Musicians: Winnipeg’s Teo Mance

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Teo Mance: Revisited

Levy Abad

August 13, 2016

Early August, I went to the Forks with my wife to listen to buskers. We hang out at the Human Bean Café to listen to Al and requested him to play Mr. Bojangles when suddenly Tim Miyai, another friend busker, came by to listen to Al, his full time work buddy. I asked Tim if he knows of a Filipino folk singer who was busking way back at the Forks? He said he knows one and his name is Teofilo “Teo” Mance. Tim added that Teo used to play with at the Forks with his Caucasian partner as his buddy. I also learned from Tim that it was about the time that he was inspired to do busking. “I was kind of inspired by Teo to busk, you know,” Tim said.

As a singer-songwriter myself, writing about peoples’ struggles in the diaspora, I was intrigued by Teo Mance. Everywhere I sing, somebody would tell me that there was once a guy sporting a pony tail who performs folksongs in the best venues here in Winnipeg. Most of the senior buskers in the Forks also affirm that they know Teo.

Mar Mance, a friend folksinger and brother of Teo informed me that playing the guitar and singing is the passion of Teo and it was Teo who influenced him. He continued that “Love for music was kind of strong in our family and was reinforced by Teo’s passion. Actually, Teo was hiding from our mother to play his guitar since our mother was very strict and a disciplinarian. We had a fireworks business and small farm properties. As young kids, we were deprived of many things that most growing kids our age enjoy. Teo is older than me by just over ten years. He asked me to join a rondalla group when I was in fourth grade so that we can have a guitar in the house. He practiced while Mom was away. He then left to work in Germany at the age of 21 where he found his freedom playing the guitar and got really good at it. The rest is history.”

In the article of Leigh Anne Sommers published in Filipino Journal in October 1989, she wrote that Teo Mance immigrated to Germany in 1971. I learned from Mar Mance that Teo arrived in Winnipeg back in 1974 and joined a band named Mikrobyo (The Microbes) as a lead singer. During this time, Teo used a stage name Phil Mance, according to the Filipino Journal 1989. Mar commented that “Teo thoroughly enjoyed entertaining many audiences, including performing at the Filipino New Years Eve ball at the Holiday Inn” (Filipino Journal, 1989). Mar further said that when he arrived here in 1989,” Teo was already regularly performing at the Holiday Inn or what we know now as the Delta Hotel.

I read the artist bio that Mar Mance sent me and found that Teo played in a lot of places. While he was in Germany, he played professionally at Danny’s pan. I don’t know if this place still exists. He also performed in Denmark. Here in Manitoba, he played at Act 11, The Cork and Fork, Matheos, El Cafe, a favourite hang-out of the activist community back in the mid-80s, Vidoni’s, St. Regis Hotel, Desottos, Summer Breese Cafe and Manhattans. Teo also had gigs in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California and Florida. The Filipino Journal article also mentioned that he played at Vidoni’s standing room only. Wow, I can imagine how successful Teo was during those times when folksongs, ballads etc. were still the music of the day. How I wish I witnessed those days. Today, as a singer-songwriter, I am one of the few in the Filipino community who is just keeping the embers of folk music burning until the genre rises again from the dead.

Filipinos in Winnipeg now numbering 70,000 while back in the days of Teo, we were only half of this number. In those the days, the struggle to be recognized was really tough and for Teo to shine in a period when multiculturalism was still young, is really a huge achievement in terms of being out there representing the community in the field of culture as a Filipino troubadour.

In order to learn more about Teo, I went on YouTube to find some performances of Teo Mance and found some videos posted by Gordon Francis Hamilton. One can listen to Teo’s rendition of Balita (News ), a song of Asin, a famous Filipino folk band (Salt of the Earth). He also has a cover of the song Imagine by John Lennon, Words by the Bee Gees, Yesterday (Beatles), How can I tell you? by Cat Stevens, Sailing by Rod Stewart and Babe by Styxx.

Teo`s tenor voice is warm but at the same time cool. Listening to him gave me answer as to why a lot of folks wanted to listen to him. Most of the songs that he sings are easy listening music and meaningful that ordinary mainstream Canadians as well as newly arrived migrants can easily relate to.

A couple of years ago, I met Claudia Tadiarca, a younger sibling of Teo Mance. Knowing that I am a singer and songwriter who performs acoustic like his brother, she confirmed that Teo moved to British Columbia. She also shared that since Leigh Anne, the dear partner of Teo, passed away of cancer, Teo withdrew from performances. I was not surprised to hear this because as an artist, I am familiar with the mind set of musicians but I felt sorry for an older brother musician. It must have really been heavy for him to carry.

Most of the folk singers here in the Peg who I talked to always say that Teo was always with Leigh Anne on gigs in the Forks. They were natural buddies supporting each other everywhere. They drove around the City, set up the sound system together and while Teo is performing Leigh Anne is just nearby.

Usually, when misfortune like this happens, people just say life goes on, but for me, as a writer and folksinger, I have to take a pause and remember Teo Mance, a musician whom I never met, but is always around, stuck in the memory of a lot of folks who were touched by his music. Teo is still in BC, but wherever he is, it feels good to revisit his achievements in projecting the Filipino community in the City of Winnipeg from 1974 to the early 90’s through his performances. Thanks Teo for paving the way and inspiring future artists!