Gary Valenciano

If there’s one thing Gary Valenciano misses most since the pandemic broke out, it’s doing live concerts. There’s simply nothing like the sheer joy, he said, of going up onstage, laying down his catalog of hits, singing his heart out, and pulling off high-octane dance numbers till he’s dripping in sweat. He’s Mr. Pure Energy, after all.

But knowing that he can’t burn off that fuel in front of a live audience anytime soon, Gary V decided to channel it, instead, to other creative projects and personal pursuits, which provide him necessary outlets to express himself, and platforms to improve himself further as an artist.

In the absence of the live-music scene, the 57-year-old music icon spends his time in the studio, writing songs, like his latest one “Make Us Whole Again.” He continues to learn the ropes of digital media as he shoots and produces his own online content; he has started a vlog that chronicles his little-known passion for cycling; and, most recently, he collaborated with Pray.com, an app for daily prayer and Bible-based audio content.

In this one-on-one interview with the Inquirer, Gary V talks about what he has been up to the past year, and how he uses that “pure energy” off the stage.

Tell us about your project with Pray.com

I have noticed that people’s attention span is getting shorter, because everything can be easily accessed now. So years back, I thought of making Bible-inspired stories, just one minute to three minutes long. I didn’t know where to put it, because Spotify and other platforms still weren’t popular back then.

Now, I’m working with Pray.com, which is an app where you have different personalities encouraging people to share God’s word. I let them hear my stories, and they thought that they could very well be part of their platform. It’s called cinematic audio. The stories don’t have accompanying videos to make the listener let his or her imagination run free. There’s music scoring, which I take care of.

I want to encourage everyone, no matter what you’re going through, to take a moment, to stop and pray. Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated. Start a conversation with God, who hears your every cry.

What’s the story behind “Make Us Whole Again”?

I wrote the song last year, but. I couldn’t finish it. It was actually inspired by the shutdown of ABS-CBN … I’m not one to force the issue, so I waited and waited. When COVID cases started increasing again, I managed to finish the song, almost a year after.

It became bigger than what it was intended to be… It’s about instilling hope in people, knowing that there’s Someone who can heal us and make us whole again—heart, soul, spirit. It’s more of a plea or a prayer.

How are things with you and your ABS-CBN colleagues?

We’re so grateful, not only to the Kapamilyas, but also to all the Kapatid and Ka-A2Z. Who would have ever thought that ABS -CBN would be seen in other stations? I don’t think that has ever happened… We have lost some great workers and dear friends. …But we continue to work hard, no matter what.

We’re also thankful to the people who watch us online. So it’s good that ABS-CBN had already started exploring the possibility of boosting its online presence way before.

How has your creative process been affected by the pandemic and lockdowns?

There’s more room to be creative… Online shows can be more demanding than live shows. In a live show, the stage is already set for you: You do a sound check, go to your hotel room and rest, then return onstage. When you’re up there, it’s all great—you’re giving it your all, you’re sweating, the audience is excited. But after that, you’re done.

Now, it’s just me, my nephew and niece setting up for the online shows. I make sure the sound, the mix and my voice are OK. If my client wants a recorded video for a corporate show, I have to shoot it, and my nephew edits it. I have to cure the vocals the way it should be, because that video is forever. ‘Di ako ‘yung raket lang; I don’t just grab a mic and sing.

Things have changed quite a bit. But it’s fun trying out new things because you have time.

But as Mr. Pure Energy, you must miss the live-music scene and the adrenaline.

There’s really nothing like stepping in front of an audience… But it’s nice that Zoom concerts allow me to see people up close. I can see their reaction better.

I prefer live, even in online shows, because I have that instant feedback on Zoom. In a way, shows have become more personal. You’re watching me, but not with other people… I love reading viewers’ feedback in the chat box.

How do you stay healthy and protect yourself from the virus?

I have to be careful because I have a lot of comorbidities. It’s not just hard, but mandatory to stay healthy now.

I have been exposed and up close with people who were infected. Luckily, I didn’t get it. Some people tell me that I must have a strong immune system … My diabetes can be good and bad at the same time: It’s bad because I have to do maintenance, but it’s good because it means I have always been conscious about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

I eat well, work out, and go biking once in a while. I can still perform and catch up with teenagers, even. It’s hard, but I can still do it. I cheat once in a while—a little chocolate or potato chips here and there—but I don’t have to make drastic changes. I guess that has helped me in protecting myself against COVID.

And I don’t really go out much. If I’m not performing, I just stay at home. This is how I am even, before the pandemic. So when the pandemic happened, it wasn’t such a shock. But of course it was tough not being able to see some of your loved ones.

You said you’re also into biking?

I got into it because of a late best friend, who introduced me to other riders. I was embarrassed at first because he introduced me as “Mr. Pure Energy,” but I ended up getting exhausted, tongue out, while older and younger riders passed me… But I fell in love with it.

I have a new vlog called Gary V-sikleta, where I post my bike rides and let people see that side of me. It’s not just about me riding, but me sharing about life stories, the importance of staying healthy…all that. It’s a hobby and passion.

What satisfaction do you get out of it?

It’s about enjoying nature even more … I love going for a ride and, suddenly, you see the ocean or Taal Volcano. I love moments like those because it gives me a sense of fulfillment and peace, especially when I’m in the middle of nowhere—just me, my bike, nature and God. I could just sit there and pray, cry, plead or talk to Him.

So it’s also meditative in a way?

Going to Calatagan, Batangas was one of my favorite trips. I set off at 4 a.m. and got there at around 2:30 p.m. I sat by the water and not a soul was there. I don’t know if I will ever be able to do it again, but that moment gave me inexplicable joy.

What else are you planning to do?

There’s a possible series of concerts in the United States. I also hope to do a series of online shows that will hopefully culminate in a major concert. We have yet to start grinding, and I’m looking forward to them.

Can you imagine what it would be like to do a concert after a long while?

There’s no telling what exactly you will feel, but I know I will be very emotional throughout…I do also have some fears. I don’t know how strong my legs and lungs will be after a long break. A concert is not like “ASAP,” where you can take a break in between numbers… So, I would have to really practice and train. Luckily, I will have time.

Is there anything more you can ask for?

I don’t think there’s anything I want more, but if there’s more to come, I would be happy to have it… Music-wise, I would like to do more collaborations with younger artists and bands.

I’m hoping for a breakthrough in the near future, something that would help us eradicate the pandemic. To anyone struggling with the virus right now, I’m praying for them. I hope separated families can be reunited, complete.

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