DJ Loonyo has come a long way. The 25-year-old recently looked back on his journey from being an aspiring dancer from Cagayan De Oro, to back-up dancer/choreographer for TV shows, to someone now living his big dreams, including being a legit recording artist.
At the time of The STAR’s exclusive Zoom chat with DJ Loonyo, or Rhemuel Lunio in real life, he still couldn’t believe he was signed up by Universal Records Philippines. He had just dropped his first single with the music label titled Dance Under The Sun.
DJ Loonyo hoped his song would give listeners a summer beach vibe, with everyone still being encouraged to stay indoors because of the pandemic. He said Dance Under The Sun is inspired by “Reggaeton, plus a mix of African/Jamaican dancehall. Nung inaral ko po siya, yun din nagte-trend sa TikTok so that’s why I chose that sound or beat.”
Loonyo was first approached by Universal Records last year after his dance challenge videos exploded on Facebook, with many of them getting at least 10 million views each.
As people were ordered to stay home due to COVID-19, the then China-based choreographer’s videos would turn viral online as they became a source of entertainment for many Filipino netizens.
Offers naturally came knocking — his life story was even dramatized in a Magpakailanman episode. But being a recording artist was something beyond his wildest dreams.
“To be honest, OK, kung kanta-kanta, yes (I enjoy it), kaya ko yan. Pero kung kakanta (talaga), even in videoke, I hate my voice, I really hate my voice, talagang nagki-cringe ako kasi boses ipis,” he laughed.
“But I thought, the songs that I vibe to, yung mga gusto kong kanta ngayon, digital na kasi, which is nandun na yung melody or iba na yung music ang gustong marinig ng tenga ng mga bata ngayon.
“So, from there, I realized, why should I be afraid, if art is free, art is for everyone, technically no one can judge me?… (I thought to myself), you should be excited to offer this kind of music or sound to the people, so dun ako nabuhayan ng loob ng sobra.”
As in everything in his life, he truly believes that God had a hand in his foray into music. He narrated there was one week “na di po ako pinatulog ni God sa China and the vision was clear, parati niya pinapakita sa utak ko, na kakanta daw ako sa stage with my songs,” he said.
“So, when I came home to the Philippines, I told myself, OK, I’m gonna conquer my fears on mic and make songs.”
He self-produced three songs before asking Universal early this year if they were still game to work with him. “(I realized) I needed the help of Universal Records because when it comes to music talaga, Universal Records is No. 1 for me.”
He added, “Sobrang masaya ako kasi, from putcho-putcho na kanta lang, and then ngayon naging under a very professional record label. Sabi ko, grabe talaga si God, as in iba siya kung magtrabaho sa buhay natin,” he added.
Apart from recording, DJ Loonyo has also ventured into television — a huge leap from when he started out in the industry behind the scenes or in the background. Contrary to what people might think, he said he is not an “overnight sensation,” stressing he’s long been praying and working hard for the breaks he’s getting now.
“When it comes to performing in this entertainment industry, I’ve been here since 2014, nagba-back-up ako sa ASAP, All Out Sundays, and Party Pilipinas palang naging choreographer na ako dun, andyan na ako, nagtatanim na ako, although my main focus at that time was to give a title to the Philippines.”
He did just that after forming his dance group Rock Well in 2016. They emerged as champions at an international competition in Croatia, which then paved the way for work opportunities in China.
“Matagal ko na siyang tinatrabaho lahat ng ito, di siya yung parang sinasabi nila na one-hit wonder or overnight sensation that’s why until now, (I have to keep going) because that’s how I’m trained, that’s my mindset that if a blessing comes, you prove that you deserve it and continue to take care of it.”
Nevertheless, along with the sudden rise to popularity last year and explosion of social media following were the intense public scrutiny and his share of controversy. The most controversial perhaps were his comments during an interview on COVID-19 mass testing, a term he admitted to having used erroneously and consequently apologized for.
DJ Loonyo shared with The STAR that he suffered from severe depression after the heavy bashing he received over the mass testing issue.
“It (was) really hard, I pray that di pagdadaanan ng ibang tao,” he admitted.
“I had a lot of questions in my mind... Later on, I realized God was just teaching me or equipping me with this kind of heart, (to accept) that things are inevitable, di mo mapipigilan… Everything in this world, kailangan may balance talaga, kung may ‘Amen’ na nangyayari sa’yo, meron talaga pag-ba-balance, kasi kung wala yun, di mo na kailangan si God sa buhay mo.
“That became my mindset and I just redirected my focus on things that are truly important — family, fans and my dreams, like, what else can I still do?”
Whenever he’s down or being bashed, he also looks back on his journey. His favorite memory was from 2012 when he decided to discontinue his studies — to supposedly become a Math teacher, a PEP report said — and pursue his dreams here in Manila. In a past social media post, he said life was very hard before, especially after his father got sick and eventually passed on, and his mother had to support them on a midwife’s salary.
“Nung dumating ako dito as a probinsyano, wala talagang matitirhan dito. For two years, I was moving from one house to another. So that was from 2012 up to 2014, like ngayon dito ako matutulog, then dadalhin ko naman yung maleta ko para sa iba na naman matutulog. Then madami akong iniyakan ng mga stores because I couldn’t afford to buy a meal…
“So, when I think about it, sinasabi ko, Lord, thank you for the experience. Sabi ko nga, kung itong mga nararamdaman ko, kulelat lang ito dati. Kung dati nga grabe yung sipag ko na walang nangyayari sa akin, how much more when good things are happening to me now? I have no right to be lazy and to be pabaya.”
Right now, he said, he’s just enjoying everything. He just shared with his followers that he was able to build a new house for his family in CDO from his earnings.
Besides his recording career, DJ Loonyo has been appearing in front of the TV. He will soon join TV5’s Popinoy, a nationwide reality talent show in search of the “country’s next biggest pop boy band,” as talent headhunter. He’s also on GMA 7’s All Out Sundays and TV5’s Lunch Out Loud.
Asked if he’s entering showbiz full-time, he said he has actually retained his job in China for “future stability” reasons. But he’s currently based in the country and making the most of the opportunities here.
“I’m not saying I’m entering showbiz and that this is what I’m going to do. My game plan is actually ano yung next na magpapa-inspire, magpapangiti or magpapasaya.”
He also plans to release a book.
“I’m just excited for whatever I can still get out of myself. I just want to have fun because it’s a blessed time in my life. Do more, love more, drive more — that’s my mantra in life..