All female band sets Sept. 9 concert
By Jason B. Neola NAGA CITY --- With the festive mood dancing up in the air, it is now time to let everyone’s hair down and shake that groove thing. On Saturday, September 9, right after the formal start of the Penafrancia festival with the traditional traslacion taking place the previous day, Magsaysay Avenue, the city’s food and entertainment strip, will come rockin’ and rollin’ with ‘Diwata’ an all-female band taking the center stage at The Tent of Avenue Plaza Hotel at exactly 6:00 p.m. Their repertoire will include the hit songs of the Three Degrees (‘Dirty Old Man’ and ‘Take Good Care of Yourself, among others’), Sisters Sledge (We Are Family), and chart topping selections by famed artists Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, the Supremes, and Frankie Vali. There will also be songs by Motown, and hits by Hagibis (‘with a female twist’). It’s been a long way, with its ups and downs, but nevertheless a memorable and fruitful journey, for these four crooning ladies since they started as “Girlfriends Band” in the 1980s and eventually sailed off overseas (Middle East and Japan) as full time performers. As the only all-female band in Bicol then, the group did fronts acts in gigs and concerts of the other more established bands, such as the Soundwaves, in Naga’s favorite downtown watering holes, namely the Winos and Lindez (that had since folded up). They were grateful to spouses Bnjamin Fetil and Margarita Tandog-Fetil who acted as their able business manager, especially during their early years. After their stint in foreign lands, the group of Jet Ibach (married to a travelling German pilot), Elsa Librero, Eva Elopre Barrameda, and Judy Azur Estrada disbanded, raised their own families, started business and temporarily settled elsewhere. Fast forward and they once again found hugging each other after almost 30 years since they travelled together and went back home for good. Except for Jet who is from Magarao, Camarines Sur, the other three ladies hail from Calabanga, Camarines Sur. It was on September 3, last year that they were tapped to provide the front act for the Hotdogs Bicol revival concert here. “Once a singer, always a singer,” says Eva as they told Bicol Mail of their upcoming concert on Saturday, Sept. 9, at Avenue Plaza Hotel. What makes the concert more significant is that the girls (now full-time ladies) are doing it for a cause: to help fellow Bicolano artists and raise scholarship funds for Camerata Kultura that regularly conducts workshops for performing artists to enhance their talents. For them, doing something for a good cause is a no brainer. With their own successes despite their humble beginnings, they want to give something in return, especially to their struggling fellow artists. In fact, one of them – Judy Azur Estrada – was only recently honored by the ‘Istorya nin Pag-asa’ of Vice President Leni Robredo as an empowering Bicolana for her amazing journey as a singer since she was 12 years old and becoming patroness at 40. Let’s hear more from the following write up about her: Hardships, trials, and redemption, the good life, then, paying it forward. This, in sum, is the life story of Judy Azur - Estrada. At age 12, Judy needed to work as a lounge singer at Lindez Hotel in Naga City. She became the family’s breadwinner after the sudden death of her father. Being the eldest, the burden of supporting her family was laid on her shoulders. Judy faked her age when she moved to Angeles City, Pampanga to work as a club singer. She sent her earnings back home. At age 16, Judy faked her age once more to travel to Japan and worked there as a singer. She eventually moved to Dubai for greener pastures and a better life. However, she found an abusive Filipino husband who begot her with two children, made her a battered wife living a miserable life. Judy’s husband was later caught in a drug raid and imprisoned. This freed Judy who started to rebuild her own life while her in-laws took custody of her two kids. Things changed for Judy when she met Larry Estrada, a Mexican-American who earnestly pursued her. After helping with her divorce papers from her first husband, Larry married Judy and assisted her regain custody of the kids. They have one child. Larry is a noted engineer who is highly connected with Bechtel Company, a global construction firm with large-scale projects, which make them move from one international residence to another. Now, a globetrotter and a jetsetter, Judy has the time and the means to pursue her own interests and with full support from her adoring husband, she revived Diwata, her band from bygone days. She advocates music and charity to help out fellow singers in dire situations. Using her influence and international connections, Judy helps raise funds for charity. She helps a lot of people because she knows what it is to be poor and needy. Tickets to the concert are available at Avenue Plaza Hotel from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and at Avenue Plaza Square from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.