By Sara Fabunan-Steckenborn
On what should have been his 42nd birthday on March 20, the former bassist of the rock band Maria Cafra, Dennis Glenn Fabunan, has returned to his hometown for a final time.
Two months ago, on Jan. 29, Fabunan died of cardiac arrest while attending a school activity of his 11-year-old daughter with his wife, Jowena.
His family decided to spread his ashes around his parents’ farm house in Pangasinan, where he grew up to the music of his late father, the original Maria Cafra bassist, Jose “Jun” Fabunan Jr.
“Dennis mentioned before that Pangasinan is his home. We wanted to return his ashes to God where he truly belongs,” Jowena said.
She said Fabunan’s legacy lives on—in their daughter, Jaco, who was used to listening to music even before she was born, and in the many local musicians whom he was able to help when he was still alive.
“Dennis serenaded her with his acoustic guitar even when she was inside my womb. At a very young age, her dad introduced her to different genres, and among all of these, jazz music is her favorite. She knows how to play ukulele, piano and modern flute. She also loves singing,” Jowena said.
Fabunan’s mother, Susanne Fernandez, said spreading his ashes around their farm house makes them feel like he is still with them.
“For me, it is knowing that he is always around us. I am sure that Dennis would prefer that too and is happy about it,” Fernandez said.
Fabunan’s life has always been surrounded by music—first as a 12-year old boy who played guitar in Church, and then as a drummer during his high school years.
His father, however, discouraged him from making a profession out of music, saying “there is no money there.”
But that did not stop Dennis from earning his Bachelor of Music in Guitar Education degree from the Philippine Women’s University.
While teaching children how to play guitar at an international school, Fabunan played and collaborated with different bands on the side.
While he was versatile – playing different instruments such as drums, piano, guitar, and bass, the bass strings became his passion.
He first worked as a bassist for The Wuds. In 2010, he encouraged his uncle, Resty Fabunan, to come out of retirement and revive Maria Cafra.
He would eventually work for corporate firms such as Ocean Park and Enchanted Kingdom. But music was his true calling.
He worked in ABS-CBN as a freelance sound engineer and music arranger for Tawag ng Tanghalan and other shows that involved music. He had a short stint with GMA Network as a Senior Audio Editor. He was also a freelance music arranger for TV 5’s Filipino singing contest Sing Galing. He was a sound engineer for a gag show called Quizon City aired on Net25.
His music propelled him to a wider audience, allowing him to showcase his talent – touring Australia with the iconic band Hotdog and becoming part of the Love Rock Production and playing for international artists like Stephen Bishop, and Dan Hill, among others.
“For such a young man with many achievements and engagements, he was a big loss to the music industry. He is sorely missed,” Fernandez said.