October 17, 2023
MANILA – Following the massive commercial breakthrough of their debut single, “Uhaw,” members of the Baguio-based rock band Dilaw found themselves packing their bags and coming down to Manila earlier this year.
It has been a whirlwind since — live gigs, video shoots, TV appearances and various other projects.
“We’re not really sure where we live right now!” lead guitarist Leon Altomonte said in a recent media huddle, shortly before the group took the Teatrino Promenade stage for “‘Di Ilaw sa Gabing Mapanglaw”—a show that featured stripped-down numbers and a string quartet.
“We were asked to come down for a month to play a few gigs. It was sometime in April. And since then, we have been in Baguio for only two weeks. We didn’t have much time to prepare for the move. We didn’t even exactly know we were moving. We were talking a few weeks ago, thinking how wild it is that we live here now and there’s no turning back,” he added.
After its release in November 2022, “Uhaw,” a funky and whimsical ballad about love and longing, quickly gained traction, topping various Philippine charts on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube. It also reached the No. 1 spot of Billboard’s Philippines Songs chart.
Dilaw—also composed of lead vocalist-songwriter Dilaw Obero, guitarist Vie Dela Rosa, bassist Wayne Dela Rosa, keyboardist En Altomonte and drummer Tobi Samson—eventually penetrated TV and mainstream media.
Before long, they were making guest appearances in variety shows, like “It’s Showtime” and “All-Out Sundays,” as well as game shows like “Family Feud” and “I Can See Your Voice.” “Uhaw” even piqued the interest of comedic genius Michael V, who put out a music video parody of the song.
“If we’re being honest, we haven’t really had the time to fully process because everything has been happening so fast. From the second we set foot in Manila a few months ago, we have done nothing but gig and perform and do all these projects,” Leon said when asked by the Inquirer what the band makes of its sudden rise to fame.
Spotlight on Baguio
As hectic as the past few months have been, the experience, its members said, has been nothing short of instructive and inspiring.
“There’s a lot of inspiration around us because we’re surrounded by so many talented musicians—artists who have been in the industry for a long time, artists who are newer than us. It has been really nice taking all the information and knowledge from the people around us,” he said, adding that he can’t deny that their success involved a fair bit of luck.
“There are thousands of artists releasing songs every day. And each of them is talented enough to deserve recognition,” Leon pointed out. “There’s always an element of luck involved when a song reaches that wide of an audience.”
More than the personal fulfillment it brought to the members, the success of Dilaw has also unwittingly shone the spotlight on Baguio City’s burgeoning music scene, which has been producing other promising bands, like Cup of Joe.
“It’s cool because the music scene in Baguio is really good. It’s not a huge world, so that means a lot of us are friends with other bands. We always play gigs together. So it’s fun seeing each other here in Manila. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, what are we doing out of our homes!’” En said.
Leon couldn’t be happier that musicians from his hometown have been making noise on the mainstream scene. “We would like to promote music from our community and build our local music scene so that the generations after us will be able to make it without having to move all the way here [in Manila],” he said.
Now, the band is back with a new single “Orasa” (Warner Music Philippines), which means “hourglass.”
Like an hourglass you turn over again and again, fading love, Dilaw and Vie said, can end up feeling tedious and repetitive. And the concept is further reflected by sound, which features repeating sound motifs and chants.
“It’s about a love that’s about to break … And when you’re in that situation, it feels like everything is the same—paulit-ulit lang. Parang binabali-baligtad lang ang oras bawat araw,” Dilaw said.
Still, despite it all, “you still choose to be there,” added Vie, who co-wrote the song with Dilaw.
He would be lying, Dilaw said, if he acted like he didn’t feel pressured by the success of “Uhaw.” “We don’t dwell on it … but we can’t deny that it’s there. You can’t avoid that. The thought will eventually come to you when it’s all quiet and you’re alone. ‘You were able to come up with a song like that. What’s next?’” he related.
“The pressure drives us to keep on going,” Vie said.
For now, all they can do is enjoy the ride.
“We’re taking things one day at a time. We’re having a good time and we’re all thankful to the people who helped make all this happen,” Leon said. “It’s always about playing music, being in front of a crowd, having my eardrums damaged, feeling the energy from the fans and giving back what I can. That’s always the best part of this experience for me.”
“I enjoy the TV exposure,” Vie quipped, laughing. “Because my mother is happy and proud to see me. She would tell me, ‘Uy, nakita kita sa TV. Sikat ka na!’”
For Dilaw, the best thing about the band’s journey so far is the simple realization that their dreams are finally coming true. “All these were nothing but dreams,” he said.