What's a Day Like in the Life of National Artist, Ryan Cayabyab?
These days when most people are homebound, time tends to move slower even after the sun rises and the birds begin to sing. Ryan Cayabyab takes his time in the morning and picks up is his smartphone to reconnect with the world, be it work, family, or friends.
Then, the real work begins. Presently, the esteemed National Artist for Music will begin his day by cleaning his workroom and streamlining his library. "I still have three shelves full of unsorted, undocumented and un-filed music manuscripts written through the years," Cayabyab shares. "This will take me about two months worth of work including shredding paper that needs shredding, and keeping and filing all pertinent bills and documents."
But before the pandemic, his day would be much more different.
Instead of heading straight to his workroom after morning rituals, Cayabyab would sit down and flip through pages of the day's news headline. "Our family driver usually does this daily routine: buy our papers outside the village . . . We always had Philippine Daily Inquirer and Star. This is quite convenient because when my wife reads Star, I get to read PDI simultaneously!" he says with a laugh.
On certain days before the pandemic, Cayabyab would attend to different errands, whether it's driving to the grocery store, the hardware store, or the barbershop and visiting the dentist or the doctor. These appointments were usually set after lunch.
But most of the time, he would shower and prepare for long drives in and out of Metro Manila for work. "More often, people communicate with me while I am in the car (via hands-free calls) because I spend a lot of time in traffic traversing EDSA going south mostly, or sometimes east or west of NCR." The musician continues, "If I am not working on a project at home, this means [I am] writing music, composing, arranging or simply making time for creation".
"But this year and last year, there was a drastic cut in work opportunities because as you know, musicians' livelihood entails face to face, physical interaction," Cayabyab says. "That is the nature of our profession."
Cayabyab has always delivered a fantastic performance live, whether he's playing in front of a crowd or recording in a private studio. There's a rhythm in the musician's gestures and movements that's apparent even while speaking in interviews, almost as if music naturally courses through his veins. Once you hear his oeuvre including the songs Tuwing Umuulan At Kapiling Ka, Nais Ko, or Kailan, you'll surrender to the music by swaying or singing along.
His genius has been countlessly recognised and his works are performed by various esteemed singers and songbirds like Regine Velasquez, Martin Nievera, Pilita Corrales, Celeste Legaspi, and Jose Mari Chan.
One might wonder how the artist was able to compose lyrics and melody that's designed to last more than one lifetime. We believe it's his deep passion for music, sincerity, and love. In fact, some of his hits were written out of love for his wife, Emmy Punsalan Cayabyab.
His wife is the inspiration behind the National Artist's songs Ikaw Ang Tunay na Ligaya and Araw Gabi. True to his word, Cayabyab would meet with his wife, who works for the namesake's music school, for dinner around Ortigas. Afterwards, they would brave through the traffic together on the way home. By the time they arrive, they'd retire in the comforts of their home.
The artist would relax by flicking through food and lifestyle channels before bed as he would have to continue his daily ventures the next day. For sure, it'll be another day busy with music-making and driving.