Remembering Rodel Naval

The singer enjoyed mainstream success before his life was cut short.

Before bands dominated OPM in the 90s, solo pop vocalists also lorded it over the airwaves. Singers like Martin Nievera, Gary Valenciano, Regine Velasquez, Ogie Alcasid—basically the lineup of a Sunday noontime variety show—churned out radio-friendly hits that have eventually become staples in many a videoke session. 

One of these singers was a guy named Rodel Naval, who is perhaps best known for his songs “Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin,” “Muli” and “Ikaw Pa Lamang.” It’s possible he could have been as big as any of those other names. Sadly, he passed away on this day, June 11, in 1995.

Naval was born in 1953, the fifth in a family of seven. At a young age, he already showed a flair for the arts. In his official website, his family says he would often doodle as a young child. The interest in drawing soon gave way to singing and music. He would often be seen strumming the guitar or tinkering with the home piano. 

By 1975, Naval had started singing professionally and had been cast in two major motion pictures. “His boyish appeal captured the hearts of many,” his website profile says. “He was not a superstar, but he was no mean talent either. He was an all-around performer. He sang, he acted he danced and he could be a serious actor or comedian.”

In 1979, he migrated to Canada to be with his family. But the call of showbusiness proved too great. He moved to Los Angeles, the world’s entertainment capital to try and carve out a career as a singer.


Naval started performing regularly in venues in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and even Mexico. But the sudden death of a talent agent plus a labor strike in Las Vegas drove Naval to head back to the motherland in 1989.

Back in Manila, Naval still pursued music and released his first album called “Finally.” It contained the song “Muli” which was a modest hit.

A year later, he came out with his most well-known song, “Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin.” He wrote the Tagalog lyrics in Japan after hearing a Japanese song called “Single Again.”

“When the lyrics of this song was being written by Rodel in Japan, his mind was on our mom who had just passed two months earlier,” his sister Delia said. “He missed our mom so much that he wrote the lyrics within 15 minutes.”

The song was a massive hit and was awarded triple platinum within three months after it was published. Naval had finally broken through and became a mainstream star.

The singer produced one more album, which was released in 1992 called Once Again, which contained “Ikaw Pa Lamang” and “Kailan Kaya.”

By that time, Naval had started feeling sick and was unable to promote his other singles. But ever the professional, he still managed to audition and won a role in the Toronto production of Miss Saigon.

Feeling the effects of a mystery disease, Naval almost quit the production but was persuaded by casting agents to give it a shot. He ended up being cast as assistant commissar and understudy for Thuy, the Commissar.

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Naval died in June 1995. Details of his death were not immediately made public. But a year later, one of his sisters, Rosalie, went back to the Philippines and publicly announced in a TV show that her brother died of AIDS-related pneumonia. The family said that this was what he would have wanted, to tell the truth.

“Maybe there’s is a purpose to all of this, and if I can help others because of what happened to me, let it be so,” Naval said in an interiew before he died. In 1997, the Rodel Naval AIDS Care Outreach was launched. It was an organization that reaches out and helps hundreds of those affected with HIV and AIDS and their families. The organization, now known as the Rodel Naval Care Outreach, also helps and encourages poverty stricken families in the slums of Manila.

People now might just casually look up his songs on videoke or his videos on YouTube, but Naval was a person who lived a rich and meaningful life. Think of him the next time you belt out "Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin" on videoke.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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