Mr. C, on the other side of music, and being a much-loved family man
National Artist for Music Maestro Ryan Cayabyab with wife Emmy and children Krina and Toma.

Mr. C, on the other side of music, and being a much-loved family man

(Philstar.com) - June 21, 2020 - 12:03pm

MANILA, Philippines – No other musician, composer, arranger and conductor has made quite a profound impact on Philippine culture than this Maestro on top of every Filipino’s mind when they conjure up and encounter the term Original Pilipino Music (OPM).

From pop ballads, movie scores and theater musicals, to station IDs and commercial jingles, including chorale arrangements, operas and religious compositions, National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab is certainly a priceless, invaluable treasure of the country.

As such, it makes people curious how Mr. C is without the baton, or playing the baby grand in live performances and studio recordings, or maybe after his classes in his music school or rehearsing with his eponymous singing group? It is definitely rare we get to discover how Mr. C spends his life outside his illuminating stature, and actually reach home, relax, unwind and spend time with family, especially his children.

Mr. C as a 'Papa'

In celebration of Father’s Day, let’s discover Mr. C as a “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.

Mr. C with daughter and son, Krina and Toma.

Toma, meanwhile, 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 as musicians, both have only endearing words for their Papa.

“He has this characteristic of always being happy and always being positive. 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 would add: “Wala siyang ere, not only in and outside our family circle. Parang you always see this happy go lucky guy nasobrang 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 in life. “I hope they will never 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 first must be inspired and happy,” he further said.

The Cayabyab family in 1993.

Yet, even if 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. 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 conducting the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra for Ramahari while Mr. C is taking a selfie.

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 sound and enjoy what you’re doing,” Toma recalled his dad reminding him.

But being in a conducive, artistic and encouraging atmosphere in the household made not choosing a future in 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 with the piano. I know what they are doing. Sometimes, I can’t help but guide and teach them on how to play the piano.”

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 is also able to create music and share even more happiness, with whoever experiences him and his music. This is something that we all need,” she noted.

Krina and Toma in one of their band performances.

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.”

'A barkada'

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.

Cayabyab family vacation at Tinago Falls in Lanao del Norte.

And these precious times together has gotten even stronger now because of the continuing community quarantine, which makes them spend most of their time at home. Mr. C would describe their continued time together as something he truly cherishes. “It’s like we’re a full family, we make it a point to see each other every day.”

Mr. C added that 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, robust Fiber Internet connection in their home, provided by PLDT Home Fibr. 

“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, 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 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 who 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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