Thursday, October 23, 2008

Former Tawag ng Tanghalan winner Mar Dureza keeps on singing

By Yong B. Chavez

As Nelson Doreza, he was "Tawag ng Tanghalan's" undefeated singing champ for 12 weeks. The American Idol-like talent show was the Philippines' most popular in the '60s. His reign as 1968's winningest singer followed then-nascent superstar Nora Aunor's successful run the previous year. They later worked together in the movie "Bahay Kubo Kahit Munti".

The singer now goes by Mar Dureza but neither name-change nor time has dimmed his talent. He has been living in America for more than two decades now. In his early days in America, Mar used his architecture background to work as a draftsman in Chicago for 10 years while singing regularly in local lounges and concert arenas.

He and his wife, Bella, who's his biggest fan and supporter, are currently enjoying their retirement years in Florida but making music is something he says he won't retire from.

"I had a stroke in June of 2005. Now, three years later, I feel alive and kicking once again, although I lost the ability to play guitar because of the effect of the stroke on my left side. However, my voice is as good as ever," he says.

On December 27, 2008, at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, he will be the recipient of the Hall of Fame awards for achievement in music and art from the Chicago Philippine Reports Television.

His biggest project to-date is his recently released CD called "Maalala Mo Kaya" where he covers popular Filipino love songs called kundiman. Songs in the CD include absolute Filipino classics like Saan Ka Man Naroon, Kapantay Ay Langit, Matud Nila, among others.

In a time when current events might be spurring in you a yearning for the good old days, listening to Dureza's soothing voice singing melodious Filipino songs of yesteryears might do the trick. His CD is available for purchase through

Here's more on Mar:
"One Monday night in February of 1968 I defeated the reigning champion and went on for 12 consecutive weeks successfully defending my title. On the 13th week, Patsy & Pugo, who were the regular emcees of the show, advised me to retire to give others a chance on the championship. The truth of the matter was that the regional finals was approaching and they needed more champions to compete. In order to qualify one should have at least won two weeks. Edgar Mortiz had a lot of weeks to his credit earlier that year but was not competing in the finals because he was already fast becoming a star with the growing Vilma-Edgar tandem.

Although I wanted to win some more weeks, I reluctantly retired under the pressure and my 13th appearance in the show was just as a guest relinquishing my crown to whoever won 1st place that particular night."

"I hit the nightclubs circuit instead of going into television and performed professionally all over the Philippines and the Far East. Coming home in 1977 I realized I needed to change my name from Nelson Doreza to Mar Dureza which is actually the shortened version of my real name Mariano Nelson Doreza. Filipino sounding Mar Dureza came quite naturally and easily stuck to the minds of the audiences of "Astral Villa" and "The Manila Garden Hotel" where I performed regularly from 1978-1981 before I came to the USA on a petition visa from my father."

"I was very unfortunate not to land on a recording job for myself in the Philippines...It seemed that the big stars always got the parts before I did. No wonder my greatest passion was to be able to record something. Here in the U.S., I had my chance when I met Warren Kime, a friend who took interest in the idea of doing an album of Filipino music.

First thing that came to my mind was an album of timeless music - the nostalgic [quality] of kundiman that never grows old and stands the test of time. Not having heard of the Filipino sound before, Warren Kime, who happened to be a band leader, great trumpet player and arranger was faced with a challenge of his musical career. But as I tried to explain it, I may have told him to imagine serenading a beautiful lady with guitars and mandolins and whatever he could think of. He well may have gotten the picture as the result of our little labor of love came out to be something simply perfect as I have expected it. We recorded and released the album in cassette and it was played and sold all over Chicagoland for sometime.

Disc Makers got ahold of the cassette that my wife, Bella, secretly sent to them. After listening to it, they decided to digitally enhance and release it on CD to be marketed in the Internet worldwide. I, myself, drew the cover design that impressed them as well."

"The song that I liked the best in the CD is Ay Kalisud, hands down. This song originated from my home province of Iloilo where I was born on April 17, 1945.

Among my favorite singers, which is a whole lot of them, are Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Ruben Tagalog in the olden days always fascinated me. I also enjoy Hajji Alejandro, Basil Valdez, Rico Puno, Jun Polistico, Anthony Castelo."

Apart from singing, Dureza continues to tend to his other talent. His CD's self-drawn portrait is a testament to that. "I also accept commissions for my drawings of portraits in pencil. You can see sample of my works at"


Dean Gui said...

Can anyone tell me how to get in touch with the Tanghalan producers? I'm trying to find out how to get more information on my father, Rey Fabi Gui, who was a runner up in Tanghalan between 1960to 1965. You may contact me at

Thank you.

Dean Gui

Anonymous said...

Hi Dad,how are you doin? Did you know ive been searching for you all my life? I want to know you being my father coz my heat tells me so. Hope all is well with you and your family. I'll visit you one day Daddy, God willing..Take care till then and im so proud of you!