When I Was a Geek // The Early Singing Years

Most of you probably do not know how my singing began. My first “regular” gig was singing for my Lola whenever she played mahjong at our neighbor’s. I was probably four or five then, and in retrospect, a warbling wind-up toy (Katrina! Kanta ka dito, kanta ka dyan). It was so easy to coerce me to sing when I was young, but of course as I got older, I developed hiya and mercifully wasn’t made to sing at every family reunion or birthday party.

I was six or seven years old when I joined our chapel choir in San Antonio Valley 7, Las Piñas. Every Sunday mass from then till the summer before college you would have found my chubby-cheeked face singing with a bunch of other kids/teenagers in the front right portion of the chapel. I didn’t have regular voice lessons growing up so eto na yung pinaka-lessons ko. (It was very good practice for learning harmony, which benefited me greatly in my singing today, especially in group production numbers). I loved practicing at Tata Romy’s house too because Nanay Nenette, Ate Jai and Ate Judy would always feed us yummy treats, hehe :D.

I didn’t think much about singing then because I enjoyed studying so much. I loved reading, a trait I got from my mom. Until now, one of my fondest memories of us together is lying on the bed, side by side, each with a book on her hand. That’s probably what started my love for learning, a different world unfolding every time I would open a book.

I loved going to school, the so-called academic life. Waking up early to prepare, waiting for the school bus to arrive, playing with my busmates, falling in line to enter the school, doing my homework, I loved it all. I loved listening to my teachers, that shiver you get when a question comes up on the exam that you know the answer to (Yes! Na-review ko ‘to!), I loved Algebra and Science and was extremely fascinated with Physics, and of course I loved English! It was probably my best subject. Filipino and Kasaysayan were I think, my poorer ones, hehe.  

Confeeermed! I was a nerd. And yes, I’m the goody-goody teacher’s pet you probably would have hated on back in high school. But I made my Lolo and Lola and Mama happy and proud, and for that I will always be grateful to the Lord that I liked studying, hehe! I would get medals every year at Recognition Day in elementary and high shool. Kindergarten pa lang, over-achiever na ata ako, hehe! I was valedictorian in pre-school, second honourable mention in grade school, and valedictorian in high school. Though to be honest, I did think there were others who were more intelligent than me (like John Teodosio). But none of that matters now; high school life seems like such a small world in retrospect. I do wish we’d saved/recorded my valedictory address, though. I wonder what my fifteen-year-old self said.

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Anyway, as I was saying, singing never presented itself to me as an option for a career. Neither did it probably appeal to my mom, hehe! I think she had more ambition for me to become a beauty queen than a singer, lol. I had a voice teacher once when I was in grade school, but that didn’t last long; maybe they thought I wasn’t progressing or it was too pricey. It didn’t really matter to me - Tita Budeng, my mom’s sister, would coach me when I needed it. 

In addition to my being a member of the choir, I had my fair share of contests and singing in flag ceremonies / school programs. I remember being so nervous every time the teachers would ask me to sing Lupang Hinirang - scrabbling for oxygen and involuntarily swallowing at times because of too much nerves. If my schoolmates heard my mishaps, no one said anything. The St. Francis of Assisi College hymn was much more manageable.

I remember my first brush with stage fright. I think we were in first grade and campaigning for student council (I think I was running for sergeant-at-arms). They asked me to sing in front of the class, and with my heart pounding in my ears, I messed up the high part of Celine Dion’s Because You Loved Me. I think I took it in stride but as with all fails and embarrassing moments in life, never forgot it.  

I recall joining the school singing contest in early grade school, practicing Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas over and over again, getting dolled and primped up only to find out that I missed the contest because it was held in the morning. I remember being overconfident in Grade 6 when I joined another school contest, didn’t practice Jaya’s Dahil Tanging Ikaw, sang it for the first time in said contest and belatedly realising that the song was just too high for me. In second year I won first place with You Light Up My Life, and for the remaining two years in high school, I would perform in duet categories with my classmate, Pong Discipulo.  

  I sang One Moment in Time in pre-school. Ang taas ng boses at belter pa ako noon, haha!

I sang One Moment in Time in pre-school. Ang taas ng boses at belter pa ako noon, haha!

If someone had told me back in high school that I would be a singer, I would never have believed that person. Sure, I was singing in school and church, but that didn’t mean anything to me, especially living in a country so full of talented singers and performers. Besides, hindi mataas boses ko. In my mind, those were the only singers that would make it: the Regine Velasquezes and Mariah Careys.

And so, my focus on studies continued. In senior year, I applied to UP. I didn’t know what course to take, and I hadn’t had the slightest idea of what I wanted to do with my life after high school. And so I let my Lolo pick the course, he chose Business Economics, I got in. If my singing hadn’t happened, I probably would have applied to where all my other batch mates were applying to, and certainly my reality today would have been very much different.

  17-year-old me at the Hyatt Hotel’s Calesa Bar (It is Midas Hotel now). I consider myself very lucky to have played with the late, great Rudy Francisco.

17-year-old me at the Hyatt Hotel’s Calesa Bar (It is Midas Hotel now). I consider myself very lucky to have played with the late, great Rudy Francisco.

Some children have dreams in their hearts from the moment they develop aspirational thinking. In some kids, aptitude for the arts, or dance, or math are exhibited at young ages. Others are late bloomers. No matter, for wherever we were placed in our youth, our life calling, our destined career, will always pull us towards the path we are walking on now. Life just has a way of happening that makes us marvel at turns of events, and always, it has a way of making us understand why certain things happened the way they did.

That’s what happened to this undecided, short term-planning, rich-in-stage-fright geek. Doors were opened, opportunities grabbed, and risks taken, in a cycle of late nights, evening gowns, and unapologetic music.

I didn’t choose singing, singing chose me.

And oh, to be a student again. <3

Thank you for reading! I share what it’s like to be a working student in UP in my next post. The trip down memory lane shall continue. :)

Bossa love,

Sitti