June 21, 2024

I miss listening to “On Call Vocals” who used to be a mainstay at a big hotel inside Camp John Hay until March of 2020.
Their music repertoire was a panacea for tired minds and romantic souls. They were the perfect group for the ambiance. It was a place to bring guests from Manila and abroad who were looking for the Baguio night entertainment.
When I asked Dr. Fidel Doroteo Dennis Policarpio Flores III (in short Dr. Den) about their famous selections, “We had a massive repertoire,tita. It’s a super long list. We specialized in Retro, from old standards to the 70s, 80s, and 90s pop- jazz, with some originals, especially arranged into three-part harmony pieces and OPMs.”
Of course, every time we’d go to watch their set, we delighted in requesting our old time favorite songs, like the Seventh Dawn by the Lettermen and Smile Again by Manhattan Transfer.As Ed would say, “perfect yung blending ng mga boses at ng piano.” It’s true what they say, it was music to our ears.
If you’ve heard the song “Dito sa Baguio,” Dr. Den was the composer, lyricist and songwriter of this amazing song about Baguio. The lyrics go like this, “Ditosa Baguio, babalik na po kami sa Baguio. Dito kami magpapalipas ng oras, magpapalamig ng ulo… sa Baguio. Wala nang hihigit pa rito!…
How I wish you can hear it especially during these pandemic times, it is so uplifting.I wonder why the song was never used for Baguio’s promotional videos.By the way, the song was written right after the 1990 earthquake to entice people to come back to Baguio. But if you wish to listen to it, you can stream it on Spotify, YouTube or Apple Music.
“After the earthquake, businesses had to close. It took months to slowly recover.In September of that year, Songs the Music Barat Patria de Baguio reopened with the Music Syndicate helping to revive the business industry by doing free jamming performances to gain back clientele, “ recalls Dr. Den.
“It was during this time that I decided to compose a pop song to help in the resurrection image of the tourism industry of Baguio City. Together with Sol Huang and Jessie Tolentino, we collaborated on the project as the Music Syndicate learned their harmony parts. The result was a magnificent pop song uplifting the morale and image of Baguio City. It was aptly called ‘Sa Baguio’. It became a standard masterpiece for the Music Syndicate as it gained popularity. The group members decided to pursue their professional careers and in 1993, the group disbanded,” he added.
Dr. Dennis Flores, a family physician by profession and frontliner has vivid recollections of how the Music Gallery started. “It was established in December of 1989 by friends who were schoolmates at Saint Louis University, they were the flag bearers and competitors from their own Departments within the University who brought pride and prestige to their respective Departments in University-wide talent competitions during their time called “Tagisan ng Talino”.
Sol Huang, was the singing champion of the School of Commerce and Accountancy. He was also the prime mover and main proprietor of the bar. It soon became Baguio’s top night spot located at Patria De Baguio Building.
“Sol has asked me (Dr. Den) to be the musical director. I was then the Choir Master of the SLU School of Medicine. We gathered the Hall of Fame Champions of the Tagisanng Talinocompetition. Jessie Tolentino who was then the singing champion of the School of Engineering and Architecture was to be the mainstay vocalist and vocal coach. We also called in Arlene Laoyan- Carrasca, the singing champion of the School of Nursing to be the lead female vocalist and mezzo soprano,” Dr. Den adds.
What is it with nurses? God must have gifted them with marvelous singing talents to sing to their patients.
“The operations started with this set-up: I on the piano with Arlene and Jessie on vocals. Other champions from other Colleges joined in. Ellen Jo Oliva of Commerce and Accountancy, Ting Carbonell of Human Sciences, Grace Garcia of Nursing, Dr. Noel Octubre of Medicine, Dr. Mao Arellano of Natural Science and Dentistry of UE and Rudolph Panlilio of Engineering and Architecture. This was how the Music Syndicate started and emerged as Baguio City’s premier vocal group. By June 1990, the group had grown, only to be disrupted by the July 1990 earthquake. Songs Music Bar closed and reopened in September. Its main goal was to help resurrect the tourism industry of Baguio City,” he adds further.
“The group disbanded in 1993 to pursue their professions. This was when I organized another group. We started with Off-Limits, the very first boy band of the time composed of Jet Acmor, Jeff Ordoño, John Levardo, and the present Consul General to Dubai Honorable Jack Paul Raymond Cortes. The “Sa Baguio” composition was handed down to them as part of their repertoire given a newer boy band genre. When the guys moved to Gimbals at Mount Crest Hotel owned by the Nevadas, the song became more popular. Gimbals was soon to be the new watering hole of Baguio music lovers and nightlife habitues after songs – the music bar closed down. The remnant members of Off Limits merged with a new group called Tickled Pink composed of Marie Laoyan, Myles Vazquez, and Yanni Trinidad. ‘Sa Baguio’ was still a standard song in their repertoire. In 1999, I opened the Pilgrims Cafe at La Azotea composed of myself, Jet Acmor, and Marie Laoyan. When Pilgrims closed in 2005, On Call Vocals was subsequently formed. The ensemble was composed of me (Dr. Den) – a family physician, Jet Acmor- a foreign service graduate and nursing undergraduate, Marie Laoyan a registered nurse and Myles Vazquez, a civil engineering graduate. The Manor took us as the mainstays and top grossers of the hotel until the pandemic happened, spanning years of nightly performances in this venue with great passion and loyalty. Two generous patrons of our albums were Arch. Nestor Mangio and Mario Chan of Schilling Pharmaceuticals. We have since disbanded in 2020. Marie is now in the U.S. while Myles is in Japan. We still hope that our “Sa Baguio” song will help our tourism industry.”
Dr. Den also shared: “Our regular guests love all of my special three-part harmonies of popular songs and OPMs that are very distinctly On Call Vocals. I believe this is what made us a cut above the rest at the Manor and the entire Baguio entertainment scene.”
How I wish they can bring back On Call Vocals with their majestic repertoire. Just as we need food for our palates, we also need food and music for our souls.