OG Advice: Jose Mari Chan and the Spirit of Christmas

Photos by Kitkat Pajaro

Singer-songwriter Jose Mari Chan is known for many things: his songs, his legacy, and the warm energy he brings to any room. But not many people know that he’s got a pretty good stash of jokes that he generously shares once you start talking. Mr. Chan is a proud Atenean alumnus (so are all his kids), and when asked he chose to study at the Ateneo de Manila University, he shares a piece of his advice given by his friend: “I was told by my friend, sa UP mahirap daw ang medicine. Sa Ateneo, mahirap ang law. Sa La Salle, mahirap ang parking.”

Mr. Chan holds his alma mater with fondness — having a love for the basketball team, and feeling humbled to be given by his college class (celebrating its Jubilee year this 2017) the sole Golden Alumnus Award. Even more serendipitous is that it’s also his 50th year in recording, a career that includes the iconic Christmas In Our Hearts, the unprecedented Double Diamond Record Awardee, and his album “Going Home to Christmas,” which went double platinum.

Whenever I see girls and boys: Jose Mari Chan is the OG king of Christmas.

In many of his interviews, Mr. Chan has mentioned that his career has been blessed by a higher power; it was, for him, the hand of the Holy Spirit that led him to collaborate with songwriter Rina Cañiza, who helped him write Christmas in Our Hearts, and gave him the push to enlist his daughter Liza Chan to sing the duet with him.

And now, to celebrate his illustrious career, the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra will be paying tribute to Jose Mari Chan’s music this December 16, at the Theatre at Solaire. With a 3 p.m. matinee show and an 8 p.m. gala, fans of Mr. Chan will be treated to new interpretations to his many Christmas carols and romantic songs like Beautiful Girl and Please Be Careful with My Heart.

Despite the holiday rush, Jose Mari Chan took time to talk to Young STAR about celebrating Christmas through the generations, helping out in the holidays, and the best way to get through the Christmas traffic.



Aside from your own Christmas songs, what are your favorite Christmas songs to sing and to listen to?

Okay, I grew up listening to Little Christmas Tree by Nat King Cole. I also love O Holy Night. It’s solemn and drives home the meaning of Christmas. I don’t really care for Jingle Bells — first of all, we don’t have snow in this country. (Laughs) And Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. It’s a very optimistic view of Christmas, that no matter what problems you have today, Christmas will erase it from memory.


Speaking of the holidays, do you have a dream December destination?

Home is where the heart is, and home is where Christmas should be. The family should be Christmas. I have a song called I’m Going Home to Christmas and to Family, and essentially it’s all about the OFWs, because I’ve done many concerts throughout Europe and the United States. And no matter what time of the year, they ask me to sing A Perfect Christmas and Christmas in our Hearts. And when I sing that, I see them teary-eyed. That’s when I realized that there’s no place like home for Christmas. And so I wrote that song.


How different were the Christmases you spent in your youth from now, with your kids and your grandkids?

Pretty much the same. My parents made Christmas truly special for us. I mean, we were not that well-off. Thank God now, because of my business, we’re better off. And I’m able to share the blessings, and that’s the message of the songs in “Going Home to Christmas.”

Let’s sing Merry Christmas: This Christmas season, Jose Mari Chan is most excited to give back.

Do you feel that you could write something similar to Christmas in our Hearts in the same serendipitous way?

Well, 24 years later, I came out with “Going Home to Christmas.” And if you listen to the words and music, they’re all pretty much the same message as Christmas in our Hearts. Take a listen, that’s your assignment.



And then after that, I would like to get your feedback, and your opinion. And then tell me what your favorite song is.


Aside from sharing your gift of music and being with family, what are you most excited about this Christmas?

This Christmas season, I’d really like to give back. How do we try to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor? For many, many years, that has been my wish — that the gap between the rich and poor would finally begin to narrow. Unfortunately, we don’t see it. Every year, we see the richest Filipinos be worth billions of dollars, but the poor remain poor. How do we, in our own little way, contribute to making that gap narrower? I start with the 1,500 employees I have in my sugar business, by sharing with them. Giving them bonuses, raising their salaries, helping them financially. Encouraging them to going into small businesses of their own.


If there’s one thing people get stressed out about Christmas, it’s the traffic. Do you get stressed out about the traffic?

I do. Driving from Makati to Quezon City. I try to listen to music, chat with the driver, talk to my wife if she’s in the car with me. And we talk about other things. I mean, it’s a given. The traffic is there. It’s your choice whether you will let it spoil your day or enhance your day. (Laughs) There will always be rainy days, and there will always be cloudy days. If it’s raining, go out and dance in the rain!


For tickets to The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra Plays The Music of Jose Mari Chan, go to Ticketworld.com.ph. Tickets range from P500 for rear balcony, 1,000 for balcony, P2,000 for rear orchestra, P3,000 for side orchestra, P4,000 for VIP, and P5,000 for premium.

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