One. Two. Seven. Nine.
It took a while before I (as well as hundreds of other fans) got to hear that intro live in Manila straight from the man himself—Gabe Bondoc.
It was long overdue, but damn was it worth the wait.
Unlike many of his over 300,000 subscribers, I didn’t find Gabe through his cover of Taylor Swift’s Love Story. I think of the time I was doing my thesis about YouTube and happened to chance upon his original called We Match. His music captured me instantly.
I cycled through his originals, and one after the other I just kept getting hooked with his sound. From Dictionary, YouTube Star, to Suitcases and Travel Bags, which I learned to play, and to this day remains my favorite song of his, I was all in on Gabe and the fandom hasn’t waned since.
Gabe is a Filipino, born and raised in San Francisco, California. But prior to his March 2017 tour, he has never visited the Philippines. In many of his videos, whenever he announces he’s going on tour somewhere, you surely will find a fan leaving a comment that says “Come to the Philippines.”
After years of waiting it didn’t seem like it was ever going to happen so, if you have ever been a fan of anything, you can just imagine how thrilled I was when I saw the announcement back in January that Gabe is finally coming to the Philippines. It was a down time and it at least gave me something to look forward to.
Fast forward to March and there I was, seated in VIP seats just a few meters from the stage, ready to soak in the music. And man, the show was an absolute eargasmic treat.
The first performer was Keiko Necesario. I haven’t really heard any of the opening acts before the show but it’s always an amazing experience to get introduced to amazing artists.
Keiko had an old soul feel to her voice, but when she belted and let out her rasp, I was just absolutely captivated. It was a perfect blend of power and finesse, and it was just hands down amazing.
Next up was Fil-Aussie and X Factor Australia star Calvin Orosa who had the fans (and some of my friends) swooning over his looks and of course musical talent. The dude had a few funny quips too as he told stories about the songs he played. Check out his original called Anchor. There he shows a wide-range of his capabilities as a musician.
But everyone in attendance got a bonus treat when Calvin brought on stage Thor Dulay who was watching from the sidelines. Turns out the two had already done a show together in Australia. The soul went up a notch once Thor took the stage.
Then of course, there he was, the man the crowd had long been waiting for. Gabe Bondoc took the stage to screaming fans eager to hear his music played live in Manila. You can tell he was feeling all the love even going as far as saying this was, “one of the best… no THE BEST crowd” he has ever played for.
He opened his set with Hillsong’s Here Now before playing one of his latest tracks Sea Foam. The crowd sang with him in each song. More evidence of how much they’ve been into his music.
At one point he even said a Filipino version of his famous intro Isa, Dalawa, Pito, Siyam, and it got an already energized audience even more hyped.
He capped his set with Gentlemen Don’t, which I feel is the song most people associate him with. He said he wrote it in 2005 for his then girlfriend who is now his wife, and it was mostly about the man he wanted to become.
He wasn’t sure how he was going to make it but he knew music would be a big part of it. He candidly says you’d have to ask his wife if he was successful in being the man he wanted to be back in 2005.
Right before he played it, he did say it was going to be his last song for the night and that got the crowd screaming, “More, more, more!” He then proceeded to tell the story of how encores usually go saying, “I’ll pretend that I’m gonna go away, then you guys will keep clapping, then I’m gonna come back.” It was a nice little moment of exchange between him and his fans.
For his encore, Gabe let his hair down. Literally.
He performed Part of Your World from Disney’s the Little Mermaid before segueing to How Far I’ll Go, also from a Disney flick Moana.
The night was an absolute trip. I wish I had the chance to do a sit down interview with the guy. There was so much I wanted to ask, but more than anything, I wanted to know what kept him going. How did he decide that singing and playing is how he’s gonna deal with life?
But in all honesty, I didn’t need a sit-down to find out why. Just seeing him onstage pouring his heart out into every song, into every performance, you’ll see how he comes alive whenever he’s on stage.
Songs I Wish I Wrote
Close friends know how obsessed I am with his music. Partly because a lot them are really good, another part because several of them I wish I wrote.
Several of his songs speak to me on such a personal level, and I guess this is true too for a lot of his fans. From being unsure with your feelings with Fickle, to feeling all the regret and heartache of a breakup with If Only, and being the underdog with Jacob’s Blues, the list goes on. And I just wished, so badly, that I had written these songs.
When I was doing my thesis back in college I was also writing my own music, contemplating if it was something I could potentially grow into doing. Then I watched Gabe’s stuff and saw how much further along he was with his craft. I figured, “Hey, if I can’t do it, at least this guy seems like he’s on his way.”
This is also partly the reason why I froze when I first saw him up close at the meet and greet. I couldn’t say a word. All I was thinking was this guy right here did what I wanted to do. And here he is now, meeting fans and signing autographs, but more than anything, just happily sharing his music.
You can say there’s a little bit of envy there, but more than anything I’m just happy to see someone have this success while staying true to the type of music that has endeared him to his fans in the first place.
“How’s leaving home gonna make you want to come back?”
A few years ago, Jeremy Passion, another Fil-Am musician on YouTube, also played a show in the Philippines and I luckily was able to attend that as well. Another famous Fil-Am musician who started on YouTube is AJ Rafael, and he has been going back and forth to the Philippines the past few years. It’s always a pleasure to see Fil-foreign acts who make it big on YouTube and the international scene come to the Philippines to trace their roots and still call it home.
For fans who won’t be able to see him in his two-night show for March 2017, the good news is he’s definitely coming back.
In a quick chat with SubSelfie.com’s Apple Gamboa, he said he intends on flying back with his family to do a show and take the rest of the time off for a family vacation.
That could be a while though since he’s only planning on doing that trip when his little boy (who’s set to be born in May) is finally able to travel.
But another quick chat with MAS boss Marco Selorio (the man responsible for bringing Gabe over), said he’ll try to bring him back sooner, this time maybe even with Jeremy Passion. Now that’s another show to look forward to.
[Entry 208, The SubSelfie Blog]
About the Author:
Rodneil Quiteles is a Producer for GadgetMatch. Prior to this he worked for Rappler.com as an Associate Producer and Sports Desk Editor, and was also a pioneer member of the GMA News Social Media Team. He bounces around producing, writing, and video editing while consuming buckets of fried chicken.