Finding Her Own Voice
On Instagram, Moira Dela Torre goes by the handle Moira Rachelle. She tells YES! the story behind her two given names: “Well, my mom is a Maria, and her sister is a Maria also. So they wanted something in line with Maria for me. They got Moira, which is the Irish equivalent of Maria. And then Rachelle, kasi my mom is Maria Raquel. Rachelle means ‘to shepherd, to lead,’ and then Moira means ‘the missing piece to a puzzle’ or ‘destiny.’”
Her nickname at home, Oia, is another story. “I think I couldn’t pronounce my name when I was younger,” she explains. “Instead of saying Moira, I said Oia. And so everyone just started calling me Oia.”
Among her friends, she’s known by another nickname: Moi.
G arbed in an oversized purple sweater and a pair of loose blue jeans, Moira Dela Torre sits Indian style in the makeup chair as her hair and makeup artist, Theresa Padin, preps her up for her YES! photo shoot one balmy afternoon in early March. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist is nursing a mild cold from the previous day’s gig, which had her performing from 10 p.m. to 12 midnight. She tries to be in high spirits despite the sniffing and the yawning, and despite sounding a bit hoarse—or, as she puts it, “mej paos.” She succeeds in most parts, especially in recalling the highlights of her sold-out two-night concert, Tagpuan: Moira Dela Torre Live, held last February at the Kia Theater in Cubao, Quezon City, and the conceptualization of her recently launched debut album, Malaya.
Moira speaks in a soft, soulful voice that turns into a little girl voice when she gets excited and giggles. It’s the same captivating voice in several commercial jingles, including McDonald’s “Hooray for Today” ad campaign, for the fast-food chain’s breakfast line (2013), and Coca- Cola’s “Happy Together” commercial, starring the soda brand’s endorsers, Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza (2015).
Moira’s voice is likewise enthralling in the theme songs for the movies Relaks, It’s Just Pag-ibig (2014), Camp Sawi (2016), and Love You to the Stars and Back (2017), as well as in the drama series The Better Half (2017) and The Good Son (2018). She did a cover version of the band tunes “Torete,” by Moonstar88, and “Sundo,” by Imago, respectively, for Love You to the Stars and Back and The Good Son. But she sang her own songs “Relaks, It’s Just Pag-ibig” for the movie of the same title; “Malaya” for Camp Sawi; and “Saglit” for The Better Half.
The Philippine music industry’s newest star is also the interpreter of Titibo-tibo, a delightful tune about a tomboyish girl who turns ladylike because of a boy she likes. The song won for its songwriter, Libertine Amistoso, the grand prize at the Himig Handog 2017 songwriting competition.
“I think I developed it over the years,” Moira says of her distinct singing style. “But it wasn’t something that I tried to copy [from somebody else]. It just came out. It’s really just how I sing. It’s how I talk also… Some people think na I make my voice sound that way, parang iniipit ko daw. But then I don’t.”
She confesses that at one point, while waiting for her big break to come, she doubted if she could make it in a music industry that seemingly favors singers who can belt it out, or make birit.
“If I could belt, I would, but I can’t,” Moira says. “There was a time, to be honest, I felt bad I wasn’t a belter. I felt bad I couldn’t birit in a nation that loves biriteras. And so, I felt, like, ‘How is this gonna happen, God? Like You tell me to stay in the Philippines, and to persevere and to keep fighting for my calling. But then everyone loves biriteras, and I’m not.’ But I stuck to my voice, to my own tune. I didn’t try to be whoever.”
At 24, Moira is having the time of her life—a far cry from when she was younger.
“It’s easier for me to enjoy life now because growing up, siyempre, when my parents separated, I lost the stability that a kid should get from her parents,” she says. “So most of my childhood was spent trying to figure out what was wrong with me, or what I could do to make things for the people around me better. And so it resulted in, you know, people pleasing, like if someone is upset with me, I feel like they’re leaving me also. There’s a lot of unforgiveness that God had to change in my life, and a lot of, you know, soul-searching.
“And then in the past few years, I really got to grow, and I found out who my constants were. I have a lot of friends, but only a few constants. Their words are the ones that matter to me… I’m starting to know how to value the people in my life, especially in this industry, when so many people pretend that they know you so well.”
For Moira, there’s no surefire formula in writing songs. Sometimes the melody comes first; other times, the lyrics. Thankfully, she has her phone where she can store her ideas and songs-in-the-making.
The “Malaya” singer-songwriter also keeps in mind that her goal is to write meaningful songs and be able to empathize with people.
“Because there’s too much hugot songs nowadays,” she says, referring to songs that come from personal experiences. “But it leaves you there, in pain. So I wanted to write hugot songs— even if I don’t call mine hugot songs—that would, yes, address the pain, but also get you out of it or lead you back to hope.”
Moira Rachelle Bustamante Cruzado Dela Torre
Oia and Moi BIRTHDAY November 4, 1993
FAVORITE KARAOKE SONG
“‘Love on Top’ [by Beyonce]. But I can’t finish it because I’m not Morissette [Amon, a biritera singer].”
FAVORITE SONGS OF OTHER ARTISTS
“‘Kingdom Come’ and ‘Wine’ by Clara Benin, and ‘Grammar Nazi’ by Reese Lansangan. I also like the songs of BP Valenzuela, Keiko Necesario. Ben&Ben is my current favorite, and also Munimuni.”
RITUAL BEFORE PERFORMING
“Before performing, I just go to the banyo to poop. Otherwise, I’ll just fart [while performing], which I’ve done a number of times.”