Remembering Rico J. Puno

Enrico de Jesus Puno better known as Rico J. Puno, was a Filipino singer, composer, comedian, actor and television host who was credited as a pioneer-promoter of Original Pilipino Music. He started the trend of incorporating Tagalog lyrics in covers of foreign songs beginning with his rendition of the American song “The Way We Were”. Puno became known as a singer who regularly infused his on-stage performance with tongue-in-cheek comedy and adult humor.

Puno began his career in the entertainment business by performing at folk houses and small clubs in Metro Manila. In 1975, while singing at the Palazzi, Puno met and performed with the American Motown group, The Temptations. Puno’s hard work would eventually pay off when on one fateful night the top executives of Vicor hosted a dinner for Lionel Ritchie and the Commodores at the Spindle on Banawe Avenue. It was Lionel who singled Rico out to the record executives saying that Mr. Puno is a gold mine where record sales would be concerned. The movies and record deals started to come in soon after.

Eventually, after unparalleled success a U.S. Concert Tour came into the picture. The band consisted of Danny Bornilla on bass, Jun Latanio as MD and a 25 piece All-American orchestra which toured through eight cosmopolitan cities. That roadshow literally opened up the door for succeeding OPM Concerts in the US Mainland.

In 1976, Puno won the Aliw Award for Most Promising Entertainer. Two years later, he became Aliw’s Entertainer of the Year. His Rico in Concert show at the Cultural Center of the Philippines launched him as one of the foremost Philippine pop stars.

In 1978, Puno’s popularity and his regular concerts at the Araneta Coliseum (now SMART Araneta Coliseum) in Quezon City and his performance tours in the United States broke records in terms of audience attendance. His fame also made him into a sought-after product endorser including advertisements for San Miguel Beer.

In 1979, Puno represented the Philippines at the Tokyo Music Festival, with Lupa (Ground), a song that imparted messages on how an individual could strive to change for the better, on how to gain humility and other human values, on how not to judge others, and on how to struggle against one’s own weaknesses.

Rico J. Puno died of heart failure on October 30, 2018, at St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City. He was 65.

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