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Thursday, April 24, 2014         

INCIDENTAL LIVES


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Humble school handyman can't hide his angelic voice

By Michael Tsai

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For a guy with a strong Catholic upbringing and the universal admiration of his parish brethren, Andy Llamedo has a strange knack for making nuns cry.

Call it a God-given gift if you must, but when the 50-year-old Visayan from Cebu is called to duty behind the microphone, it seems the brides of Jesus are inevitably moved to tears.

"My voice is just like anybody's -- it's OK," Llamedo says with a shrug. "It might be how I do it. When I sing, it's like I'm talking to you. I'm telling you the lyrics. When the sisters look at me, they cry."

Llamedo gets the strongest, reach-for-the-Kleenex response to his emotional renditions of spiritual or romantic tunes. Indeed, one needn't be named "Delilah" to cry, cry, cry when Llamedo hits the "why, why, why" chorus to the Tom Jones chestnut.

It's not always easy to get Llamedo to share his talents. As a do-it-all handyman at St. Francis School in Manoa, he prefers to keep a low profile as he attends to his numerous high- and low-tech projects. Still, it's the rare assembly, staff party or holiday celebration that doesn't include calls for Llamedo to perform.

Llamedo says his love of music was bred in his native Cebu, where friends and neighbors would show off their vocal prowess until the wee hours. "No one got mad or called the police, because everybody did it," he says. "It's just what we did. People would only complain if you were off."

Llamedo, cousin of Philippine singing sensation Maria Theresa "Dulce" Llamedo, taught himself how to play guitar and bass "by ear and by heart."

But it was Llamedo's skills on the basketball court rather than the karaoke stage that brought him love and a chance at a new life in America. While playing for a company team, Llamedo met his future wife, Mary Anne, a Filipina by way of Montana and daughter of the company president.

They married and moved in 1983 to Hawaii, where Mary Anne took a job as a music instructor at St. Francis and Llamedo worked for a commercial laundry service.

The Llamedos' three daughters -- Annie, 26, Mandy, 25, and Mary Anne ("Joni"), 22 -- all attended St. Francis, and Llamedo was often recruited to help set up sound systems and other equipment for gatherings. When the laundry company went out of business, Llamedo was formally hired as a handyman.

Llamedo says his wife eased his transition from Cebu to Honolulu, and the wealth of cross-cultural experiences he's had over the years have helped him to feel at home.

And while his old dreams of musical stardom have long been abandoned for the everyday joy of family, work and church, Llamedo's three children seem poised to take advantage of their musical birthright. They're working on a CD for release early next year.

"I just try not to get in the way," Llamedo says, laughing as always.

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@staradvertiser.com.






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