Chris Clemeno: Homecoming

NAGA CITY 8/24/17 (Bicol Standard) -- You can't miss Chris Clemeno when he walks into a room. Every inch of him screams stardom: his long silver ponytail, his Chinese-inspired tattoos, a couple of necklaces swinging on his neck.

Yet the musician, now 62, is every bit as humble as he was when his name was synonymous with folk music in Bicol back in the 70s.

Today, the mere mention of his name sends fans—male and female alike—sighing with fond memories as they recall where they were when Chris sang Jim Croche, John Denver, and James Taylor hits such as “Wandering,” “Country Roads Take Me Home,” “I Have To Say I Love You In A Song,” among many others.

He released an LP album, which had one of his original songs “The Captain.”

At one of the rare occasions that he has come home to Naga City, Chris sat down with BICOL STANDARD for a brief chit-chat about his life and career.

Born Chrisogonous Llorente Clemeno, the musician who is now based in Guangdong, China is married to a Chinese lady called Lu Yin Mei, whose name he has inked on his arm.

“I also have the yin-yang, a phoenix, and the biohazard symbol” he says while rolling up his sleeves to reveal the tattoos that give a glimpse into his introspective, philosophical nature.

“I’m basically a peaceful person. Habo kong kariribokan,” he explains.

He has five children from a previous marriage, all of whom inherited his love for music.

Nowadays, Chris plays the grand piano at the 4 Seas International House or Si Hai Yi Jia in China.

Once in a while, though, he still plays the guitar, for which he was known while he was still in Bicol.

His passion for music began when he was very young, as his mother used to play at the Naga Cathedral.

His mother enrolled him in violin and piano classes, although his interest at that time was really the guitar.

At the Naga Parochial School, Ateneo de Naga, and the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary, Chris continued to show his love for music, particularly popular and folk songs.

He was married to a former Miss Naga City, Teresa Napoles.

After his mom died in the 80s, he travelled to Japan, then to Oman, where he performed with a group.

These days he performs solo at the international-themed restaurant, serenading restaurant customers with mostly Spanish songs.

In November, when Chris turns 63, he says he still plans to continue with his musical career.

“Growing old is a priviledge,” he quips.

Asked by the BICOL STANDARD about what made him so successful and loved by Bicolanos, he responds with a humble shrug.

"Dai ako nagsasabi na successful ako. Bako man akong inaapod na pabongga,” he says. “I just love music.”

“That said, I am happy that Bicolanos remember me,” he adds.

To budding musicians, he has this piece of advice: “They should pursue their passion ta an musica mayong boundaries. Kun musikero ka, dai mo man iisipon an monetary returns. Sa music dipisil magsikat not unless igwa kang backer. But if it [music] is truly within you, you will succeed.”

To cap the conversation, he invited the BICOL STANDARD team to listen to him play the piano at a nearby hotel.

Although he has no scheduled performance, he asked if he could play something on the piano.

A few bars in, people quickly started forming a crowd around the crooner.

“Ay si Chris Clemeno!” one woman remarked.

When asked how much they had to pay him for his performance, he just replied with a smile.

“I just love music.”

“It’s nice to be home, indeed,” he said.