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Saturday, May 18, 2024

American dream on wheels

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For years now, the Philippine music industry has been blessed with the now-iconic Wish Bus, a mobile FM radio booth on a bus. The innovation that took local pop culture by storm further leveled up with Wish USA, its equivalent taking its route around Los Angeles and by now already a certified tourist attraction in Hollywood where the realization of the “American Dream” dances with the stars.

Wish USA operations manager Eron Romero recalled his conversation with ace broadcast journalist Daniel Razon when the latter’s idea to have a Wish Bus in the USA came upon in 2017. Kuya Daniel, who conceptualized the beloved bus and whose authoritative voice we hear the famous “Wish 107.5” whisper, said he wanted it launched in Hollywood in four months’ time. He and his friend Sonny Cos, now Wish USA’s marketing manager, had to relocate from New York to L.A. 

“Kasama na sa spiels ng tourist guides sa Hollywood ang Wish Bus,” Eron quipped, stressing that Wish as a platform for artists to let their acts be known is effective partly because it “welcomes everyone.”

From left: The author with Wish USA’s Eron Romero (Operations Manager) and Sonny Cos (Marketing Manager) inside the Wish USA office in North Hollywood, California

Everyone includes Filipino artists in America, Pinoy hitmakers visiting the US, and even non-Filipino acts. For that, it is worth mentioning that some world-famous foreign artists, all loved by Filipinos, have already got on board to perform. The Jets, which had five top 10 hits on the US Billboard Hot 100, expressed they thrillingly felt “butterflies in the stomach” perhaps due to “the proximity of the audience” and the intimacy of the atmosphere. Rick Price, the voice behind the 90s ballad “Heaven Knows,” dropped by on the day of his flight back to Australia to sing. 

The Wish Bus USA went to the Northern part of L.A. to accommodate Simple Plan lead vocalist Pierre Charles Bouvier in performing their signature hit “Perfect,” as Stephen Speaks was also assured of a “passenger seat” to connect to his fans from the Philippines.

Even Filipino band Sponge Cola hopped on the popular bus after their US tour.  

In 2021, Filipino-American rapper Ez Mil’s performance of the patriotic “Panalo” (Trap Carinosa) went viral and he became an overnight sensation. Eron argued, “EZ Mil is a full package, young, good-looking, skillful, and has good content. You really have to present yourself properly kasi if you’re not ready, saying ‘yung slot.”

The author (right) inside Wish Bus USA, posing with his septuagenarian mother Amalia and her Yorkshire terrier Jack

According to Sonny, around 3,000 artists have already performed on Wish Bus USA. Not everyone gets published or uploaded on YouTube. So far, netizens can access 250 to 300 of the clips. Yet, such is the power of the Wish brand that being handed the moment to sit in front of a familiar mic with a headset is counted as a major highlight of an artist’s career. 

In the USA, such an experience has even magnified the fact that you’re being watched by the L.A crowd and, chances are, you’re going to walk along Hollywood Boulevard after letting your heart out inside an RV (recreational vehicle). Wish Bus USA can park anywhere and serves as, in Sonny’s words, the “back and forth gateway for artists of any genre, any generation, and any race.”

The music scene in the US has really opened up and Wish Bus USA is a significant venue for Philippine tourism. In June, it is joining the traditional Manhattan Parade to celebrate Philippine independence.

“We provide the opportunity to artists to reach more audiences, as well as fortify the presence of Fil-Am musicians in the US,” Sonny noted.        

After visiting the Wish USA office in North Hollywood, I found my way to Sunset Boulevard where I had the opportunity to get on the bus myself while the 95th Oscars was ongoing in the nearby Dolby Theatre.

The Wish Bus USA along L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard on the day the 95th Oscars was held

Kuya Daniel’s concept began with a small wish that led to the creation of a radio station catering to everybody. Wish FM literally moved and on its wheels, the Philippine music scene found a mouthpiece. Wish USA is therefore a testament that the magic did not stop there. It flew miles away to reach the glamorous Hollywood. 

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