Calgary·Filipino Bureau

Famous Filipino musicians find new life in Calgary

The Filipino Bureau talks with three musicians from the Philippines who found success back home and are now living a different life in Calgary.

Carl Flores, Marco Guzman and Erik Peligrino discuss their former musical careers in the Philippines

Musician Carl Flores, former guitarist for the band Lovecore in The Philippines. (Eric Epie)

Fame is a curious thing.

It can be overwhelming, addictive, fleeting … and very regional.

Calgary is home to some famous movie stars, musicians, models, beauty queens and comedians who you've probably never heard of.

These are people with huge followings in other countries, or within their community, who are relative unknowns to most people on the streets of Calgary.

As part of CBC Calgary's Filipino Pop-up bureau, we heard from three members of Calgary's up-and-coming Filipino music community earlier this month, who said there are big name musical stars back in the Philippines who have picked up their lives and moved to Calgary. Paul Karchut tracked down three of these musicians and sat down with them for an interview.

Drummer Marco Guzman found success in The Philippines playing with the band Kitchie Nadal. (Submitted by Marco Guzman)

Marco Guzman is the former drummer of the band Kitchie Nadal, which found great success in the Philippines in the early 2000s.

Carl Flores is the former keyboard player for King — a singer in the Phillipines. He was also the guitarist for the band Lovecore.

And Ken 'Kokoy' Ji, also known as Erik Peligrino, was the long-time bass player for The Mocha Girls. He also had a brief stint playing with one of the most legendary bands to come out of the Philippines, Nexus.

  • Click on the audio below to hear the full interview.

All three said life in Canada has been an adjustment, for the most part letting go of their past fame.

"If it's something that's brought up, I don't hesitate to talk about it, but at the same time I want to keep both feet on the ground," said Carl Flores, the former keyboard player for Filipino singer King.

"For me, even before I came to Canada, I kind of reconciled my life as a musician," Flores said. "I always knew in the back of my mind that being a musician is going to be hard to get through, especially if you're not the front person. When I got here, I knew that music is going to be there, it's not going to leave, it's a matter of finding the right balance now, especially now I have two kids."

Flores now works as a commercial manager in oil and gas.

"It was hard to leave at first. It's hard to leave because as all these musicians know, being a musician is so much fun, but that's not what my path was," he said.

Marco Guzman said he also had to prepare himself to give up the fame.

"Being somewhat of a rock star status, the fans would follow you everywhere," he said. "They would give you stuff like drawings of you, or pictures of whatever. It has its perks," he said.

Guzman said moving to Canada, where he now works in maintenance and sanitation, was an adjustment.

"From a musician, writing, lyricist, poet, artist, and then, suddenly you have this push brush, you're like cleaning. That's tough man," he said. "Like you're in Rexall and doing that broom."

Guzman said as difficult as it was to leave his music career, he wanted to seek a better life in Canada.

"It was hard for me to make that decision, but I had to," Guzman said. "I kept telling myself, this is not real. I was on that plane, and I found myself crying," he said. "It's a bittersweet kind of thing, because you're leaving everything. I was leaving everything that I know, and the music, my friends, the art."

Ken Ji also known as Erik Peligrino, is the former long-time bassist for The Mocha Girls in the Philippines. (Submitted by Erik Peligrino)

And Ken 'Kokoy' Ji, also known as Erik Peligrino, said he moved to Canada with his former wife, and the hope for a better life. But he knew it meant giving up the music career.

"Back home I'd been doing music for 17 long years and playing was my bread and butter," Peligrino said. "When I got here, maybe in a month I just got to play twice."

Musician Edz Cultura says meeting the seasoned musicians in Canada was mind blowing.

"I was star-struck when I first met these guys. Because in the Philippines they are guarded by bouncers, police, you can't get close. And here, I drink with Marco and we like the same drink."

For Marco Guzman, Canada is now home.

"You have to work for it. Like everything else in this world you have to work hard for it," Guzman said. "I love this, I mean Calgary is very beautiful, man, I gotta be honest. I love the snow. I came from a tropical country and I love the cold."

Flores said living in Canada has provided different creative opportunities.

"You grow with what you have, and you find ways to be creative with what you're dealt … for me coming here, obviously I didn't know anybody, and I didn't know about the music scene," he said, adding that he turned to church groups to connect with other musicians," he said.

"I focused myself on learning music production instead of live music, to keep my sort of creative outlet going. I miss playing live, but at the same time, you know this for me is a good alternative."


Paul Karchut

CBC Calgary

Paul is the host of Daybreak Alberta, heard across the province every weekend. He's been with CBC since 2005, twelve years of which were spent as the director of the Calgary Eyeopener. You've also heard his national car column, Karchut on Cars, on morning shows across the country for years. Join Paul weekend mornings across Alberta from 6-9.

With files from Pamela Fieber