The fabulous Tiongco Brothers

The world has embraced many male singing groups composed of
brothers like The Lettermen, The Osmonds and the Jackson Five but in the
Philippines , there has never been a singing trio as adored as the fabulous
Tiongco Brothers.

Their singing is so amorous, it was sought by kings.  And electrifying, it almost caused a
diplomatic ruckus between the Philippines and Indonesia .

Once, they had a command performance for the late King
Hussein of Jordan while in Indonesia , an heir to then Indonesian dictator threw
a jealous fit when his girl showed nepotism towards one of the Tiongcos after a
live performance.

“Nagkabunutan ng baril eh,” says Jun (Fernando Tiongco
Jr.).  “We sought refuge at the
Philippine Embassy, at pagdating dito, isyu na: ‘Indon threatened the Tiongco
Brothers’.

The popular trio were the first Filipinos who performed in
the world-class Sydney Opera House,  and
in Saudi Arabia as guest of the ARAMCO (American Oil Company).

“Biggest crowd namin, sa Australia and Saudi,” says
Jun.  In Australia , they performed for
ten consecutive years.

“We had a show at the Sydney Junior League Club, the biggest
in Australia , and we even became a regular guest of the ‘Melbourne Tonight,’
their most popular TV show.”

For exactly fifty years now,
the Tiongco Brothers  composed of
Emil, Jun and Arthur, have been regaling their audiences with good old hits
from The Platters, The Beatles and of course, Four Aces.

The trio’s repertoire ranges from Art Garfunkel to Harry
Belafonte, standard ballads like “Impossible Dream”, “You Are
The Sunshine of My Life”, “My Way”, “With These Hands”,  “What the World Needs Now”, “The Way We Were”
and the songs of  The Platters, The Beatles
and Paul Anka.

“When we started in
1959, you’d never succeed if you didn’t imitate foreign singers,” says
Emil.  “Then, there were only few
original Filipino music that made it to the hit chart. Unlike now that original
compositions are big hits. So, we sang the hits of foreign singers, and during
our stints abroad, we were introduced as the ‘Four Aces of the Philippines .’
Noong nakilala na kami, iniba na namin yung orchestration at nilagyan na namin
ng style ng Tiongco Brothers.”

Emil says, “Ako yung mahilig sa showbusiness. Nag-excursion
pa nga kami sa Sampaguita (Pictures) noon. Kumanta ako sa harap ni Linda
Estrella, hindi ako nahihiya.”

He started as a soloist. “Naging friend ko si Pepe Pimentel,
around 1955. He hosted ‘Melody Club’ on DZPI radio. I was dubbed as the  ‘Roy Hamilton of the Philippines ’. S’ya yung
singer ng ‘Unchained Melody’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’  I was 16 years old then.

“Later, I joined a singing group called The Bachelors.  When it disbanded, I asked my brothers to
form the Tiongco Brothers. I’m the soloist, Arthur played the ukulele while
Jun, sa drums. Siya din  yung may
pinakamatayog na boses.

“Then, I asked Pepe, who was already hosting ‘Student
Canteen’ and ‘Darigold Jamboree’ to give us the break on television. That time,
we were just paid three boxes of Darigold and fifteen pesos per week.”

Jun adds, “Noong una
kaming kumakanta sa mga piyestahan, ang bayad sa amin, dalawang piso, limang
piso, maligaya na kami noon. Hilig namin, basta makakanta. Yung datung,
secondary lang.”

“Being brothers, we
are more tightly bound,” says Emil. “There is no leader in the group. We are
all equal. Either we perform together, or not at all.”

Further, Jun says, “When we started singing, an older
brother just died. He was killed by a carnapper. Maluka-luka mother ko noon.
Pero nung nagsimula na kaming kumanta, naka- recover ang nanay namin.”

The big break happened when they were featured as
‘serenaders’ for the Miss International candidates when the pageant was held at
the Araneta Coliseum in 1961. Their performance of “Magandang Bituin” caught
the attention of the pageant’s impresario, who got them as contract
artists.

The brothers’ first stop was the Tokyo Hilton in Japan . It
was followed by successful stints at Thailand , Hongkong , Indonesia , Malaysia
, Singapore , Guam, Okinawa, and other key cities in Asia, Canada , the U.S.
and the Middle East .

“Our only goal then was to prove that we Filipinos are
better than our foreign counterparts. Nakatayo ang bandera ng Pilipinas,
wherever and whenever we perform,” says Jun.

Emil says, “The key to live performances is to tell the
audience that you are singing for them.

“Cu-Cu-Ru-Cu-Cu,
Paloma,” he says, is their bumper number, for it never fails to earn a
three-minute standing ovation, while “MacArthur’s Park”, their
blood-sweat-and-tears number, ‘where they give their all.’

“But we also sing the coplas for the
Latin-American crowd and ‘Volare’ just in case we have an Italian in the
audience”, he furthers.

In 1968, they were so famous, they even did the movie “The
More I See You” with Amalia Fuentes and Eddie Mesa.

Due to the demands of live performances, they recorded only
one single, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”, and a Christmas Album that
remains a favorite during the yuletide season.

The group has been elevated to the TINIG Hall of Fame by the
National Press Club for their contribution to the entertainment world.

In Sta. Rosa where they live, they are as famous as the
Laguna landmarks. Emil used to run a bakery but eventually joined politics. He
became a councilor of Sta. Rosa for three terms, and now serves as a Provincial
Board Member of  Laguna and a
spokesperson for Lucida DS.

Arthur used to operate mini-buses but at present, serves as
a Councilor of Sta. Rosa, while Jun, who used to be a custom’s broker decided
to engage in his own business.

Recently, there has been an increasing demand for their
act.  A performance is scheduled at the
Mandarin Hotel on July 22 .

And like the proverbial wine that mellows through the years,
the fans are rediscovering that the Tiongco Brothers have only become finer
artists through time. (For comments, send e-mail to gypsybaldovino@yahoo.com)

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