Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Q&A with millennial songwriter Raffy Cabristante

A few years ago, we had an eager young man on our social media team at GMA News who seemed to never run out of energy. Raffy Cabristante, who hails from Dumaguete City, would do his job well even at odd hours, contribute articles even when it's not required of him to do so, and pester me often in hallways to ask if we had a job opening for a news reporter.

Off duty, he would do some jamming with a band he formed with friends.

It was no surprise then when I read from one of his Facebook posts that a song he wrote (lyrics) got recorded by his friend named Kyle Juliano. This was "Malapit Pa Rin."

I messaged him to congratulate him and ask, um, how does that Spotify link to his song he posted work? Do I need to subscribe or download an app?

Patience seems to be one of his virtues and so he advised this non-techie tita of Manila what to do.

So that's how "Malapit Pa Rin" became one of my most played songs on Spotify. Raffy also told me he had another song (music and lyrics are his), also recorded by Kyle Juliano, entitled "Crashing." He said this was the song that is most personal for him.

Anyway, so the other day Raffy posted on Facebook that "Crashing" just got 3 million plays on Spotify. Congrats, Raffy!

I asked him before about songwriting and all that stuff, and thought you might find this interesting too. Here's our Q and A:

K: Tell me something about yourself.

RAFFYI'm 25, born in Manila but raised in Dumaguete. I work as a community journalist based in Dumaguete City, but I also work on music from time to time.

K: Have you always been into music? What can you remember doing when you were younger?
RAFFY: I've been into music since fifth grade, when I started writing lyrics and poems on my notebook in between classes. My interest in music grew as I learned the drums and guitar (partly through lessons but mostly self-taught) when I was in the sixth grade. It was only when I knew how to play instruments that I set the lyrics into music. I first fell in love with music when I joined our church choir as soprano when I was a kid... and later bass when I grew up (big drop haha). 

K: Tell me about your music career. RAFFY: I feel fortunate that I spent my teenage/high school years in the 2000s when interest in rock music (particularly OPM rock) was so high. Since I already knew the guitar and drums at the time, I would frequently join different bands in high school. Most of the time, we did covers of hit rock songs at the time (like songs from Callalily, Kamikazee, Parokya ni Edgar, Bamboo, Hale, and other OPM bands)... but we also wrote songs. I was so passionate about music that I ended up leaving my studies behind. I was a freshman then at the Ramon Teves Pastor Memorial - Dumaguete Science High School, a prestigious public science high school with a minimum grade requirement of 85 (at the time). Because I focused more on music than studies, I didn't meet the requirement and I was advised to transfer to another school. Funnily enough, the school that booted me out because of music also invited me (and my present band The Chill Pills) to do a gig in a major school event. Ironic, but funny. Haha! My passion for bands continued until college, when some friends I met at NSTP got together to form a band called TetraPack (a reference to the packaging brand). The band was quite short-lived because we were too busy with academics, but we did land a gig at a fun day at the Silliman University College of Business Administration in 2010. Hehe! It was in 2011 when a song I wrote finally got public attention, when I became a finalist for that year's Valentine Songwriting Competition, one of the most well-known songwriting tilts in Dumaguete and Silliman's version of "Himig Handog." The song was about heartbreak called "Slowdown." It didn't win, but hey, being a finalist in a competition as well-known as VSC was already enough for me then. Through the following years, I was so busy with school and with pursuing my other passion of journalism. When I was still working with GMA News in 2015, I managed to form an acoustic band with college classmate (and erstwhile GMA News SMT teammate) Katrin Arcala, jamming together during our days off in BGC and a studio in Makati. I played the guitar, Kat was the lead singer; pina-MYMP. We would make short videos of covers then; it was really more of a way for us to unwind from the daily grind of our individual jobs. We called ourselves "The Chill Pills" (Kat and I made up the first lineup). The name was inspired by Alma Moreno's viral TV interview then, when she blurted out "Pills!" It also took inspiration from the expression "take a chill pill," which pretty much described the music we were making back then. The present lineup of The Chill Pills is Kyle Juliano on vocals and rhythm guitar, Jon David "JD" Garcia on lead guitar, and myself on drums and percussion. We got together late 2016 after I tapped Kyle (a churchmate of mine) to sing a song I was working on called "Malapit Pa Rin." Kyle and JD were bandmates during their high school years; Kyle called JD in when we were recording "Malapit Pa Rin" at a friend's indie home studio on December of that year. Even though Kyle is already based in Manila as a solo artist for Universal Records Philippines, we still jam together from time to time as a band, especially when Kyle comes home to Dumaguete. Most of the songs I wrote were performed by Kyle. 

K: What are your compositions? How did you come up with each of them? RAFFY: Here I'll only discuss my notable published compositions: a. Malapit Pa Rin - a Filipino adaptation of the hit Indonesian pop song "Dekat Di Hati" (Close To My Heart) by the group RAN. I wrote the Tagalog lyrics in 2016 and talks about long-distance relationships. We released the song independently on radio and online on Valentine's Day 2017. Later the song was discovered by Universal Records. After getting the proper permission from the original Indonesian artists, the song was re-recorded by Kyle and was released on August 2017. It became a viral hit on Spotify Philippines; it peaked at #10 at the "Viral 50 Philippines" chart. Kyle also performed the song with Piolo Pascual on ASAP on July 2017.

b. Crashing - This is perhaps the most personal song I've ever written. I wrote the song when I was still working as an online journalist in Cebu during the summer of 2017, based on real-life experiences. It's a ballad that tells the all too familiar story of a hopeless romantic, who first gets his hopes up when he falls in love with someone but later finds out that it was all for nothing after a rejection. At first, I didn't really intend the song for public release as it was only a way for me to deal with pain at the time. But I realized that I can't pass up on the opportunity of it going published and it was later noticed by Universal. It was recorded by Kyle and was released as a single on December 2017. "Crashing" has topped several different radio charts all over the Philippines; its lyric video is the most-viewed among Kyle's singles. It has also been nominated for "Pop Song of the Year" at the 2019 Wish 107.5 Music Awards. My favorite line in the song is this: "And I pray to God to give me strength / Cause your beauty makes me weak" c. The Boy I Used To Know - Written only a month after "Crashing," this is the only song I wrote that was not performed by Kyle. It was originally "The Girl I Used To Know," but the gender was changed after the song was given to a female artist. It was first recorded by Dumaguete-based singer-songwriter Jamie Kay Roa, and we released it independently on Facebook. It was later re-recorded by celebrity singer Angelina Cruz and released as one of the tracks of her debut extended play (EP) on July 2018, under Universal Records Philippines. d. Unta Single Na Ka (Sana Single Ka Na) - This is perhaps my most notable Cebuano pop song. Kyle, JD, and I first recorded the song as a rough demo in March 2017. It later gained attention after it became one of the finalists for the first Kanta Kasingkasing Bisaya songwriting competition. It was a worldwide songwriting competition, with the finals night held in Cebu City. The final version of the song was performed by Dumaguete-based artists Zach and Zeph Buenavista. It's a song whose theme was inspired by "Kung Ako Na Lang Sana;" it's a message from a guy who's in love with her girl best friend, the girl only comes to him to open up and when her relationship runs into problems. It was released under Kasikas Records and Viva Records. e. Take Control - An upbeat urban cool pop song where the singer asks a girl to take a chance on him, even if they're both hurting from their previous relationships. Its sound takes inspiration from the electronic pop music of indie bands LANY and The 1975 (which Kyle and I are big fans of). The song is a collaboration of myself, Kyle, and upcoming urban music singer-songwriter-producer Fern. (Fern Tan). "Take Control" was released as one of the tracks of Kyle's debut EP on September 2018, under Universal Records. K: Any advice to other young composers?

RAFFY: Well, to my fellow young composers, here are two pieces of advice. First, keep writing. Never stop. Write about anything, write about everything. There's no other way to keep the fire alive other than fanning it. Our love of music and songwriting is a fire, and by continuous writing, we let our talent grow and we keep it alive. Second, be yourself. Even if they don't know the songwriters personally, people can easily feel the raw, authentic emotions of a song that's honestly written. Most of the hit songs out there (like MercyMe's "I Can Only Imagine") were inspired by real events, real people, real feelings, and real experiences. Madaling nakukuha ang loob ng tao sa pamamagitan ng kantang may malalim na pinaghuhugutan. I experienced this first-hand when "Crashing" became a radio hit and people came to me saying they felt the emotion of the song. Keep it real, and the emotions will simply come out in the songs you write.

Thank you, Raffy. Keep on writing!

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Have you heard of the book "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi? Ay grabe. Excellent prose, touching story. Kalanithi is a neurosurgeon who wrote about how he struggled to treat others when he himself needed healing from cancer. 

VERSE OF THE WEEK: By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me -- a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8

Monday, May 20, 2019


Driving to work this morning at around 4:45 a.m., I was mesmerized by a beautiful sight in the sky. The moon. A beautiful moon. A beautiful round full moon glowing down at me.

I looked at it while waiting at a stoplight and told myself to take a picture of the moon when I get to work.

Because I parked maybe 4-5 blocks away from my workplace, it took maybe another 5-10 minutes to get to the office. By then the dark skies have become a bit brighter as sunrise was just a few minutes away.

I looked again at the moon and made a mental note to arrive at the office earlier tomorrow -- earlier than 5 a.m. -- so as to be able to take a photo of the moon against the background of a dark sky.

Thank you, Lord God, for the moon, I whispered a prayer.

May we not be so busy that we fail to see the beauty around us and to give credit to the Creator.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm reading "How To Make Disease Disappear" by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee. I read health books and fitness/diet articles online because I believe that  if I bombard myself with tons of health stuff, I will actually be brainwashed into pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Dr. Chatterjee's book is simple to understand yet is very practical and helpful. The advisory in a nutshell: Relax. Eat. Move. Sleep.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "How blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD his God." Psalm 146:5

Friday, May 10, 2019


I spent most of my day off yesterday curled up in bed or the armchair. I don't know why I felt so tired. Maybe it's the summer heat or the lack of sleep or the busy schedule, or all of these. So I just heeded what I think my body was telling me, and just rested.

My rehab med doctor once told me: "Listen to your body." Sometimes we ignore what our bodies tell us and still keep busy despite the pain or fatigue, and then we get sick.

Make time for rest. I for one would love to go out of town and just do nothing but rest. Hopefully I can get to do that soon.

"Doing is important but so is resting," according to this post I saw on Instagram.

"Take time to work. Make time to rest," my friend Lyqa Maravilla advised.

So rest. Yup, you.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: While curled up on my favorite armchair yesterday, I finished reading It's A Mens World by Bebang Siy. Wow, what an interesting book! So hard to put down.. Bebang writes from the heart and talks to us her readers like we are her bestfriends as she makes kuwento about living in Ermita, having a broken family, dating, etc. in a funny endearing way. No wonder this book is a bestseller!

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31

Friday, January 04, 2019

25 things I have learned so far

After greeting me a happy birthday this morning, someone asked me via Viber today what I have learned so far and what I am looking forward to. Wait, that deserves a more lengthy reply, I said. 😀 

I’ve learned so many things in my 52 years of living (yup, no use hiding my age) and here are some of them:

1. Eat on time.
2. Have some time to be quiet.
3. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days.
4. It pays to sleep early.
5. You don’t have to go to every party.
6. People may forget bylines but not the way you treat them.
7. Integrity is what you do when no one is watching.
8. Drink lots of water.
9. Set your priorities right: God first, then family, then work.
10. Rest. You’re not a superhero.
11. Love your family and spend time with them.
12. Read. It widens your world.
13. Read the Bible. Feed your soul.
14. Dark chocolates are healthy and a great way to cap the meal. Meiji Black is yum!
15. Make time to meet friends and listen to what they have to say.
16. Be friends with your exes (generally).
17. Eat more veggies.
18. Make friends with the watch your car boy and parking attendant.
19. Listen to your body.
20. Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.
21. Pursue your passion.
22. Learn something new every day.
23. Sing when you feel like singing even when in the car alone.
24. Travel, even by yourself, to recharge.
25. You may not see the future, and clouds may be blocking your view (as in a video I took this morning in Tagaytay) but with God, everything will be alright. ❤️

As to what I am looking forward to, just more of some peace and quiet, as I trust God that He’s in control.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: My sister told me about this book written by her classmate's mother who is already in her 90s. I got curious and asked if the author is Lourdes Syquia-Bautista. Yes, she's the author of "Faith, Family and Friends: A Celebration of God's Goodness." I was ecstatic to have the chance to read this book (my sister lent me her copy given by her classmate) written by Mrs. Bautista, wife of our adviser in The Varsitarian when I was in college, the late Felix Bautista. She is also the mother of my editor-in-chief at The Varsitarian, Noel Martin Bautista. Small world! I'm in the first few chapters already and it's a good engaging read. Mrs. Bautista, who taught English for decades, writes very well. This book collates her articles for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Life Today.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. ~ Psalm 23:1-3

Monday, December 31, 2018

Life lessons

In a few hours, the new year, 2019, will ring in. Looking at my planner this year, I can't help but be amazed at how fast time flies. So many things happened this year, 2018. New friends were made, old friends found again, and wonderful moments were spent with loved ones.

One of the lessons I have learned and am still learning this year is the need to make time to rest. Rest is good. Rest is refreshing. Rest is a must.

One of the country's most successful businessmen, John Gokongwei, Jr., apparently makes sure to take care of himself well. He takes hour-long power naps after lunch. He also exercises every day and is always home for dinner. More of his life lessons are in the book "Lessons from Dad, John Gokongwei, Jr." by Lance Gokongwei with Yvette Fernandez -- a little book worth reading.

What has this year taught you? May we all take stock to look back at what we have learned and ought to learn some more, and thank God for His blessings. Happy new year!

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I finally finished Nick Joaquin's "A Question of Heroes" which casts a critical eye on our history. Heneral Antonio Luna, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Jose Rizal, and Andres Bonifacio, among others, come alive in this book and you come away feeling that history would have turned out differently had cooler heads prevailed.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Is he the one?

By Karen Galarpe

These days I'm feeling the pain of a couple of friends who are both going through something hard -- something that hits the core, the love life kind of pain.

The most I could do is listen and pray.

A few years back, another friend opened up to me and with tears asked me, "How do you know he's the one?"

Well how do you answer that?

When I was so much younger I asked this too of someone more mature than me. And she said if you have to ask that, then chances are he's not the one. Because if he's the one, you would know.

There are some couples, who when you see them, they just seem so right for each other. They're a good fit, they complement each other, and they're so happy to know they're meant for each other. It's a joy coming from deep within.

Some of these couples are our pastor Peter Tan-Chi and his wife Deonna (authors of the book "Motivate"), their daughter Joy Tan-Chi Mendoza and her husband Edric Mendoza, and our pastor Dr. Alex Marcos and his wife Dr. May Marcos.

Two of my friends have also found the one for them. I asked them how they met and how they knew the other was the one. Maybe this can help point you to the right direction.

Met at McDonald's

Vie Lising-Velasco is a ballet teacher. She is married to Rene. Let's hear it straight from Vie:

"Back in the day when McDonald's was at its peak in hiring college students, I was summoned three times for interviews and got the job! That was where I met my now-husband Rene. According to him, it was never the same after he saw me. I detected by his actions that he wanted to court me. I hesitated because in my heart I was not sure if he was the right man for me.

"After around a total of six hours of intermittent conversations, he mentioned that he is a Christian. He was exhilarated to know that I, too, am a follower of Christ.

"During our four-year boyfriend and girlfriend relationship, we broke up twice. My mother would call Rene and ask him to reconcile with me. Now that I am reminiscing that God-sent moment, I realize that God can use parents to make His will known.

"Through all the circumstances that God orchestrated plus Rene showing the fruit of the Holy Spirit of what a Christian should be, I knew he was the one.

"We celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary last July. Every year, our three wonderful daughters would always come up with something on our wedding anniversary!"

Youth pastor to husband

Anna Carlos-Alegre is an educator. She is married to Venjoy. Here's Anna in her own words:

"My story may be unique, but I think it is the best way to find your forever! My husband was my youth pastor, my mentor, and eventually, became my best friend and confidant. For 15 years! That is probably the most unique part of our story.

"To condense the impressions that God made in my heart over that span of 15 years (met him when I was 16), he was my best friend -- he knew me inside out. He was selfless; he saw me through my string of "love lives" and broken hearts (because he was my confidant), and always gave good advice -- that wasn't necessarily favorable towards him. 

"He also said, 'You need me!' as he made his love known, and in my youthful proud heart, I tried proving to him that I did not. He was loving enough to confront me when I was wrong, and he did it gently. And despite the happiest romances I had over those years, I always felt like he was home.

"When I lost him to the US and silence for 4 years, that was when I knew that he was the one that this phrase embodied: 'Don't marry the one you can live with. Marry the one you feel you cannot live without.' He was right and I had to humble myself!"

So there. If it is God's will for you to marry, He knows best. Seek His guidance and trust Him.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

BOOK OF THE WEEK: There are two kinds of leaders: the self-serving leader and the servant leader. Which one are you? According to The Servant Leader by Ken Blanchard, the self-serving leader spends most of his time protecting his status. Feedback is thus received negatively. The servant leader, on the other hand, views leadership as an act of service. He embraces feedback and sees it as a way to improve and provide even better service. To be an effective leader, you have to start with the heart.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hunter's got a new heart!

By Karen Galarpe

There is this little baby in Gainesville, Florida, whom I look out for daily. His name is Hunter Fenix.

Every day for many months now, I've been following the updates of his parents, Pastor Jonathan and Coco Fenix, on Facebook. 

Born with a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which affects the normal blood flow of the heart, Hunter has been hooked to a Berlin heart for quite some time now. That Berlin heart is an artificial device that pumps blood from a ventricle and delivers it to the aorta.

Sometimes clots form and there was a time he had sepsis. But God has delivered him from those otherwise worrisome instances. 

He has many tubes going into his body, but that doesn't stop him from enjoying cuddling with his parents and playing with his rattles and mobile toys.

According to his parents, Hunter needs a donor heart since he can't use the Berlin heart forever. And so I joined the many people praying for little Hunter to get a heart soon.

Well, guess what, God has heard our prayers! Hunter got a new heart today! Thank you, Lord!

Let's continue praying for Hunter, that his body won't reject the heart. Let us also pray for the family of the donor, that they may feel God's comfort and love most especially at this difficult time.

Join me in following updates on Hunter. Like the FB page Heart for Hunter Fenix and see this miracle baby.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I picked up the book "Perennial" by Twila Paris at Books for Less inside SM Hypermart in Tiendesitas about a year ago or so. It's a beautiful book collating her musings about life and the lessons God has been teaching her. Written in a warm, friendly tone, the book also gives gardening tips and includes lyrics to Twila's songs. Twila is a Christian singer with several albums to her name. A delightful read.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. Psalm 139:13