Whenever his schedule permits, President Aquino would gladly spend the night listening to music. As it happened, the recent Sergio Mendes concert at Smart Araneta Coliseum afforded him the chance to chill out with some of his Cabinet secretaries.
It was his second time to catch Mendes in recent years— the first was in 2012, also at the Big Dome, with TV personality Grace Lee sitting nearby.
Sachi, a Japanese restaurant at the Big Dome owned by the Aranetas, was where Mr. Aquino and his entourage usually had their pre-concert dinner. Ordinary diners have found themselves sharing the place with him; but on this night it was exclusively reserved for the President, since the place has shrunk to about half its size—the other half now occupied by the pancake chain Ihop next door.
In any case, we learned that Mr. Aquino and company had their usual orders of sushi, sashimi, sukiyaki, tempura and beef tenderloin at Sachi; he also bought a Dilly Bar from neighboring store Dairy Queen.
He was still at Sachi at 8:30 p.m., so we thought of drinking a few beers at the small Cibo bar on the lobby by the Green gate, hoping there’d be an opportunity to take snapshots as he entered.
On our second order of San Miguel Pale Pilsen, members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) appeared to be anticipating Mr. Aquino’s entrance.
Earlier, a PSG staff had voiced a reminder within earshot: “No photos…” Still we put our Samsung phone camera on burst-shot mode, ready to use it on the sly at the sight of the President.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was the first to enter, followed by other officials, then by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, with Mr. Aquino a few paces behind.
We pressed the camera button, but was unsure if the shots were clear. A second chance had vanished as the PSG blocked our path.
Then an embarrassingly funny situation unfolded: Our companion, Jacqueline Inductivo—whose father, lawyer Hector Inductivo, served Cory Aquino’s administration as senior deputy administrator of the SSS—walked up to Mr. Aquino, moving her hands like a traffic cop, and said, “Mr. President, the Inquirer would like to take your picture.”
Mr. Aquino was kind enough to oblige as we took aim, but our camera seemed to get stuck, oh shucks! The President quickly struck a conversation; fortunately the camera clicked as he was introducing the people with him. We saw Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas and Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista grinning behind Mr. Aquino.
More music lovers walked in, although not with the presidential party: Tillie Moreno and Louie Reyes, both pop stars of yesteryears but looking excited like teenagers; Atoy Co of basketball’s legendary Crispa Redmanizers; Paeng Nepomuceno of international bowling fame; sociologist and Inquirer columnist Randy David with his wife, former former Civil Service Commission of the Philippines chair Karina Constantino-David; Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman; Budget Secretary Butch Abad; and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Ging Deles.
We are thankful that the concert’s promoter, Renen de Guia of Ovation Productions, doesn’t mind bringing in Mendes every so often—if only as a prestige act to be enjoyed by a select few.
But, in fact, the Brazilian artist’s music was a pop favorite back in the mid-’60s till the ’70s when he excelled in bossa nova—a tweaked version of samba with jazz inflections.
In the concert, his renditions of “Pretty World,” “Waters of March,” “Girl from Ipanema,” “Fool on the Hill,” “Going Out of My Head,” along with “Agua de Beber,” “Magalenha,” “Chega de Saudade” and other classics in their original Portuguese versions, drew loud applause.
The audience enjoyed every minute of the show, especially when Mendes called his guest singers such as rapper H20 and balladeer Joe Pizzulo.
By the time the band launched into Mendes’ signature song, the samba hit “Mas Que Nada,” some people on the front rows had stood up to dance. Spotted on the first row were Jorge Araneta and wife Stella, with Megaworld chair Andrew Tan and wife Katherine.
Not far from them, Nepomuceno and wife Pinky had also started dancing, prompting Baby Araneta-Fores to join them.
Mendes was playing more songs for his encore when the house lights went up, showing Mr. Aquino and company up on their feet, clapping along to the festive samba beat.
There were moments when the President was caught glancing at his watch, perhaps thinking what else he could squeeze into before he called it a night.
He didn’t leave immediately after the show, obliging requests for photo-ops from members of the audience.
Apparently he had a good time, and most probably he would do it again whenever possible, because music—to paraphrase the King of Jazz, Duke Ellington—could be his “mistress.”