Consummate musicians or actors will continue to do what they love and enjoy doing in their life—may it be performing live for their fans, recording new music or making movies—even in the face of hardships or adversities.
Take the case of American rock singer and songwriter Warren Zevon who continued to compose, record and perform music even after learning from his doctor that he had a rare form of lung cancer and several months to live. Another well-known recording artist from the 1960s and 1970s who continued performing and touring for his fans in the U.S. was Glen Campbell who was diagnosed with having Alzheimer’s disease in late 2010.
Here in the Philippines today, we have a respected Pinoy rock musician who continues to perform and entertain his audience and fans even though he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He is Chickoy Pura of The Jerks.
After hearing from his doctor that he has T-cell lymphoma, Pura knew that he had to do something fast about his cancer and that was to find a treatment that will allow him to keep on doing what he loves doing most in life—performing and making music.
Sometime in July of this year, 62-year-old Pura revealed that he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma, a cancer that his doctor said began as a form of skin asthma called exfollative erythroderma about seven years ago. Aside from using steroids, Pura treated his skin asthma with antihistamine, moisturizers and lotions. After undergoing another biopsy his doctor confirmed that he has T-cell lymphoma.
Chemotherapy was the recommended treatment for his cancer but Pura and his wife, Monet, had other plans to treat the cancer. Because of Pura’s sensitivity to medication and his plans to maintain the quality of life he has now—especially his ability to continue performing and making music—the couple decided to search for other options to treat the cancer.
Chemotherapy and stem cell treatment are too expensive for the Puras and they cannot afford the cancer treatment on their own. Although they only asked for prayers after revealing Chickoy’s condition publicly through social media, a lot of friends from the local music industry and other sectors in society have come to his aid.
Last August 24, many of Pura’s comrades at My Brother’s Mustache Bar—Lolita Carbon, Cooky Chua, Bayang Barrios, Noel Cabangon, Noli Aurillo and Mon Espia—came together for Awit Para Kay Chickoy, a benefit concert that was held at the said folk bar located in Scout Tuazon Street, Quezon City.
Pura was an 18-year-old teenager when he first started playing solo at folk houses and music bars scattered all over Metro Manila in the 1970s, like My Father’s Moustache, Hobbit House and Bodega. It would take another four or five years of the usual grind of doing the rounds of folk houses as a solo musician before Pura came upon the idea of forming a band. Pura, Nitoy Adriano, Flor Mendoza, Heli Umali, Boy Matriano and Jun Lopito formed the classic lineup of The Jerks.
The Jerks started their career in music by performing live at Shakey’s Taft Avenue and Bodega, but it wasn’t until 1979 that the group was asked to play at On Disco located along busy Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City. During the late 1970s, punk rock and new wave music was invading the local music scene and discos, like On Disco and Where Else, popular night spots that were beginning to reinvent themselves.
As part of On Disco’s New Wave Nights, The Jerks were asked by the management to provide live music that consisted of frantic cover versions of songs by popular rock, punk and new wave acts like The Clash, the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and Oingo Boingo.
For Pura, playing live music with The Jerks at the Roxas Boulevard establishment meant more than earning the usual few pesos. The experience turned out to be the beginning of something. Their stint at On Disco gave The Jerks opportunities to grow as a band and rock musicians. The group soon found themselves in a recording studio, laying down tracks for original songs that received airplay in the Pinoy rock radio station DZRJ, like their debut single “Romantic Kill.”
When the so-called punk movement began to wane in the early 1980s, The Jerks focused their sights overseas and accepted a lengthy stint in Japan. After returning to the Philippines in 1988, Pura and The Jerks began playing in popular rock and folk joints like Mayric’s along Espana Avenue, Manila where Pura also played a solo set.
During this time, Pura was approached by Edmond Fortuno for a new Pinoy rock band being put together by record producer Ed Formoso. The band turned out to be Lokal Brown, the first-ever Pinoy rock supergroup as its members were Pendong Aban, Lolita Carbon and Saro Benares of Asin, Mon Espia of Labuyo, Eva Caparas of Music and Magic, Nitoy Adriano of The Jerks, Cash Manalang, Fortuno and Dominic “Papadom” Gamboa of Tropical Depression.
Although Lokal Brown’s music was geared towards the mainstream audience, the supergroup’s material consisted of socially conscious songs that evoked the spirit of Pinoy nationalism. As typified by the group’s debut single “This Is Not Amerika” where Pura is featured singing lead vocals in the second verse of the song.
Pura writes in both Filipino and English so his output both as a solo artist and as a member of The Jerks reflected his political awakening during the late 1980s. Songs like “Mad Mathematical World,” “Warning” and favorites “Sayaw sa Bubog” and “Reklamo ng Reklamo” which The Jerks recorded for their self-titled debut album in 1997 reflect Pura’s maturity in song writing.
The Jerks were busy recording their first and only full-length album in 1997 when Pura was cast in the lead role of murdered youth activist Leandro Alejandro for the stage musical, Lean, which was performed at the UP Theater in Diliman, Quezon City that same year.
Even though Pura played solo gigs at Mayric’s back then, it wasn’t until My Brother’s Mustache Bar opened in 2001 that he has slowly returned to his acoustic beginnings.
“When My Brother’s Mustache opened, there were no more folk houses here in the vicinity. I can’t think of any that was still around. I was not with My Brother’s Mustache when it opened but one time, I decided to visit the place and realized I knew everyone who performs here. I then bought an affordable acoustic guitar, brushed up on some of my old material and added new songs. I was given a day to perform by the owner of the place and I’ve been here since,” said Pura.
As a mainstay in My Brother’s Mustache, there are Thursdays when Pura would play solo or occasionally play with The Jerks, which is now composed of Pura, Benjie Santos, Paolo Manuel and Nono Brioso.
Now that he is back to where he started, getting to perform solo in a folk house, Pura sees his career in music coming full circle. Reminiscing at what he has achieved after more than 40 years of performing in bars and folk houses, Pura admits he doesn’t have much to complain about.
“I would have wanted more financial success but the need for that is very minor. I still don’t earn much, but I am very happy with what I do. The respect I get from people, you can’t buy that, you can’t measure that, especially now that I am going through something and I see all this concern for me. From friends who are doing well to those who barely earn minimum wage, the ordinary workers, I am overwhelmed with all this goodwill,” said Pura.(Jose K. Lirios)