Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Summer

Before I announce the release date of my third single, I would like to conclude Summer by sharing the top 10 reasons why I love my first single and music video!

1. Summer was the first song I jammed with my friends in the Philippines.

I had a few songs I wanted to jam with them, but Summer was the least developed one, and with their help, I turned it into my first single! Eventually my friends became my go to bandmates and advisors for music. They are also in my music video. 

2. The song and music video are dedicated to my soul sister, Di.

If you’re wondering why a tall blond woman is so prominent in my video, it is because she was my inspiration for writing the song. We were both foreigners and stranded in Indonesia when the lockdown happened, and we both learned how to surf together. 

3. The bridge inspired the concept of the video.

The lyrics of the bridge are actual activities Di and I did on the island. We’re both into documentation, so I knew there would be pictures of our adventures, and I wanted to highlight this in the video.

4. The music video is an ode to the joy of surfing.

Plenty of shots feature the kids we surfed with at our home break, Squealers. That is where Di and I both started learning how to surf, so a lot of the footage you see is really more about fun than expertise! 

5. Some of my favorite personal surf footage was used.

Luckily we stayed long enough to improve our surf, and so I’m quite proud of some of the footage of me surfing because I know how much work I put into reaching that level! In case you didn’t know, that’s me at the end of the video 🙂 

6. I learned so much editing the music video myself.

It’s not perfect, but I poured a lot of love into it, and I learned so much in the process. I gained a valuable new skill in video editing and saved a bit of money learning to do it myself. 

7. The song and video has such good vibes.

I love the way I danced to it with my jumper and the way I jammed with my bandmates on the tennis court. It was so easy to get into it because the song really brought out the moves!

8. Two Lili’s appear!

They come in when I add voicing in the song, so aside from it looking super cool and fun, it’s also pretty awesome and representative. 

9. There are some epic personal shots I got to use.

One would be two surfers playing air guitar with their boards, and the other would be when I dove underwater and the camera transitioned to coming out of the water.

10. The music video is uploaded on Vevo.

I grew up discovering music from YouTube, and those music videos I watched had vevo on it, so I find it cool that I’m now one of those artists that have the brand. Vevo is a video hosting service that offers artists a global platform to showcase their music videos. Only through labels and distribution partners can one get on Vevo, so it’s pretty exclusive. 

And that’s a wrap, folks! Hope you all enjoyed watching and reading about Summer, because I sure enjoyed making it (despite all the problems I encountered, haha!). Here’s to good vibes and sunnier days ahead. 🙂

The Pains of Being An Indie Artist

My Summer Music Video is finally out!

Watch the Summer Music Video on YouTube

It’s been one heck of a ride trying to release it. From filming to editing to reshooting the karaoke scene… Then getting told by the colorist I hired that I should reshoot it AGAIN because the lighting was bad*… then having it somehow uploaded before I could even market it. No wonder the views are minimal. But it’s okay, because I know these things take time. 

It’s not easy being an indie artist, especially during the pandemic. 

Apart from the fact that gigging is the main income stream for many musicians, it’s also a good way to gain new listeners. But because of the pandemic, live gigs don’t happen. So now I’m just relying on stream revenue. 

In terms of releasing online, I could be doing things better. Best would probably be to record all the music, get it all produced and mastered, create a marketing plan, then launch the first single. But that’s not what I did. 

I figured, since I have an album of songs already written, why not work slowly towards completing them and release singles in the meantime? It made a lot of sense at that time, and I figured I could do the marketing as needed.

For Summer, I was advised to release it during summertime in the Philippines. The target was doable, and we worked towards announcing the release date and promoting the song. Unfortunately, the file that was uploaded to Spotify was the demo version. So when it was released, I couldn’t even announce it. I didn’t want people to hear the wrong version of the song. I was pretty sad that day. 

Feeling relieved that the right version of Summer was finally out

The right file was released a few days after, so I finally celebrated. But then I had the problem of the music video. I was told it should follow the latest two weeks after. So I rushed to get that done, but it took longer than expected. I was so busy editing it thinking I could release it before the second single that I ended up delaying the release of Till Then.

The Summer Music Video wouldn’t make it, and so I went with releasing Till Then.

I planned a music video for that song as well, but after going through the footage and trying to make the cut, I realized that it just wasn’t good enough. So I ended up making a sort of trailer version of it instead, and asked my friends to share it. 

And then my birthday was approaching, and I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have my music video out on my birthday? So I finally completed the Summer Music Video, and asked my label if we could post it on my birthday. But because it was the first time they were working with VEVO, they couldn’t guarantee the date. So I thought, okay, the video probably won’t make it, so let me just share this version I made with my sister of Till Then:

Watch a violin and ukulele version of Till Then here

That worked out great, but then I found out a few hours later that Summer was actually uploaded to VEVO already. That put me in a pretty awkward situation. 

So I just told everyone about it the next day, and tried to keep the momentum going with it. Of course, these things die down naturally, but I think if I knew it would be released on my birthday, I would have made a better marketing plan for it and it would be better received.

Anyway, these are all just lessons to be learned. Things could have been avoided if I just paid professionals to do everything for me. But that wouldn’t make me an indie artist. Apart from doing everything myself and living off savings for now, it’s really my passion for music that fuels my determination to succeed. I believe everything I do is an investment for the future, and slowly but surely, my songs will be heard, shared and streamed. But for now, I am a fish among a sea of fishes just trying to stand out 🙂

FYI despite the delays and problems I encountered, I’ve managed to keep track of my internal timeline, so please stay tuned for the release of my 3rd single this month and my full album next month!

*We told him to work with what we gave him

Signs of Spirituality

A photo of me reflecting what I feel inside.

Today was a special day. Not only did I announce that I am officially Lili to represent my music, but I woke up feeling inexplicably light for the first time in awhile. Apparently, it wasn’t just memories I brought home from Indonesia, but paranormal energies.

When I came home back in December 2020, I was really happy to see my family. But I also felt so heavy and downcast, and I thought maybe I was shocked at living with them again and being back under the new normal. I thought I just missed my boyfriend and the beautiful island I learned to call home.

The feeling wouldn’t go away.

I tried to ignore it and focus on my music. I finished writing my songs, I recorded with sessionists at the studio, and I filmed my music videos. I looked forward to each day because I knew I was doing what I wanted, yet there were times I couldn’t explain why I felt so low.

Luckily, my family is very open to alternative remedies, and by chance, we learned about the existence of two “spiritual warriors” (a.k.a. healers) from my brother’s girlfriend, and my parents invited them over to help improve our lives. They first came over to clear my parents, and later three of my siblings, and finally, me and the house.

It wasn’t really the plan to have them do sessions with each of us, but as we learned more about them, we followed our intuition and scheduled one-on-one sessions.

When the healers came, we discovered things about ourselves we never knew. Each of our cases were different, but for mine, it was supernatural.

The days leading up to my session, I felt dimmer and dimmer. I woke up on Monday with my legs like led, and it was like being back in Indonesia all over again at my lowest point. Tuesday I felt better, but Wednesday, my family could see how glum I was, and I had no explanation for them.

That very same day, I had my session with the healer, and afterwards I felt really good. Apparently, apart from the attachments I gained from stress at my previous jobs, the healer discovered negative energies I had absorbed that followed me from Indonesia, and he sent it back to its primal source. However, I learned later on that this energy still actually followed him, and that’s what made it paranormal.

After that day, I thought I was cleared, but it didn’t feel like it. My legs still felt really tired and I wasn’t feeling well. When the healers finally came back to clear the house yesterday, I reminded them to check up on me, and when they finally removed remnants of that energy from me, I felt truly light and free.

I know, I know… this all seems so very “new age”. But believe me, there is a world out there we cannot see. Do you ever feel someone’s vibe or spirit simply by being with them or looking at their pictures? Energies manifest outside of the physical world.

While I still don’t meditate, do yoga, or pray very much, I am more mindful of the energy we give and receive, the things we surround ourselves with, and the power of intentions and intuition. The purpose of my story is not to entertain, but to enlighten and to bring to awareness the idea of energy and our capacity to absorb it – both good and bad. So be careful and take care, because while we are susceptible to external energies, we also have the ability to affect others with our own, and that can be a powerful tool we can utilize to do good in our lives.

My Indonesian Adventure (During COVID-19 Lockdown)

It has been 41 days since I left Indonesia, and my life has been forever changed. I feel calmer, wiser, more mindful and patient. Probably also because I’m finally pursuing what I’ve always wanted to do – music.

In retrospect, my timing and choices were perfect. When I left my first job last February 2020, I wanted to pursue music with my band, The Ransom Collective. My plan was to be a full-time musician and write songs with them while developing my sound in parallel as a solo artist. But I also wanted to explore the bamboo industry, and I managed to find an NGO in that space that required financial modeling. They needed me to work right away though, so I put music on hold and packed my bags for Jakarta and Bali thinking I’d be gone for a month.

One week later, lockdown happened almost all over the world, and the rest is history (literally).

I tried to go home when the news came out, but flights were getting canceled left and right. Somehow, I wasn’t too worried – I felt it would be safe and productive for me to be in Indonesia anyway. I just never thought I would stay so long (9 months to be exact).

I wasn’t working for that many months though. I took a break in between to recover my mental health, and in that time I managed to explore Rote, the island I ended up getting stuck in.

Rote is on the east side of Indonesia. To get there from Bali, you take a 1.5-hour plane ride to Kupang, the capital of province East Nusa Tenggara. From Kupang, you can either take a 2-hour boat ride or a 20-minute plane ride to Ba’a, the town of Rote.  From Ba’a, it is another hour to get to Nemberala, Rote’s main tourist area.

It was work that brought me to Rote. For awhile, that was all I did. But slowly, I explored the area around me. I opened up and became more social and learned to be independent. The break I took from work was to regain the energy I had lost from stress, and I picked up surfing as a way to heal. I also found my voice in music, and sometimes I would sing in the water.

My surf coach noticed, and told me he had a student like me who would sing to catch waves. But I didn’t need music to catch waves, just practice.

For awhile, my life was too good to be true. I would wake up, walk to the beach to check the waves, take my bike to my coach’s house, grab a board, and paddle to the waves. If I really had the energy, I would take the board I kept in my room and paddle from my beach to the waves. That would take about 10 minutes. I figured it was good training for my arms. And then I would go home, prepare breakfast, and figure out my day ahead.

There were many activities I wanted to do – kayak in the mangroves, sail and snorkel, meet people on the island, visit someone’s house, host a few friends, cook a certain dish, surf a specific spot… the list was considerably long, but I somehow managed to do everything with my friend, Di, in almost 1 month.

And then work beckoned, and I figured it was best to return to the Philippines and work from there as originally planned. So I held a joint birthday party with Di, booked my flight, organized a goodbye gig to perform a few originals and play some covers with the house band, and packed my bags for home.

As we all know, I didn’t end up going. My flight got canceled, and I figured I could just stay and balance my time working remotely. Because of that, I was able to explore Indonesia once the government lifted the restrictions on domestic travel.

I visited Ndao, Sumba, Lombok, and Soe. I went to Flores to check out the bamboo there, and revisited Bali for a few errands (ie. renewing my passport). Never in my life did I travel this much for this long, and during a time of a pandemic. It was scary at first to be away from everything and everyone I knew, but I found family in Rote.

Everyone in Rote is a character. I hung out mostly with the expat community there, but many of them have already been living in Indonesia for years. There were many Australians and Europeans, and most of them retired there, built a second home, or put up a resort. All of them were ocean people – be it surfers, sailors, spear fishers… and I gained a newfound appreciation for the water. It was lovely meeting people from different parts of the world with different backgrounds. I listened to their stories and learned much about the sea from them.

Surprisingly, I found myself very comfortable in the water. I grew up in the city, and mostly did physical activities inland, be it softball, mountaineering, biking, or running. I’ve been to the beach many times and sometimes even had trips with family to surf when I was a kid, but never did I feel capable of doing it independently or even attracted to the idea of living by the ocean. But it was a different story in Rote.

At first, I didn’t care to surf at all. I knew it from experience – either you have to be good at paddling or you’ll need an instructor to help push you – been there, done that, no thanks. But one day, Di decided to sign up for lessons at Nemberala Beach Surf School, and she gushed about how amazing the coach was, Ron, so much. After a week, I gave in.  

Di was right, Ron was amazing. He had a very zen vibe, and he was an excellent communicator. He grew up in the States playing baseball, and so he made softball metaphors for me to understand surfing better. Similar to batting, you don’t always go for every wave you see. You swing at a strike, and it is the same for surfing. They call it wave selection. And then there’s also positioning – you have to sit at a point where you can catch the wave. It’s like being on defense – you position yourself where you think you can field the ball. Then there’s also your stance on the board. Like batting, it’s key to swinging. When you catch a wave, you bend your knees, stay low, and maintain your balance.

I loved it. Suddenly, surfing felt like second nature. It was like my softball days all over again – my arms were getting bigger, I was getting darker, and I was engaged in a new sport. The water felt amazing, and the company was extremely fun. I surfed at Squealers, the spot where kids and foil surfers surf, and so it was relatively safe and fun even to catch party waves.

Later, I learned to surf more difficult waves. Ron took us out to T-Land, the main break, during a small day, and it was just Ron, Di, and I at sunset. The colors were amazing, and each wave that Ron pushed me to, I got better and better. I caught my last wave on my own, and I was stoked for days.

So I kept surfing. Almost everyday, in every condition, in different spots, on different boards… that was my strategy to improve. I had so many wipeouts, so many attempts. It felt like I wouldn’t ever get better, but I did. Suddenly, after 6 months, I wasn’t going out to improve. I was just going out to surf. I had no more fear, no more second guessing. I was confident (of course, not on those huge waves, but on fast waves sometimes even taller than me, I could surf them now). I couldn’t have done it without my partner guiding and spotting me, but I think my attitude and my comfort in the water was a big factor. The surfers on the island (both local and foreign) all noticed, and were impressed with my progress. I was just happy to be surfing independently, but I’m also glad to have made a good impression (somehow I felt like being the only female non-Indonesian Asian on the island made me an underdog, haha!).

So my life did change quite drastically. Now I seek to surf, and I feel at home in the water. I no longer shun the sun at sea, but embrace its warmth and the way it tans my skin. I can survive on an island and make new friends and be good company. I no longer need to live in the city (for I thought convenience and access mattered), but can instead be resourceful with food and live a simple life. The city is overrated, and life without instant gratification or a wide array of choices can still be enjoyable.

In the end, I am glad I didn’t pursue music full-time after I left my first job. Instead, I chose to work on a dream, and though that didn’t materialize the way I thought it would, I came back as a surfer with a handful of songs that will soon become an album. I am now pursuing my original plan to be an artist, and I cannot wait to share my songs – my stories – with you all.

Life Update: I Have a New Job!

I’m pretty much packed but I have a few hours left at home. I don’t know how productive I can still be. You know that period between appointments where you can’t really concentrate? Add to the fact that I’m feeling quite weak even though I had lunch. Okay fine, I’ll say it: I’m nervous.

It’s been exactly a month since I left my first job. Now I’m on to my second, and it’s the ultimate intersection of my skill and desire: to do finance for an NGO based in Bali focused on promoting bamboo agro-forestry. The catch? I’m flying solo. I’m doing everything I did in my first job, except it’s just me now working with the company to create the investment package. No Wall Street boss to watch over my work, just consultants I can work with to deliver a model and presentation. It’s the perfect opportunity to apply everything I know, and that’s what makes it so scary.

Don’t get me wrong, I have faith in knowing I’m qualified to do this. I just want so badly to succeed. I guess this is how it feels when you’re in your dream job: the stakes are so much higher. I have the opportunity to make a social and environmental impact, and I can’t let myself screw up. Add to the fact that I’ve been working remotely from the Philippines and it will be the first time I’m meeting my colleagues in person, you get a girl like me swimming in uncertainty.

I just feel the need to prove myself. I hope they like and trust me. I hope I can overcome language barriers to understand the company and communicate to investors our advocacy. I hope I ask all the right questions and capture all the financial implications of the stages involved in the program we are implementing. Aaaaand I hope I don’t get the coronavirus in the process haha *knocks on wood*.

Kidding aside, I feel really lucky to have landed this opportunity and I think it’s going to be a real adventure. I’m diving headfirst into the unknown on my own, and I’ll be back after a month, which is the longest time I’ll be away from home. I’m just a bit slighted but definitely excited. Here’s to personal growth and a potentially life changing career path! Pray for my soul!

New Song, Nice Morning

Now I remember how I was supposed to introduce the band – by talking about our new song. But then I wrote about how we started instead, which is actually a better beginning anyway.

Regardless, I still want to say that I’m really excited for this new song we’re currently recording. My parents insisted I play it for them just this morning even though it’s still a rough draft, and they really like it. My dad got me to dance with him and started leading me around the living room floor, and my mom was just sitting down and keenly paying attention to the music. She identified the chords I played and complimented me on how I sounded, and I felt gratified because she’s a much better pianist than me. And then she started tearing up in the end because she wished my grandpa could hear it, and I told her that he could from heaven.

I guess these moments make Sunday really the best day of the week for me, and I’m glad to have a blog to immortalize it.

I Have A Band!

I was mentally reviewing what I’ve written so far here in my blog and I realize that I didn’t even mention the band! Which is a big part of my life, and you might have stumbled upon me because of them (which is great, that you for liking our music!). Well for those who don’t know, I play keyboard and sing back-up vocals for The Ransom Collective, a 6-piece indie folk/pop band here in the Philippines. We formed informally around late 2013 to play some songs Kian wrote on his own and posted on soundcloud. While we were practicing, I discovered online a competition organized by Wanderland (an international music fest in the PH) giving local bands a chance to perform at their annual event. We decided to give it a shot, submitted a live video of us playing Something Better, got in, wrote Fools together, and performed that as our winning song at the competition! It was kind of meteoric given that we were such a young band and the competition was literally our fifth gig. But we pulled it off because we were practicing so frequently prior to the competition. After that, we had about four more months to write (or arrange and finalize) original songs before the Wanderland Music Festival in May, and out came Hither, Run, and Images, songs that compose our first self-entitled EP which we released later that year (November 2014).

Karpos announcing us as the winner and awarding the prize (we were obviously beyond ecstatic LOL)

So that’s essentially how we started. There are so many more things that happened after, but I only meant to give a brief summary and introduction here (and honestly I have to start working), so I’ll end things for now, but I promise to share more! I actually have a lot of life updates I’d also like to write about, but I’m still not in the clear with all the moving parts and uncertainty. All I can say is that I’m really excited for 2020 and I’m hopeful for things to come!

Oh, if you want to know more about the band, you can find us on social media and check out our website theransomcollective.com

Playlist for Parents’ Dinner Party

I’ve always been on the lookout for new music, especially anything I could enjoy while working. To discover new songs on Spotify, I either check out their playlists or click on an artist I like and and play the radio on them. In this case, I did the former and discovered Milestones of Jazz Legends by Oscar Peterson & The Greatest Singers. It’s a great album to hear easy jazz songs, and when I played this for my parents at their dinner party, their friends seemed to agree. If you ever find yourself in the same situation as me where your parents ask you last minute to be the DJ, just do as I say and play this album.

Blog Expectations

So I’m trying to remove the jitters for writing my first post, and in an attempt to acknowledge WordPress’ encouraging article on “how to blog” (saved under drafts which I presume is a default for every new account created), I’ve decided to follow its suggestions and answer some of its leading questions in order to “give new readers context” (yes I am quoting the article). So however lame this sounds, here’s what you can expect to find in my blog, which will mainly be about the following:

  1. Thoughts on growing up, family, and personal dreams and observations
  2. Music – songwriting, the indie scene, and song/playlist recommendations and reviews
  3. Biking and commuting around the Metro
  4. Places I’ve been to and mountains I’ve climbed
  5. Plants, birds, and being environmentally conscious
  6. Cookie reviews, food discoveries, and recipes not mine
  7. Books I’ve read and would recommend
  8. Finance and work-related insights

Posts will probably be sporadic, but I do hope to write more, especially when I take a big step towards my imagined future (more about that later). For now, I hope that by blogging, I improve my writing skills, share knowledge I’ve gained, keep track of what I’ve learned, and be more open with friends and family on my doings.

Here’s to a new year and new habits!

Hello, World!

Welcome to my blog. I am Lily, a mid-twenty year old based in Manila. I like music, mountains, and exploring life hacks and productivity. I’m on a casual quest to discover the best chocolate chip cookie and I’ve recently developed an interest in plants, birds, and trees. I used to play a lot of softball growing up and I’m currently doing work in finance. Expect random posts to include any of the above. Happy reading!

Enjoying the sunrise at the peak of Mt. Ulap last December 20, 2019