Sunday, February 08, 2009

Luke for Love

These days, singers are prepping up for Valentine shows, including Luke Mejares, who is still famously known as a former lead vocalist of the band South Border. Now he is striking it out on his own—performing in hotels, bars, lounges and concert halls; doing corporate shows and shows for overseas Filipino workers; and releasing two CDs, Stop, Luke, Listen and Pangako. He has been in the professional music business for more than a decade now, but I was getting to know him a little more just recently aside from his being with South Border.
A friend organized an intimate dinner at Uno CafĂ© in Quezon City with Mejares, some of the producers and a few journalists. Mejares was affable and shy, somehow self-effacing. He is known for his falsetto, singing rhythm-and-blues and pop songs with pitch and breadth that elicit applause, as vocalists of South Border are known for. What is immediately noticeable about him is his physical features—more African-American than Filipino—which I am sure has been asked about him frequently.
His father is black Mexican-American, Mejares said. Despite the sad story behind it, he talked about it as if there is no bitterness, remorse or anger. Someone eventually asked and he was open to talk about it.
Mejares grew up in Tagbilaran, Bohol, only knowing his adoptive parents as his real ones. Often, he got teased about his features. He was often called “Negro” or “Igorot.” His parents, Leonides and Elvira Mejares, told him that he is pinaglihi kay Michael Jackson.
As grew up he learned that his parents are really his uncle and aunt; that his real mother live in Cebu; and that his real father was with the United States Navy who got assigned to the Philippines. It was only in recent years that Mejares got to know his father. That journey started in 1998 while in the company of friends, who were asking what little he knew of his father.
Former MTV VJ Sarah Meier was taking note of the details Mejares was giving, and unknown to him she embarked on a search through the Internet. One day, Mejares got a call from Meier. They met up, and she handed him a diskette, crying. The diskette contained pictures and information on Mejares’s father, Robert Edward Davis.
When he opened the diskette, he saw his father’s picture and immediately recognize the physical similarities. The diskette also contained his list of achievements, an admirable one, and his current whereabouts. Davis lived in Hyattsville, Maryland, and was with the faculty of the town’s Northwestern High School.
Mejares wrote his father a letter, telling him that he doesn’t want money, that he is a famous singer and that he only wanted to know him. He also sent a few clippings, a photograph and a CD with it. But the letter went unanswered. In 2002, Mejares had saved enough money and decided to go to the United States to meet his father. His then girlfriend Inger Cuenco from Cebu went with him.
They went to the school where his father worked. Inger went in his office first and Mejares followed. As soon as Davis saw Mejares, there was instant recognition, and his demeanor changed. He went berserk and yelled at them to get out, pushing them out of the office. As they were leaving, Davis even called security. Inger was crying and Mejares was numb, too shocked to feel anything. Davis had built up a good standing in the community and church that perhaps he did not want tarnished. After that episode, Mejares seemed to have moved on well. Mejares married Inger and has two children, Akeisha and Jamal. And he has a career in music he has to concentrate on.
Music is another journey for him. Aside from sports, music was one of Mejares’s loves when he was young. In Bohol, he became known as the Gary Valenciano of Bohol, singing and moving like the famous singer, although he still maintains Michael Jackson as his most influential artist.
He has always been sent to compete in amateur singing contests, and he remembers always emerging second to Cebu’s Ana Fegi. They eventually became schoolmates when Mejares moved to Cebu to study college. He also moved in to his aunt who later turned out to his real mother. Fegi and Mejares were always chosen to do front acts whenever a famous performer visits and does a show.
Ryan Cayabyab went to the south, searching for a new member of his singing group Smokey Mountain. Fegi was chosen while Mejares became an understudy. In Cebu, he slowly carved a name as an entertainer, doing front acts and becoming a host for an ABS-CBN lunchtime show.
He eventually went to Manila, trying his luck in the music business. He was then chosen to replace Brix Ferraris for South Border in 1998. After fruitful five years, he left the band and went solo.
Now, he is evolving as an artist. “One has to grow with time. As an artist, I feel that I should be open to explore possibilities, to spread my wings as a singer, to sing songs beyond those that I usually perform,” he said.
His latest gig is a Valentine’s show at Club Mwah in Mandaluyong City. The idea for the show came from a small group of friends partying at the Abaca Resort in Mactan Island, Cebu, where Mejares was performing. The producers include the owner of Abaca Resort and the owners of Club Mwah, a small club known for its cabaret-like performances and performers, some which are transsexuals.
“I’d be doing musical collaborations with the Club Mwah performers,” Mejares said. “It’s a first for me and I’m excited. I have heard a lot of good reviews about them, and I’ve seen them do their act. They are really amazing at what they do—so much passion, so much heart, so much color, so much art, too!”
As of now, Mejares is concentrating on this and looking forward to a musical future.
“Music is what brought me to where I am now. I am grateful for all the small victories I had and many of the perks I still get as a singer. I look forward to continue singing for as long as there will be people out there listening to my songs and watching my shows,” he concluded.

For inquiries on the Valentine’s show at Club Mwah, call 0929-8568428, 0922-8584321 or 0922-7832012, or e-mail Club Mwah is at the third floor of The Venue Tower, Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong City.

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