He laughs when we tell him he is like Katy Perry since both his musical and artistic parents are into church service. He idolizes Joey Ayala but only picks up a guitar when he’s composing songs—something he’s quite good at, we think.
He says one of his earliest influences is Yoyoy Villame, and claims that he learned about the solar system via a Yoyoy song. Still, his most successful composition to date feels like that of Budoy and Jr. Kilat. It must be subliminal, he surmises, since he’s a big Jr. Kilat fan.
It seems that decades of Pinoy pop songs are swimming inside Earnest Hope “Hopia” Tinambacan’s mind. Thus, his popular song “Tug Ta Tug,” (co-written with fellow Hopia band member Jerry Angelo Catarata), a finalist in the recent Vispop 3.0 songwriting competition is both strikingly new and warmly familiar. The marriage of inevitability and surprise, as they say.
Read on to know more about this Dumaguete-based vocalist, songwriter, playwright, theater actor, director, and trainer—this fusion called Hopia.
Do you play any musical instrument?
Bokalista ra gyud ko. Kahibalo ra ko mo gitara kung mohimo ko og kanta. Mohawid ra ko og gitara kung mohimo ko ug kanta and mahuman na gani ko og himo ako dayon na ihatag sa akong kauban.
When did you realize that songwriting is your thing?
I started writing when I was 13 tungod sa barkada. Swerte lang gyud ko nga nasagol ko sa mga tawo nga hilig pud ug kanta ba. So starting high school akong mga barkada tighimo gyud og kanta. We started out with friendship songs. Dayon sa simbahan sab every year, we have songwriting competitions, so didto ko ka-discover nga pwede gyud diay ko ani because ako man pirme makaapil. So hangtud na sa college, sa Silliman niapil ko twice sab og songwriting competition and nasulod sab ko sa Top 10 and ngadto na gyud ko ka-realize nga angayan gyud diay ko ani.
Until na sigehan na nako ang himo og kanta. I even won once pero back then I think kulang pa until nakuha ko sa Elements National Singing Songwriting Camp nila ni Ryan Cayabyab in 2012. So pagkahuman adto paspas na dayon. I gathered my own band then made an album.
Who are your musical influences?
Specifically sa Cebuano songwriting, pagkabata nako nagpaminaw man gyud ko ni Yoyoy Villame. I remember always loading the casette that I have of Yoyoy and halos mao gyud akong memory of a Cebuano song. I don’t know… ambot ngano I prefer Yoyoy maski sa una. Daghan nitatak sa ako sa una nga songs niya like kadtong educational—na wala na gyud siya maski sa YouTube—about sa mga planeta. Kadtong bulan ug adlaw nga nanganak og mga planeta. Ngadto ko una nakat-on sa sequence sa mga planeta. My father introduced me to his music kay balaknon man gyud to akong Papa so mao sab na akong nakuha sa ilaha kanang music ug theater. I also listen a lot to Gary Granada.
How about foreign influences?
Daghan man gud. I listen a lot to Jeff Buckley as well as a number of soul artists.
I am also into Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. They are my comfort zone and mas kalma ko when I am listening to them. I’m an old soul because nakakanta man sab ko og jazz band ngadto sa amo.
If someone asks you to perform covers, would you do it?
Well, I do weddings so makakanta gyud ko og covers, pero once I am with the band Hopia, once we are invited to perform as a group, moingon gyud mi nga we are not a cover band and we always tell them beforehand nga we are not a party band. I mean, I can cover songs kung jamming-jamming lang pero kung dala na ang name sa banda, that’s another story. Well, so far we haven’t given in to covers although if I can recall we did once but only during advocacy events, like for example on a women’s advocacy event wherein they really requested us to perform a cover. So we do adjust in cases of advocacies and besides two to three covers won’t hurt.
Why did you name the band Hopia?
It is from my nickname, actually.
Are you willing to perform a song by other songwriters?
That hasn’t happened although it would be okay. Ganahan sab bitaw ko nga makasulat nga lain ang mokanta. Bantug bitaw lipay bitaw unta ko sa original plan ni Jude Gitamondoc (of Vispop) nga lahi ang pa-performon. It was supposed to be Budoy and dayon nausab man ang plan.
What was your reaction the first time you were able to hear the final track?
Okey kaayo. Lipay man gani ko nakadungog sa first track pero this time mas naa ni siya’y kick. Mas nakuha gyud niya ang hugot sa kanta. And makalingaw ang lyric video sa YouTube. Makalipay kaayo siya.
As an artist, how do you reward yourself?
fter finishing writing a song, well usually I just hang out with my friends and then talk about it. It’s important to get honest feedback from people who are important to you and who are relevant to your craft. Reward? Kuan, shot-shot lang.
How would you like to see yourself in the coming years?
I think I have reached the point na I have embraced my kind of artistry. I am doing theater and music and it’s not financially rewarding, and we know that, pero I am more on setting strategies to spread my kind of music. And I love challenging myself and I am happy with the kind of appreciation the public has shown to my song pero at the back of my mind, dili pa ni mao, naa pa’y angay kab-uton ba so nahumod na lamang gyud ko, magpaulan na lang ko. Mao man gyud nang mogawas sa among mga discussion with Jude and Insoy (Niñal) nga ang nakanindot man gyud sa Visayan songs and the language itself, if imo siyang i-embrace, although awakened naman siya ron in terms of public interest, lapad kaayo siya pero wala pa kaayo siya naka reach sa iyang peak. So the challenge there is if mo gamit man gani ka sa language nga Bisaya, you might as well use it artfully.