Princess Christine Ybañez spreads her musical wings
By Deneb Batucan
EVEN as a little girl, Princess Christine Ybañez knew that her life and music are intertwined. Her earliest memory was of her mother giving her a microphone and urging her to sing along a multiplex. At five, she found passion through the keys of the piano as she learned each piece with much vigor. But it was when she was nine that Princess fell in love.
She watched one of Salvador and Pilar Sala Foundation Inc.’s
concerts and immediately fell in love with the violin. How she longed to run her fingers though its strings and feel the music take shape under her chin.
Princess begged her mother to let her audience for a spot in the foundation’s scholarship program. She went through a series of tests and did a piano piece. With the skill that Princess had, she got accepted right away.
Since then, she never stopped playing.
The time came when the girl from Mandaue City had to choose what to take up in college: she applied for a scholarship in music at St. Scholastica’s College in Taft, Manila and got accepted. But at 17, she was terrified of living all by herself in an unfamiliar place. So, she took up nursing instead at the University of San Carlos. It would be a good back-up plan in case her music career didn’t pan out, she thought.
And yet her hands longed to play a chord on her violin, her feet often leading her onstage. She couldn’t stop playing. To help out her family, she would teach violin to kids and play gigs around the city so she could earn for her daily allowance, all the while having time to do what she has always loved to do. “It’s always been a part of my life. It’s really difficult to think of life without performing,” she said.
The artist as idealist
After she passed the nursing board exam, Princess got a life-changing offer: as a featured soloist for the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. “I grabbed the opportunity because I wanted to try to make a living out of what I love doing. I felt it was like a wonderful door that God opened for me,” she said.
So Princess gathered her wits and braved the independent life in Manila in January 2011. For a year, she played for the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra and then moved on to be an independent artist for a while.
After a few months, she met her current managers, JP Montilla and Paolo Zarante. This paved the way for her all-girl rock band, Rouge.
Princess is part of the girl-power rock band where she plays her violin in a different kind of genre. To her, it was a challenge she accepted fully. “This is what other people think: ‘You’re classically trained, why are you playing rock?’ Well, who said you can’t be both? I hate it when people tell you that you can only be one thing. You can be anything you want to be. And I think that’s the artist and idealist in me, but it makes me feel free,” the techno-violinist said.
Princess said that when she first moved to Manila, she was a naïve young woman who thought that her dreams would finally come true. But when she got there, it dawned on her: life was rough.
“Nothing’s easy. You have to work for everything you want. And people would always try to bring you down,” she said. “But I just kept going.”
Even when life felt heavy, she would always zero in on the main reason she was there: to perform great music. She soldiered on, and five years later, she’s still living and breathing her passion for music.
Open to change
Versatility is significant in the world of music. For Princess, an artist should be able to evolve and adapt to any kind of music genre they want to learn. “Always be open to change. The world is evolving and music is evolving so you just have to be open. You can never just be one thing,” she said.
“It’s very important, for me, for sanity’s sake, to be able to perform different genres. It makes you grow technically and gives you more job options when you can do a lot of things,” she said. Princess listens to a variety of genres and sometimes she mimics the styles and incorporates it with her own.
Today, Princess is focused on her band Rouge. She is also part of a country band called Plan of Fools, where she’s excited to play her instrument in a new genre. And even though it’s a given that the music industry is a difficult business to thrive in, Princess is adamant to continue playing, no matter what. “It’s always in the equation. It can’t be life without music,” she said.
Photographer: Kurt Fick
Hair and Makeup: Ferdinand Moncada
Locale: Cio’s Kitchen