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.
RAFFY: I'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