PNoy and his music: Just as he shared of himself, so will his music be shared

As his extensive audio collection is donated to Ateneo, an old friend recalls how the late president loved to give people the CDs he loved, how songs marked his life's high and low moments

In Zoom photo, Mr. Dodo Dee turns over a symbolic bunch of CDs, from PNOY’s collection, to Dr. Vernon Totanes, director of the Rizal Library of Ateneo de Manila University.

PNOY’s chair, where he sat to listen to music, at the Rizal Library during the donation of his audio collection (Photo by Didi Lopa)

(The author wrote this as tribute to his life-long friend, the late President Benigno S. Aquino III or PNoy and his love of music, to mark the donation of the extensive audio collection of PNoy to the Rizal Library of the Ateneo de Manila University. The turnover ceremony, “A Gift of Music from PNoy,” was held this afternoon, February 24, at Rizal Library. PNoy’s brother-in-law, Mr. Dodo Dee, turned over the collection on behalf of the Aquino family to Dr. Vernon Totanes, director of Rizal Library. In his remarks, Ateneo president Fr. Roberto Yap noted the imprint PNoy left at Ateneo, as student, as democracy fighter, and as servant leader. Dr. Maria Luz Vilchez, vice president of the Ateneo Loyola Schools noted how this audio collection was akin to sharing a big part of PNoy the person.—Editor) 

Ateneo de Manila University president Fr. Roberto Yap giving remarks at turnover ceremony

I am so happy the CD collection of PNoy will be donated to the Ateneo De Manila Rizal Library. I know that this is how PNoy would have wanted it to be. I write this to give meaning and to explain PNoy and his music, and why donate it to the Rizal Library.

Like most young people in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we all enjoyed music and learned to love songs that captured our life situation then, and our aspirations and longings.  We shared music as a way of sharing our own thoughts, impressions, and feelings with each other.  Each song was enjoyed for the melody and the lyrics that captured those emotions and feelings, but it was also about capturing experiences, challenges, victories, failures, friendships and relationships.  A favorite relax time when allowances were depleted was to hang out in someone’s car parked under the tree in the parking lot near the chemistry building or Rizal Library. Many of us shared these music moments until one day Fr. Schmitt, the Head of the Chemistry Department at that time, came out and told us off as the music was too loud that he could hear it in his office. A friend had just installed new speakers and wanted to show everyone how powerful his base was, playing a disco tune.

PNoy loved and enjoyed music but he always wanted to share his music choices. When he found a new song that he liked he would share it with many of us.  “Have you heard………?” I would often hear him ask, then he would offer to have me listen to it.  When he was in Boston, he would send me and many others, cassette tapes of new songs he would find there in the US.  When he got back to the country and had time, he would even burn CDs of a selection of songs he would share with his friends. I lived in Cebu after I got married and he would regularly send me CDs he burned of a selection of songs.  I now have a separate rack of all the CDs he burned for me.

We upgraded to CDs as there were no more cassette tapes to be recorded on and there were no more cassette players. Eventually, when he was in government as a congressman, too busy to burn CDs, he would send copies of CDs he bought to his friends.

When PNoy shared a CD or a song with you, he was sharing himself too

People were amazed he could spend so much time in a CD store going over the available inventory and when he found something he liked he would buy more than one copy. People thought he liked it so much he wanted extra copies. When I was with him in a CD store and saw him buy more than one copy, he would tell me he bought an extra copy of this CD because he remembered a friend who may also like it. He enjoyed and loved his music but he enjoyed it more sharing it with others.  When PNoy shared a CD or a song with you he was sharing himself too, it showed his choice and preference, but most of all it showed his pure desire to share something beautiful, something meaningful with you.

When I hear one of our common favorites I could remember maybe a person, or an event, or a situation.  PNoy’s life could be documented through the songs he liked at certain stages of his life, certain situations, or persons.  Yes, of course, there were memories of crushes and women in his life as referenced to music.  He was a very romantic person, especially with his music.  I could tell his mood or perspective by the music he was listening to.  This is true for many of us music lovers, our choices of music at a certain time, is dependent on the situation of the present or the memory of a past.

On his very first SONA he spent a few hours in his old room in Times Street, listening to music to prepare to face the nation to account for his first year as President.  I remember him telling me one of the songs he listened to was Noel Pointer’s Superwoman. We always told him to pace his speech as sometimes he would talk too fast.  I assumed he wanted an upbeat but well-paced tempo as well as uplifting melody.

Eventually instead of individual CDs the music server technology allowed songs to be loaded and to select personal playlists. Like many of us, he made playlists as he liked them and often made playlists depending on his mood or perspective. I have said PNoy prayed through his music, so he had a number of playlists of his favorite religious songs.  I know he had playlist for the times he was happy and of course, the times he was sad.  He had a playlist when he felt romantic or for the times he was lonely.  Others have asked for copies of his playlists but that is forever captured in the music server he used and best kept there in private. On the occasion of the donation to the Rizal Library, Dodo Dee, PNoy’s brother-in-law, suggested that we make public one of his playlists.

PNoy made a playlist which he entitled as JAZZ MA COOL, a term we used in college

PNoy made a playlist which he entitled JAZZ MA COOL, a term we used when we were in college to represent relaxing with jazz music. As we grew older the same term was used to listen to music to cool heads down. I created the playlist on Spotify for everyone to enjoy, however there are a couple of songs in his original playlist not found on Spotify. I think he would have preferred to share songs and CDs, not his playlist.  So very him, wanting to share beautiful music but not the challenges or down moments.  Private as he was, he wanted to keep the emotions to himself and instead share the joy and beauty of music.

These were the songs that was part of PNoy’s JAZZ MA COOL playlist.

Café Regio’s – Isaac Hayes

Superwoman – Noel Pointer

Tequila Mockingbird – Ramsey Lewis

Tequila Mockingbird – Deedee Bridgewater

It’s The Falling in Love – Deedee Bridgewater

Fool on the Hill – Sarah Vaughn

Love Notes – Ramsey Lewis

Back of Your Mind – Deedee Bridgewater

Love Won’t Let Me Go – Deedee Bridgewater

I Wish Right Now Would Never End – David Benoit

Promise Me A Carousel – David Benoit

Hermosa Skyline – David Benoit

Braziliana – Manfredo Fest

Movin’ In – Noel Pointer

I feel Your Soul – Noel Pointer

Together Again – Stanley Clarke

Spring High – Ramsey Lewis

Because of the pandemic, we would spend time on the phone on a weekend afternoon, him in his music room at Times Street and me in my home.  He would tell me to look for a particular song, a particular singer, a particular version of a song because he wanted to share the wonderful experience of enjoying it.  There were times he would recommend an all too foreign song. There was a Brazilian song which he found and liked; we both could not understand the lyrics, but he wanted me to hear the powerful and passionate singing by the singer. I liked the song which I found to be quite emotional, and I thought it was a passionate love song. We both laughed when he eventually told me the translated lyrics was about the amazon river. A lesson on the power and emotion of melody even without lyrics.

This was PNoy and his music, a man who willingly shared and was meant to be shared with many, a whole nation in fact.  I say with conviction that our nation was privileged to have been shared a man, a leader who truly cared for the people. One who aspired not for himself but wanted to spread prosperity for all, specially the wanting.  A man who shared himself and sacrificed so much for doing right. He sacrificed his own dreams and aspirations of a normal life like any man, to have a wife and his own family.  Instead, he responded to the greater call to serve a cause, and eventually a nation.  As was taught us through many years of Jesuit education, he was “A Man for Others”.

Just as he shared of himself, so will his music be shared as he always wanted it so.  Now that it will be part of the Rizal Library, young music lovers today and in the generations to come will have the opportunity to enjoy it.   I am so sure this is how PNoy would want his music collection to be shared.

To close, I share this final anecdote.

David Benoit and PNoy

I have read that when David Benoit was starting his recording career, he was not that popular yet in the US.  He was playing in jazz bars and events in LA. His manager got a call asking if he would be willing to come to the Philippines. They agreed to do it and when they came, he was so very surprised at how popular he was here.  He said he was pleasantly surprised that he was to do a full concert at the Cultural Center to a crowd of several thousands. He remembered seeing his name in big bold lighted signage as the backdrop of the stage. This is how he fell in love with the Filipinos and the Philippines.  During the difficult times leading to the Edsa revolution, he could not come but was following attentively what was happening here. Eventually he recorded his composition, a Hymn for Aquino, as a tribute.

David Benoit gave PNoy a vinyl record…The 2nd song is entitled Hymn for Aquino

In 2014, David Benoit did a concert at the Resorts World Performing Arts Theater which PNoy attended.  I was privileged to have been with him. David Benoit was so pleased when he was told that PNoy was there in his concert. After the concert they met and had a chance to talk.  David Benoit gave PNoy a vinyl record of David Benoit’s This Side Up.  The 2nd song on Side 2 of that record is entitled Hymn for Aquino.

Days later the vinyl record was in his office, and he gave it to me for safe keeping.  I knew when PNoy wanted to give me something, as he would say, “Para sa iyo ito ‘pre,” as he did for many CDs.  He gave me the vinyl record and said, “Pakitago ito para sa akin.” He no longer had vinyl records as he had shifted to CDs years before. He knew I still kept a collection of vinyl records.  He decided I could take better care of this important album for him.  I knew I was just to take care of it for him.

When he passed away, I did not know what to do with it.  Now I know I am supposed to give it to the Rizal Library as well.  There is a story behind this one vinyl record that has to be told and put in perspective, why among the very many CDs there is this one vinyl record.

Take good care of this one, Rizal Library. It is a gift of a great artist not just to PNoy but to the Filipino people who once upon a time stood up for democracy, ignited by the death of a man. A hymn for Aquino, a hymn for the Filipino.

Ogie Alcasid singing ‘Nandito Ako,’ one of the songs in PNoy’s playlist, during the turnover ceremony at Rizal Library

Response of the Aquino family given by Mr. Dodo Dee

Thank you Fr. Bobby for your most kind welcome remarks.

To Dr. Vilches, Mr. Ang, Ms. Balmoris, Dr. Cortez, Dr. Nicdao, Mr. Rivera, Dr. Vergara, officials and staff of the Ateneo, in particular the Rizal Library team headed by Dr. Totanes, friends, family and colleagues of PNoy, and to all those participating via Zoom and those present here; with a special shoutout too to Noel and Ogie for performing some of PNoy’s favorites for us.

Noel Cabangon singing ‘Kung Maputi na Ang Buhok Ko’ at turnover ceremony

Ladies & Gentlemen:

Thank you all for gracing us with your presence this afternoon.

On behalf of the Aquino Family, I’d like to thank the Ateneo and its Rizal Library for hosting today’s turnover rites, and for graciously accepting to house President Noy’s Audio Collection. Composed of his CD’s, hand-written notes, sound system, specialized components, his listening chair, and his audio magazine library, this is a personal collection that he held most dear. In his lifetime, he listened to at least 8600 albums, as evidenced by the serial numbers that he personally marked on each played album.

We look forward to working with Sir Von and his most capable team in curating the Collection. We are humbled that you intend to make the music and its narrative accessible; to give students and listeners a unique glimpse of a President who built an encyclopedic knowledge over a lifetime of research, appreciation, and fellowship.

Fondly remembering PNoy, with his deep and nuanced understanding of music and sound reproduction, I must say, it brings to mind the battle-hardened samurai and accomplished daimyo of old, who were the highest practitioners of the Tea Ceremony.

Careful study and practice of ceremony forged character; for beneath their scarred and weary surface lies much more than meets the eye: calmness of soul, focus of mind, unyielding discipline, and balance in execution.

The David Benoit vinyl given PNoy by Benoit himself

Many of us here took active part in PNoy’s musical journey. You even may have been influenced willingly or cajoled into the same path. Whether it was by sharing a favorite playlist, discussing the technical merits of a component or music format, finding a prized CD, discussing the life and legacy of a favorite artist, or just taking the time to listen, you too contributed to the shaping and building of this Collection.

Thank you for bringing him warmth and joy by sharing in his music. He may have been unlucky in love, but he was so blessed with your loyalty, affection, and enduring support.

In commemoration, we’d like to send you all a favorite playlist of PNoy’s. It is accompanied by a most heartfelt tribute from Sec. Rene, a lifelong friend and fellow audio buff. Please drop as a line with your email address in this Zoom meet’s chat to receive a copy.

Noy, your prized possession is now in good hands. You’ll be pleased to know that future generations can now discover, share & enjoy what has always brought you so much joy & inspiration.

Sa pagtatapos, maraming salamat sa inyong mga nagpasaya kay Noy sa gitna ng lahat ng kanyang pinagdaanan. Hindi mauubos ang aming pasasalamat sa inyo.

Magandang hapon po sa ating lahat.

Noel Cabangon singing ‘Ang Mabuting Filipino’ at turnover ceremony

Read more:

Dear PNoy, happy birthday!

How PNoy pushed and inspired his young staff

About author


A former government official and now a corporate executive, he and PNoy were schoolmates at the Ateneo.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Sign up for’s Weekly Digest and get the best of, tailored for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *