Philippine music icon Joey Ayala is best known for writing and performing songs about nature and man’s place in it, and for blending indigenous instruments and idioms into his arrangements -he has received numerous awards and citations for his words, music, and advocacies. Less known is Joey’s parallel occupation as a mandiriwa, or wisdom-worker, in the context of SiningBayan culture-based governance capacity-building workshops often made more palatable as songwriting and mind-mapping (salundiwa) sessions.

Jose Iñigo Homer Lacambra Ayala was born on June 1, 1956, Camp Philips (now M. Fortich), Bukidnon, Mindanao, the first of six children of literary-visual artists Jose V. Ayala, Jr. (b. 1932 –d. 2002) and Tita Lacambra-Ayala (b. 1931). Joe and Tita.

Less than a year after Joey’s birth the family moved to Los Baños, Laguna. Second son David, was born here. This is also where Joey, at around 2 or 3 years old, first meets a guitar – a Silvertone acoustic his father had bought from a home-bound American expat. One of Joey’s earliest memories is that of dancing to his father’s strumming. Daddy Joe never played again, at least not in Joey’s presence, perhaps in an attempt not to encourage the pursuit of what was considered then a non-employable skill.

The family of four moved to 20th Avenue, Cubao, Quezon City in the early 60s. Four more siblings were born here. In order of appearance: Cynthia, Monica, Fernando, and Laura.

Joey’s early musical education was purely oido, listening, singing along, and attempting to replicate melodies on whatever musical toys (melodica, recorder, harmonica) were lying about, courtesy of Mom Tita. She also soundtracked her brood’s day with a portable turntable playlist that included western classics, samplers of folk music from faraway countries, songs from stage productions, sprinklings of jazz, hits from the 50s and 60s… these, along with radio and, later on, television, movies, and cassettes, brought a greater and greater variety of music to Joey’s attention.

He started writing verse and prose in his early teens. Mom Tita, ever the editor, would clean up what scribblings she would find lying about and send them to magazines. They’d get published, and the proceeds from this handful of early writings went to buy, first, a pair bonggos, then, after seeing what a neighborhood buddy could do on one, a playable guitar.

Soon Joey was merging words and music. Songs started to come during third high school age – a mix of teenage darkness, western folk-rock, jazz fusion, and eastern mysticism – this against a backdrop of Woodstock and Vietnam War images and the socio-political turmoil of a country under martial law, declared in September of 1972.

In the summer of ‘73 the family migrated to a banana plantation in Tagum, Davao del Norte, Mindanao, where Daddy Joe took the helm of the research department. For Joey it was like being sucked into a black hole. The effort of adjusting to a totally-new language, culture, and physical environment was eased by music and the friends that guitars and songs readily brought together.

After a year of studying at St. Mary’s College in Tagum Joey enrolled at the Ateneo de Davao College to pursue an AB Economics degree. This choice of studies was made upon his father’s advice to study the subject he was weakest at in high school.

He became active in a seminal theater group, Kulturang Atin. This creative clique soon began running the student publications and offering the campus socio-political commentary in the form of stage productions. Ayala grew into his new community as composer, writer, editor, actor, director, and integrated arts workshop facilitator.

In 76 Joey was pressed to do music for a rock opera entitled Sa Bundok ng Apo, libretto by Al Santos, choreography by Agnes Locsin. (16 years later this collaboration was reprised on a much bigger stage with Encantada, a neo-ethnic dance-drama produced by Ballet Philippines at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.)

In the course of preparing for Bundok Joey was exposed to the gong playing of the people (Bagobo) upon whose creation legend the libretto was based. The resonance of these instruments struck a chord in the young composer’s gut and led him to pay closer attention to the indigenous traditions of his country. Many of his recordings carry this “new native”, Bagong Lumad sound: gongs, bamboo instruments, 2-string hegalong, and a penchant for singing about things other than boy-meets-girl romances in poetic Tagalog with sprinklings of Cebuano-Visayan expressions.

He also paid closer attention to a classmate and fellow theater artist and musician, Ma. Jessie G. Soroñgon (b. 1958), with whom he fell in love, eloped, married (1979). and had two sons with, Jaku (b. 1980) and Jed (b. 1985).

College was done by 78 and it was second nature for Joey to segue into writing features for San Pedro Magazine, a local weekly. When the mag turned to hard news in 1981 Joey was confronted with the emotional turmoil of interviewing survivors of a grenade incident. He decided to channel his journalism energy to songwriting.

In 1982 he recorded a collection of these songs in a small soundbooth set up primarily as a vocal dubbing facility for activist documentaries exposing brutalities occurring under martial law. This album, Panganay ng Umaga, was produced by the Development Education Media Services Foundation (DEMS) and was published as the 8th issue of Mom Tita’s blooming Road Map Series. The album received critical acclaim and found its way to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival where Joey and jam-mate George Benitez found themselves on the main stage in 1986. This experience inspired Ayala to devote himself to music and the arts full-time.

After Marcos fled the country the Cultural Center turned its eye to “regional talents” and Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad was one of these. Several national tours later Joey decided to move back to Manila, upang makipagsapalaran, to try his luck in the music industry. By this time he already had three albums in tow: Panganay ng Umaga, Magkabilaan, and Mga Awit ng Tanod-Lupa, all produced in the “independent” fashion. The recordings were bought by WEA-Universal Records under the guidance of Butch Dans and The Thirdline Inc., management team of the Apo Hiking Society.

After several tours and after producing a 4th album, Lumad sa S’yudad, under the WEA-Universal contract, the band broke up in 1994. Stunned but not unconscious, Joey worked on solo performing, learning music technology, and doing projects using computers and home recording skills. Sister Cynthia (Cynthia Alexander) hooked him up with other musicians, and life went on.

Now firmly Quezon City-based Joey is occupied in pretty much the same way as he was in Davao, only in another, busier place – Metro Manila. And in another, more interconnected, time.

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Philippine music icon Joey Ayala is best known for writing and performing songs about nature and man’s place in it, and for blending indigenous instruments and idioms into his arrangements -he has received numerous awards and citations for his words, music, and advocacies. Less known is Joey’s parallel occupation as a mandiriwa, or wisdom-worker, in the context of SiningBayan culture-based governance capacity-building workshops often made more palatable as songwriting and mind-mapping (salundiwa) sessions.

Jose Iñigo Homer Lacambra Ayala was born on June 1, 1956, Camp Philips (now M. Fortich), Bukidnon, Mindanao, the first of six children of literary-visual artists Jose V. Ayala, Jr. (b. 1932 –d. 2002) and Tita Lacambra-Ayala (b. 1931). Joe and Tita.

Less than a year after Joey’s birth the family moved to Los Baños, Laguna. Second son David, was born here. This is also where Joey, at around 2 or 3 years old, first meets a guitar – a Silvertone acoustic his father had bought from a home-bound American expat. One of Joey’s earliest memories is that of dancing to his father’s strumming. Daddy Joe never played again, at least not in Joey’s presence, perhaps in an attempt not to encourage the pursuit of what was considered then a non-employable skill.

The family of four moved to 20th Avenue, Cubao, Quezon City in the early 60s. Four more siblings were born here. In order of appearance: Cynthia, Monica, Fernando, and Laura.

Joey’s early musical education was purely oido, listening, singing along, and attempting to replicate melodies on whatever musical toys (melodica, recorder, harmonica) were lying about, courtesy of Mom Tita. She also soundtracked her brood’s day with a portable turntable playlist that included western classics, samplers of folk music from faraway countries, songs from stage productions, sprinklings of jazz, hits from the 50s and 60s… these, along with radio and, later on, television, movies, and cassettes, brought a greater and greater variety of music to Joey’s attention.

He started writing verse and prose in his early teens. Mom Tita, ever the editor, would clean up what scribblings she would find lying about and send them to magazines. They’d get published, and the proceeds from this handful of early writings went to buy, first, a pair bonggos, then, after seeing what a neighborhood buddy could do on one, a playable guitar.

Soon Joey was merging words and music. Songs started to come during third high school age – a mix of teenage darkness, western folk-rock, jazz fusion, and eastern mysticism – this against a backdrop of Woodstock and Vietnam War images and the socio-political turmoil of a country under martial law, declared in September of 1972.

In the summer of ‘73 the family migrated to a banana plantation in Tagum, Davao del Norte, Mindanao, where Daddy Joe took the helm of the research department. For Joey it was like being sucked into a black hole. The effort of adjusting to a totally-new language, culture, and physical environment was eased by music and the friends that guitars and songs readily brought together.

After a year of studying at St. Mary’s College in Tagum Joey enrolled at the Ateneo de Davao College to pursue an AB Economics degree. This choice of studies was made upon his father’s advice to study the subject he was weakest at in high school.

He became active in a seminal theater group, Kulturang Atin. This creative clique soon began running the student publications and offering the campus socio-political commentary in the form of stage productions. Ayala grew into his new community as composer, writer, editor, actor, director, and integrated arts workshop facilitator.

In 76 Joey was pressed to do music for a rock opera entitled Sa Bundok ng Apo, libretto by Al Santos, choreography by Agnes Locsin. (16 years later this collaboration was reprised on a much bigger stage with Encantada, a neo-ethnic dance-drama produced by Ballet Philippines at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.)

In the course of preparing for Bundok Joey was exposed to the gong playing of the people (Bagobo) upon whose creation legend the libretto was based. The resonance of these instruments struck a chord in the young composer’s gut and led him to pay closer attention to the indigenous traditions of his country. Many of his recordings carry this “new native”, Bagong Lumad sound: gongs, bamboo instruments, 2-string hegalong, and a penchant for singing about things other than boy-meets-girl romances in poetic Tagalog with sprinklings of Cebuano-Visayan expressions.

He also paid closer attention to a classmate and fellow theater artist and musician, Ma. Jessie G. Soroñgon (b. 1958), with whom he fell in love, eloped, married (1979). and had two sons with, Jaku (b. 1980) and Jed (b. 1985).

College was done by 78 and it was second nature for Joey to segue into writing features for San Pedro Magazine, a local weekly. When the mag turned to hard news in 1981 Joey was confronted with the emotional turmoil of interviewing survivors of a grenade incident. He decided to channel his journalism energy to songwriting.

In 1982 he recorded a collection of these songs in a small soundbooth set up primarily as a vocal dubbing facility for activist documentaries exposing brutalities occurring under martial law. This album, Panganay ng Umaga, was produced by the Development Education Media Services Foundation (DEMS) and was published as the 8th issue of Mom Tita’s blooming Road Map Series. The album received critical acclaim and found its way to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival where Joey and jam-mate George Benitez found themselves on the main stage in 1986. This experience inspired Ayala to devote himself to music and the arts full-time.

After Marcos fled the country the Cultural Center turned its eye to “regional talents” and Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad was one of these. Several national tours later Joey decided to move back to Manila, upang makipagsapalaran, to try his luck in the music industry. By this time he already had three albums in tow: Panganay ng Umaga, Magkabilaan, and Mga Awit ng Tanod-Lupa, all produced in the “independent” fashion. The recordings were bought by WEA-Universal Records under the guidance of Butch Dans and The Thirdline Inc., management team of the Apo Hiking Society.

After several tours and after producing a 4th album, Lumad sa S’yudad, under the WEA-Universal contract, the band broke up in 1994. Stunned but not unconscious, Joey worked on solo performing, learning music technology, and doing projects using computers and home recording skills. Sister Cynthia (Cynthia Alexander) hooked him up with other musicians, and life went on.

Now firmly Quezon City-based Joey is occupied in pretty much the same way as he was in Davao, only in another, busier place – Metro Manila. And in another, more interconnected, time.