Text by Henrylito D. Tacio
Photos from LJ’s Facebook account
“Music expresses feeling and thought, without language; it was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words.” – Robert G. Ingersoll
“If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you? The words will never show you I’ve come to know. If a face could launch a thousand ships, then where am I to go?”
Sounds familiar? Those were lines from the song “If” and sung by a group named “Bread.” Well, that was also the song being played by LJ Manzano’s mother that inspired him to become what he is now.
LJ was 12 years old at that time. “When I saw my mom playing that song, I was encouraged to play the guitar,” he recalled. “Later on, I realized I started singing pop and rock music and even my own original songs secretly.”
Yes, he is more of a songwriter than a singer. “I was more of a song writer and a virtuoso guitarist during my school years,” he admitted. There was a time when he did some backup singing, and he considered it as “the bravest thing I’ve done in singing.” His reason: “That was the time when I formed my bands called ‘The Beatitudes’ and ‘Myxtreme.’”
If you are still wondering what LJ stands for, it’s Lover Jay. He is the second, youngest and only son of Fely Manzano and Angelito Te. His eldest sister is named Love Joy. “Ten years ang gap namin ng sister ko,” he said.
LJ graduated from Davao Central High School in 1999. In 2006, he graduated from Ateneo de Davao University (majoring in Mass Communications) and North Valley College (Nursing). Yes, he finished two courses. “I didn’t like these courses but I have to do it since I was afraid that my sister wouldn’t support me financially if I didn’t finish college, especially nursing,” he revealed.
In 2009, LJ went to London to study health and social care. But deep down in his heart, he wanted to make music there personally, especially that as a solo guitarist, he has gained more than 4 million views on YouTube. “As guitar instrumentalist, I wanted to extend my guitar skills to other nationalities,” he said.
What he wanted to do came when he was invited to the biggest Christian gathering in O2 Arena (Hillsong Conference), where almost 10 thousand people attended. “When the Hillsong invited me to be part of their Music Team, I played for the opening part,” he said.
That was the beginning. Every time foreigners saw him playing his guitar instruments – whether live in pubs or in streets and concerts, his CDs were always sold out in just a matter of 30 minutes.
In 2011, LJ returned to the Philippines since he had to renew his Visa. “I went home earlier since I badly miss the joy of being home,” he said, “As the saying goes, there’s no place like home.”
It was at this time that the group named MP3 came into existence. “I formed the MP3 to make my imaginations come into reality,” he said, adding that he wanted to fulfill his dream of making a unique band with a different setup of having human beatbox, crazy tapping guitars, and still with a singer.
LJ contacted a fellow Dabawenyo singer named Aries Sales and offered him the kind of setup he had in mind. He also called a friend to refer him to a human beatbox. “Aries is a very good rapper, no doubt. His voice also fits the genre I wanted to pursue.” As for McKoy Fbe, he describes him as “more of a hip-hop influence.”
LJ disclosed, “I met both halfway para mag jive ang style nila. That’s why our music is more of a fusion – not so typical. But Aries and McKoy are definitely very good musicians.”
On how the name came to be, he explained, “I was the one who thought of MP3 as the name of the band since there are three of us. But on what MP3 stands for, we discussed and came up with Music Playing on 3. We also thought of ‘Manny Pacquiao fan kaming 3.’ But the name and the idea about MP3 started with my own thinking.”
Then came the unexpected; MP3 found themselves among the contenders in the Pilipinas Got Talent Season 4. “As a musical arranger of this group, I really took the responsibility of what we will do on stage,” he said. “The medley song (Come Together, Billie Jean, Moves Like Jagger, Yugyugan Na, and the Mission Impossible Theme) we always play on our gigs that caught the attention of people was the piece I arranged especially for the MP3 Band.”
That’s what he does for the Band, although he is not doing it so much these days. On who selects the songs the band will perform, he replied: “In serious competitions and events, I choose and finalize what songs to be played on stage, but suggestions are open to my band mates,” he said. “And of course, in not-so-serious gigs, my band mates can play the songs they like.”
LJ’s final words on having to do what a person wants in life: “First, if you are still a student, finish your school since nothing is certain except death. Secondly, believe in yourself if you really have the talent. Thirdly, when you are applauded on stage, forget that applause when you go home baka kasi di natin alam dun pala lumalaki ulo natin. In short, be humble in God’s eyes and to the people’s eyes as well. Lastly, realize when to stop because nothing is permanent in show business. Accepting this fact means you know how to move on.”