Filipino Artists You Need to Listen to More in 2019

Man, OPM has truly taken a new turn in the past few years, especially in 2018. It feels like a whole new breed of creators, singers, bands, and musicians, have emerged in recent times, not to resurrect a hopelessly moribund genre, but to establish a brand new premise, even identity. I believe this is galvanised by a strong need to express the current dialogue of the culture, its recent triumphs and frustrations, as well as new influences, new social and creative standards, and new aspirations.

And so, I listed down some of these brilliant Filipino artists that I want to make sure are in my Spotify playlist for the coming year, not only because their works are affective and sublime, but because these are artists who champion our musical treasury and live out the legacy of OPM with fresh sounds, unstoppably ingenious spirits, and new stories to tell.

Disclaimer: This is MY list. I am not imposing it to anyone at nor stating that they’re the only decent OPM artists of the time. I’m sure I will definitely miss one or two names. So, I encourage you to make your own.

 

MOIRA DELA TORRE

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I was right when I said that Moira was going to be a “trendsetter” in my blogpost two years ago (that people have not stopped visiting, surprisingly). She’s gone above and beyond that—she has become a game changer. She is the most streamed local artist in the Philippines this year; and her outstanding hits such as Malaya and Tagpuan will perhaps explain why.

Her luminous, fragile soul, and her mellifluous voice can both mend and destroy your vulnerable heart. Whatever story she tells through her original ballads and revivals are always believable and deeply felt. She can change your mental and physical atmospheres in a heartbeat.

My top picks: We & Us, Tagu-Taguan

 

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A profound blend of pop and folk elements, their splendid use of words, and gripping melodies—Ben&Ben’s music will surely tear at your heartstrings. Big time. They will leave any listener on the verge of sentimentality, and oftentimes in full-blown nostalgia, but still with a subtle ring of hope. No wonder this exceptional band is also in the list of most streamed artists in 2018.

My top picks: Maybe the Night, Bibingka

 

CLARA BENINfs_clara_rs.jpgSmooth, soothing, sensational. Her music has been tagged “coffee shop music” for its calming nature and subdued tonal design. I first head her song, Closure in the closing credits of the TEN17P film, First Love. From then on, I would go to this song as though running to a peaceful sanctuary. Her voice is sure to take the edge off life’s hurts and haste. And her lyrical poesy, simply moving.

My top picks: Closure, Parallel Universe

 

IV OF SPADESIV-of-Spades-e1539025512711.jpgAbsolute hitmakers. Mundo exploded on the Internet early this year, and is in fact the most streamed song on Spotify in the country for 2018. This song gave romance an eccentric spin; the band’s unique vocal stylings communicate its captivating poetic language in a way no one else has. Now that their main vocalist has left and moved on, I wonder how the group will sustain their musical design and distinctive identity.

My top picks: Mundo, In My Prison

 

REESE LANSANGAN2a7dec23eedfbbc45968ed74ebe96a26.jpgA lustrous gem of the Filipino indie scene. Her vocal style carries a strong resemblance to that of Regina Spektor, but obviously using a different idiom and artistic essence. I particularly enjoy her quirky, feel-good acoustic tunes that showcase her charming vocal flips and inflections. Her sweet sound and youthful vibe have surely made her one of the most significant and sought-after acts in the country’s indie gig circuit.

My top picks: Exploration No. 5, Grammar Nazi

 

DECEMBER AVENUE10300439_10152518703712765_5922152470041209929_n.jpgPop rock music is most effective and appreciated when its main melody is altogether elating and instantly memorable. December Avenue offers exactly that with their songs, bringing forth lyrics that are heavily sentimental and straightforward. The stories they tell are real and relatable. This band makes hugot sound irresistibly cool and sufferable.

My top picks: Bulong, Sa Ngalan ng Pag-ibig

 

TOM’S STORYtumblr_ntpwktzXGG1uq6eb8o2_r1_1280.jpgSometimes, words are not needed to convey a message—the music alone can speak for itself, and take the audience to a colourful realm they can explore imaginitively and playfully. Tom’s Story is skilful and eloquent enough to do this, particularly evoking personal feelings and emotions from their listeners through a wide range of conventional and unconventional expressive techniques. Their musical rhetoric is plainly exceptional.

My top picks: Mugatu, Anchors

 

KYLA17ca77300350807b8eb5e554b8d45b8d0d9522d5.jpegI think everybody knows I can talk about Kyla for hours. In light of the recent release of her latest album, Queen of R&B, her music really sparkled this year with gorgeous melodies, enthralling riffs-and-runs, and of course, her compelling, crystalline voice. The new songs certainly sought to prove her music is still relevant, and her musicianship is still unparalleled.

My favourite hobby, though, is to listen to her earlier hits, and find gems in her unreleased, almost unheard-of tracks. And man, they’re golden. For example, (for some reason) I have never heard of Maghihintay Lamang and Tahan Na until recently; and both songs are more than 10 years old already. Nevertheless, I look forward to hearing new stuff from the “Queen of R&B”, and digging some more from her classics vault.

My top picks: What If I, Pangarap Na Dumating

 

YENG CONSTANTINO

29737781_335967880260625_1925812461638778880_n.jpgNobody weaves a narrative like Yeng Constantino. Her recent album Synesthesia is a beautifully woven tapestry of real and personal narratives that intimately knit together to create one chromatic storyline. And her music is the powerful force, the omniscient narrator that carries this masterpiece to the listeners. Her artistry continues to stretch out; and she always has something marvellous to offer.

My top picks: Ako Muna, Bakasyonista

 

KZ TANDINGANKZ-instant-celebrity-in-China-1024x619-2.jpg

KZ’s soul prowess has definitely set the entire Asia ablaze this year after her electrifying performances on “Singer 2018”. Her award-winning album, Soul Supremacy has featured her artistic proficiency and versatility with a chromatic range of soul-filled music including ballads, catchy pop melodies, rap and funky tunes. It is a highly creative and well-rounded record that brings KZ’s musical core to the fore—sophisticated, yet clearly expressed. She is also to be admired for the “micro-nuances” in her singing voice that colours her words quite poignantly. Her music is brimming with intelligence and passion.

My top picks: Labo, Imposible

 

No doubt, Pinoy music has not stopped to evolve, explore and embody the colourful and intricate facets of our life and culture. OPM is on the rise, and like what I’ve always said: It is here to stay. Make that playlist!

When God Speaks

When God speaks, you just know that He is speaking.

It’s a masterful, logical, and fervent voice.

You can’t ignore it nor silence it.

His words will pierce you right in the core, and catapult you to the things that need your attention, especially the areas of your heart that you’ve either been avoiding/hiding from or neglecting.

And it’s always coherent and full. Clear and compelling.

Even the metaphors and the analogies jump straight out to you; no need for complex analysis.

You just get it.

He enables you to get it.

Photo taken after an intense conversation.

Cabesang Tales (A Mini Musical)

At long last! The second (and first official public) staging of “Cabesang Tales” is happening this November. I have composed some music for this show (and lyrics are in poetic Tagalog, dude am I proud of myself) that I’m excited for everyone to hear the arrangements of. We also wrote a couple of new songs for this revamp.

Happy and grateful to have also given my artwork for the show’s main poster. Let’s make the Rizal saga relevant again. Make sure you see it! Tickets are actually limited so make sure you grab yours ASAP.

Well Marked Bibles

Our page has a brand new name!

“Well Marked Bibles” (formerly known as “Dirty Bibles”) continues to encourage people to keep their Bibles open and in frequent use so we can obtain knowledge of the Truth, which is embodied and epitomised in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour—to build our faith, to live our temporary lives according to the will of God; to know about His love and forgiveness and share it to all the world; to honour and revere Him the way a holy, all-powerful God deserves.

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We’re persistent in our belief that a dirtied, well marked Bible, filled with notes and annotations, produces a clean heart; an open Bible keeps us close to God.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

His Word is our lamp and light. His Word is our sole authority and our anchor. His Word is our Truth.

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jesus in John‬ ‭8:31-32‬)

Make God’s Word alive in your life. Make His presence important and a constant in your daily walk. Seek the guidance of His Holy Spirit as you read and meditate on His Word, and watch the Lord renew your mind and transform your life!

Kyla tells ‘em who’s Queen

The Queen is seated on her throne. And she ain’t going anywhere.

Celebrating her 18th year in the music industry, Philippines’ “Queen of R&B”, and the only one eligible for the title, Kyla makes her unflinching comeback in the recording sphere with a brand new album entitled  “The Queen of R&B”, proclaiming point-black, straight out that she is nothing short of the acclaimed title, Queen.

The new record has been launched on Sunday, 15th of April at the Eastwood Mall Open Park.  Prior to this, two back-to-back singles have already been released between January and February: “Only Gonna Love You”, which features international rapper, REQ,  and “Fix You and Me”, both written and produced by Jonathan Manalo of Star Music.

Kyla is better than ever, more feisty than ever. Her artistry, more exquisite than ever. Her voice has reached an exceptional degree of maturity and even freedom.

I believe this is her most eclectic album by far—offering a variety of styles, sounds and feels; new and classic sounding R&B cuts, upbeat pop tunes; funky, reggae, and soft rock vibes; sad contemporary ballads, heartrending duets, and her exceptional revivals.  All of these are harnessed by her distinctively soulful vocals. It feels like her creative muscles have been stretched out flexibly and extensively in the design of this new work.Da3U4ksVQAE4qXg

I was just over the moon when I woke up that Sunday morning, seeing that the album was already available to stream and download online. I have to confess that I had to skip my pre-church morning devotions just to listen to the new tracks! Since then I have not stopped playing and savouring the tasteful mix of songs.

The themes are very universal and highly relatable: the pleasures and misadventures in love and romance. It’s for the happily in love, the kilig-deprived, the hopeful, the shattered, the thankful, the bitter, the friend-zoned, and of course, the I’m-right-here-waiting types. Just your classic, run-of-the-mill Filipino love language wrapped in beautiful music.

Here are my thoughts. The track order is according to my most favourite:

1) “Only Gonna Love You” is a terrific take on pop-reggaeton music, with very strong flares of hip-hop and rap. I happen to enjoy Latin rhythms lately, and this track was successful in combining the Latin dance sound with Kyla’s solid R&B vocals, and grabbing harmonies, that she delivers in a very tantalising and sultry fashion. Her vocal acrobatics particularly towards the end were simply breathtaking. Gah, that descending F5 run, and the high, melodic finish. Are you kidding me? Although I can’t say the last bit was in full whistle register, but the C6 definitely is (or has to be). We don’t get to hear her sing in this register all the time! Moreover, the Remix version was sparkling; the Motown mix was quite delightful; the F5 belts are daring, and the melismas are strictly on point in this one!

2) “What If I”, for some reason, takes me back to the classic, late90s-early00s R&B sound in terms of rhythm, instrumentation, chord progressions, dynamics and harmonies. It felt like listening to Way To Your Heart (2000) tracks all over again. It brought me the classic Kyla, which was heart-warming and thrilling at the same time. The song has a smooth, head-bobbing flow; it’s the kind of song you will play, finish listening to, then put on repeat, and not get sick of. Catchy melody and an addictive What-if-I hook; splendid texturised and counterpointing harmonies, and almost old school R&B riffs and runs. This piece is so easy to enjoy!

3) “Tayo Parin” has a strong Pinoy pop quality to it, that resembles the sound of Star Records divas during late 90s and early 2000s. It’s fun, catchy, sweet-sounding and dancey. The most notable aspect of this song is the numerous chord changes. Yes, numerous. Because who pitch-modulates up to 5 times in ONE freaking song? You’re out of your mind! This topples Beyonce’s 4 semitones in “Love On Top”. As if four was not enough! But Kyla made it a possibility. This would be a very challenging song to sing, that’s for sure.

4) “Pangarap Na Dumating” is the luscious pop-rock cherry of this album. This beautiful and bittersweet song highlights Kyla’s ability to stylise a simple pop tune, sprinkle her soulful zest all over it and make it extra-special, and most importantly, hers. It is that simple yet musically intricate principle that makes her sound so unique and riveting. This pop-rock and soul fusion is definitely a treat!

5) “Fix You and Me” leads us back to Kyla’s classic soulful R&B ballads. This song stretches out Kyla’s full vocal capacity, and it probably has the most daring runs amongst her originals. Also, it feels like this is Kyla’s best “entry” in the hugot song bank of the Philippines. And it’s a formidable one!

6) “Proper Heartbreak” is without a doubt an outstanding feature of this album. It highlights her vocal expression; all the music is subdued, and the spotlight is turned on her voice, which becomes the main instrument or driving force of the song. You can hear every single breath; every single vibrato is an unheard cry. Her voice colours every nuance of the character trying to cope with conflicting feelings of resentment and acceptance, and the pain of letting go. Kyla captured her vulnerability and fragmented heart. This is the same approach, and the same area she taps into in the acoustic version of “Fix You and Me”, but just with a more hopeful ring to it (I also need to mention that her intro runs for this acoustic mix is my most favourite).

7) “Talk About Us” is raw and bare R&B. Charming melody, feel-good rhythm; and the harmonic layers, especially on Kyla’s bits are irresistibly stunning. However, a part of me was hoping that the duet was done with Jay-R (Man, that would’ve been like “Back in Time”, part 2!). Nevertheless, I must say that Iñigo Pascual did a superb job in this track, and actually took me by surprise. Another track you can put on repeat.

8) “Sa Iyo”. Two words when I heard this song: artistic explosion. I was really looking forward to this. When I heard the first few bars of the song, I said to myself, “This got to be Jay Durias stuff!” It just had that distinctive Jay Durias/Southborder vibe because of the glassy, drone-y synth and the sophisticated, unpredictable chord progressions.  The design of the melody really fits the lyrics and the aimed musical flow of the song. What surprised me is that I didn’t get any complex harmonies and movements, which was expected from these two brilliant artists. Instead, they gave me placid. They gave me subdued. They gave me chaste. They touched my soul. So much respect.

9) “Pagdating ng Kailanman” will have to be my favourite Tagalog ballad. It is a very basic case of the melody and the lyrics joining together in paradisical marriage, and having a truthfully happy ending. The instrumentation and arrangement are rapturous. Most importantly, I believe this song also highlights the very best of Kyla’s vocal inflections, runs, dynamics and stylistic outpouring.

10) “Mahal Kita Pero Konti Na Lang” and “Huling Muli” will have to be the next Teleserye theme songs on TFC, I swear! They have a strong Filipino flavour and will surely cater to the Pinoy senti- taste. However, these ballads are done with absolute finesse, both in terms of musicality and expression. The quality’s a bit higher. The piano-string accompaniment plus the rolling cymbals are all just perfect. Her hums and vocal flips can pacify me even in my most disturbed state. Her belt bits are brave and full-hearted.

11) “My Melody” was fun and melodious. This brought in a substantial dose of soul, reggae and funk, which was in full glory in Kyla’s Journey (2014) album. The husky resonance in her head-mix-falsetto areas is plain intoxicating. Moreoever, her low notes are too alluring to be ignored. This is also well displayed in “What If I”, “Fix You and Me”, and “Pangarap na Dumating”. Test of a true soul diva!

12) Her remarkable revivals, “On the Wings of Love” and “Till I Met You” have put her back on the charts, and helped reiterate that Kyla is truly not your ordinary Filipino singer. She has taken these Filipino favourites on a different level with artistic intricacy and authority that have exceeded many of our expectations.

13) I have been a constant fan and lover of Kyla’s Himig Handog entry duets, “Monumento” (with Kris Lawrence), and “Tayo Na Lang Kasi” (with Jason Dy). These songs have elevated the artistic weight and standards of Filipino-composed music. I am hoping that Kyla will be given another chance to sing a solo entry in the coming song festivals, like her winning piece “Salbabida” for Philpop back in 2014.

This album is a 10 for me, and has absolutely exceeded my personal expectations. I have waited a long time for this comeback album, and I am very grateful that Kyla continues to make beautiful and authentic Filipino music that speaks to generations, and inspires creativity and artistic ingenuity, especially in new and aspiring Filipino artists.

She is a true gift, a cultural gem that will continue to shine brighter and brighter in the years to come; and her music, insurmountable.

All hail the Queen!

Mary’s song: “Let It Be Done”

Composer’s notes on Mary’s song, “Let It Be Done”

I am not ashamed or hesitant to say that I am a Bible-believing Christ follower who treats God’s Word as the sole authority when it comes to my faith. And so, for the musical, I wanted to present a “Biblical” Mary: the highly favoured and uniquely blessed woman; the young woman the Lord chose to birth the Messiah into this fallen, chaotic world. Mary embodied a mother who loved and cared for her child(ren); a servant who exemplified humility, obedience, even sacrifice and suffering (See Luke 2:34-35).

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In the traditional, Catholic Stations of the Cross, it presents Jesus meeting His mother on the way to Golgotha where He would be crucified. This is NOT recorded or present in any of the Gospels at all. The only time they met according to the Scriptures was when Jesus was already crucified, and Mary stood by the cross (See John 19:25-29). But because this mother-son encounter was part of the traditional “script” or “ceremony”, I had no choice but to write a song for her because, I mean, she still is a significant character, and this scenario has been present in several movies and other story depictions.

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I had to make it work—without forsaking what the Bible says about Mary, or add something fictional to the story. So I decided to reintroduce the known Biblical personality of Mary which can be found in Luke 1:26-38, where Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, announcing that, “Hey, you’re going to be a Mum to the Son of the Most High!” (paraphrased, obviously). And all Mary had to say to close the deal was, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be done to me according to your word.” Hence, the title.

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Mary obeyed. Mary surrendered to the Lord’s will. Mary trusted that God knew what He was doing, and He had a plan and purpose for her and for the Son she would bear. So whatever her song was had to come from a place of humility and surrender, which was proven in the Scriptures; secondly, from a place of pain and suffering being a mother to a son whom she valued all her life, but now was beaten and shamed, and was marching towards his death. I was in tears writing this piece as I seemed to have felt her pain, and generally, the pain of giving up and letting go of the things you have no control over, even sacrificing the things or people that you love in order to obey or carry out the Lord’s plan. It is painful, but there’s definitely an answer to it in the end where it will all makes sense.

If there’s one thing we can learn from Mary, it is to trust and surrender to the Lord however ugly and painful that process may be. This is exactly what Jesus did, to live in accordance to His Father’s will. What’s the result? Salvation for mankind, reconciliation with our Creator.

God knows what He’s doing. You just have to learn to trust and to yield to Him more.

 

Role of Mary played by: Maxine Lopez

Photos by: Jade Cadelina

“It is finished.”

In the words of Jesus, “It is finished.” We must’ve been so blessed and favoured to stage this presentation we all worked hard for—this project I have personally fully surrendered and committed to the Lord.

He’s remained faithful, and walked this road with us, all so we can proclaim His relentless love. He’s become our strength and cornerstone in telling the greatest story of all time—His story of grace, His story of salvation, His story of redemption. Jesus is alive, and He lives and reigns forevermore.

Here are some photos from my personal camera:

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Here are some professional photos, from our very own Tito Jade Cadelina:

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Road to Calvary: Music excerpts

Here are some excerpts from the songs I have written and composed for our Good Friday mini-musical, “Road to Calvary.” THIS IS A FREE EVENT! Come as you are! Please join us in remembering Christ’s death and resurrection next Friday, 30th March, at The Stations of the Cross in Pinegrove Memorial Park. Soli Deo Gloria!

(Watch it in HD)

© 2018 All Rights Reserved

Will you walk the road?

So stoked to announce that I have written some music for this year’s Senakulo + Stations of the Cross.

Join me and the “street kids of Jerusalem” to remember and reflect on Jesus’ death, suffering, and most importantly, His resurrection (because, hello, He is alive!) in this mini-musical.

See poster for details.

Road to Calvary square photo

seventeen

It’s 1:00 AM. Last day of 2017. And I’m sitting on my bed with my air cooler, repeatedly humming the lyrics from the music I’m currently obsessed with, “A million dreams are keeping me awake …”; alternating with, “Why don’t we rewrite the stars …”.

I just had an absolutely random thought. I’m propelled to write something on my blog, pretty much as a year-ender article, or something that could discuss the highlights of my year.

I don’t know. I feel like every passing year brings something so significant that affects my way of life in many, different ways. And I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about the people and things and events that I encountered this whole year that had impacted me in one way or another. Things that inspired me, made me value my life a little bit more, and enabled me to rethink my life’s purpose more carefully and thoroughly.

I mean, I don’t know who’ll get to read this blogpost, or if anyone would bother. But I guess, it’s really more for me. I need to write this for myself—to help me reflect on how every one of these (let’s call them) “subjects” had made my year an interesting one; or how each one had made a difference; and perhaps, why I will choose to keep them in my life for the coming years, the coming successes, the coming endeavours. Let’s start.

1) Books

img_3066I think everyone knows that I’m a book lover. No. I’m a book addict. And a book hoarder. Sometimes, even a book maniac. A secretly imploding one. Well, this year was probably the year I bought the most books in my life. I purchased 24 new books in the last 365 days. Twenty-four. Christian life books, Bible study books, prayer books, selected fiction books. Have I touched each one of them? Yes. Have I finished reading all of them? No. Maybe if we had 8 more hours in a day then I’d be able to spend extra time on a couple more. But books give me so much joy. They inform and inspire and intrigue and impel my hungry soul. They’re my treasures. I simply can’t live without them. My love for reading has ridiculously escalated this year. I’ve never enjoyed it more.

 

2) Music albums 

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I don’t possess any luxurious things in this life. There’s only two things I treat as luxury—my library, and my record collection. For me, music albums are as much of a work-of-art as the music itself. If I really love the artist and his or her music, I have to have the physical copy of it. I enjoy how artistically the photos, lyrics, credits, and other cool stuff are put together in the one album. It makes you value the existence of the art and the artist a lot more. This year, I bought a stack of albums, old and new ones; some of them were gifts from friends and family. And they’re kept very safely in my room. Some of my favourites include Emeli Sande’s “Long Love the Angels” (2016), and Sam Smith’s “The Thrill of it All” (2017).

 

3) Tea

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I’m in love with tea. Tea is life! It gives me peace of mind and absolute relaxation, particularly Green Tea. This year, I took it upon myself to learn to like the tea types I used to find intolerable like Jasmine, Oolong, Ampalaya (Bitter Melon) and Moringa. Now, I got a good, abiding, vital relationship with these guys. I also got more friendly with White Tea and Matcha. Oh, by the way, some of my favourite brands include: Yogi, T2 and Twinings.

 

 

4) Writing

327bceaa-936c-4820-a6d4-f53a7a6cfd2dI wrote a lot this year, both in prose and poetry forms. Many of them have not been published publicly yet, because I feel like I can still improve and/or develop them further. They are all stored in my journal. Thankfully, I got more comfortable writing short poems and song lyrics. I also started writing haikus, which was quite interesting, because for some reason, it’s the most challenging one to do. Additionally, I’ve attempted writing some poems in Tagalog; which just makes me realise how badly I need to be in a Filipino literature class to be good at it. Basically, I would write anywhere, whenever I get that unreflective urge to; even in my workplace while working (most of them were done and edited there, to be honest).

 

5) Composing

img_4142I always seemed to have some sort of fear when it comes to composing—fear of not being able to match my melodies and my lyrics, or of not finding the perfect rhymes, or of sounding lame and freaky, or of not living up to my own artistic standards through this medium. I don’t know. But in 2017, who would’ve thought that I would be able to compose, co-write, and orchestrally arrange a musical theatre piece that has been used for a play last September? I spent two days working on the score. It was a very smooth and spontaneous process, which surprised me because in the past, scoring an original piece was not always comfortable and smooth-flowing; especially for someone so fuzzy, scrupulous, over-elaborate like me. It was totally refreshing!

 

6) Concerts

img_1838In the last two years, I have committed to investing in live concerts, and will continue to do so in the coming years. This year I went to quite a few significant events like Lea Salonga’s concert at the Sydney Opera House in February—this was phenomenal. I came to see Hans Zimmer and his fantabulous team at the Qudos Bank Arena in May. I also got to watch the sensational pop star, Ariana Grande at the ICC Theatre last September; and the extremely talented Leroy Sanchez at the Metro Theatre, mid-November. These concerts were all awe-inspiring and soul-stirring in their own unique ways. I look forward to more live events next year!

 

7) Ben Platt

img_4819Ben made a lot of difference in my life this year, more than I could fully express in words. Earlier this year, for some reason I felt like my love for performing was slowly losing its grip on me. I questioned a lot of things. What used to be meaningful and special to me seemed and looked so superficial and pointless. After watching him perform songs from Dear Evan Hansen, I just saw pure talent and exceptional prowess—something I had always aspired and strived for. He made me get in touch with my passion for performing again. His remarkable artistry ignited a new kind of love for the arts in me. And for that, I will always be thankful. He is my Broadway icon and I will always look up to him.

 

 

8) Dear Evan Hansen by Pasek and Paul

7b3812b2-6fc7-483c-95f5-1d5e5415ceb1I just realised I haven’t formally written anything about this brilliant musical just yet. But I guess, by now everybody knows that I’m crazy for it and I’ve raved about it countless times. Dear Evan Hansen is simply the musical play of this generation that’s given a voice to people who felt inferior and insignificant. It has made a lot of people reflect on where they stand in the society; how each one of us is contributing to the solution and/or the problem with social anxiety, unbelonging, depression, suicide and relationship dysfunction. It mirrors us. Hence, we can take a better look at our own issues, our own dilemmas and rethink of how we deal with them. Furthermore, Dear Evan Hansen has redefined, if not, set a new trend for musicals today because of the amazing work of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who seriously deserve the limelight for their genuine talents and innovative approach as composers.

 

9) The Greatest Showman

img_4796Another fantastic work by Pasek and Paul, which I recently raved about on this blog. I am just obsessed with this work of art, this enormous culmination of artistry, zeal, synergy and creative excellence. It’s taught me to “dream with my eyes wide open.” Here’s what I got to say about it. 

 

 

 

10) Keala Settle

showman-660x330I said this before, and I will say it over and over again: Keala Settle is a formidable force of nature. This artist just blew me away and continues to do so. She has a divine touch on what she does. And like Ben Platt, Keala offers something inimitable and unique to her audience and to other artists she gets to inspire. Her fire is contagious, and her kind of fire is what our generation of artists need today. I am unspeakably thankful for what she does. Watch her electric workshop performance of “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman here.

 

11) Family

img_4760Let’s talk about the people I’m thankful for, people I know in person and are related to me. And as expected, family’s always first. This year has been quite a challenging one for my family. And what I got to witness and appreciate is how my family stuck together through the serious hardships. No one’s bailed out. Everyone’s presence is all that mattered. I think our love for each other continues to grow and mature and expand as it also gets tested and measured by difficult circumstances that I can honestly be thankful for. I may not always verbalise it, but I love them inexpressibly. And I’m thankful that they’re the ones given to me in this life.

 

12) Bimby

img_2446The sadness when Bimby left us this year was unthinkable. He would have turned 3 today, the day we found him and adopted him. He was an important family member that radically changed our home. Yet still, I choose to be thankful that the Lord gifted us to him for almost three years. Bim brought our family together, and would always mellow the atmosphere, whatever tension or drama arose. And even now, his memories bring solace to us, with a slight pinch in the heart.

 

 

13) Friends

img_4227Truth be told, I only have a handful of true friends. True friends who I don’t need to see often to keep a good relationship with. True friends who are altogether loyal, honest, trustworthy and reliable. True friends who make me feel loved, understood and accepted. And I’ve never treasured them more until this year. I don’t know why or how, but that’s how I’m feeling. And I believe when people say that you don’t need a lot of friends; just a few good ones you can count on and trust is enough. If they’re reading this, I want to tell them how important they are to me, and how thankful I am for standing by me in the jumpiest and moodiest points of my life. You guys are tops!

 

 

14) Second family

img_4599-e1514710153403.jpgimg_4820They go by the name “Filozart” (I didn’t pick the name, and I’ve always been honest to say that I wish it wasn’t it, Ha-ha!). These people give me a second home, a home away from home. They give me a second family that I laugh and cry with, a second family that I discuss the most random, sometimes unusual things under the sun. They taught me to be honest, to be truthful of what I really feel without fearing judgment by the cruel society. They taught me to face my fears, and work around my insecurities. They taught me to break out of my inhibitions, and leave my comfort zone. They taught me that only I can set limitations to myself; it is only I who will and can determine how far I can go, how fast I can run, how high I can jump. They helped me discover myself in interesting, dumbfounding and uncomfortable ways. I will always treasure them.

 

15) God’s Word

img_3047In 2017, I fell in love with God’s Word like I’ve never done so before; high up to a whole new level. It’s become my lifeline. I read it like my life depended on it (and as it should). My craving for wisdom and knowledge, for more of God’s say and involvement in my life had grown drastically this year. I recognised my weakness and dumbness, and my need for God. His say is all that matters at the end of the day. And He’s given us a chance to know Him and get connected with Him through His Word, through accepting Jesus, the true and eternal Word. I’m thankful that He’s given me that desire and hunger. I developed more consistent Bible reading habits; I read and studied more than ever; I gained more understanding of God, myself, the world, and why things are happening as they are. It’s not always fun and positive; sometimes God will confront you and make you realise the ugly things in your existence (like pride and envy), and how it is your fault that these things remain with you. And the learning does not finish. A verse or a chapter  a day is not enough to solve my personal issues, all the more the world’s. Understanding the Word, living it out, obeying it—this is all just the beginning of a life-long seeking for God’s truth and will. And His plans and purpose always prevail.

 

16) Dirty Bibles

img_4278This is the product or the “overflow” of my quiet time with the Lord that came to fruition late in July. It’s like the Holy Spirit had finally succeeded with the persistent divine nudging. This is the place where I share my personal Biblical reflections and  insights. I wanted to document what I’m learning and what I’m understanding from God’s Word that might enlighten or encourage whoever reads it; and to somehow help others who got the same questions and confusions as I have. And although I’m being interrogated with the name choice and all the potential “connotations” it may pertain to, the Lord knows the heart behind it. At the end of the day, it got people’s attention—but instead of finding something nasty, they are led to the place they’ve always been running away from: their appointment with God. And I will continue to do my best, use my research and writing abilities to bring the Gospel of Jesus to my own sphere and to the larger world. So help me God!

 

17) The G-O-D

img_4725This year, I went through some temperamental seasons—sometimes I’m awkward, awful and angry; sometimes I have it all figured out. This is my normal. This is my reality. But there’s always Someone who remains the same through these mercurial times. He is my constant. My faithful and consistent companion through life’s scornful roads. The One who reminds me of my identity and my inheritance. He is my Provider and Protector, my Guard and Guide. He is my comfort and pace, my joy and my strength. He is My Saviour and King. The One who was, is and will be in control. And I continue to seek Him and trust Him with my life. I continue to know and learn the things He wants me to do, the things He wants me to achieve, the places He wants me to go, the people He wants me to connect with. I continue to learn how to live for Him; how to serve Him and bring Him glory wherever He places me. I want to share Him with the ones who forgot about Him or turned their backs on Him. I want to be good for Him. I want to live out His grace, and love Him the best way I can. I am His, and His love for me has defined who I am and will be.

 

R