Music legends Gary Granada, Joey Ayala perform together at “historic” QC gig

Gary Granad historic QC gig
Filipino musicians Joey Ayala (left) and Gary Granada (right) reunite onstage after 22 years. Photo credits to Ellen De los Santos.

The 27th of January promised to be a historic night as two pillars of Original Pilipino Music (OPM), Gary Granada and Joey Ayala, were set to perform at My Bro’s Mustache Folk Bar in Scout Tuazon, Quezon City. Before the performances, Gary shared on social media that they had not performed back-to-back since 2002, or 22 years ago. As expected, the small, crowded venue was visibly and audibly abuzz with excitement before the two legendary musicians took the stage.

At the start of his set, Gary expressed surprise at the size of the crowd who trooped to My Bro’s Mustache. “Ang dami n’yo pala.” (There’s so many of you.). He told the audience that he had not performed in a while, having taken a break from performing since 2022, before taking off with an old Gary favorite, “Eroplanong Papel” (Paper Airplane).

Gary looked “game” and every bit inspired as he called for requests and took on whatever the crowd asked him to play. Gary gave a generous sampling from a prolific songwriting career that spanned decades, from his lovely and loving romantic ballads like “Pag-ibig lang” (Only Love), Kapag Sinabi ko sa Iyo” (If I told you), “‘Yun lang” (his version of the old standard “That’s All”, sung in Filipino and English) and Hanggang Saan, Hanggang Kailan (Up to Where, Until When), to his songs on social justice and politics like the aforementioned Eroplanong Papel, Ultimo Adios (Final Farewell, excerpted from national hero Jose Rizal’s poem and sung in Spanish and Filipino), “Bahay” (House) and Dam. The latter, he said, is an old song we should still be singing right now, with the crowd joining in the rousing chorus “Dam-dam-dam-dam-da-da-dam.”

Even Gary’s “dated” ditty from 1994 “Kung alam mo lang Violy” elicited a delighted reaction from the crowd, with Gary singing “Oy alam ko na Eddie, matagal mo na kaming niloloko, (Eddie, now we know you’ve been fooling us all along) as if Fidel Ramos is still president. Gary also bravely completed the lengthy GO-NGO, where he altered the lyrics of numerous Filipino folk and children’s songs to deliver brutal swipes at both government and non-government organizations.

Gary appeared to be still full of energy even towards the end of his set, before giving way to his guest Joey Ayala. Joey initially had issues tuning his guitar, so he told the crowd that he learned how to entertain audiences long ago by telling stories while tuning his instruments. Eventually he had to borrow Gary’s iconic round-shaped guitar, with Joey joking how his respected fellow musician ended up as his “guitar tech.”

It did not take too long for Joey to find his groove, however. He went on to play his iconic songs “Maglakad” (Walk), “Dumaan ako” (I passed by), “Magkabilaan” (Dual-sided), “Tabi po” (Passing through), “Agila” (Eagle) and his “most requested song ever,” “Walang Hanggang Paalam” (Never-ending Farewell). Joey managed to hush the crowd before getting thunderous applause with his heartfelt singing of “Wala nang tao sa Santa Filomena” (Everyone has left Santa Filomena), which, before the performance, Gary described as “the most eloquent and compelling OPM ever written and recorded.”

Joey, saying that he is known for old songs that still sounded like new, also performed one of his “younger” songs, “Dasal at Maskara” (Prayers and Face Mask). With an ominous guitar riff and moving lines like “dahil bawal na ang dalaw, heto’ng aking kamay/ ito na po ang kapitan n’yo sa di tiyak na paglalakbay” (Because visits are prohibited, here is my hand/ you may hold on to it through the uncertain journey), Joey skillfully and poignantly recounts the plight of frontline workers through the COVID pandemic.

The night further delivered on its promise of history as Gary joined Joey onstage to duet on a couple of songs. With Joey on Gary’s guitar, they sang “Walang Ibang Sadya” (No Other Purpose) and Awit ng Mortal (The Mortal’s Song) with the crowd singing along.

Gary ended the performance with his signature “farewell” song “Hanggang Sa Muli” (Until We Meet Again). He joked, “See you again in 2046,” or 22 years later, the same number of years it took for him and Joey to perform on the same stage again.

The audience, although predominantly middle-aged, also included children and those in their twenties. Cielo Padasas, a 26-year-old BPO worker who even had her guitar signed by Joey, recounted how the two artists’ songs became her nursery songs as a child. “Both artists have always been known for creating songs that deal with not just love but also politics, poverty, religion, and even the environment. But seeing them perform live has truly given me a better grasp of how strongly they feel about these usually-avoided topics as their passion shines through with each song they play.”

In 2022, Gary Granada brought his music and friends to the Pancitan music series staged online. In 2023, Gary reunited with another Filipino musician-poet legend, Jess Santiago, in a hybrid online-onsite gig at 70s Bistro.

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Edelio P. De los Santos is a former journalist and BPO worker. His work has been previously published in Santelmo quarterly literary magazine, the poetry collection Pintanaga: Linya-linya ng Pagsinta, and with 8Letters Publishing: poetry collections Alamat ng Santol Atbp. and Sa Pagkain Sana; and novella Sa Muling Pagsikat ng Araw, and short stories in Circles Magazine and Pinoy SciFi anthology They Came From The Rivers. He is also a member of Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (LIRA), the oldest organization of poets writing in Filipino. He grew up in Baler, Aurora, and currently lives in Metro Manila with his family and cats.