Jazz family from the Philippines

The Bautista brothers moved to Guam from the Philippines during the early 1950s. They were and are still highly respected by other local musicians. Trumpet player Benito Bautista, more commonly known as “Bennie,” who also plays flute, marimba, and vibes played with well-known pianist Nick Abelardo when he first came to Guam. Ray Bautista plays piano and drums. Bassist Pete Bautista and drummer Marianito “Nito” Bautista both played jazz with several groups on the island. The father of the Bautista brothers, Pedro Bautista, Sr., served in the US Navy Band as a band master until his retirement.

Although Nito and Pete are both talented musicians, they look up to their oldest brother Bennie as the most gifted musician of the family. Bennie is also highly respected by many local musicians on the island. He plays many different instruments, although he considers the trumpet and vibes to be his main instruments. Louie Gombar, a well-known vibe player on Guam learned to play from Bennie. Bennie now resides in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he once played with the well-known group Martin Denny with whom he recorded a couple of albums.

Pete Bautista plays the bass while brother Ray plays the piano and drums. Ray was an original member of the well-known band the Downbeats and a former member of the Blue Notes band. Nito began his music career in 1954 during the height of “taxi dancing” on the island when woman were brought in from Hawaii to entertain the many construction workers on Guam by dancing with them for a fee. Nito originally had aspirations to play the piano, but admits that he did not have the “ear” to do so. He eventually ended up playing the drums. After Bennie left Guam for states, Nito went on to play with noted musicians Forrest Harris and Louie Gombar in numerous clubs on the island

There are two Bautista brothers who did not make music a career. Juan, a violinist, became a doctor and didn’t have the time to play. He did, however, play violin in a symphony at the college level and was able to use this talent as a means of obtaining funding for his education. Terry, who played trumpet, was drafted into the US Army and later moved Hawaii where he later passed away. He was a soloist trumpet player with a real talent for playing jazz.

Nito continues to reside on the island of Guam with his wife, Josephine, of forty-two years. Pete also lives on the island with his wife Pilar Muna Bautista. Ray and his wife Mary Jane are still living on the island, as well. Bennie, on the other hand, left Guam for New York in 1957, and relocated to Hawaii in 1962. Bennie passed away on 14 March 2019, and his wife, Rosario Sholing Bautista (Charing) passed away on 25 February 2020.

By James Perez Viernes, PhD

Editor’s note: The photos and initial research for this entry is courtesy of Mico and Stevie Scott’s Jazz on Guam: An Oral History, a project funded by the Guam Humanities Council and in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.