Confession of a Wandering Soul

Valenciano carries Michael Jackon’s torch

Posted by diopatra on July 6, 2009

For Filipino singer Gary Valenciano, pop superstar Michael Jackson’s untimely death was particularly poignant.

The performer, who was in Beijing at the start of a China-wide tour, is known as the Michael Jackson of the Philippines.

“I really feel like a part of me has also died,” says Valenciano. “I don’t know how long the pain will last.”

Valenciano was in Beijing to take part in the “Rhythms of Love and Friendship” concert organized by the Philippine Embassy in Beijing to celebrate the 34th anniversary of Sino-Philippines diplomatic relations.

Valenciano embarked on his singing career when Jackson’s Thriller album was released in 1983. As a lean and lanky 18-year-old who had all of Jackson’s moves and Al Jarreau’s vocal pyrotechnics down pat, he was an immediate success.

Now in his 26th year in showbiz, he spends at least three months on tour, winning audiences over with his spirited singing and dancing. He says inspiring those who are in need makes him happy.

But despite having the world at his feet, he remains philosophical about his career, treating every performance as if it would be his last.

“Life is quite short. You may die suddenly someday,” says the 45-year-old. “What I can do is to connect fully with my audience through powerful music every time I go on stage.”

This current run is his second visit to Beijing, a city he finds has changed rapidly in the two years since he was last here.

“The Chinese are making extraordinary history,” he says. “I am very honored to increase understanding between people in the two countries through music, the universal language.”

He finds the history of Beijing particularly appealing, compared to the gleaming modern skylines of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei. One of his ambitions is to climb the Great Wall.

“I won’t get tired,” he says. “In Taipei, I did a lot of mountain biking before my show. It helps me to understand local culture and to communicate with my audience.”

On his show in the Star Live, a concert hall in Beijing, two weeks ago, he displayed energetic dance moves which have also earned him the nickname “Mr Pure Energy”. The women in the audience swooned and shrieked in pure delight and men watched enviously.

Valenciano says he cherishes his life and that of the people around him. One of the beneficiaries of his largesse are children in need. He has given money to enable rural communities to have easy access to drinking water and helped youngsters in conflict-affected communities to get a good education.

He was chosen in 1998 to be the first UNICEF National Ambassador of Goodwill for the Philippines, a position he still holds with pride.

“I want to write another album for children this year which includes issues about love, pride and success and present it to UNCEF to encourage people,” he says.

To date, Valenciano has released 26 albums such as Out Of The Dark for English speaking audience, Dancin’ In The Moonlight for the Japanese market, “Outside Looking In” for Asia and “I Will Be Here” for Singapore.

Born to a Puerto Rican mother and Filipino father, Valenciano is a versatile artist, being a singer, songwriter, musician and actor.

“Music hasn’t stopped playing its role in changing my life,” he says. “It strengthens me, encourages me, directs me and keeps me company in difficult moments – and it will continue to do so until I meet my Creator.”

(Source: China Daily/Chen Xiaorong)

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