How Rey Valera became an OPM icon

The bio-film Kahit Maputi Na Ang Buhok Ko: The Music of Rey Valera, directed by Joven Tan, is one of the eight entries to the first Summer Metro Manila Film Festival slated on 8 to 18 April

The time has come for Rey Valera’s hit songs in the ‘90s to be reimagined into a movie. And it looks like among his more than a dozen certified hits, Kahit Maputi na Ang Buhok Ko is the most popular of them all.

Saranggola Media Productions has titled Valera’s bio-film Kahit Maputi Na Ang Buhok Ko: The Music of Rey Valera, and it’s one of the eight entries to the first Summer Metro Manila Film Festival slated on 8 to 18 April.

The song was first recorded and popularized as a single by Sharon Cuneta in 1978 when she was just 12. It was a quick follow-up to Cuneta’s first Valera song, Mr. DJ, which was released as a single.

Pinoys love both Valera compositions. And Cuneta has the singular distinction of having been a child singer who made waves singing ditties about being old and about a past she was yet to experience.

But those two Valera compositions were not Cuneta’s first recordings. She had earlier waxed another seemingly inappropriate song for a 12-year-old: Tawag ng Pag-ibig.

That piece of musical yarn is definitely not about a call for love of country. It was not a Valera piece, but just like  Kahit Maputi Na ang Buhok Ko and Mr. DJ, Tawag ng Pag-ibig was commissioned for Cuneta by her uncle at Vicor Music Corporation, the then non-politician Tito Sotto who was vice president of the company.

Sotto’s wife is actor-singer Helen Gamboa, a sister of Cuneta’s late mom Elaine. (Cuneta’s father was the late Pablo Cuneta, who was Pasay City mayor for the longest time until Cory Aquino’s administration.)


In his early 20’s, Valera was able to join a band that played in Japan for seven years.


Sotto was largely instrumental for the guitar-playing Valera being hired by Vicor in the ‘70s to be a resident composer for the company’s recording artists, though Valera himself would become as famous as the talents he churned out songs for.

Even “Valera” as the composer-singer’s showbiz surname was a decision made by Sotto. Valera’s real surname is “Guardiano,” and he was born and raised in Meycauyan, Bulacan. His late mother, though, is a Valera. In the bio-film, she is portrayed as a prayerful church-going person who had a mysterious death in Tondo, Manila.

The film has Valera himself, now 68 years old, as narrator. The first part depicts his very difficult childhood marked by poverty due to his parents’ early separation. Valera and a younger brother (Valera’s only sibling) had to keep changing residences and schools within a year because they had to go with their father, whom Valera said was a school teacher. In the film, his father (played by Ariel Rivera) is portrayed as someone who loves to drink.

Valera had a traumatizing childhood in the hands of harsh relatives they had to live with after their mother’s death (the mother is played by Ariel’s real-life wife, Gelli de Belen). In his teens, Valera managed to join church choirs, and a girlfriend from one choir taught him how to play the guitar so he could forget the pain of maltreatment and poverty.

The film has a lot of scenes shot in a provincial cemetery, because the family that raised Valera and his brother lived next to a graveyard. In that graveyard, he would witness the life of a sex worker (Rossana Roces) trying to earn not just for herself but for an invalid live-in partner (Ronnie Lazaro).


photograph by Gideon Estella courtesy of ig/ Rey Valera Rey Valera

Promising demos

In his early 20’s, Valera was able to join a band that played in Japan for seven years. It was after his stint with that band that he began to write songs. He auditioned his demo tapes with Vicor, and one executive found his kind of songs promising even if Valera revealed to him that they were recorded in a garage converted into a crude recording studio.

Rico J Puno was one of the hottest Vicor stars at that time. The executive asked him to compose a song for Puno with the title Ako si Superman (Pag Kasama Kita). Valera did it. When the demo was passed on to Puno, he rejected the song, reasoning out that he was already known to be a braggart, and calling himself “superman” might already turn off people.

Since the executive knew that Valera himself wanted to be a recording talent, he let Valera record the song (this was still the age of vinyl discs). Puno himself would later on record Valera compositions as singles or part of an album.

And the rest is history. The film that now attempts to chronicle his life looks and feels like an extended dramatic music video of Valera’s hits, which include Kung Kailangan Mo Ako. Walang Kapalit, Malayo Pa Ang Umaga, Maging Sino Ka Man and Kung Tayo ay Magkakalayo.

The film has a casting coup of sorts: Gardo Versoza and Aljur Abrenica, who separately portrayed the macho komiks character Machete (Versoza in a movie, Abrenica in a GMA 7 series), appear as main characters in the narrative for the song Walang Kapalit.

Valera revealed that it’s a gay man’s song for a boyfriend whom he knew would never love him back. Versoza portrayed the gay man. And most touchingly!

Valera further revealed that he wrote the song upon the request of a portly male singer-actor-comedian whom the larger public didn’t know was gay. He passed on in the ‘90s, by which time he had become a talent manager.



The film is directed by Joven Tan, who was a music magazine editor for years before he wrote and directed sexy movies for FLT Films. He is actually a composer himself, with songs that have emerged finalists in the ABS-CBN Himig-Handog songwriting composition. Some of his songs have also been recorded by hit singers.

After his productive years helming sex-oriented films, Tan has practically switched to making movies with
spiritual-religious shades and musical elements. He directed Suarez, the Healing Priest also for Saranggola Media, whose main producer is Edith Fider. There was also Tatlong Bibe, topbilled by three child actors portraying prayerful impoverished children. It was the last film of Eddie Garcia.

Tan’s last film before this one is the
semi-musical bio-film on Isko “Moreno” Domagoso, shown shortly before the presidential election in which Domagoso was a contender.

Most hit pop songs are about romantic love, and those of Valera are no different. But in the film, Tan created a visual narrative that made the love song Kung Kailangan Mo Ako appear like it’s God assuring the forlorn and the forsaken that He is always their refuge, and always ready to love them.

Drama actor RK Bagatsing plays Valera, but he simply lip-synched the songs.

The film has a cast of durable, highly esteemed actors in short roles (not just cameos), among them Christopher de Leon and De Leon’s (adopted) daughter Lotlot.

At the press conference for the film, Valera said he is aware that many of his songs have inspired people to carry on with life and to keep holding on until they reap some kind of success, and he is happy and humbled to have his life’s work have that kind of effect on listeners.

Watch Kahit Maputi Na Ang Buhok Ko: The Music of Rey Valera and sing along to your favorite Valera hits inside the moviehouse. Hold hands. Stand up and wave while Valera is singing to you. Movies really ought to be a fun and moving experience.

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