totoo naman na ano, kahit nga sa Amerika, merong nagpapakuha saming ganiyan, pakuha nang pakuha pagkatapos tatanungin, ikaw ba si Victor Wood? Totoong nangyari ‘yan ah. Dito naman sa Pilipinas minsan magtatanong ka directions, kung tama ginagawa ng Waze, hindi ba ikaw si Piolo Pascual? Hindi nga ako kumikibo. So ganun ‘yun, Ganun ‘yun.”

Alejandro was quick to add a funny story that capped off their answers. He shared, “Ito totoong nangyari. ‘Di ba after every show, nandoon kami sa lobby nung theater eh. Photo op, ‘di ba. ‘Yung mga nagtatakbuhan yung mga kaedad- yung mga dating kolehiyala ‘eh. Iba na ngayon ‘eh. May edad na ‘eh. Pag nakita si Nonoy, aba talagang guwapo pala. Si Haji kengkoy, cute cute ni Marco, pagdating kay Rey, uhm, ‘I love your songs!’ As usual, they all ended up having a hearty laugh.

Catch the OPM icons in a series of concerts set to happen from June 25 in California until July 17 in Hawaii. This is presented and produced by Amore Entertainment.

Four Kings and a Queen artists with producer Pia Amore Legaspi
US-based FIlipina producer Pia Legaspi is behind the concert series

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