Meet Vispop 4.0’s winning tandem, Joseph Gara and Jayneil Enriquez
By Deneb Batucan
THE lights onstage were reminiscent to the setting sun as Joseph Gara and Jayneil Enriquez delivered their heartfelt performance during Vispop 4.0 Finals Night. On its fourth year of producing quality Visayan songs, Vispop has once again captivated the audience with a song that talked of both longing and hope. Everyone was obviously moved by the sweet yet haunting melody of the song Paghunas, which was the champion piece in the competition.
The seemingly simple yet deep song has quite a back story according to its composer, Joseph. It is about a woman calling on to all the gods to bring her seafarer husband home safely from a storm-filled sea journey. Joseph imagined the song to be set in the olden times, maybe during the 1800s, when sea voyages took months to complete.
“The sea was rough, which made the wife worry. The song is the wife’s prayer. She was calling all the gods, praying for the wind, for the sun and the heavens that her husband will be safe. Aron sa ikaduhang paghunas, magkita na sila,” Joseph said, loosely quoting a line from his own song at the end.
Before all the Vispop shebang, Joseph has been a musician his whole life. “My mother had a hard time giving birth to me because when I got out from her womb, I was already playing a guitar,” Joseph laughingly said.
Music is life
A graduate of AB Music from the University of Southern Philippines-Foundation, music has been Joseph’s lifeline. He sings in weddings and other various gigs in his home province of Bohol where he also frequents an annual songwriting contest. “But this is my first time to join Vispop. It’s also my first time to win in a songwriting competition,” he said.
Joseph considers himself a boring man with a simple life. He takes inspiration from the movies he watches and from the books he reads. He likes to tell stories through his songs, which makes his songs come alive.
When he was writing Paghunas, it started with just a melody. “After that, I became frustrated. I kept on going back to the melody until I formed a stanza and a chorus. But the bridge, the one that connected the two together, was a puzzle for me,” he said. “I would think of it all the time, even when I was driving. I wanted the hook to be something that would be remembered.”
He eventually found the melody of the hook while listening to someone else singing. Joseph had always had the inkling to interpret the sounds he hears based on his imagination. While listening to the melody of someone else’s voice, he found the hook’s captivating melody. “May bili ang gihuptan ko’ng mga saad nga mobalik ka.”
Joseph envisioned Paghunas as a raw folk song, and he intentionally made the song for a woman to sing it. And that was how Jayneil came in the picture.
Singing with heart
Jayneil Enriquez is a local singer, production designer and film enthusiast who works closely with Fat Boys Production and other local productions in Cebu. She’s currently on a break as a graduate student from Parsons, The New School in New York. She was invited by Vispop’s musical director, Jude Gitamondoc, to be the interpreter of Joseph’s song.
“The first time I heard the song, I thought, murag gihimo gyud ni nga kanta para nako,” she said, smiling.
Her emotional interpretation of the Joseph’s song led her to win the special award of Best Interpreter during the Finals Night. “I was on the verge of tears before our first performance that night. I was so overwhelmed,” she shared. “I could relate to the song because I felt that I was in a place of longing for someone I really love. Like the woman in the song, I still have that sense of hope that in the right time, mobalik siya.”
Jayneil didn’t just sing the song, but she thought of how she would deliver it to give justice to Joseph’s piece of art. “I intentionally tried to look away from Joseph during the performance. I wanted to make it feel that we were worlds apart, but even if we were apart, we still sang the same song together,” she said. “I placed in my mind that I should give my all to the performance to give justice to what Joseph has written.”
Jayneil and Joseph have only worked together for Vispop, but their chemistry was evident onstage and even in the official recording of the song. Their voices melded together beautifully, ringing with emotion in each note.
After the competition, Joseph returns to his life of music and aims to continue writing and singing songs, all while enjoying a new chapter in his life with his newly wedded wife. Jayneil, on the other hand, is focused on production work as of now, as she waits to for the start of her classes in New York later this year.
As the sea takes these two artists to separate voyages, both hope for a safe return onstage where they could work more with Vispop and further the advocacy of making quality Bisaya music. Hopefully, sa ikaduhang paghunas, Cebu, as well as the whole nation, would be able to see more of these passionate artists in the near future.
Photos: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Make-up Artist: Carlo Damolo
Hair Stylist: Jerwin Bastatas
Wardrobe by Philip Rodriguez (gown), Protacio (coat), RC Gayatin (pants) and Marichu Tan (inner shirt)
Stylist: Clint Potestas