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Spotlight on OPM Shoo-Ins Claudia Barretto and Donny Pangilinan

The up-and-coming musicians and childhood friends talk about their music, creative process, and why it's important to be woke.
IMAGE Aya Cabauatan

"Donny and I used to be neighbors. We were childhood friends and I was also best friends with his younger sister, Hannah. We always had a very fun childhood friendship. I remember, since we were neighbors, we all came up with this idea that we can only come out at 4 pm every day to play outside because we had to be done with our school work and all those things. We would do outdoor games and outdoor stuff—that was around the time when phones and social media weren't really a thing, so we played a lot outside, like bangsa, bente uno, and, agawan base.

"He's always been really nice and friendly and funny, so it's so easy to be around him like the same way he is now. He always had the personality for being a public figure, but what he is now this was really unexpected. I didn't imagine him doing this but then he's doing well at it.

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"I don't see him as much anymore—he's so busy, but when we see each other, it's like nothing's changed. We're still friends, still the same especially with Hannah." –Claudia Barretto

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"Claui and I grew up in the same neighborhood. We went to the same school when we were young because our parents were really close to each other, so we became childhood friends.

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"I remember her being really shy with the people she meets for the first time, but when she starts to get to know them and gets the hang of being around them, she starts becoming a different person.

"She's an all-around fun person and really outgoing with those people she's close to. There was this one time when she, my sister Hannah, and one of our friends also from the neighborhood did a music video when they were little. There's a studio that's walking distance from our house and I remember them making this record where the three of them were singing. That's when I first heard her sing." –Donny Pangilinan

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On dreams and aspirations

Claudia: "As a child, I loved reading, singing, and sports. I was a football player since I was six years old. But I always knew that my biggest dream was to become a singer—that always stuck with me. The problem was, I was really shy. I wouldn't even sing in front of my mom or in front of my siblings. I would only sing alone. I kept it a secret for a while and people didn't even know what I sounded like until when I was about 15, that's when I decided that I really wanted to get into it and start taking the first few steps into really achieving my goals."

"I didn't really have a specific career that I wanted to pursue, but in my mind, I knew I wanted to be someone who could be looked up to."

Donny: "I didn't really have a specific career that I wanted to pursue, but in my mind, I knew I wanted to be someone who could be looked up to. I didn't really have an idea what that was or how I would do that but that's something I really wanted to become by any means. I think that's something I'm working to be even until today and that dream hasn't changed yet."

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On overcoming shyness

Claudia: "I realized that nothing's going to happen unless I do something about it and I knew that I wanted it so bad. I just forced myself into a position where I would have no choice but to start doing something about my dream. And I'm so glad I did that to myself because if not, then I wouldn't be where I am today. The only reason why I'm so nervous and so shy about it is because I care so much."

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Donny: "I could still be an introvert sometimes. There are times when I want to go to the room alone, just be with myself, read a book, listen to music, but there are also times I have to be an extrovert. Before, I really had to force myself to do something I really didn't wanna do. Right now, I think it's become more natural."

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On goals

Claudia: "My goal is to really succeed in what I'm trying to do with the music here in the Philippines. My goal is to make music that is universal that reaches further than just here. Because that's what it's about—it's not supposed to be like just contained in one country. I just want it to reach and connect with more people than anyone here in the OPM scene has gotten."

Donny: "I really wanna go into acting. That's another environment I've been working on. I've been taking workshops for a while now and I feel like I'm that type of person to step out of my comfort zone because. I really wanna try it. I really wanna see what level it will bring me. I really wanted to act na talaga before pa. Before MYX, that was really what I wanted to do. MYX was a blessing in disguise. Right now, I'm really open to just anything whether it's comedy, rom-com, or drama."

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On balancing everything

Claudia: "I do most of my career stuff after school or on the weekends so it's really not a problem. And I try to make the most of it so I study also on the weekends when I can so that when I'm in school during the weekday, I can also focus on other things—it's all about balancing. And I love both things so if I wanna make it work, I'm gonna work hard for the both of it. I have many goals and finishing school is one of it."

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Donny: "When I was in high school, I was doing workshops and guesting on some shows and slowly starting to get into showbiz. It's really just knowing when to stop and when to do something because sometimes we get too caught up in what we like but there are other things we need to do also. It's just really time management. It also pays off to have a dad who is a really good motivational speaker."

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On haters

Claudia: "I don't really dwell on hate. I don't really like to focus on that. I don't mind it. I don't even try to deal with it—there's no such thing as dealing with it for me. There's this line from a rap song that says, 'if they don't hate you then you're not doing enough,' which is so true. Of course it's impossible to not feel bad—I'm human. It hurts when people say hurtful things about the things you love, the things you put your heart and soul to. But at the same time, if it's not constructive, then you shouldn't just mind it. If it's constructive criticism, I'll even accept that and take that in but if it's just to hurt you, then you just try to not think about it." 

Donny: "My theory is, if you don't have haters, you're doing something wrong because every single person—no matter what you do—will have haters. Jesus had haters. With haters, the best thing to do is just keep moving forward and ignore them because once you start acknowledging them, dadami yan. When people don't like my music, I'm fine with it. I just look at the number of people who actually do like it and actually support me. If they don't like it, it really doesn't affect me because I'm still doing what I like to do. I'm still interacting with the people who like to support me and I have no problem with it."

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On their creative process

Claudia: "First and foremost, it's important to surround yourself with people who understand what you're trying to achieve. My producer for my past two songs has been the same—it's Marcus David. He understood the direction that I wanted to go. He knew how to put into words what I couldn't, which was like bring something new to the OPM scene. Second of all, just be true to yourself. You need to be authentic with your music that's why I am not scared to say what I want and I'm not scared to choose songs that I'd be proud of because I wanna be true to myself. I wanna be proud of what I'm promoting. I wanna be proud of the message that I'm spreading. I just want it to be honest to myself. It's more about the artistry and not the fame because like I said, I'm really shy."

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Donny: "My producer and I have written one song so far. Whatever comes to mind whenever I think is the right time, like whenever I want to write about a specific situation, I can't just sit in one spot on one night to make it happen. Sometimes it's fast, sometimes its short. There are times when I ask people how my music sounds to them because those people matter. To tell you honestly, if you ask your supporters, no matter what, they'll say yes, but if you ask the people close to you, they'll give you an honest opinion."

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On the pressure to do well

Claudia: "The pressure doesn't come from anyone else but me. Right now, I'm just trying to use that pressure constructively. I'm trying to use the perfectionist in me to make me better. When I first started, I was such a perfectionist that instead of it helping me be better, it actually made me worse. Like, when I'm performing or in the middle of an interview, instead of focusing on that performance or that interview, I'm thinking far ahead of the future and what people are gonna say about the things I'm saying. I was never really present. I'm still trying to get the pressure I put on myself to use it constructively and using it to make me better rather than distract me from what I really love doing."

Donny: "I felt it when I was just starting my career because people didn't really know anything about me besides being this social media influencer. They didn't see who I really was, so the fact that I was gonna show myself in front of the camera, for people to really see, obviously that's a lot of pressure because I felt that I had to meet the expectations they've built in their heads about who I was online. That's where the pressure came from—not from my family or myself—but stepping into something I wasn't really familiar with. I think in general I'm pretty laid back and chill, but if there are stuff I see in my life that need improvement, I'll really try to work on it.

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On being woke

Claudia: "The kids are so powerful nowadays. If you think about it, kids make all the difference for everything, not just because of social media but everything else. Like, with my music, the kids are so important because sometimes when the music industry doesn't help you to achieve certain things, it's the kids who will get you there. We're the future. I think it's important that we're very aware, not only aware with what's happening around the world but also with ourselves. It's so important to be self-aware because then you'll know what steps to take to promote the right things, spread the right things, and to raise awareness for the right things. It's important to be self-aware so you know who you are as a person and you know what kind of awareness you'd wanna raise."

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"We're the future. I think it's important that we're very aware, not only aware with what's happening around the world but also with ourselves."

Donny: "We're part of this world, this country—everyone is part of the society. Everything that happens affects everyone. I find it weird going through the week without knowing what's happening around me."

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PRODUCER Macy Alcaraz ART DIRECTION Clare Magno PHOTOS Aya Cabauatan HAIR (Claudia) Renz Pangilinan MAKEUP (Claudia) Owen Sarmiento GROOMING (Donny) Jay Herrera STYLING Janelle Yau CLOTHES and SHOES Adidas, Aldo, Bench, H&M, Kashieca, and Syne SPECIAL THANKS TO Universal Records

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About the author
Mara Agner
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Ivah Ely 6 hours ago

Forget Me Not: A forgotten entry in Tokyo

Watching well-made films often fuel the desire for adventure and excitement in our own lives. Like many in their youth, I've felt that childlike feeling of seeing myself as the main character in my own movie. The genres often change with time and it goes from comedy to tragedy really quick. I used to think that if I closed my eyes for too long, I'd miss the best parts. That if I close my eyes then I'd be covering the lens to the camera in my mind. But I also believed that I could dream about what I see again when I lay my head to sleep at nights or that I can re-watch all my memories after I die. But now that I'm older reality has a tighter grasp on my throat as I trudge my rocky road to adulthood. My memory is failing me. I write this entry for that reason. Because I am scared to forget. I was emotionally and mentally worn. I didn't know it at the time but I desperately needed that feeling of childlikeness again.

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Senior high school came with so much unnecessary pain and pressure that I didn't realize I was gasping for air. I always sat by the window to stare out during class as the voice of my teacher became background noise that faded into my daydreams. Before I knew it, I was packing a small backpack in the middle of the semester on a cold November evening to go on a trip to Tokyo. This time it wasn't a dream and it felt as if time stood still.

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While my friends and classmates were back home in their classrooms going on with their lives and schoolwork, I on the other hand was two-thousand miles away in a foreign land with a foreign language where my basic knowledge was not enough for me to survive on my own. Like passing through the Torii gate which the Japanese believe brings humans into the land of the spirits, I was in a new world. The breeze felt like a cold nip at the tip of my nose as autumn was nearing winter but I've never breathed in air fresher. I was welcomed into a small and warm Japanese home with lovely little folded cranes on a humble dinner table.

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My aunt who was far lovelier and even more vibrant than the colors on the delicately folded cranes was there to welcome me as well. The paper cranes weren't the only things she prepared for my one-week stay. On a little pink card, she had my name along with my Tokyo address handwritten in Japanese for our rides on the bus & bullet train; and in case I get lost. She also prepared a small pink pouch with cute yellow elephants on it. The pouch was filled with coins of different amounts. The coins were for me to spend freely on drinks and snacks in vending machines. It was all more than enough since beforehand she already prepared us 2 weeks' worth of snacks for my 1-week stay. On top of all that she prepared winter clothes since I traveled light and she insisted that I wear the pink parka that she brought before I came over. I find it funny that she still thinks I like pink but it's still just like the good old days. She's still one of the most thoughtful people I know. My aunt is a missionary in Japan and has always been like a mother and a friend to me. I sobbed like a baby in front of a thousand-member congregation on the day my family and I sent her off. A few years later, with my father being our Church's missions pastor, I was given the opportunity to travel to Tokyo and see her. Seeing her again was bittersweet. It's sweet since she raised me and is a big part of who I am and my interests today. But bitter because it hits you like a ton of bricks when you notice someone you love is has gotten older or weaker. Don't we all feel that at some point with our parents and guardians? On my father's side of the family, we have issues of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Dementia. It's hard to pretend that it doesn't hurt that after years of being with my grandma, she doesn't know who I am. As for my dad, on top of having Parkinson's he is starting to show early signs of dementia too. It's scary how quickly one can forget decades worth of memories. I wonder if I may go through that as well one day.

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At the time these thoughts were overshadowed by the magical Disneyland rides and digital museums, sights like Mt. Fuji as well as traditional and Modern Japanese Architecture, pictures we took at the iconic Hachiko shrine, and Shibuya crosswalk, and even the small oddities of Harajuku fashion and merchandise. I took as many pictures every chance I could get. I wrote in my digital journal with plans to make a picture journal when I get back home. Japan was quite the story to tell that I believe rekindled my childlike spirit. Before we knew it, the week ended and I was packing once again. This time my luggage was more than twice as heavy and the destination this time was home. I dreaded leaving Japan but I dreaded leaving my aunt more. I didn't get to say a proper goodbye to her at the airport due to my not knowing that she was only allowed to see me off until a certain point. I cried on the flight back while holding a giant Donald duck stuffed toy as I just imagined her going to her small Tokyo home alone. I also cried since soon I'd have to face reality once again. After hours of travel I found myself back home in the all too familiar Baguio. But I was in distress. It wasn't because my lungs were starting to forget what clean air felt like or that I'm missing the life I've lived for the past week. But I was in distress because I couldn't find my phone. Why was that the biggest problem in the world to me at the time? It was because of the pictures and notes that were lost with it. All the pictures I took and the notes of the smallest details were a blurry mess amidst the panic in my brain. I never posted anything because I wanted to live in the time there and not worry about anything back home or anyone knowing what I've been up to. But what haunts me is that I don't remember a single one of the pictures I took. I was so sure that I'd be able to go over them when I get back home. I don't want to forget. It's been 550 days and it still bothers me. It's been 550 days and it's only now that I realize the lesson of this story as I write this.

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As scary as it is to forget memories, we have to understand when we have to hold on to something and when it's okay to forget. I tried for weeks to somehow recover the pictures on iCloud but to no avail. We may not be able to fix the mistakes of the past or avoid misfortune that is out of our hands but what we can do is to move forward and make more memories that are worth remembering. Treasure the beautiful moments and the lessons from the terrible times. Cherish them and fight to keep these memories on the surface. If you find that difficult to do then strive to tell your stories to others. Because in the times that we forget, then we have others will remember our legacy. We can't be sure about what happens next though we can plan all we want. Often life doesn't have spoilers and may have a plot twist around the corner. As for me, I may never find those photos again but I made it a goal to one day come back to Tokyo and make more memories. That is a promise that I won't forget.

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The Art of Doing Nothing

We have been confined with the worldview about the idea of success; thus, the word “productivity” has been diverted into a different meaning. We labeled the level of our success by identifying the weight of the works we’ve done – believing that the busier you are, the more productive you’ll be. But little did we know that this kind of mindset is a pitfall, ending up in a trap and restricting us to do more of what we can.

Every person has their own way of planning on how to get productive. One of the tips mentioned by Prosalendis was the “2 Hour Hermit Mode” where you just need to stay quiet for two hours to learn and reflect. Within the 2-Hour Hermit Mode, you need to completely shut down outside distractions and try to do nothing, this will help you to have a peace of mind and a quiet time. Focus. This word may be cliché, having a shallow meaning, but the reality is, focusing on one thing is one of the hardest things to do. Some people may have mistakenly understood “doing nothing” as unproductive, but this is actually a form of taking a break. I usually do this 2-Hour Hermit every time I am loaded with tons of deadlines. Just try to sit in the corner of a coffee shop and try to discover new things or just go to a place where you find yourself comfort and peace.

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The art of doing nothing makes you appreciate the beauty of the mundane things - you get to witness how the leaves sway on their own branches, you get to see the unappreciated smiles of the people, you get to hear the sound of the birds giving you lullabies. You will never have the time to focus if you are too disturbed with a lot of things. Give yourself a rest from thinking about all the work you need to do. Don’t get distracted and give yourself the freedom of unfolding new things. The power of focusing and art of doing nothing will help you to do things you don’t normally do, and maybe start to love the things you once hated. Trace your progress. We don’t know how productive we are unless we trace our activities. I have a journal where I can write the things I have done, and the things I wasn’t able to accomplish. This helps me to track and jot down the things I failed to do within the day.

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You are able to take a break and have a rest by doing outside the boundary of the tons of work you have. You will also be surprised that you have done so many things when you’re listing the things you’ve accomplished. This will not just give you the satisfaction but you will also be grateful for what you have done for the past twenty-four hours. You just need a minute to reminisce what you have done while enjoying the silence in the process. Small daily acts can be a solution to achieve our long-term goals. We’re always bombarded with distractions and piled up work, but nothing can beat the idea of staying on track and not feeling lost. By doing this, we will always be reminded why we started to commit on the things that we want to do. After all, what makes us love what we do is knowing why we started it in the first place. The problem with us is that we are too busy achieving, losing the time to see the colors of the ordinary. We are blinded with the idea that success comes with great productivity. We always think that we are defined by how much work we exerted, and not appreciating the effort we’ve given. The fact is you are already successful in acknowledging that you have done something, and nothing.

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