For the most part, Martin Punzal, 19, seems like your typical college student. He is a BS Medical Laboratory Science sophomore at Far Eastern University-Dr. Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation.
He can typically be found trying not to disappear into papers, reports and the like. Stress is inevitable, and he does what he can to keep just going.
The one thing that keeps this future doctor truly alive? Music. Somehow, despite his academic obligations, he has not given up on his one true love.
Why did you choose to take up a medical course?
My mother inspired me. She is a dermatologist. Like my mother, I like helping those in need.
How are you coping with online classes? What are the challenges you face, especially with a course that involves a lot of physical, practical work?
I’ve been feeling really drained, doing one assignment after another, just constantly diving into a sea of deadlines. I cope by playing games or sleeping. And music, of course.
The biggest struggle is finding the strength and motivation to get up in the morning and prepare for early classes. Since practical activities are not a viable option right now, we have been given more assignments and paperwork to compensate. I still prefer face-to-face classes because certain subjects cannot be taught online.
When did you fall in love with music, and why is it your passion?
I don’t know when exactly . . . My grandmother used to play the piano; I vaguely remember waking up early in the morning and hearing the sound throughout the house. It’s my earliest recollection of music coming into my life . . . I’m inspired by passion. I love listening to other people’s stories . . . I’ve always been writing about love because real, passionate love really brings out a good story. I started writing during my junior year of high school/grade 9 because of a project. We were required to write a song with a partner. I was so excited I started writing as soon as our teacher left the classroom and didn’t even wait for my partner to help me—I finished my very first song in 20 minutes.
When did you start making music professionally? Tell me about your first gig.
I first started performing in May 2019, in a place called Jess & Pat’s on Maginhawa. I’d heard for a long time that Jess & Pat’s was very welcoming to young artists.
I gave it a shot—went there after class with my guitar, shyly signed up for an open mic. It was not a big event, but it gave me the confidence to sing and perform more. I just went forward from then on.
What instruments do you play? Which one is your favorite?
I play the piano, ukulele and guitar. I learned to play the guitar first but my favorite is the piano, even though I am not very good at it yet. I just really love the sound of it. It brings out so much emotion.
You also write poems. What made you explore poetry?
I’ve always been into poetry even before I started writing songs. Rhyming has always been like a game to me as a kid so I kept practicing. Little did I know I fell in love with the power of poetry and words, specifically spoken word poetry. Spoken word poetry seems more real when you hear it performed live.
Which is your favorite of the songs you’ve written?
“Dear.” It’s not a particularly amazing song musically and lyrically, but it was a song I wrote for myself. It was written at a time where I was just longing for comfort, so I wrote myself a song.
What’s been the highlight of your musical career?
Performing at the Toronto International Festival of Authors along with LKN. I didn’t expect I’d be given such a great opportunity to represent our country.
Any advice for others who are also juggling academics and the arts?
If you feel happy about it and you love what you’re doing, keep going. That’s what I’ve been doing all this time. —CONTRIBUTED