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Castillo is new HKMU chair, vows to get more musicians into the fold

16 August 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap

Castillo, Casi and Lo share a toast to a new HKMU leadership

Veteran keyboard artist Lito Castillo has emerged as the new chairman of the Hong Kong Musicians Union after elections held Sunday, Aug 15, at the HKMU office at Mirador Mansion in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Castillo takes over the helm for the next two years after an unprecedented eight-year term of Manuela Lo, who also made history as the first female head of the 73-year-old union.

Asked how he felt after his 11-people ticket won all but one of the posts at stake, Castillo said, “Frankly, I am scared, I didn’t even want to run. But the idea that my fellow musicians want me to be of service to them, made me run.”


Despite his initial hesitation, Castillo said he is confident he can do the job well, and “hopefully, we can have a better and stronger Union in the future.”

Castillo garnered a total of 37 votes as against incumbent vice chair Mariano “Balu” Casi, who had 28.

A total of 66 votes were cast in the election, accounting for about 70% of all those qualified to vote.

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Castillo’s running mate, Bong Galagar, was elected to the second top post of vice chairman over Casi’s teammate Jennifer “Jed” Daproza, who is the incumbent secretary.

Marlyn Hazelton and Maricel Bedana, who were both on Castillo’s team, were elected as secretary and treasurer, respectively, winning over Mimi Sadiq and Thor Escobal.

Castillo and Lo give different views on when the new term should start

Elected as members of the board of directors were Antonio Serrano, Bert Alconaba, Jennifer Palor, Noel Bedana, Jun Gube, Joel Ugalde and Joel Rasco.

The election capped an unprecedented, and at times, acrimonious, battle to take over the leadership of the oldest organization set up by Filipinos in Hong Kong.


Immediately after Castillo was proclaimed as winner, a dispute arose on how soon he can take up the post.

Lo said the HKMU by-laws provide a waiting period of one month, but the new officers, including Castillo, said there is no such rule.

“Since I have been elected as the new chairman, the HKMU will have a lockdown immediately after three days,” said Castillo.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

He asked the departing officers to hand over immediate control over the office, financial records, and access to the CCTV and social media accounts of the Union.

Lo said that should be no problem, and took the opportunity to announce that the HKMU’s recent fundraising for members hard-hit by the pandemic raised a total of $106,650.

She said that from the proceeds, HKMU gave $500 each to 138 musicians, while the rest went to the union’s funds.

But in a social media post earlier today, Lo said Castillo’s term will “officially” start on Sept 15.

She took the opportunity to list down the highlights of her eight-year leadership of HKMU, including the Concert in the Park which the union co-organized with the Philippine Consulate and the HK government from 2013 to 2019.

The yearly show has been put on hold after the outbreak of anti-government protests, and later, the Covid-19 outbreak.

With her at the helm, HKMU also held a Broadway musical at City Hall in 2015, Songs from the Silver Screen concert in 2016, and the HKMU 7 Decades show at the Piazza in Tsim Sha Tsui in 2018, with Journey vocalist Arnel Pineda as special guest.

Castillo's team outlines its vision for the new HKMU

Moving forward, Castillo said his immediate plan is to open HKMU to more musicians.

“Our priority is to get a lot of members in, bring them all back to the Union,” he said. “This is not going to be a closed group anymore.”

By this, he means that membership will not only be open to those willing to pay $1,000 in annual dues, which also covered premiums for a life insurance.

Castillo said he thinks the insurance coverage which amounts to only about $80 in premium payments each month is not a bad idea, but his group will look into giving members “options” when they apply to join the union.

His other plans, as set out in his team’s campaign posters and videos, will be pursued as they are all doable, said Castillo.

Asked about his plans in dealing with problems brought about by the pandemic, Castillo said he is hopeful the music industry will bounce back soon.

But in the meantime, musicians who were forced to join other industries after the pandemic closed down bars and left many of them jobless, will be encouraged to continue their day jobs, but to go back to playing music at night or when they’re free.

“Remember, music is in your heart,” said Castillo. “Hanggang tumanda na tayo, nandyan pa rin yan.” (It will remain with us even in our old age).

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