If there’s one thing that has an ability to unite people together, it’s music. Amassed in concerts, huddled around the radio or just singing a favorite song in the videoke bar, with friends in the background, playing second fiddle or just swaying along, music has the power to make people come together, just like what Madonna said in “Music.” So it’s not really surprising that music is also one of the major driving forces behind families, especially for Pinoys, with our inherent love for musical moments during parties and gatherings, making your apoor niece perform a pop song to impress the guests.
With this in mind, Alaska Milk Corporation, which is known primarily for supporting sports programs, and Pinoy music legend RJ Jacinto put together Alaska Family and Friends Music Treat, a competition for bands composed of family members and their close friends. Built on Alaska Milk’s firm belief in the capacity of music to strengthen family ties and promote positive values, the contest spanned for three months, with over 30 bands competing. The Grand Finals was recently held at the RJ Bistro in DusitThani Hotel, Makati with seven family bands vying for the top prize of a business start-up showcase, a kitchen showcase or a musical instrument showcase courtesy of RJ Guitar Center.
Music has an ability to immortalize moments, capturing fragments of eras and memories from certain periods of our lives, a fact that these families have come to know since music has been a major driving force in their lives. Coming from different backgrounds and upbringing, these families are all joined together by their talents and their passion for music.
“Through music, naging mas close kami ngmgaanaknamin, mas nakilalanaminsilangmabuti, kasinaglalabassilangsarilinilang ideas, nagm-meet yung ideas namin half-way kasisilayungbago and kami ng husband koyungmatanda. Minsan di talagamaiiwasanyungmisunderstandings pero we really work it out. We guide them because they’re the next generation of musicians in our family,” shares Ella Vitan of the Famobrosi (which is shorthand for Father, Mother, Brother and Sister), composed of the Vitan Family with the dad Jun on piano, and their kids Jom and Rice on vocals.
Famobrosi earns the distinction of using beautifully arranged vocal harmonies as their instruments in the competition. With only a keyboard as their main instrument, the Vitan family has a repertoire that features songs which Jun has arranged to showcase their vocals that cascade in wonderfully weaved harmonies, especially in their own take on “Bahay Kubo”. Jom, Rice and Ella then take the lead with their coordinated choreographies: a telling indicator of how they work together as a band and as a family. “Maganda daw kaming tignan. Hindi naming tinatrato na mga anak lang naming na kailangan sumunod ang sila saamin. Pwede silang mag-open ng idea nila, kung ano yung nasa saloobin nila,” shares Jun.
Growing up with music
In some cases, it really helps if the parents are musically inclined to begin with. Children are raised up in an environment where music plays a major part in nurturing relationships.
“Music has been a huge part of our lives. It’s a way to express ourselves. It’s how we bond together. It helps us connect with one another,” explains Miguel Ferrer of Electric Sala, the youngest band in the competition, composed of brothers Angel Paolo, Carlos and Abdon, whose ages range from 11 to 19 years old.
“We’re really young for a band, to be playing our genre is rare since we play blues-oriented classic rock. Someone commented that we play music from the 70s as if we’re born in the 70s. I found that comment really encouraging,” Miguel adds.
Electric Sala wowed the judges and the audience with their rendition of classic rock songs. Judges were even impressed by the vocals of Angel Paolo and eleven-year old Carlos’s proficiency in playing the drums.
A childhood of music
As for the brothers Alvin, Vince and Butch Bantoy of Sandbox, music has also been their form of bonding ever since they were kids. During their teenage years, they have since been joining different band competitions, honing their craft and living their passion for music which they have inherited from their Dad.
“Ever since we were kids, yungibanaglalarongteks, kami natututona mag-guitar. I can’t recallna nag-away kami dahilsamaliitnabagaykasinagingtight yung bond namin.
Maganda talaga yung nagging upbringing namint hrough music,” recounts Alvin.
Sandbox is also composed of their friends Charles Lumahan, Raf Ruiz and Ian Go who they met in different band competitions, some of them were even from competing bands.
Junno Delos Santos, the vocalist and keyboardist of Soul Jam Brothers, also grew up in a music-oriented household, with his dad Leo Delos Santos who influenced him to pursue a career in music. “Sa music akonamulat. Nungmedyonagkamalayako, lagiakongnakakarinigng music sabahay. They jam with his friends. Yun yung nag-push sa akin paramagingmusikero,” Junno relates.
Along with his father’s brother Rey and their friend BheyCajucom, Soul Jam Brothers has been steadily performing for the past two years in different gigs.
“Music really helps us bond together. My dad and his brothers, hobby talaganilaang mag-jam. Nungdumatingako, naki-bond narinako,” he adds.
Bread and butter
Members of Band Era have also made their music their bread and butter. Arthur Bulala and his brothers, Norman and Richard all went abroad as professional musicians. Although now retired, Arthur was prodded by his sisters to form a band for the Alaska Family and Friends Music Treat. Their band was initially composed of eleven members, mostly from the Bulala Family. But because of conflicting schedules, they ended up having five members, with family friends Jan Atanasio (keyboards) and Nick Vasquez (drums).
Arthur shares that the Bulala family is a very musically-inclined family, with their dad starting as a musician who plays for the Japanese and American armies back when he was young.
“My father plays the sax, guitars, and keyboard during his time, the Glenn Miller time. When he was a young boy, he was the one giving his family support because he was playing for the Japanese and the American armies. The soldiers gave him food, rice and meat that he’d take home to his family. It’s like he’s working for his family. Those days there was no work and he was using his talents,” Arthur says.
Making music for God
The church can also be a place to further strengthen family ties with music, despite the belief of some people that music is only relegated to dingy and noisy places.
Members of Remix met each other through church performances. The band is composed of the Del Valle brothers Michael and Abel, their vocalist XY Isidro, and the Aguila brothers Homer and Goel, Since then, they have jammed together and forged a strong relationship that brought their families together in support of their pursuit of a musical career.
“In terms of believing each other’s talents, music has really enhanced us, it helped us get to know each other more and our parents really encouraged us,” Michael discloses.
The band’s passion in music has only been made stronger with their years of experience in the music scene. “We’re really open to each other, if we have mistakes, if we do something wrong, we can just talk about it. Giving constructive criticism, what needs to be changed or to be improved,” says Michael.
Music has always had the power to break barriers. It has a fascinating capability to encapsulate an experience that transcends origins, reinforcing its universality and power to bring people together. Such is the case with Odd Socks, a band composed of the Tinney family who moved here in Manila from Australia for professional reasons.
With husband and wife Graeme and Linda and their kids Sid, Harry and Ella, they have been performing in various church events in Australia and when they saw an ad for the Alaska Family and Friends Music Treat in The STAR, they thought it would be a good thing to continue their music through the contest.
“We used to play a lot in church. That was when we started playing together as a family. We usually bond when we have a performance or a gig that we’re working on.”
For the Tinney family, music has been one of their viable ways to communicate and has helped them be more open with each other.
“We put a very strong input in whatever we do as a family, in staying together and staying close. There’s a lot of trust, if anyone of us has a problem or something it’s a very welcoming environment, you can come straight up and say ‘we need to change this or how we do things’. The way that it’s very easy to communicate and we all really love each other,” he relates.
“You have to agree on something like a song or the way you’re going to do it. It helps you solve problems together and to spend time working on something. Even in Australia, it’s unusual that a family plays together as a band. All of us are Christians and we have a relationship with God. We really think that being together as a family is important, that doing things together is important,” Linda adds.
A strong showcase of talents
In the end, it was a hard call for the judges RJ Jacinto, musicians NyoyVolante, Jojo Chan and Malu Fernando and Alaska’s Vice President for Marketing Blen Fernando. Each of the bands displayed their distinct perspective, showing not just their talents but how they interact and collaborate as a family. Soul Jam Brothers emerged as the first grand champion of the Alaska Family and Friends Music Treat, with their breathtaking performance that has likened their vocalist Junno to Stevie Wonder.
Soul Jam Brothers chose the musical instrument showcase from RJ Guitars. They also won prizes from Alaska Milk Corp., and the opportunity to perform with RJ Jacinto himself in RJ Bistro for one month.
A tradition of family music
Founded by the values of discipline, determination and working together as a strong unit, Alaska Milk has always been supportive of emerging talents in the country, first in the field of sports and now in music. As a company that brings together households in special occasions and daily activities alike, Alaska Milk is only more determined to reinforce the role of music in every family, being a brand that represents family bonding, joyful occasions and positivity.
“Alaska Milk has always believed that the Filipino family is the most significant structure in society. We have to keep them together to have a strong nation. Through this competition, we have promoted values that are very positive because many people think of bands negatively. We have opened a new door for music in terms of being wholesome and coming from real talent,” shares Ms. Blen Fernando.