My mother gave me a clipping of a features article that she cut from the newspaper at work. There were no cell phones at that time since it was in the early ’90s and the news was delivered through a paper. The headline was RYAN CAYABYAB IS LOOKING FOR TALENTED SINGERS TO FORM SMOKEY MOUNTAIN 2.
It Was The Opportunity Of A Lifetime
I was very excited because first off, Ryan Cayabyab was the “man” if you wanted to get into the singing business, and Smokey Mountain was the “IT” group in our country. Of course, this was not in the United States since I grew up in Davao City, Philippines.
Let’s say for comparison, Ryan Cayabyab was the “Marvin Hamlisch” of the US (the multi-awarded composer loved by Ms. Barbra Streisand), and Smokey Mountain was “The Hanson” of the Philippines. The opportunity was truly enormous, and at 13 years old, my mom was handing me that clipping. She knew I loved to sing and it was like her saying that she approves of me auditioning for the part.
I Prepared Myself For That Chance
And so, I equipped myself for roughly a week and practiced “Wind Beneath My Wings,” as sung by Ms. Bette Midler. I was confident that I got the song pretty well. You see, I came from a family of singers. My father used to be a singing champion in our city, while my mother didn’t sing, her sisters were local professional singers. One of my aunts was a jazz singer and a regular every Friday at the city’s posh steak restaurant. She serenaded VIP’s and politicians with her sultry voice. The other one was more successful, and had a singing career in Manila with a country-renowned composer – yes, the one and only, Mr. Cayabyab.
Anyway, I was ready, and my mind was made up. My godmother dressed me up and let me borrow her clothes. I can’t forget the white silk sleeveless blouse and long wrap-around skirt in an abstract design of white and blue colors. She also lent me her brown loafers and braided my long hair.
Night Of The Performance
I got on the shortlist. Out of 1,187 teens who auditioned for the part, only thirty remained. I was one of the lucky 30 who got in.
It is one of the most memorable nights of my life because Ryan Cayabyab was in front of me, and believe it or not, my voice CROAKED. Yes, you read that right. I croaked. It was due to nervousness (I keep telling myself that reason), and when I sang the first note, I went out of tune and croaked big time. It was awful! But with that mistake, the best thing happened to me.
Let me push back a bit and tell the whole story of that specific event.
The assistant called my name and the names of nineteen other kids. We went into a massive hall, and of course, we lined up, and there he was, right in front of us, Mr. Ryan Cayabyab. The first person sang her song, and I think I was number 13. While waiting for my turn, I imagined my young self as a guest singer in “Ryan, Ryan, Musikahan” which means “Ryan’s Music.” (This was the name of his music show on TV.)
Of course, that was a perfect dream. I couldn’t tell him that my aunt was a regular on his show, that’s why I know I have a chance. If my aunt can do it, so can I, right?
Anyway, my turn came, and I made the ultimate mistake. Instead of singing the song from the beginning, I jumped to the chorus and bam! There was no wind beneath my wings, so to speak!
What made me do it? I don’t know! I think I got insecure when I heard two of my schoolmates who also auditioned. One of them was Julie Fernandez (angelic voice) and Mitch (forgot her last name, she was in a band). I decided to up my game by singing the high part, the chorus, which turned out to be a disaster.
A Blessing In Disguise
I stopped singing, and Mr. Cayabyab looked straight at me. All I could say was – I’m so embarrassed, Mr. Cayabyab. I’m sorry. I did prepare for this. It’s just I was too nervous hearing everyone sing and well, singing for you; it’s overwhelming.
Tears were starting to fall on my cheeks, but then a miracle happened – Ryan Cayabyab spoke to me! I was told after the audition by the assistant that Mr. Cayabyab never talked to any of the auditionees except for me!
“Kim, sing again. From the first stanza.”
I managed a weak ok, and then, I started singing. (Quoting the song “Wind Beneath My Wings”)
It must have been cold there in my shadow,
To never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine, that’s your way.
You always walked a step behind.
So I was the one with all the glory,
While you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.
And then, another miracle! Ryan Cayabyab, the composer, conductor, producer and recipient of the most prestigious music awards in the Philippines, SANG WITH ME! He never did such as any other person in the room!
(Quoting the song “Wind Beneath My Wings”)
Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.
We did a duet, and by this time, my heart was swelling with pride. The error, the croaking, and the embarrassment were all worth it! At least, I was able to experience singing with a legend like him.
What Happened Next?
I didn’t make the cut. The part went to Julie, my schoolmate, but she declined it and formed a band. She did become famous, of course. Did it hurt my ego not winning the part? No, absolutely not. In all honesty, I can say that.
It was a fulfillment for me too, in a way, because Julie was once second place in a singing competition wherein I got the gold medal. I know that I have it and with these validations –I beat Julie before, and Mr. Cayabyab singing with me – it’s more than enough.
I was and is talented. I know that I have it, and no one can take it from me.
Did I Become A Professional Singer?
No. I am currently a writer, and a mom of five kids, one of them is a theatre actress and singer. I had my time, and I made my decisions. There are no regrets there, whatsoever.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the event with Ryan Cayabyab made me realize that I have so many innate talents and that if I harnessed it, I could have been a superstar. Right now, I’m just happy to get a score of 100 in a videoke challenge. Seriously! And maybe, a permanent feeling of self-worth and self-confidence because of that particular night.