RIP Bayani Mendoza De Leon, Loss of a Very Special Friend and Spiritual Mentor

Published November 17, 2013 by Maryanne

Bayani's PhotoBayani Mendoza De Leon

November 24, 1942 to September 13, 2013

In the late 1980s I was a young girl, not yet 25, working at A.B. Bookman in Garfield, New Jersey, as a typesetter. Bayani Mendoza De Leon was a proofreader there. The first time he spoke to me, it was because he was very impressed with my typing skills and asked how I got to be such a good typist.

Now this was before home computers, and I shared that I spent many hours typing poetry I wrote on my Smith Corona typewriter at home. Bayani expressed interest in my poetry and we became good friends, spending all our lunches and breaks together, as we were both vegetarians and very much into the new age. Bayani was a lot older than me — at age 46 he seemed almost ancient. But the age difference didn’t stop us from becoming friends. Then something extraordinary happened — Bayani became my spiritual mentor. He gave me hundreds of books and tapes on Teachings of the Far East, Gurdjieff, Buddha, Ouspensky, numerology, alphabet-ology, The Bible … and so on. I stopped going to night clubs for about eight months, spending all my time studying with Bayani and on my own.

I celebrated my 25th birthday with Bayani. Our favorite restaurant was The Gate in NYC (of course it’s no longer there). It was a Japanese restaurant that served green tea and red bean ice cream — something extraordinary back in those days. Another restaurant we favored were Pumpkin Eater up on 79th Street. We also saw one of my favorite musicians — Mick Karn — perform at The Bottom Line.

Bayani was also a well known musician in the Philippines. He was friends with another musician, Eleanor Academia, who was from California (where Bayani spent some time living). One day Eleanor treated Bayani and I to lunch in New York City. She had a great saying, “Spend your money, save your soul.”

When Bayani left A.B. Bookman several months after we became good friends, we touched base a few times but really didn’t keep in touch. So I was beyond thrilled when out of the blue I heard from Bayani in 2011! He found me via my website ( and wrote me an email! A few months later, February 2012, we got together for lunch at my favorite restaurant, Veggie Heaven. He was in great spirits and we had a wonderful time. I was 48 (two years older than Bayani was when I first met him!) and Bayani was 69.

We promised to keep in touch, but  sadly, that was the last time I saw Bayani. Our last email was a few weeks after our lunch.

I heard of Bayani’s death today by chance. I was looking up info on music.orb and found that they acknowledged his birthday! I was excited and Googled him — only to find a sad tribute about his death on You Tube.

I was shocked and sad. When we were friends back in the 1980s Bayani met both my mother and grandmother. He also took pictures of my sister and I one night before we went to a Halloween party. That’s how close we were. I once met his sister too and had dinner in his home when she was visiting. I still have photos of me and her together. As well as all the pictures he took of my sister and I on Halloween, 1988. One of the few nights I deviated from my spiritual studies.

So many fond memories, but my favorite was when we took breaks at A.B. Bookman and sat in the hallway sharing vegetarian snacks like Eden Soy Milk and Japanese plum ball sours. In just 15 minutes we shared great food and had such deep conversation. It was great!

So September 2013 was such a tragic month. My Billy cat died Sept. 3, my mentor Joan Finn died a few days later, and then Bayani (which I just found out about) left us at age 70.

Rest in Peace to a wonderful soul and an ever-joyful spirit … a deep, quiet man with a good heart. Definitely heaven’s gain.

6 comments on “RIP Bayani Mendoza De Leon, Loss of a Very Special Friend and Spiritual Mentor

  • Such a beautiful post – what a great treasure of memories you have of your friend.. He sounds like someone who really blessed those around him with his wisdom and kindness. Lucky that you had him in your life.

  • Hi Maryanne, in 2012 did Bayani tell you that a film was being made about him? I am the filmmaker. I would love to ask you more about the impact Bayani had in your life. Do you mind emailing me directly?

    • Hi Amber! That’s awesome about the film on Bayani. Has it been made? I was a Rondalla and Choral student of Bayani when directed the PASACAT Rondalla and Choral Ensemble. Before leaving he even gave conducting workshops so that his work would be carried forward. He taught us from 1969 – 1983. His teachings have left an indelible imprint on Philippine culture in California as some of our members moved from San Diego, and brought that knowledge to the Bay area. I would love to know about the film. Feel free to email me at or view our website and PASACAT FB page.

      Maryanne, Thank you for sharing about your moments with Bayani. I was privileged to share many conversations on Philippine culture and spirituality just like you. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for him, I would not have stayed with PASACAT for the past 44 years. He was an inspiration, friend and teacher. Eleanor Academia’s sister and I were classmates and Eleanor even recorded at the PASACAT studio.

      He introduced us to his father’s group, Felipe De Leon’s Himig ng Lahi. Through this group which toured to San Diego three times, I learned about Philippine history through music, from chants of the Cordillera and Mindanao, to the Pabasa, to the turn of the century influences and to OPM.

      He arranged about 300 pieces for PASACAT – rondalla, folk dances, choral pieces and had a hard time maintaining the library of music he scored for us. We even laughed one time when he gave me the original music he scored with fresh ink, saying that I had an original piece from Bayani. They are now treasures of gold.

      Thanks all for sharing and remembering Bayani. May he rest in peace.

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