Maestro Ryan Cayabyab’s legacy goes beyond his long list of iconic compositions. The Philippines’ National Artist for Music takes pride of his dearest achievements – his very own bloodline, his children, who also live and breathe music.
In celebration of Father’s Day, let’s see the other side of Mr. C, this time around as a loving “Papa” to his children, Cristina Maria or “Krina” and Antonio Maria or “Toma.”
Krina is a singer, arranger, composer, and music teacher, who graduated summa cum laude from UP with a Bachelor of Music degree in Chorale Conducting. She has already produced her own body of work, from being a member of a female vocal trio, Baihana, to writing full length musicals.
Toma, on the other hand, is completing his own Bachelor of Music Major in Chorale Conducting degree in UP, his second degree, after finishing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from the Ateneo de Manila University. He has his own jazz band, Debonair District.
With Krina and Toma stepping up in carrying their father’s legacy, both have only endearing words for their loving father.
“He has this characteristic of always being happy. And it has stuck in me in whatever I do but what I really admire about Papa is he’s very down to earth to everyone – at work and with friends,” Krina stressed in an exclusive interview through virtual conference.
Toma added: “Wala siyang ere, not only in and outside our family circle. Parang you always see this happy go lucky guy na sobrang chill and tawa-tawa lang.” [“He’s a humble person in and outside our family circle. You’ll always see him as a happy go lucky and chill person.”]
Yet, Mr. C is more than happy to witness his children following in his own footsteps. “I didn’t force them to go into music. But I guess they observed me, they see me write my music. It must have rubbed off on them because we didn’t force them to go into music,” he noted.
“I’m very, very happy they’ve found what they wanted to do. They found the music inside of them,” he further emphasized.
Choosing their own path
Mr. C would always reiterate to his kids that fulfillment and happiness come by choosing their own paths.
“I hope they won’t feel that they have to measure up to me. The best way to achieve something is to do it on your own. Seek your own interest and level so that you do not compare yourself to anyone because you must first be inspired and happy,” he further said.
Mr. C found his path in music on his own. His mother, an opera singer, didn’t want any of her children to enter the music industry. But the young Mr. C, an accounting student at the U.P. Diliman, was discovered in his stint with the Philippine Madrigal Singers. And the rest was history.
Even if his children, Krina and Toma, were free to pursue their own interests, they would remain in the mold of their Papa. Krina’s exposure to her dad’s work started at an early age and she got fascinated with his Papa’s classic acapella album “One” that featured his 16 voices. Mr. C and mom Emmy would also bring her to the Cultural Center of the Philippines where she would witness and appreciate her dad’s work.
If Krina had an inclination early to take Mr. C’s lead, Toma figured his passion for music much later. “After finding myself, I tried if I could make music and I realized that I could do a lot here,” said Toma, who also teaches music part-time at the Ateneo High School and at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
“They were on their own”
In their studies, Mr. C confesses one thing: despite his stature in the academe, having taught Music Theory in the UP College of Music for 20 years before opening his own Ryan Cayabyab Music School, he never made it easy for his children to pass their subjects. They were on their own. “I never taught nor assisted my children in their college work. When they ask me, umaabot sa Timbuktu ang sagot ko. They consciously try not to ask.” [I never taught nor assisted my children in their college work. When they ask me, my answers would reach ‘Timbuktu.’ They consciously try not to ask.”]
Toma also described how his dad would tell him not to simply mimic what he’s doing. “Do your best, try to be different. Try to be who you want to be. Find your own sound and enjoy what you’re doing,” Toma recalled his father reminding him.
Being in a conducive, artistic, and encouraging atmosphere in their household made choosing a future outside of music, unthinkable, especially with how their family of four musically-inclined individuals, living under one roof, consider the race to playing the living room piano, or singing as the “Von Trapp Cayabyab singers” during Sunday Mass was fun.
“It’s fun,” Mr. C said. “I see my kids and they spend a lot of time playing the piano. I know what they are doing. Sometimes, I can’t help but guide and teach them on how to better play the piano.”
Mr. C’s music is a precious gift to everyone he encounters, most especially to his family. His two iconic songs “Ikaw ang Tunay na Ligaya” and “Araw Gabi” were actually written as a wedding gift to his wife Emmy.
That, according to Krina, makes his Papa very special, and the good vibes he spreads is contagious. “His constant happy nature and positivity bounce off to everyone around him and that’s a great impact to other people. He creates music that brings happiness to everyone around him. That is something that we all need,” she noted.
Toma agreed: “There’s nothing to worry about when you’re with Papa. And that’s encouraging enough not only for the family but for everyone around him.”
For Mr. C, being a father is not to assume an authoritative position in the family. “I’m more of like a barkada to them, less than a father. It’s because I enjoy their company,” Mr. C said as he recalled those memorable bonding moments together—from yearly sojourns to the provinces to foreign trips.
And these precious times together has become even stronger now because of the continuing community quarantine, making them spend most of their time at home. Mr. C describes their continued time together as something he truly cherishes. “It’s like we’re a full family again. We make it a point to see each other every day.”
Mr. C added he would enjoy their family discussions over mealtimes, which cover a broad range of topics—from politics to their music school business. But what’s nice about the quarantine is that it provides the opportunity for them to talk about music.
“We talk about it during dinner. As a matter of fact, I ask a lot of questions because Krina is the researcher. She’s the one who graduated music research so if there’s any part of music literature or music history that I have forgotten through the years, she’s the person I ask.”
Mr. C also relishes the time “someone brings out a bag of chips,” since it was time to enjoy Netflix, watching movies together “more than all the years we’ve been alive.” Such leisure activities, plus the transformation of Mr. C’s music school towards online instruction heightens the demand for the fastest, reliable, uninterrupted, and robust PLDT Home Fibr internet connection in their home.
“Life has been centered around online connectivity even more so now during COVID-19 crisis,” Mr. C said.
“It’s good that we have fast internet connection so that we can conduct online teaching for our music school temporarily from home. It’s very important for us to stay connected.”
Benefits of PLDT Home Fibr
Krina, who also teaches at the Ryan Cayabyab Music School, emphasized how PLDT Home Fibr eased the shift to online operations.
“We have a lot of students and teachers who we have to gather in one class. We were able to put up online meetings so that we can continue our operations. We rely heavily on our strong internet connection at home,” Krina pointed out.
Toma would reiterate that the PLDT Home Fibr connection is very helpful to support online meetings and hangouts. “Sobrang big help siya kasi walang lag, walang disconnection,” he said [It’s a huge help because there’s no lag and disconnection]. In addition, Toma stated that “it’s helping us plan for our future engagements or future work, which is very vital to our livelihood.”
With their high-speed and dependable Internet connection nurturing their livelihood and assuring close family ties, Mr. C’s valuable lessons for Krina and Toma always come to mind. “He would teach us to continue to push forward with our problems no matter what gets in the way,” Krina said. “You just have to continue on and balance your perspectives on how to try to solve these problems.”
For Toma, Mr. C instills positivity and seeing things objectively in every situation they are in. “He taught us how to be optimistic. It’s not always correct to be optimistic but it gives you more perspective and a positive disposition on how to approach things,” Toma noted.
Mr. C, meanwhile, said his relationship with his children has been very gratifying and blessed. “You have to take them for what they are. You cannot force them on anything,” Mr. C further remarked. “Let them be and you will see the fruits if you trust them. I can feel that they trust me. It’s an affirmation of what I learned from my parents and as a kid. This is also what I’m learning from them now – affirmation of trust. I learned how to trust them.”
Krina and Toma, would each express their deepest thanks and their undying love for their beloved Papa.
Mr. C has always been the music luminary, the legendary National Artist we all admire and respect. But more importantly, Mr. C. is a supportive, loving, fun, and receptive father and this has made him even more accomplished and fulfilled, and his loving and talented kids are the ultimate proof of that.
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