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Remembering Rene

Rene Garcia lived a life dedicated to empowering the local music industry. He may not be in the flesh anymore, but his music lives in hearts forever.

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It was a typical Sunday – one that the Garcia family has always regarded as their family day. It has been tradition for them to hear Mass, go out for dinner or for shopping, then have their never-ending catch-up over coffee – even though they have all just caught up the previous week.

(Clockwise): Rene Garcia, Rene with Family, Rene with daughter Katrina Garcia-Dalusong, Rene with daughter Anna Garcia-Salgado and Rene with his children

(Clockwise): Rene Garcia, Rene with Family, Rene with daughter Katrina Garcia-Dalusong, Rene with daughter Anna Garcia-Salgado and Rene with his children

Sept. 2, 2018 was no exception. Rene Garcia and his family went to a shoe outlet in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, as he wanted to buy a new pair of shoes for his upcoming gig in Jakarta. It was a gig that he has been so excited about since it was confirmed in June.

“As our dad said, it was a day well spent,” Anna Garcia-Salgado, second of Rene’s children and eldest of the daughters, recalled to Bulletin Entertainment in an exclusive interview.

The family got home at around 6 in the evening. Excited as he was, Rene immediately sat down to try on his new pair of shoes.

But he never got to finish was he was doing. Without a warning, Rene collapsed.

Anna, who was on her way back to her own house, got a frantic phone call from her mother, asking her to hurry back.
“I hurriedly drove back to their house, honking the car horn frantically, hazard lights on, not really paying attention to the world around me,” she narrated. “I received two more phone calls from her while I was on the road. It felt like the longest 10-minute drive I’ve ever had.”

In a matter of seconds, Rene, famous musician and founder of iconic band Hotdog, was gone. He died at age 65 due to cardiac arrest.

“When I got to their house, I was greeted by a sight that I’d never imagined I would see – Daddy on the floor, lifeless. I tried to talk to him but he was already gone,” she said.

That particular Sunday – one that they thought would be just another Sunday – turned out to be one of the saddest days of their lives.

“I do not think we will ever get over our father,” said Katrina Garcia-Dalusong, youngest of the brood.

“Children who have lost their parents would most likely agree. We have started to acknowledge that he is no longer with us, and that there is a process that we would have to go through. But you cannot really put a time frame to it.”

Despite this understanding, the sisters are still hoping they would see their dad right there at home, tying up the laces of his newly-bought shoes – even for just a moment, as quick as a blink of an eye.

“We are still coping with the loss. For me, it still has not sunk in completely that he is no longer with us. Hearing his songs and seeing him in videos make it feel that he is still very much alive,” said Anna.

“Sometimes, I still wish it’s just been one long nightmare.”

Time for memories

Every second of November, families come together to celebrate All Souls’ Day, remembering the lives of their loved ones who have gone on from the world. The Garcia family is no different, having made it a yearly tradition to visit their dead.

It is yet another adjustment they must make.

“This year, All Souls’ Day will be different as he will not be with us to visit our dearly departed anymore, but instead, he will be the one we will visit.”

“Since he passed away, everything, not only All Souls’ Day, has been different. This is going to be a year of firsts – first time celebrating family members’ birthdays and anniversaries, Christmas and New Year, family travels, Sunday family days, coffee hangouts, impromptu pasyals, and Friday movie dates – all without him.”

Filipinos have this superstitious belief that souls roam the earth on All Souls’ Day. For Anna and Katrina, it is more of a hope to get a moment with their dad – a brief encounter, even in dreams, if that is possible.

And what would they tell him?

“I did encounter dad in my dreams, but no words were spoken. If I do get another chance, I would probably tell him, ‘I love you and I miss you so much. Life is not the same without you,’” Katrina said.

For Anna, the hope of seeing him in dreams started since the day he passed. “As his demise was so sudden and unexpected, I guess I just needed to know from him that he is okay, and that I would tell him that I love and miss him so much.”

Cherished moments

Katrina fondly remembers the best memory she had with Rene. She was four years old, and her dad brought her to Disneyland for the first time.

The song “It’s A Small World” not only got stuck in her head, but it made such a strong impression on the young girl. It ignited her curiosity and love for travel, which she now shares with her own children.

Next was when Rene brought her to the US for the first time in 1984. Next is when they went to London for a Hotdog concert in 2015.

“I had to share a room with my parents, and I felt like a kid again. I was 37 years old with two children at that time. My own family didn’t come with us to London, and I felt more like a daughter then, not a mom,” she recalled with a smile.

“Whenever I would go around on my own in London, he would call me up from time to time to check on how I was doing – where I was, if I was okay, telling me that he was just a phone call away. He was like that even here in Manila. His love and concern match no one else’s,” Anna said.

Both Katrina and Anna are into music, are down-to-earth, and have outgoing personalities that allow them to relate to people from all walks of life – traits they inherited from their father.

What was the greatest advice that Rene had given them?

The sisters shared the most resonant ones: “Always make time to thank God for our lives and blessings. Always stay humble. Family comes first. Do what you love, most passionately”

Music and legacy

Rene, along with his brother, Dennis, founded the iconic Hotdog band in 1972. Joining them were Ella del Rosario, Lorrie Ilustre, and Ramon Torralba.

The pop-rock group burst into the scene and revolutionized the modern kundiman, which gave birth to the distinct Manila Sound. Their biggest hits include “Bongga Ka ’Day,” “Annie Batungbakal,” “Beh, Buti Nga,” “Manila,” “Pers Lab,” and “Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng BuhayKo,” among others – tunes that Filipinos from all walks of life can sing along with. Their songs were not merely hits. They have come to define a generation.

According to Kat, Rene took less than 10 minutes to create a melody. It also helped that he had good music influences and listened to varied genres.

“It was pure talent,” Anna added, sharing that Rene had no formal training in music. “It was all in him, coming from the heart and inspired by great rock artists.”

Katrina believes having a musician father made her realize what passion is really about.

“Musicians need constant practice to improve their craft. It’s never easy to make a living out of music, especially since some of them don’t receive royalties that they deserve. Not everyone has been given the same opportunity as my father. Our dad was able to pursue his love and his career in music while still being able to provide for the family. This is why he made it his life’s mission to help his fellow musicians. He founded a non-government organization to help aspiring musicians, and was always willing to extend a hand,” she explained.

Anna shared that she never felt that playing music was a job for her father. He simply loved what he did.

“In all his performances and with each song he wrote, one would clearly see that he really loved doing what he did. I think it’s the same with all other musicians – they’re doing what they love the most, in a way that it does not feel like a job to them,” she said.

What’s their favorite Hotdog song?

It’s no wonder that for Anna, it would be “Anna,” which her father wrote the year she was born. “But whether it be the hits or side B tracks, they are all my favorites, though Manila still remains a classic all-time favorite for me and probably for most Filipinos, if not all.”

Katrina added, “An all-time favorite would be ‘Manila.’ Aside from the fact that the tune and lyrics are catchy, the message also resonates. ‘Manila’ truly has that power to take you back in time and relive good memories. It strengthens the feeling that there is no place like home.”

A feat that not all songs have achieved: Some Hotdog tunes have even been turned into movies. Anna and Katrina believe that a musical is not a far-fetched idea.

“A musical tribute sounds more like a fitting idea, so that all, and not just one of Hotdog’s songs, are highlighted. Apart from this, I think that my dad deserves more credit for being the originator of the ‘Manila Sound,’ which is now globally recognized,” she said.

Apart from a daughter’s love, there is also a deep-rooted pride in an artist’s legacy – it just so happens that they also call this artist, ‘dad.’ While Rene will always be remembered for his songs that made a generation dance and swoon, it is through this loving family that his memory and songs will live on. Love certainly does not waver.

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