MANILA — Veteran singer Noel Cabangon cannot measure the anguish he is undergoing now with the death of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
“I am really heartbroken. We have been very good friends,” Cabangon told ABS-CBN News Thursday, recalling their last communication three weeks ago. “I texted him how he was and he said he’s being treated. Ang daming issues na pinukol sa kanya and I think that also caused his depression. I am really shattered!”
His last face-to-face meeting with Aquino at his music room in his residence at Times St., Quezon City before the pandemic is priceless.
“He invited me over to see his set-up. He also gave me a box of vinyl collection of artists like Simon and Garfunkel, Miles Davis, Beatles and others,” Cabangon recalled. “Nagulat din ako binigay niya sa akin ‘yung vinyl jazz album na gift sa kanya ni (former US President) Barack Obama.”
In return, Cabangon gave Aquino vinyl copies of his albums “Biyahe” and “Tuloy ang Biyahe.”
Beyond being called a presidential singer during the Aquino administration, Cabangon was a long-time personal friend of the late former president who is a known supporter of local artists.
“Congressman pa lang siya, pumupunta na siya sa gig ko sa Xaymaca sa Timog, Quezon City. Magugulat ka na lang, andun na siya sa shows ko. Simula noon, we became close,” said Cabangon.
Aquino also showed his appreciation to Leah Navarro who last joined him at a party for detained senator Leila de Lima. He also greeted her on her last birthday last April.
“I did not know he was sick because he became a very private person after years of being in the public eye,” she said. “Beyond politics, Noy was a music man. He loved music. I am really still in shock but I believe there is a silver lining to this. His death, like that of his parents, may also bring change to country,” Navarro told ABSCBN News.
The singer tied yellow ribbons in her balcony Thursday in Aquino’s memory.
Aquino was also friends with Ogie Alcasid, Regine Velasquez, APO Hiking Society, Jose Mari Chan and Mitch Valdez, among others.
Alcasid, Velasquez, Cabangon, APO and other headliners in the local music scene performed at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila during Aquino’s 2010 inaugural, causing many to call the event a “musical show.”
In 2011, Cabangon dedicated his album “Panaginip” to Aquino, citing its carrier single and title track as symbolic of the strength of Aquino to dream again for all the Filipinos after the tragic Luneta hostage incident.
As a final tribute, Cabangon wants to dedicate his collection of songs in his memorial, including some of Aquino’s favorites like “Sa Pagpatak Ng Ulan,” “ Kanlungan,” and “Huwag Mong Sabihin,” an adaptation of Jose Lacaba’s translation of a Shakespeare sonnet.
Particularly poignant at this time for Cabangon are the lyrics of “Kanlungan” which go:
“Bakit kailangan ding lumisan?
Pana-panahon ang pagkakataon
Maibabalik ba ang kahapon?”