UP Life // Lounge Singer Life
If you asked me what my college life in UP was like, I would say it was a blur of attending classes, eating fishballs, getting those thick Nat Sci handouts that I barely got to read, going on zombie-mode every finals week, lots of singing, and lots of commuting.
The summer before classes started, I was already gigging in Stonehouse, Richmond, and Vincent’s pub in Makati (it’s closed now). I was enjoying myself so much that what was supposed to be a summer job continued on for all four years of my college education. Some of my friends ask me how I did it: how did I sing at night, go to class during the day, and be able to graduate on time? How did I balance everything?
Well, looking back now, eleven years after I graduated, I would have to say that it’s all because of seven factors: youth, my mom, kind classmates, understanding professors, catnapping, effective cramming, and God.
We lived in Las Piñas then. My regular school day routine would be commuting two hours to UP; taking the tricycle out to the main road, taking the jeep, getting off at Baclaran to board a bus to Taft, taking the MRT from Taft to Quezon Ave, and a final jeepney ride to UP. It sounds so tiring now and a lot inconvenient, but it was in these two hours that I got to review my notes or take a much-needed nap. And as I mentioned, I had youth on my side - dati parang kahit araw-araw puyat, kaya.
My classes in UP would usually take a whole day, the earliest being 8:30am and the latest ending at 5:30pm. (Of course, this wasn’t how it was for the whole four years - in my third year I dropped out of my 8:30am marketing class because I just couldn’t get there on time, and so I learned just to sign up for 10am morning classes.) After my last class, I would go straight to wherever I will be performing that night. Usually I would meet my mom at the nearest MRT station, and we would go from there.
Ah, my mom. Someone should give her an Ulirang Ina award. From Las Piñas, she would commute too, bringing with her all my things needed for the performance - one big duffel bag that contains my outfit, makeup, hairspray / hair iron, shoes, and my songbook. Gah, my thick, heavy songbook (wala pang iPad noon)! Upon arriving at the venue, we would have dinner (entertainers and their plus ones are given meals), then I would go to the restroom (or an assigned room) and put on my makeup there (all those years of practice and I still can’t apply proper show makeup until today, hehe), we would sit at one of the end tables and discuss the lineup with my assigned pianist, do the required show times (usually two-three sets of forty-five minutes to one hour, with fifteen to thirty-minute breaks in between), finish the show, then take a cab home. If we were gigging in Stonehouse, we would arrive at our Las Piñas house at 3am; other gigs would see us home between 1-1:30am.
She was never a stage mother. She was tireless in accompanying and bringing my things gig in and gig out. She would quietly sit in one corner and watch from there, smoking her Marlboro reds and chatting with the dining staff. Our regulars would often treat her to a cheesecake and Coke; she notes which songs get applauded the most and copiously printed out all the lyrics that I needed. Oh my mom.. I will never be where I am without her.
I did gigs minimum three times a week, maximum five. I was lucky that UP had Wednesdays off; I got to sleep in on those days and on the weekend. On my third year we shifted to an all bossa nova repertoire, and my former manager Garrie Trinidad assigned me a guitarist (Brian Soriano) and a percussionist (Ryan Angeles) - we were called Sitti and the Cubanos. That was when we had the most gigs, I had the most money, and I got probation status because I dropped half of my enrolled units. Lesson learned.
It was also in my third year that my manager sent me to audition for a singing spot abroad. I went, I passed, but I decided to stay on and finish school. My plan was to make singing full-time a year after graduation, and if nothing significant happens (i.e., a recording career or a contract abroad), I would see what the corporate world has in store for me.
What I loved most about UP was how humbling it was. In high school I was used to acing tests, knowing the answers, and the self-confidence and pride this all brought. In UP, you were all valedictory know-it-alls who are forced to realize that you don’t know it all AT ALL, hahaha! It was a great equalizer.
I wasn’t that close to many during college. But I was very fortunate to have really kind classmates who would let me borrow their notes or who would fill me in on important lessons every time I missed class. I passed my Finance class because of Aggie Manangu, the only person I was ever really close to in college: she lobbied for me, tirelessly requesting for our professor to give me a passing grade of three, presenting my case of being a working student and breadwinner. She was an angel.
I wasn’t the best student, either. I remember gulping down readings on Econ Stat, or Dev Econ, or Kas 2, subjects that I really enjoyed studying, and finding out I was proficient at learning Basic German. But Stat 101, Microeconomics and Finance, arrrgh, I just couldn’t force myself to study those, hehe. (I usually used my time in Stat 101 to answer the crossword in Inquirer Libre hehe pasaway!). I have no idea how I passed NatSci 1 and 2 - those were both huge classes with the thickest readings na kapag exam na e hindi mo alam kung saan nanggaling yung question, hehe. I think those were the two classes in which I usually dozed off.
One could say that my diligence in elementary and high school was lost in college, and honestly I’m not sure how much of my being a working student affected that (maybe I just didn’t like some of what I was studying). But still I studied as hard as I could (read: crammed) because I wanted to finish on time, and to be able to do that I had to enrol in six units the summer before graduation year, and on my last year I had to take full load (twenty-one units) on both semesters. I lay low from singing on my senior year; fortunately for me my uncle was renting out in QC, and so I got to stay with him.
I held memberships at only three organisations. I was a not-so-serious and kinda delinquent member of UP JMA, I was more involved in UP OBEM, but it was with AIESEC UPD that I was the most passionate about. In senior year I was VP for Outgoing Exchange (OGX) and it was here that I truly understood what passion was about. Don’t get me wrong - singing is a passion, but the work that had to be done for OGX was a different one that I thoroughly enjoyed and would stay up late for. You just really have more energy for the things you truly care about.
Choices always had to be made. Because I was out on most nights singing, I missed out on the typical “college life”, aka the parties. But in all honesty, I didn’t mind, because every gig was playtime. And for the first time in my life, I was earning my own keep! I started with a salary of P700 a night and as the years passed, got incremental raises. God has been so good and faithful.. I not only got to pay for my own tuition and books, but the money I made was also enough to send my youngest brother to preschool, and I got to help out with the household expenses, too. To be paid for doing something that doesn’t feel like work is just really a wonderful, wonderful blessing from the Lord. Indeed, I have so many things to be grateful for.
God fixes schedules. In my senior year I auditioned for MTV Supahstar, got in, and had to be absent from school for two weeks. (The show was the first reality-based competition and they had to house fifteen of us in Parque España.) You know what God did? Those professors who were strict with attendance were absent for one or two classes too, such that I didn’t miss much. My classmates again came to my rescue and let me borrow their notes. Some of them even came to support me at the finals night in Meralco Theater! It was God who really eased on everything for me.. no one else but Him. He made me one of the winners, too.
On April 2005 I marched with my fellow UPSE graduates in our auditorium. I couldn’t believe I managed a Dean’s medal! I have finished the course, on time as I planned. Little did I know that the recording and professional singing career awaited. For a few months after, in October 2005, Warner Music gambled on me and produced a one-day live recording session for my debut album, Café Bossa. (The recording contract with them was part of the winnings in MTV Supahstar.) The album came out on February 2006, and reached double platinum status shortly after. I thought it was gonna be a one-time thing, so in my thank you’s I thanked everyone I could think of! Haha. Little did I know.
It’s always good to look back and appreciate the journey. All those singing nights, hours on the road, study dates with chocnut and Rebisco cream sandwich in the library (yes, I snuck in snacks while studying, eep), one could say that it all paid off. But I also know all of that happened because it was the Lord’s will. When He allowed me to graduate, He made my mom and grandparents happy. When He gave me this voice, it was His plan for me to build and enjoy a career on it.
So to all those who are studying now, enjoy it, savour it. But also, try to be keen on what the Lord wishes for you to do. And always, just let Him surprise you. He does a mighty fine job of doing just that. <3
Thank you for reading! Till the next. :)