Tacloban boy band wins ovation in Haiyan benefit concert

The Reo Brothers Band. Photos by Elton Lugay

The Reo Brothers Band. Photos by Elton Lugay

By Elton Lugay

Raymart Otic pinched his cheek to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.

He and siblings Reno, Ralph and RJ – professionally known as the Reo Brothers Band — had just finished performing the Beatles’s hit “Help” at the Madison Square Garden.

Four months ago, they lost their home in Tacloban to typhoon Haiyan and ended up washed away in relatives’ homes in Manila. Trying to pick up the pieces of their scattered lives, the brothers searched within themselves hoping to find the inner strength to keep going. They knew they had music in their veins, they formed a band, and began to croon Beatles’ songs in various clubs around Metro Manila. Their talent and their story caught nationwide attention until they were invited to perform in a fundraising concert in New York.

“We are so humbled, grateful to be here,” Raymart said to The FilAm after their number.

‘Here’ is Madison Square Garden where the Reo Brothers shared a stage with Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson, Oscars winner Robert Lopez…and Apl.de.Ap, Jessica Sanchez, Charice, the Plain White T’s pop band, and a roster of A-list musical performers.

They all performed at the March 11 Pinoy Relief benefit concert at the MSG’s The Theatre, with a capacity of about 6,000. The Reo Brothers sang to rousing applause and standing ovation, these young men from Tacloban, Leyte, who epitomized a people and a region that managed to overcome the challenges nature had thrown their way.

“Tonight’s celebration is about enabling Pinoy Relief to empower people to get back on their feet,” said CEO Tony Alvarez of the professional consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal. He organized the concert with his daughter Monica Alvarez Mitchell.

Alvarez praised the resilience of the Filipino and “the simpleness of their generosity.”

“Their dignity ennobles you, it makes you want to do more,” he said.

The concert topbilled names the Reo Brothers used to admire from afar. But that night they came alive in their eyes and through the energy of their music: Charice sang “The Way You Look Tonight;” American Idol finalist Jessica Sanchez performed “Let It Go” accompanied on the piano by the song’s Oscars-winning composer Robert Lopez; Apl.de.Ap of Black Eyed Peas was there and so were Jennifer Hudson, Plain White Tees, Dante Basco, Pentatonix and more. Dr. Oz made a special appearance.

Restaurant owner Nicole Ponseca of Maharlika and Jeepney said she “felt wonderful” watching the concert and being among the thousands in the audience. “They made Filipinos so happy to be here.”

CEO Tony Alvarez and wife Gail

CEO Tony Alvarez and wife Gail

Jessica Sanchez belts out 'Let It Go' with composer Robert Lopez

Jessica Sanchez belts out ‘Let It Go’ with composer Robert Lopez, who won an Oscars for the song just weeks earlier

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