Saturday, January 16, 2010

Zacariah: An emerging powerhouse on the Philippine music scene

As published in The Pilipino Express News Magazine, January 1 to 15, 2010 issue, Winnipeg, Canada


WINNIPEG – The 22nd Awit Awards held on December 7th had a taste of some of Winnipeg’s Filipino-Canadian talents when Chris De Guzman, a.k.a. Zacariah, won Awit’s People’s Choice Favourite Male Recording Artist and People’s Choice Best New Male Recording Artist.

The Philippine Association of the Record Industry (PARI) established the annual Awit Awards in the late 1970s to honour their peers who excel in their respective fields – Filipino music talents, performing artists and producers. It is the Philippine counterpart of the Canadian Juno awards and the American Grammy Awards.

Zacariah was born and raised in Winnipeg and is a graduate of the University of Manitoba. He is now making waves in the Philippine music entertainment industry.

It was only last year when we invited Chris “Zacariah” De Guzman as a featured artist on our monthly radio program, PSN Community Connect. My co-hosts, Ayen Dandan-Zamora, Michele Majul, Maui Zamora and I were thrilled that we were getting to know for the very first time a promising Filipino-Canadian musician with roots firmly planted in our beloved city of Winnipeg.

Even before he set foot in the studios of CKJS 810 AM for the live on-air interview, his loyal friends and family already had our phone lines lighting up – “What time was Chris’ interview going to start?” “Was he already in the studio?” “Was it possible that we play one of his songs?” Our lines got tied up several times but the calls kept coming. The excitement kept building. We knew we wouldn’t be able to field all the calls and it was best if we let Chris take control of the microphone to satisfy the thirst of his supporters – and he sure did!

Fast forward to 2009 and Chris De Guzman has evolved into “Zacariah” one of the most exciting musical acts today on the Philippine music scene. After winning the People’s Choice Favourite Male Recording Artist and People’s Choice Best New Male Recording Artist at the 22nd Awit Awards on December 7, he is certainly poised for a breakout year in 2010. His singles are playing all around the globe on radio and TV stations. For the past few weeks, you may have also noticed our own local and national Canadian media have extensively covered his achievements. He has a good chance to become a Filipino powerhouse in the international music scene with the likes of Allen Pineda ( of the Black Eyed Peas), Arnel Pineda (lead singer of Journey), Lea Salonga, Charice Pempengco and Billy Crawford, among others.

Last October, I had an opportunity to sit down with Zacariah for coffee in the upper levels of the Trinoma Mall in Quezon City. I didn’t think I’d be able to touch base with him especially with his busy schedule. At the same time, the logistics were challenging as I was in a resort town in Laguna about three hours south of Metro Manila. I was blown away that Zacariah made the coffee meeting happen. On the one day my fiancée Kate and I were in Quezon City, he sent me a text message that he’d like to join us immediately after his vocal lessons with Ryan Cayabyab.

A very honest and grateful Zacariah, talked about how much life has changed for the better since pursuing his dream of being an entertainer. He sorely missed Winnipeg, especially family and friends and everything that made life on this side of the world so special for him. He also did not hold back on a few things that could be better in show business. He understood, like a veteran performer, what he needed to do to be successful on his own terms, which was to put in “lots and lots of hard work.” I came away from the meeting very impressed by Zacariah’s down-to-earth personality more than anything else. We almost forgot that he was on the verge of stardom!

We talked with Zacariah again via e-mail e-mail after his recent Awit Award wins. Here is that interview.

For those who may not know you yet, how did you get started in your singing career?

I’ve been singing ever since I can remember, actually. Music has always been in my household and within our family. My parents [Gil and Marisa De Guzman] are both singers and they met through singing. I remember as a child, I always loved to sing and dreamed of becoming a famous singer. It was not until I tried out and did well in local and national singing contests like Canadian Idol that I took singing seriously and became passionate about it.

What are some of the biggest changes in your life since making the move to Manila?

Some of the biggest changes in my life since making the move to Manila are the traffic and huge crowds of people everywhere. Also, I had to adjust to the heat all year round, which is quite nice most of the time! I also had to adjust to the different dialects people speak, since I’m only fluent in Tagalog.

What is your favourite food?

Oh man! I love food! I eat almost anything! I have a sweet tooth so I love cakes and ice cream! I’m undefeatable at buffets!

What is your zodiac sign?

I’m a Libra. Libras tend to be hard working, perfectionists, and overachievers. I’m also a nice person (sometimes too nice), which is also characteristic of the Libra zodiac sign.

Have you ever been in love?

Yes, I have been in love a few times in my life. Love is a great thing and words cannot describe how good it feels to be in love. Love can make you do some crazy things and can take over your life if you’re not careful. I decided to put my love life on the backburner to focus all my attention on my showbiz career. It’s hard to balance both.

What books are you reading now?

To tell you the truth, I do not like to read books, unless I really have to for school or something. I enjoy reading magazines and articles on the Internet. A book I recently purchased is about motivation, success, and happiness.

What motivates you to work hard every day in your career?

No matter how talented you are, there’s always room for improvement. I strive to be the best I can be despite being under various conditions I’m exposed to. There will always be someone better than you at something, but you’ve got to make the most of what you got. “Do your best and God will do the rest,” and “Good enough is not good enough.” These quotes motivate me to succeed and shoot for the stars. Taking a break from Optometry school to pursue my passion of singing constantly reminds me to work hard everyday. I risked leaving a medical career that would be secure for a lifetime for a career that usually doesn’t last forever.

You’ve almost been everywhere in the world, where does Winnipeg lie in your heart?

Winnipeg will always be home for me and will have a special place in my heart. There’s no place like home, no matter how cold Winnipeg can get. Most of my family and friends are in Winnipeg and I was born and raised in Winnipeg so I keep running back to Winnipeg. I’ve been all over the world, and I can honestly say that Winnipeg is such a close-knit community. I would rather live in a smaller major city like Winnipeg than a huge major city like Toronto. Everyone seems to know everyone in Winnipeg, which is great and keeps me coming back!

What is most important in life?

What’s most important in life is to be happy. Whatever you choose to do with your life, as long as you’re happy with what you’re doing, nothing else really matters. I chose to follow my dream and passion for singing and I do not regret one bit taking the chance, since you never know unless you try. I’ve never been so happy and fulfilled in my life. I accomplished dreams and goals I never imagined I could. Having a great support network and strong faith are very important to me in my life. Without the backbone of support from my family and friends and my faith in God, I don’t know where I’d be right now. You must also believe in yourself at the same time, since if you don’t believe in yourself, then chances are nobody else will. You must live life to your fullest potential to make the most of the talents and gifts God has provided each and every one of us with. Life is too short; so don’t want to live life with regrets and asking, “What if?”

Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, and 20 years from now?

In five years from now, I see myself with a music career in Europe, Canada, and the Philippines, and starting to break through to the U.S. Record Market. I probably will have composed songs of my own by this point and released more albums in the Philippines and abroad. In 10 years from now, I see myself being finished optometry school and practicing optometry, settled down and with children. I also probably would still be doing music part-time, on the side.

In 20 years from now, I see myself thinking about retirement, travelling the world, and enjoying life.

There is definitely something extraordinary about Zacariah. Once a science student at the University of Manitoba who worked at the Canada Revenue Agency, he was one of us – and he still is. He will continue to represent us wherever he will go.

For more about Chris “Zacariah” De Guzman, please visit:

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