How it started

Elsa and I wrote the song back in January 1995 after our Philippines trip the previous year. We were shocked and at the same time saddened by what we saw and experienced with regards to our environment, people, and animals. As we drove by, we saw squatters living along one of the rivers. Surely they inhabited these areas in the past but it seemed magnified now with the ever-growing population. If the hardships of life brought sorrow to those inflicted and deprived by the most basic human needs, what hope is there left for the many animals and vegetation that rely on human compassion to nurture their needs? For instance, we watched a dog pass by who can barely walk, weakened from starvation and never knowing where and when his next meal will be. We bought lunch from a nearby "turo-turo" (neighbourhood eatery) and after seeing this, bought extras so we can feed this dog. He gobbled down the food while looking at us feed him, as if thanking us for our deed. That might have been his only decent meal of his entire short life.

We also saw vegetation planted along the roads, with the hope of beautifying the surrounding. These plants were covered with the pollution from the automobile's exhaust. Even a rowful of these couldn't help replace the fresh air that is already consumed in smog.

These are only few reasons that inspired us to write the song. We wrote it with a reminder to everyone that our country and our world in general can no longer continue to exist if we continue the type of treatment that we do to our environment.


Composing it

I came up with the music to the song while still in the Philippines and presented Elsa with the idea of making an environmental song. Back in Canada, and through our experiences, it didn't take her long to come up with the first draft of the lyrics and in fact, very close to the final one. She finished the final lyrics on New Years Day, 1995.


Pre-recording it

During my return to the Philippines in late 1996, I was invited to one of Senator Greg Honasan and their circle of friends' Christmas party. I sang the song and everyone loved it! One of the Senator's associates, Boy Kamacho, gave him the idea to use the song in the senator's upcoming radio program. That initiated the recording of it (though I could have included it in my next album with VIVA Records). While in Cebu City attending a co-worker's parent's golden wedding anniversary, Boy Kamacho called and confirmed the plans to use the song and gave me the go ahead to start recording upon my return to Manila. He also told me to get in touch with Chito Ilagan of Polycosmic Records (a subsidiary of Polygram Records). Once in Polycosmic, Chito introduced me to arranger, Arnold Buena. I gave Arnold a copy of the song on cassette and told him what I wanted done to the song. It didn't take long for Arnold to finish the arrangement. We met up and listened to his work and I was impressed with the outcome. Equally impressed with the quality, Chito commented, "Arnold must've been inspired doing it". We talked about the other things that we can put in the song, like instrumentation, effects, and children's background vocals.


Recording

Recording started in the early 1997 at Makati's Digitrax Studio. During the first day and while recording engineer Dodjie Fernandez was at the helm, I laid down the lead vocal track followed by harmonies along with Elsa and my cousin Melissa Silvano (from the "That's Entertainment" fame with German Moreno). The children's background vocals were done on a separate day with voices from Monette Garcia, Jingle Sayson, Trina Belamide, Daryl Reyes, and Karla Santos. Arnold Buena also did the children's vocal arrangement. We weren't always in the studio, as much as I'd like because of schedule conflicts. Recording dragged and was finished about three weeks after it began. I got the master ADAT from Arnold only a couple of days before our scheduled flight back to Canada..

Since I didn't have the luxury of time to do any more changes to the song while in the Philippines, I got in touch with Chris Anderson of Definitive Sound Studio in Mississauga (about 45 minutes drive West of Toronto) and did some more editing there. Elsa and I added more harmonies to the chorus, tweaked the guitar solos and rhythm, added sound effects and the viola part at the beginning of the song. With Chris' help, we re-mixed the tracks and eventually mastered it. Production of the single (with the minus one) followed a few weeks later. "Ating Paraiso" was officially released in June 1998 and to also help commemorate the Centennial Year of the Philippine Republic (1898-1998).


First Official Performance

We first performed the song to a large audience on Nov. 27, 1997 during the visit and welcome ceremonial program for the former Philippines President Fidel Ramos and the former First Lady, Amelita Ramos, at University of Toronto's Convocation Hall. While accompanying the President's official entourage during their inter-city visits and knowing that the First Lady was an active supporter of environmental issues and programs in the Philippines, Toronto Consul General Francisco Santos had spoken to Mrs. Ramos about this song as an awakening inspirational song suitable to her environmental program. A few weeks later after the performance, ConGen Santos invited us to their Toronto Philippine Consulate office for some casual meeting and presented him a copy of the CD single. Another copy was sent to Malacañang (Presidential residence) by the ConGen to the former First Lady.


Back to the album

Ating Paraiso - The Making