RICO J. Puno, one of the country’s Original Pilipino Music icons, died of heart failure on Tuesday at the age of 65.
The singer’s passing was announced by his sister-in-law, concert producer Anna Puno, on Instagram. “Numbed with grief, I would like to call on all entertainers in the OPM industry as well as his worldwide fans to stop for a moment and say a prayer for one of the most respected singers in the country,” she posted.
“I cannot help but say it was serendipitous that Starmedia (her production company) prepared a solo 40th anniversary concert for him and a US tour with the OPM stalwarts and colleagues just recently. Little did I know that this [was] his final bow in the live entertainment world. We will forever miss the Total Entertainer but his songs will forever be cherished in our hearts,” she wrote.
Despite his failing health, the legendary singer had been booked for concerts through February 2019.
Anna said the artist had himself admitted at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City on Monday after experiencing difficulty in breathing.
“[Once] he was in the hospital, they didn’t let him go. He went straight to the ICU. He was revived at first, then he was OK, but when everybody left, he had heart failure. They were trying to revive him for the second time, but he didn’t make it [anymore],” she told CNN Philippines.
In 2015, Puno had open heart surgery after suffering a heart attack. He underwent angioplasty to reopen his blocked arteries in December 2017, and received a pacemaker months later.
His health started deteriorating in April, but Puno managed to be on the ABS-CBN variety program “It’s Showtime” as one of the judges in the widely followed “Tawag Ng Tanghalan” segment.
‘Tatak Rico J’
Born Enrico de Jesus Puno on Feb. 13, 1953, Rico J as he came to be known broke through the music scene in the 1970s with his rendition of Barbra Streisand’s hit single, “The Way We Were.” Puno struck gold with his unique cover, effectively launching his trademark singing style which incorporated Filipino lyrics and spoken lines within the English originals.
From there, Puno came out with songs that are now considered OPM classics — “Kapalaran.” “Buhat,” “May Bukas Pa,” “Macho Gwapito,” “Lupa,” “Ang Tao’y Marupok,” “Sorry Na Pwede Ba,” and “Magkasuyo Buong Gabi,” a duet with Elissa Chan.
Dubbed as OPM’s “Total Entertainer,” Puno’s last live performance in the country saw him sharing the stage with fellow veteran singers Imelda Papin, Hajji Alejandro and Pilita Corralas at the
“Aliw@40: The Ruby Anniversary Concert” on October 4. Shortly after, he appeared in what would be his last press conference on October 18 for a November 23 concert with comediennes Marissa Sanchez and Giselle Sanchez titled “Sana Tatlo Ang Puso” at The Theater at Solaire.
Puno also dipped his hands in politics, becoming Makati City councilor in 1998. He was reelected through 2007 to complete the three allowable terms.
He ran but lost in his bid for vice mayor in 2010. He won anew as councilor in 2016. He filed his certificate of candidacy for reelection this month.
Malacañang paid tribute to the singer.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo offered the government’s condolences to the family of Puno, whom he called his “personal friend.”
“We express our condolences to a legend that is Rico J. Puno. He has contributed a lot to the music industry,” Panelo told reporters.
Makati City also mourned Puno’s passing.
“On behalf of the city government and the people of Makati, I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family,” Mayor” Mar-Len Abigail Abby” Binay said.
Binay lauded Puno’s legacy as a singer, actor, comedian and television host.
“Rico J was the ultimate entertainment package. He not only soothed the soul with his timeless music, but also lifted up the spirit with his effortless humor,” she said.
Puno is survived by his former wife, Doris T. Puno, and eight children. (A. Custodio with I. Iglesias, C. Valiente& N. J. Servallos, MT)