It was back in 2017 when I took a liking for up-and-coming Filipino bands. When Ben&Ben were just playing in small bars and schools, I had the privilege to see them perform live. That moment was absolutely surreal to me. At that time, I wondered why they still weren’t probing the mainstream industry. But, I was absolutely sure that they were going to be big in the music scene.
I never thought I’d see a band again, believe in their potential, and be absolutely in awe of their talent, but then I met Tothapi.
Hailing all the way from Tabaco City in Albay, the 8-member band is making their way towards the limelight, slowly but surely. What started out as a small gig for a school acquaintance party turned into a bigger ambition for a breakthrough.
When happy thought turned into Tothapi
Frontman and vocalist Kobe Dionela shared the beginnings of the band. “Dati na kaming may kanya kanyang banda except [sa akin]. Nagsimula ang lahat nung inaya ko sila para sa acquaintance party ng school namin. After nun, napagusap-usapan namin na parang ang sarap buuin yung lineup na yun.”
The band is now composed of Kobe’s close friends and family; Aaron Bordeos on drums, Jeebay Dellosa on keyboards, Michael Jamlang on guitar, Tadz Cascante on bass guitar, Jr Llaguno on trumpet, Paul Lagrimas on trombone, and Vince Dionela, also Kobe’s brother, on saxophone.
Their name, Tothapi, basically came from the phrase “happy thought,” which was born out of a failed relationship.
“Dahil yan sa isang kaibigan namin na iniwan ng ka-MU niya. Kapag nalalasing siya magkekwento siya ng nararamdaman niya tapos sisigaw ng “Hapitot!” (Happy thought!),” the frontman shared.
Out into the world
In their early months as a band, they were invited to play at small gigs. At that time, Kobe had already written their first original song “Panaginip.”
Billy Joey Villamor, the owner of BJV Music Production, reached out to them after one of their gigs at Ayala Mall Legazpi. Thus, it was the beginning of their career as recording artists.
Their Extended Play, Habilin, was released on April 9, 2021. It contained three original songs: Panaginip, Dagat, and Kakampi. They were inspired to record and release Habilin because of the insistent public demand. “Kasi palagi namin napapatugtog sa live gigs kahit unreleased pa,” Kobe said.
They are also the brain and talent behind Hiraya Manawari, a jingle named after a nature park in Tabaco City. The city’s mayor, Krisel Lagman, tapped the band to create the song. It was the first original song they made for a client.
“Hiraya Manawari ang unang kanta na sinulat ko na hindi para samin pero para sa isang nature park. First client namin is sina Mayor Krisel, kaya malaking challenge. Natuwa naman sila,” Kobe shared.
As of this moment, they are working on new songs for their singles, hopefully, to be released this year. They will also continue to accept gigs and music invites while writing new music.
Message to fans and fellow artists
As an up-and-coming band from the province, their journey towards becoming mainstream is surely an uphill battle. Nevertheless, Kobe thanks Tothapi fans for their never-ending support.
“Nagsimula tayo na tayo-tayo lang. Kaya salamat ng sobra sainyo. We are always grateful sainyo and isa kayo sa motivations namin, kasama na kayo sa inaalala namin. Let’s manifest na lumaki tayo nang lumaki. Continue supporting us [dahil] alam namin someday may papupuntahan din po ang lahat.”
Kobe also shared his message towards other aspiring artists like them. “Sulat lang nang sulat. Continue inspiring others din po. And also wag kalimutan isipin ang kapakanan ng mga kasama lalo na kung in a band po.”
“Maging totoo lang po sa kung ano [ang] gustong isulat. Iwasan ang mainggit sa kapwa artists at wag manliit sa sarili.”
Surely, Tothapi’s humble beginnings will be an inspiration to us all when they finally get the breakthrough they deserve.
Manifesting Tothapi’s success!
Stream them on Youtube and Spotify.
Also, while you’re at it, follow them on their socials!
Gabriela Alexandra, or better known as Alex, is currently a journalism student at Bicol University. She likes to call herself a struggling artist, an idealist, and a hopeless romantic. She may wander around a lot, but she is never lost.