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Mr. Ryan Cayabyab Interview

By Francis Ryan B.  Pabiania and Deogracia William A. Bemida

Vol. XCI No. 2 — Aug. 7, 2019

A renowned multi-awarded composer known for writing hits such as Da Coconut Nut, Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka and Limang- Dipang Tao. He is commonly known as Mr. Ryan Cayabyab or Mr. C, a well-respected personality in the Philippine Music Industry. Last year, he received the National Artist award. And will be awarded in the Asia’s highest honor,  Magsaysay Award and a sole Filipino in the roster of five awardees this year. 

How many times have you been in Dumaguete? What captivated you?

“I cannot count it anymore. Maybe 20 times? Silliman invited me several times in the past years to give lectures on music theories and music compositions. You always say that Dumaguete is a second home, a place for retirement and a place where you like to return to. Busy, yet maintaining the provincial field, Dumaguete is not so modern city type. Yun ang magandang appeal ng Dumaguete.”

How long have you been traveling and performing? How did you reach that part?

” In the industry, I will be turning 50 years next year. I started as a pianist of a choral group and into a different job and then I taught in the UP college schools for how many years. So it’s almost 50 years.”

“I took up Accounting at the University of the Philippines – College of Business Administration (1970-1973), eventually I ended up with music. I really think because this is my destiny I really end up with this. So that my dad would not be angry. I shifted to music (1972-1983), 10 years because I was working…I travel a lot and I took a lot of jobs, so it took me a long time to finish. 

What is your favorite musical genre that helped you grow as an artist? Why?

“I started with serious music, meaning classical music. It is a discipline and something that is deeply engraved. But definitely, because I’m in a pop music field, I also spend a lot of my time training creative and songwriters. I apply the training of classical music into popular music.”

 What song composition would you relate to Silliman University?

“There is nothing I could relate to Silliman University. While I was here doing or sharing my work, I didn’t do any update. Yung relationship was, I think Silliman might have a relationship with me because other choirs here would sing my songs. As a matter of fact, in foundation day, they are singing two of my songs which is Nais Ko and Paraiso.”

What is the theme song of your life?

“No theme song, but maybe a significant song that has almost been adapted by the industry in a way of telling everybody how beautiful our music is. Parang it’s a ‘rara’ telling everybody that eto na ang music natin, let’s give it a chance, let’s promote, love, and spread.”

What is the most difficult situation you have encountered in your musical career?

“Actually, none. You study, you do what you think is best, you create. But I’m lucky because things appear into my lap. I had my own television show, did I aspire for it? No, I have not. Music foundation, did I aspire from it? No, it just came. Then the challenge was to run and create more music. I think I am very lucky because there are so many things that have struck into my lap that I did not expect.”

What are your favorite compositions and why?

(He does not have favorites*)

“I have landmark compositions: “Kay Ganda”  because when I wrote it, that is one of our first pop songs and it won.  “Kailan“, I didn’t think that it’s going to be a very popular song.  And “Coconut Nut“, it is the only song that is known outside of the country, there are so many versions. 

Aside from music, what are your hobbies?

“Before I like drawing, painting –visual arts, and that’s something I’d like to spend more time.  I did watercolor usually portraits and then now I doodle a lot and I just use ballpoint pen and ink…a lot of doodles,  doodling, especially when we’re judging.”

What is your favorite instrument and why? 

“I play the piano, there are no other instruments I’d like to play. Because I could play the piano, I could branch out in writing and creating ideas even orchestrating and arranging for choirs. Because of the piano, I was able to understand that music theory much better.”

How do you feel when you were part of a specific scholastic study?

“It was one of our 10 lady borders taking up music education. She used me as a subject. I found it – not a thesis, but it was a study in human behavior and she used me as a subject matter. In her findings, she said that I had the makings of “an excellent decisions” at three years old.  It was evident that as a three-year old, I had a talent in music.”

Who is the distinguished personality or celebrity you want to perform with on your concerts? 

“Actually, I performed with most of the big names in the industry. I always like performing with Basil Valdez because he sings many of my songs and also Celeste Legaspi because most of her songs are repertoire and I arranged most of it.”

What was your mother’s line that left a mark in your life?

“My mother died when I was six years old, so there are no lessons from her directly except that I define the wishes of my mother that none of us should take a career in music. Because she was a musician and she knew how difficult it was to live the life of a musician. So she told our dad before she died, “please do not allow any of the children to take up music.’” 


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