Not too long ago, it was easy to spot Vidalito “Bong” Infante. At the Glorietta Mall, Robinsons Magnolia, and Power Plant Mall, the wiry septuagenarian was a natural crowd-drawer, entertaining shoppers of all ages with his lively and passionate style of piano playing.
“Showman talaga siya. He’s a very colorful person,” says Raymund Sison Javier of Bong, whom he first met as a third-grader in 1978. In addition to being his vocal coach, the pianist played the organ at his school, Holy Trinity Academy, in Balic-Balic, Sampaloc.
“In church, the organist is usually at the back of the altar with the choir,” explains Raymund. “But our parish priest put Bong in front. A lot of people attended Mass to watch him play.” (Read: Meet the ‘Pinoy Forrest Gump’ Who Still Runs at Age 70)
With the arrival of COVID-19, the pianist was nowhere to be found. Until recently, that is. On January 17, 2021, Bong resurfaced on Facebook Live, playing timeless hits in the joyous manner that endeared him to fans.
Held in Raymund’s home, the one-hour-17-minute show immediately went viral and was even followed with online concerts in February and March. The online audience loved Bong’s performances, so much so that they made pledges and donations for the pianist who hasn’t been able to work since the pandemic!
His Bread and Butter
Originally from Laoang, Northern Samar, Bong, played the organ at Holy Trinity Academy from 1972 to 1989. He was a freelance demo pianist for local piano manufacturer Lyric Piano in the 1990s, and most notably played in malls, beginning with Power Plant Mall in 2004.
“Here’s a bit of trivia about him,” says Raymund. “He doesn’t have his own piano!” Instead, he plays on the piano at the Javier residence, just three streets away from the home he shares with his nephews and nieces.
Bong, who can read notes and play ouido, even enhanced his note-reading skills with the help of Raymund’s mother, classical pianist Lourdes Javier. (Read: 5 Pieces That Will Take Your Breath Away at the Musée du Louvre)
All was well until the pandemic struck in 2020. With malls closed and senior citizens aged 65 years old and up barred from leaving the house, 72-year-old Bong is not allowed to play in, let alone visit malls.
“That’s my biggest frustration,” he says. “There are people my age who are still strong and healthy!” (Read: Alberto Orillo, 102yo WW2 Veteran, Reveals His Secret to Long Life)
For now, he’s found a safe platform to perform in and a growing audience to entertain. Since his viral concerts, Bong has had inquiries from a number of TV networks— and that’s no less than the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra!
Fans of the Bong Infante can catch his next live online concert here on Sunday, April 11, at 6 pm. He and his family are accepting donations through his GCash and BDO accounts.