Philippine Embassy and FilCom Tokyo Celebrate 116th PH Independence Day With National Day Reception and “Yolanda” Thanksgiving Concert Featuring The REO Brothers “Beatles of the Philippines”

The Philippine Embassy in Japan, in cooperation with the Philippine Assistance Group (PAG) representing the Filipino community, celebrated on 14 June 2014 the 116th anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence with a National Day Reception and the “Damo nga Salamat” thanksgiving concert in Arakawa, Tokyo to express appreciation to the Filipinos and Japanese who helped the victims of last year’s typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

The concert featured the REO Brothers (photo above) – known as the “Beatles of the Philippines” – a band consisting of four brothers from Tacloban City. Also appearing at the concert were the Filcom Chorale and Japan-based artists Ms. Sayaka Akimoto, a young Japanese-Filipino actress who was formerly a member of the J-Pop idol group AKB48, and jazz singer Charito (left to right, photo below).

In his message to the audience before the start of the concert, Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel M. Lopez said the story of the REO Brothers is one of inspiration, proving that despite the tragedies and adversities in the life of Leyteneos, there is always hope. Aged 17 to 24, Reno, Ron Joseph, Raymart and Ralph Evasco Otic were left homeless by Yolanda. With only the clothes on their back, the guitars they saved from the typhoon, and faith in their talent, the brothers left Tacloban with members of their family to try their luck in Manila. They requested a bus company to allow them to ride a bus, with the promise of payment after arrival. Subsisting on biscuits and candies, they made it to the capital after two days, where they lived in a small rented apartment of a sibling.

In Manila, they impressed many with their raw musical talent. Their renditions in various performances of the music of the Beatles, Beachboys, Dave Clark 5, Bee Gees, Gary Lewis and other well-known bands of the 50s, 60s and 70s generated crowds and drew enthusiastic reception. They captured the hearts of admiring audiences in the ABS-CBN Christmas TV Special at the Araneta Coliseum last December and in the Pinoy Relief Benefit Concert in Madison Garden, New York City last March, where they shared the stage with world-class Filipino artists.

In the “Damo nga Salamat” Concert in Tokyo, they wowed an audience of more than 400 who came not just from Tokyo but from other parts of Japan. From the moment they began their first song, they had the audience cheering and singing as they effortlessly sang Beatles hits such as “A Hard Day’s Night,” “All My Loving,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Twist and Shout” as well as various medleys. The vibrancy of the REO Brothers performance moved the audience to dance along with the music (photo below).

Many in the audience were amazed that the four young men were able to produce instrumentation and vocal harmonies worthy of more seasoned performers.

Representing different musical genres, the other performers at the thanksgiving concert were likewise widely applauded. Charito, Chairperson of the Tokyo Manila Jazz and Arts Festival, impressed many with her deep, soulful voice while the Filcom Chorale gave a spirited performance of classical Filipino music. Japanese-Filipino actress Sayaka Akimoto, who sang the popular Cebuano song “Matud Nila” touched the heart of kababayans when she expressed pride in her Philippine heritage. Her mother is a Cebuana. Ms. Sayaka added that she would like to help and promote the Philippines in some way in the future.

Following the concert, Ambassador Lopez hosted the National Day Reception at the Sun Pearl Arakawa attended by some 300 invited guests among them the ASEAN Diplomatic Corps, Japanese parliamentarians, Foreign Ministry officials, Japanese businessmen and leaders of the Filipino organizations. The Honorable Nobuteru Ishihara, Minister of the Environment, conveyed the greetings of the Japanese Government on the 116th Philippine Independence Day and offered a toast for the further enhancement of Philippines-Japan relations (photo below).

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