Philippines Most Talented Luthier
By: Kuskus Balongus
If you are one serious musician who progresses in one’s skill, succumb to G.A.S. (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome) then get to have that light-bulb moment and vow to have your very own “Custom Guitar” made.
You get to the point where you start looking for a “Master luthier” or “Custom Guitar Maker” in your area, one who’s up to the challenge, one capable of meeting your “personal” specifications.
If you are living in the Philippines, in Luzon, in Metro Manila… finding one guitar tech or luthier wouldn’t be like finding a needle in a haystack.
There are plenty.
Scores of talented luthier’s in the Philippines are found in Metro Manila.
Most famous among them are Mr. Jonathan “Jon” G. Dela Cruz of “Elegee Custom Shop/Guitar 1 Custom Shop” in Quezon City, Mang Max Rufo of “Max Rufo Custom Guitars” in Malabon and Mr. Mike Sison of “Micsis Guitar Spot” in Paranaque.
In the Visayas there are a number too, well known luthiers in Cebu are Mr. Fernando A. Dagoc of “Ferangeli Guitar” and the Alegre Family of the “Alegre Guitar Factory.”
Well, we do have “Taghoy Guitars” in Pagadian City, “JiRock Custom” in Cagayan de Oro City and Sir Edgar R. Rabago of Iligan City’s “ER Custom Guitars.”
All are “indeed” talented “Luthier’s, Custom Guitar Makers, Guitar Craftsmans and Master Guitar Builders.”
Whatever skills or methods they have and use, in one way or the other, I believe, these “talented luthiers” are capable of building instruments from scratch.
And if given the right tools and materials, they can build you any guitar that can suit your needs, specifications, and expectations.
But… talking about the “Philippines Most Talented Luthier” here…
Is not just about one’s capability of making that very beautiful looking and great sounding guitar.
Nor is it just about one’s ability in repairing or restoring that worn out, damaged or junked stringed instrument.
It’s something more… much more.
And that “more” is Iligan City’s Sir Edgar R. Rabago of “ER Custom Guitars.“
“Phenomenal” Custom Guitar Maker
A quick google search result for “custom guitar maker philippines” may not reveal this renowned custom guitar maker and master luthier from Iligan City in the first page.
However, Sir Edgar R. Rabago of “ER Custom Guitars,” a Master builder and Custom Guitar Maker who started in the late 1990’s is a force to be reckoned with.
If “having the aptitude or skill for building something means ‘talented,'” and taking that a step higher tantamount’s to being the “best custom guitar maker in Iligan City,” then Sir Edgar R. Rabago’s reputation precedes him.
Having a wide array of skill set in Carpentry, Furniture making, Painting, Car Body Building, Plumbing, Welding, and Metal Fabrication.
And if his capability of custom building “Solid body Electric guitars and electric basses, Acoustic guitars and acoustic basses, Semi-Acoustic guitars, as well as Bandurias, Ukuleles, Violins, and Cajons” not only adds up to him being a “very talented luthier.”
Then there’s a little more of that something about him that you need to know.
What really sets him apart from the rest of other “talented” luthier’s in the Philippines is… not also because he can cook like a “master chef.”
But the fact is, him being a “Visionary,” along with his expertise in “Electrical and Electronics,” Sir Edgar R. Rabago of Iligan City, Philippines was able to “Custom build” a Semi-Acoustic “All-in-1, Dual Output Jacks“ Jazz Guitar in 2003.
A “unique” guitar to meet the needs of any highly skilled instrumentalist or virtuoso.
Ahead of its time
As a member of the Hard Habit Band playing in night clubs and bars in Iligan City in 1982, playing a variety of songs meant switching from electric and acoustic guitar to cater to the different tones or genres played in one’s repertoire.
An idea crossed his mind and he thought to himself, having an “all-in-1” guitar would make a lot of things easier.
Playing would be much convenient if he can use a guitar that can play electric and acoustic tone with ease while remaining on stage throughout the performance.
After conceptualizing this kind of guitar in 1998 at the time when he started custom building stringed instruments.
The lack of guitar materials in Iligan City that time only lead him to custom build this Semi-Acoustic Jazz Guitar with dual output jacks in 2003, when some guitar parts needed were already available.
Amazingly the guitar he built had features similar to five other “unique” and famous Guitar brands:
- Fender Stratocaster
- Rickenbacker’s Deluxe models “Rick-O-Sound” stereo (extra jack).
- The Kiesel CARVIN Acoustic/Electric Thinline Guitar “AE185” with dual output jacks.
- Godin’s Semi-Acoustic “A6 Ultra”
- The RJ “Super Vintage”
Semi-Acoustic Guitar (Dual Output Jacks)
According to history, George Beaucamp came up with the first true electric guitar in 1931.
And in the following year, a collaboration with the “Rickenbacker Company” lead to the marketing of electric guitars.
Gibson’s ES-150’s were the first manufactured semi-acoustic guitars in 1936.
Fender in 1951 offered the first mass-produced solid body “Telecaster” and the “Stratocaster” in 1954.
It was not until the 1960’s when the Rickenbacker company introduced their “Deluxe Guitar models,” guitars with dual output jacks and having the “Rick-O-Sound” stereo (extra jack).
According to a post in Forums from Rickenbacker.com, “The ‘Rick-O-Sound’ output is a stereo jack that runs one pickup per channel while the Standard output jack has an intergral switch that shorts the pickups to get signals on a mono cable. The two outputs can’t be used together.”
The Kiesel CARVIN Acoustic/Electric Thinline Guitar AE185 with dual output jacks first introduced in 1994, is one that allows separation of the electric and acoustic signals to different amps, or signals can be combined into one.Godin’s A6 Ultra Semi-Acoustic, released in 2007 features a “Godin humbucker in the neck position, along with an under-saddle transducer, dual outputs (acoustic and electric) that combine for a huge stereo sound….”
The RJ “Super Vintage” Electric Guitar designed by RJ Jacinto and dubbed the “Holy Grail” of guitars was locally released in 2014 but RJ Jacinto was already talking about this since 1988, according to Scott R. Garceau.
Chris Loeffler at harmonycentral.com said that, “The RJ Super Vintage is a double cut-away, semi-hollow electric guitar, made from mango wood, a H/S/H pickup configuration using traditional wound-magnet pickups, with no active electronics.”“Its concept is, it combines specially voiced pickups that can be independently turned on or off via individual toggle switches with splittable humbucking pickups in the neck and bridge positions that, in tandem with adjustments to the tone control, achieves the tone of one of five different guitars.”
It’s capable of producing Five Iconic Tones of five classic guitars: Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, Fender Jazzmaster, Gibson Les Paul, and Gibson ES-335.The Super Vintage though doesn’t achieve its various sounds through modeling or presets, the different sounds are accessible through tweaking the configuration of hand-wound magnetic pickups and adjusting the tone and volume controls, said Chris Loeffler.
Sir Edgar R. Rabago’s “Hybrid” Semi-Acoustic Jazz Guitar
Tuners: GOTOH Type
Fingerboard: Iron wood
Inlays: Mother Pearl
Frets: Large (MIK)
Truss rod: 1, single action
Radius and Scale: long*
Top: White Narra (carved from solid wood)
Body: White Narra (carved from solid piece of wood, flat top)
Controls: 1 volume, 2 tones, Acoustic Equalizer (MIK), Dual output jacks (mono), 1 five-way blade switch electric pickup selector, 1 two-way toggle switch (electric/acoustic), 1 toggle switch (Active electronics battery on/off).
Pickup Configuration: H/S/H and with Artec under saddle Stick transducer
Bridge: Custom wood, bone saddle
Tailpiece: Bigsby type
Finish: Vintage Sunburst
Sir Rabago’s “Hybrid” dual output jacks Semi-Acoustic Jazz Guitar is “Unique” in all features.
From a Fender Stratocaster original design with additional “boost’ in circuitry.
This Hybrid flat top guitar with 2 Violin-type “F” holes, plastic binding, carved from a solid piece of wood is not purely a “box” guitar.
It has a broad hollow body that’s not a full box (can’t get Fender Stratocaster sound) and not a full solid (can’t get acoustic resonation) but it’s somewhere in the middle, and the back is rounded (edge-less).
Because of its Fender Stratocaster pickup configuration, “tweaking with the guitar’s controls: 1 volume, 2 tone pots with Vintage knobs (MIJ), 1 five way pickup selector, 1 two-way toggle switch (up-electric, down-acoustic transducer, middle-duet), and equalizer mixing can give you ‘multi-tones’ feature enhancements and makes this hybrid ‘capable of replicating distinct tones’ like the RJ ‘Super Vintage’ does.”
Its custom made tilt style bridge and custom made piece by piece individual string bone saddles gives individual strings good resonation unlike that of a one piece bone saddle.
The Bigsby type bridge though is not effective for tremolo.
Unlike Rickenbacker’s Deluxe guitar models with “Rick-O-Sound,” Sir Rabago’s Hybrid’s “Dual Output Jacks” that has one mono-electric and one mono-acoustic can be used together.
And it allows you to separate the electric and acoustic signals to different amps, or combine them as one like the Kiesel CARVIN Acoustic/Electric Thinline Guitar AE185 that was first introduced in 1994.
Sir Rabago thought of an “all-in-1” guitar since 1982 then conceptualized his hybrid guitar in 1998.
A time in Iligan City where people with cellphones with built-in camera’s and internet shops were only a handful.
A musician and custom guitar maker, Sir Rabago, didn’t have any PC that time and only knew of the different common brands of Guitars that he encountered or were available during that time.
Among the Five Famous Guitar Brands Model that had similar features to the one he custom built.
It was only the Fender Stratocaster model he was familiar with.
But he knows Guitar brands, like “Rickenbacker, Godin, Carvin, Fender and RJ” exists.
When the acoustic under saddle transducer became available in Iligan City and he was finally able to build his “Hybrid” Dual Output Jacks Semi-Acoustic Jazz Guitar in 2003.
-He didn’t know or wasn’t aware that as early as the 1960’s Rickenbacker already manufactured dual output Rick-O-Sound guitars.
-He wasn’t aware or heard of the Kiesel CARVIN Acoustic/Electric Thinline Guitar “AE185” that was released in 1994.
-The Godin A6 Semi-Acoustic “Ultra” was yet to be released 4 years later, in 2007.
-The RJ “Super Vintage” only came out in 2014, a decade+ after he built his Hybrid “All-in-1” guitar.
Sir Rabago said, “In his years as a luthier, he hasn’t repaired or seen any Rickenbacker “Rick-O-Sound” guitar or its other models because they are hard to sell here, and he only heard about Rick’s dual output jacks model lately.”
He knew Rickenbacker’s one of the pioneer guitar makers and only knew the famous models used by famous Bands.
He also heard about the Kiesel CARVIN Acoustic/Electric Thinline Guitar “AE185” only recently.
He has repaired a number of Godin guitars and was quite surprised to repair one Godin Semi-Acoustic guitar brought to his ER Custom Guitars Shop in 2011 (eight years after he built his Semi-Acoustic Jazz Guitar).
It was brought in for repairs by the father of a famous artist, musician and band member in Manila, who was in Northern Mindanao working as a supplier of Sound Systems.
Sir Edgar noticed that the Godin guitar used a similar wiring design to the one he built, except for the fact that this Godin model had metal saddles and didn’t have the acoustic feature, aside from that the electric circuitry was all the same.
Although these features have been done before, having no knowledge about these Famous guitar brands employing them and being able to conceptualize and custom built his Hybrid Semi-Acoustic Jazz Guitar… is purely “talent!”
Sir Edgar R. Rabago of Iligan City’s “ER Custom Guitars” is probably the “most talented” luthier in the country, a “‘Phenomenal’ Custom Guitar Maker!”
Sir Rabago built the “Hybrid” guitar for personal use.
However, he kept getting offers from other musicians who visited his shop.
Mitochondria band keyboardist once offered to trade his Yamaha DX7 keyboard for the guitar but Sir Rabago politely declined.
A skilled guitarist offered to trade his Professional “Nikon” Camera but still Sir Rabago declined.
Many other skilled musicians offered to buy it but still Sir Rabago declined.
But when one of his musician best friend, asked to buy it from him and kept begging him and gave him a reasonable offer, Sir Rabago eventually sold it to him.
The guitar had no brand name on its headstock when Sir Rabago built it but after Sir Rabago’s best friend bought it, he requested to have “Yamaha” placed on the guitar’s headstock.
Sadly, his best friend passed away two years ago but before he died, because his best friend needed money one time, he was able to sell the guitar to another musician who really liked the guitar when he saw it when it was still with Sir Rabago.
The current owner now is selling the guitar because he’s already too busy with his job.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” and to think Sir Rabago built this kind of guitar at a time where he had no knowledge about those famous models similar to his “Hybrid,” at best, is “absolute creativity!”
Sir Rabago’s “Hybrid” Dual Output Jacks Semi-Acoustic Jazz Guitar is truly one remarkable instrument!
Built by a Master Luthier who’s probably the Philippines “most talented” and “Phenomenal” Custom Guitar Maker.
Made to Order! Sir Edgar R. Rabago of Iligan City’s “ER Custom Guitars” Creations… “Specially made according to customers needs, specifications and expectations.”
Reference and Citation:
-Guide to Luthiers and Guitar Tech in the Philippines at royoconguitars(dot)blogspot(dot)com…
-Forums at rickenbacker(dot)com/forum/…
-Semi-acoustic guitar at https://en(dot)wikipedia(dot)org/wiki/Semi-acoustic_guitar
-Fender Musical Instruments Corporation at https://en(dot)wikipedia(dot)org/wiki/Fender_Musical_Instruments_Corporation
-AE185 Acoustic Electric Thinline Guitar, Product Overview at kieselguitars(dot)com/catalog/guitars/ae185
-Godin, Press, Some Added Oomph!… New Godin A6 Ultra at godinguitars(dot)com/godinpressa6ultra.html
-Godin a-Series, A6 Ultra / Left at godinguitars(dot)com/godina6ultrap.htm
-RJ Jacinto designs the “Holy Grail” of guitars. THE X-PAT FILES By Scott R. Garceau. July 6, 2014 at philstar.com/sunday-life/…
-An Expert Review: The RJ Super Vintage Electric Guitar by Chris Loeffler at harmonycentral(dot)com/expert-reviews/…
-Philippine Custom-Made Electric Guitars at prezi(dot)com/0cjougzp58a2/philippine-custom-made-electric-guitars/
-Iligan City’s Renowned Custom Guitar Maker And Master Luthier, Sir Edgar R. Rabago at mitochondriaband(dot)wordpress(dot)com
Written By: Kuskus Balongus