MANILA, Philippines – They may have played the same gig circuit in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but Filipino rock queens Acel Bisa, Hannah Romawac, Aia de Leon, Barbie Almalbis, Kitchie Nadal, and Lougee Basabas only performed together for the first time on Saturday, November 26.
It wasn’t to a crowd of half-drunk college students either (like they must have done countless times before), but to a sat-down, sold-out crowd at the Theater at Solaire, where the concert, Tanaw, was held.
The nostalgia ran high for sure, but what really fueled the show was the music itself, with the women proving why they became OPM icons in the first place.
The show opened on an emotional note with Acel, whose parents were in the audience, watching her for the first time ever in her music career. Despite a few technical glitches, she made it through her set with a smile, performing several songs including a cover of “Your Universe,” and of course, her signature hit, Moonstar88’s “Torete.”
She was followed by Hannah, who was also emotional, especially when in between songs she brought her daughter out onstage and also took the time to thank her fellow artists: “Thank you for helping me find my way back to music.” She ended her set with Session Road’s immortal hit “Suntok Sa Buwan.”
Aia de Leon followed, with the audience cheering loudly as she emerged on stage. She opened with Imago’s “Akap,” and then performed an unreleased song, “Tao Lang.” She then laid claim to her trademark track “Sundo,” performing a slower, more powerful version – one that hasn’t been heard yet, despite the song having been covered in every way imaginable by so many other artists.
After Aia’s set, Barbie bounced onstage with all the energy of a teenager on a sugar high, belying the fact that she is 45 years old. Taking a page from Hannah’s book, she also brought her family out onstage, and performed some of her most recognizable hits like “Tabing Ilog” and “Torpe,” and did not hold back on the guitar solos. She ended her set with a new song “Days are Long,” before promising to return to stage before the show ends.
Kitchie performed next, opening with what else but “Huwag na Huwag Mong Sasabihin,” with the closing chorus rewritten in Spanish to reflect how she’s gone from famous rock star to living a quiet life with her husband and son in Madrid. Her set took a poignant turn when she performed an unreleased song about her life in the last five years – her life as a mom.
Lougee closed out the solo sets with an energetic opening song, which she closed out with a joyful drum solo duet with husband and bandmate Ali Alejandro. Before ending her set, she played a game of “guess the ’90s song” with the crowd, and then ended with Mojofly’s signature song “Mata.”
The Mojofly love continued as Lougee called Kitchie back out onstage. The two generations of Mojofly vocalists performed “Another Day” – Kitchie’s favorite song of the band.
The duets continued with Hannah and Aia returning to the stage, singing a mashup of Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough” and Imago’s “Rainsong.”
Acel and Barbie followed, performing “Soon” by Moonpools & Caterpillars, with Acel playing a riff on the harmonica.
Of course, the night couldn’t end without all six women performing together. Like an all-woman band, they each took up their own instruments – Hannah on drums, Acel on keys, Aia on bass, and Lougee, Kitchie, and Barbie on guitars, with Barbie once again shredding the solos.
Their group set revolved around Filipino rock classics: Sampaguita’s “Nosi Balasi” and a rousing version of Francis M’s “Kaleidoscope World.”
They could not have chosen a perfect last song: an affecting, pared down rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” – a reflection on life and how it changes.
The six women’s voices blending on the song’s chorus — “But time makes you bolder/ Even children get older/ And I’m getting older too” – felt truly meaningful for an audience made up mostly of the adults who grew up listening to their music.
It was a standing ovation for them as they took their bows after the last song, and expectedly, the applause gave way to calls for an encore. The artists clearly came prepared – they closed the show with an energetic performance of Rivermaya’s “Panahon Na Naman.”
They took their final bows again, and a video message from Kitchie’s husband and son played on the screen. As Kitchie tears up, her fellow musicians rush to give her a group hug, and the show ends that way – with these Filipina rock icons arm in arm, supporting each other as they have through the decades. – Rappler.com