By Irene T. Sino Cruz
An upcoming Filipino-American group in Maryland has created a beautiful upbeat mix of martial arts and singing. Called JAGMAC, the siblings are not only into singing but also holds black belt in the Eskrima (arnis), a Filipino martial art.
JAGMAC stands for the first letter of their given name or nickname. Jared, the youngest at 14, Angelique (17), Gabriel (17), Manjo (Emmanuel Joseph, 19), Alyssa (22) and CJ (23), are children of Carlos E. Patalinghug Jr. and Alicia Damesyn, an American. Carlos Jr.’s father, Dr. Carlos N. Patalinghug is from Lapu-Lapu City while his mother, Fe Esplana Patalinghug hails from Cataingan, Masbate.
Since their father, Carlos Jr., is chief instructor of Kick Connection, a martial arts school in Maryland, CJ and his siblings learned taekwondo and the Filipino martial art eskrima or arnis also at an early age. All six hold a black belt in taekwondo while CJ, Alyssa, Manjo and Gabriel all hold black sash in eskrima. The two oldest are also world champions in stick fighting.
The Patalinghug siblings credit their paternal grandmother Fe and their mother Alicia for their singing talent. The siblings started singing as soon as they could speak but it was not until 10 years ago when they decided to form JAGMAC and pursue a singing career.
“I started singing when I could speak. My Nanay (Fe) made me sing the Star Spangled Banner and Somewhere over the Rainbow, at a very young age, three or four,” Alyssa says.
It was also due to Nanay Fe that the six siblings sing in the church choir. “Nanay, tells us, go sing in the choir,” Alyssa recalls fondly. Nanay Fe, Alicia and Carlos Jr. also sing at the St. Rose Parish choir in Baltimore, Maryland.
Nanay Fe, as they fondly call her, is an accomplished singer who has performed at the Warner Theater in Washington, the Lincoln Center in New York, and the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore. She also sang in concerts featuring popular singers, including Cebu’s own Pilita Corrales.
“It was about 10 years ago that we decided to come together and sing a song for our Dad’s birthday party to surprise him,” said CJ who wrote the song that they sang at their father’s birthday. “Jared was only three years old (at the time). But after that we said ‘hey, I think we have something here because we had a lot of fun. We could keep doing this. We could keep singing together.”
CJ and Alyssa, who are studying music, are the songwriters of the group. They, together with songwriters in Los Angeles whose projects included songs of Katy Perry and Blackeyed Peas, wrote the songs that will be included in JAGMAC’s first album. What will make this group stand out is their conscious choice of conveying positive messages in the lyrics of their song. This is in contrast, they said, to many songs that have very negative lyrics.
“We try to put a positive message, very encouraging, motivating especially for the youth but we still make it cool and fun,” CJ explained.
Their martial arts background helps them both in their singing and in their choreography, they said. Their experience in martial arts helps them make their singing crisp and strong, and when to breath and when to relax, said CJ who is also an instructor at the Kick Connection. He added that they are starting to include martial arts moves in their choreography.
Nanay Fe’s influence on her grandchildren goes beyond singing, she has also taught them Filipino values. When introduced to older persons here in the Philippines, all six will take their hand and place it on their forehead (pagmamano) as a sign of respect the Filipino way. They have limited knowledge of Tagalog and Cebuano language but they also use “po.”
Even before the siblings came to the Philippines in 2004, they are already familiar with Filipino dishes because their Nanay Fe had been preparing these. Even their mother, Alice, also cooks some Filipino dishes.
The group has performed in the Sinulog twice first in 2012 and then this year.
JAGMAC, which is destined for international success, has signed with De Angelis Entertainment, an international music company based in the United Kingdom. De Angelis Entertainment had managed Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia for her first eight years.
JAGMAC’s debut single Existence is now available on iTunes only in the Philippines as a form of tribute to their Filipino roots. Their album, still untitled, will be launched in April in the United Kingdom. (Photos by Aurelia Castro)
Visit their website at http://www.jagmacmusic.com/welcome and watch them here.