YES! (Philippines) - - Spotlight - ARt dI­Rec­tIon: jeremiah idanan shoot PRo­duceR: irene mis­lang hAIR & mAkeuP: theresa padin fAsh­Ion styLIng: ica vil­lanueva

With one eye closed, so that makeup can be ap­plied on the eye­lid, Moira tells YES! how her love af­fair with mu­sic be­gan with Donna Cruz’s ver­sion of the AfterI­mage band’s love an­them, “Ha­bang May Buhay.”

“My dad would tell me na I was three, and that would be the only song I would sing to him and my mom,” she says. Singing “Ha­bang May Buhay” for her par­ents was soon cut short, when her father Mike Cruzado and mother Raquel “Rocky” Bus­ta­mante sep­a­rated and had their mar­riage an­nulled.

Moira, the cou­ple’s only child, now con­sid­ers that chap­ter of her fam­ily life as “a lit­tle messy.” She re­lates that her Mommy Rocky would take her to Olon­gapo City in Zam­bales prov­ince to “hide me there,” away from Daddy Mike. Mommy Rocky hails from Olon­gapo City, and be­ing with her fam­ily in that place made her feel safe for her daugh­ter.

“My mom got cus­tody, with my dad try­ing to kid­nap me,” she ex­plains. “He was, you know, in a very dark place then. And then he moved to the States with his new wife when I was five, and I didn’t see him un­til I was six­teen.”

Moira grew up with Mommy Rocky, who has built a ca­reer as a broad­caster and ra­dio DJ in Olon­gapo City. Mommy Rocky found a new love in John Dela Torre, a pas­tor in a Chris­tian church, and they got mar­ried. Moira then as­sumed the Dela Torre sur­name, and started call­ing her mother’s new hus­band Daddy John. Mommy Rocky and Daddy John sub­se­quently had their own two daugh­ters.

There were not too many places to go to in Olon­gapo City in her younger years, Moira re­calls. Big malls like SM City and Har­bor Point hadn’t been con­structed yet. In­stead, there was a small shop­ping cen­ter, with an even smaller com­mer­cial space be­side it. There were very few cof­fee shops and re­fresh­ment spots that she and her friends could hang out in.

“No’ng nag­bukas po ’yong McDo, ando’n kami araw-araw,” she says, adding that they usu­ally or­dered Coke float and French fries from the fast-food chain. “’ Yon lang po, e. So kahit grounded ako, okey lang.”

But Moira didn’t re­ally give Mommy Rocky and Daddy John rea­sons to ground her be­cause, in her own words, she did ex­cel­lently in school. “From nurs­ery to high school, I al­ways had awards,” she coolly says. “I had aca­demic ex­cel­lence awards, out­stand­ing awards.”

She also ex­celled in singing, a tal­ent that she got from her mother, who, she says, “sings su­per well.” Like Mommy Rocky, Moira sang in church and was only al­lowed to lis­ten to sec­u­lar mu­sic at age 12. She re­mem­bers lis­ten­ing to Lea Sa­longa’s al­bum, By Heart— and, in­stinc­tively, she war­bles a few lines from one of the cuts from that al­bum, “I Re­mem­ber the Boy.” Then, she rem­i­nisces about watch­ing the con­cert of Richard Poon at the Olon­gapo City Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, and get­ting in­spired about how to con­nect with an au­di­ence through mu­sic.

Like­wise at age 12, Moira picked up the gui­tar and learned her first four chords from Daddy John. Look­ing back to that time brings out the tunes Daddy John taught her to play. She then hums a few bars of “Fix­ing a Bro­ken Heart,” by the Aus­tralian pop group In­de­cent Ob­ses­sion, and “Black­bird,” by the Bri­tish mu­sic icons The Bea­tles.

At her very core, though, Moira was hit­ting all the wrong notes in those days. She was be­ing bul­lied in school for be­ing chubby, and she suc­cumbed to the pres­sure of los­ing weight by be­com­ing

anorexic. She ate prac­ti­cally noth­ing and drank only pineap­ple juice for sus­te­nance be­cause “just the idea of food mak­ing you fat” was deeply in­grained in her mind.

“My mom knew, but I lied about it,” she says of her self-star­va­tion, which went on for a few months, un­til Daddy John fi­nally in­ter­vened. “He forced me to eat one cup of rice in ev­ery meal. Min­san, two cups, ’ta’s sin­isik­sik pa niya.”

But what re­ally roused her to con­front and over­come her anorexia was jour­nal­ing. She dis­cov­ered that putting her thoughts and feel­ings into words and writ­ing them down in a jour­nal or di­ary gave her the strength and con­fi­dence not to fear food. Af­ter de­cid­ing to eat again, she re­al­ized she wanted an­other cre­ative out­let, and she found it in song­writ­ing.

“Bul­ly­ing now in schools is very bad,” she says. “It’s very bad. It’s gonna af­fect you, es­pe­cially me. Grow­ing up, I al­ways felt I was ma­ture for my age. Be­cause my friends came from nice, you know, ideal fam­i­lies, and so, parang they’re ba­bied. And I was… You know, while I was ba­bied by my par­ents, I was forced to think­ing deeper be­cause I was

al­ways try­ing to fig­ure out what had hap­pened to my par­ents—if I was part of it, or if I caused it.

“Peo­ple who come from bro­ken fam­i­lies re­ally do tend to over­think even at a young age. Pero I didn’t know that was the root of every­thing I went through— de­pres­sion, anorexia… But the bul­ly­ing and the re­jec­tions def­i­nitely cat­a­pulted me into do­ing those things.”


Moira reached real ma­tu­rity at 16. She was re­united with her father Mike, whom she last saw when she was five years old, and they patched things up. She got to know more about Daddy Mike, who has been work­ing in the ho­tel in­dus­try in the re­sort city of Las Ve­gas since he moved to the U.S., fol­low­ing the an­nul­ment of his mar­riage to Moira’s mother. She also met Daddy Mike’s wife Mary Ann, nick­named Meanne, and the cou­ple’s two daugh­ters and one son. Moira has since been vis­it­ing them ev­ery time she gets the chance to travel over­seas.

A year af­ter patch­ing things up with her father, and af­ter grad­u­at­ing from high school, Moira moved from Olon­gapo City to Manila to study mu­sic pro­duc­tion at the De La Salle– Col­lege of Saint Be­nilde. For about six years, she lived with her mother’s only sis­ter and brother-in-law, a child­less cou­ple. But ev­ery now and then, she would visit Mommy Rocky, Daddy John, her sis­ters, and the rest of their ex­tended fam­i­lies in Olon­gapo City.

Moira re­mem­bers strug­gling in col­lege be­cause her course “wasn’t what I had ex­pected.” The Mu­sic Pro­duc­tion de­gree pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to Be­nilde’s web­site, “fo­cuses on the study of mu­sic and its cre­ative pro­cesses, with the use of mu­sic tech­nol­ogy tools, in the present con­tem­po­rary mu­si­cal form, style, and genre.” The fresh­man from Olon­gapo City, on the other hand, was lean­ing to­wards mu­sic mak­ing and per­form­ing. So, she even­tu­ally dropped out.

She de­cided to fo­cus on carv­ing out a name in the mu­sic in­dus­try with the help of her man­ager Erick­son Ray­mundo, whose Cor­ner­stone En­ter­tain­ment Inc. also over­sees the en­ter­tain­ment ca­reers of Sam Milby, Richard Poon, Erik San­tos, Yeng Con­stantino, and KZ Tandin­gan, to name a few.

Moira had known Erick­son, whom she calls Tito Erick, for a long time through her aunt, who hap­pens to be his best friend. The man­ager was then work­ing as a nurse, and he and Moira’s aunt were into some kind of a net­work­ing busi­ness.

“He would sleep over in Olon­gapo,” she re­calls. “One time, he fell asleep on our couch. He was too thin, and my lola sat on him! Hindi siya na­pansin.”

Years later, when Moira was al­ready writ­ing songs and Erick­son had started manag­ing tal­ents, her aunt had him lis­ten to the works of the promis­ing mu­si­cian, who was then only 14 years old. He liked what he heard.

“So he took me in, and that’s how it hap­pened,” Moira says. “Parang I re­ally feel like every­thing is per­fectly or­ches­trated ta­laga by God. I feel like every­thing re­ally did hap­pen for a rea­son.”

But Moira had to pay her dues by un­der­go­ing train­ing and serv­ing as front act in other artists’ shows. She also au­di­tioned for singing com­pe­ti­tions, such as the first sea­son of The Voice Philip­pines in 2013.

She didn’t fare well in those au­di­tions. “Out of ev­ery­one in the group, I’d be the one that didn’t get in,” she says. She didn’t lose heart, though, thanks to her Tito Erick­son. “He would al­ways just tell me, ‘With you, it’s just a mat­ter of tim­ing. We have to wait for the per­fect time.’ He’d just al­ways say that per­fect time is God’s time. And then, when last year hap­pened, he said, ‘I told you, just tim­ing.’”

And that per­fect tim­ing came with the re­lease in Au­gust 2016 of Camp Sawi, a se­ri­o­comic flick di­rected by Irene Vil­lamor about how women—played by Bela Padilla, Arci Muñoz, Andi Ei­gen­mann, Yassi Press­man, and Kim Molina— deal with a bro­ken heart. The movie’s theme song, “Malaya,” writ­ten and in­ter­preted by Moira, en­cap­su­lated not only the pain but also the no­bil­ity in let­ting go of a loved one.

The song went into heavy ro­ta­tion in ra­dio sta­tions and other mu­sic chan­nels, so that long af­ter the movie’s run ended, its heart-wrench­ing words and haunt­ing melody stayed in peo­ple’s con­scious­ness. Moira has been on a roll since then. “It makes sense,” she muses. “Years be­fore that, I was much thin­ner. I was more ac­tive in play­ing the gui­tar. I feel, like, I was more pre­pared be­fore for the in­dus­try. And then my songs started be­com­ing hits, and I was chubbs, I had my cheeks back. I’m in a re­la­tion­ship now. It’s not com­mon, it’s un­com­mon.

“What’s the term? It’s un­con­ven­tional, what hap­pened. Like, it hap­pened at a time when I did not ex­pect it, and that’s how I can prove that it re­ally is tim­ing and not strate­gies. Be­cause the strate­gies worked af­ter. And so, Tito Erick—his name on In­sta­gram is vi­sion­er­ick­son—he is re­ally a vi­sion­ary.”


It may have taken Moira a long while to get to where she is now, both in her fam­ily life and in her pro­fes­sional ca­reer, but she says that where she is now is worth all the hard­ships and heartaches that she had to go through.

She flashes a sat­is­fied smile when told that she now has two fathers and moth­ers, and a to­tal of five sib­lings, four girls and a boy, all of whom, Ate Moira says, know how to sing and are quite tal­ented.

“I know, I re­ally love it!” she beams. “One of the things that I’m most grate­ful to God is be­ing close to my sib­lings. Kasi the one next to me sa mom ko is fif­teen or four­teen, so mga ten na ang age gap namin. The one na­man sa dad ko is twenty-one. I didn’t get to grow up with her un­til she was eleven, no’ng first time kami nag-meet. So I was very scared that, you know, be­cause of the age gap and the dis­tance, I won’t be close to my sib­lings. But, by God’s grace, I love them. We’re very close when we’re to­gether.”

Moira re­lates that her sis­ters in Olon­gapo City are very much into Korean pop and drama se­ries. She isn’t much into K-pop, so she just watches Kore­anov­e­las with them, and “we just eat junk food.” When she’s in Las Ve­gas, she usu­ally bonds with her sis­ters there by try­ing out new cof­fee shops.

“I think last year was the most I’ve ever gone to the States in a year,” she says. “I went to the States three times last year just to see my fam­ily, just to spend time with my fam­ily. My boyfriend paid for our tick­ets for Christ­mas, kasi he wanted to ask my dad for his bless­ing...” For maybe her hand in mar­riage? Her pretty face turns red—and not be­cause of the blush makeup on her cheeks. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” she replies, gig­gling. “Maybe.”

But she ends her ear­lier state­ment with what her boyfriend Ja­son Her­nan­dez re­ally asked her Daddy Mike: “Bless­ing to just be with me.”

The vis­i­bly in-love record­ing and con­cert star goes on talk­ing about Ja­son and how their seven-year friend­ship blos­somed into a ro­mance that has been go­ing on for a year and a month as of this writ­ing.

“We were class­mates,” she says. “But we didn’t like each other at all. I thought he was ya­bang. And then we both grew up, and then we broke up with our exes sabay. But we didn’t like each other pa din. And then, when he’d liked some­one, he would ask me to proof­read [his mes­sages to that girl], or like, you know,

things like that. I was like, ‘I don’t like you ta­laga.’

“And then it just changed last, last De­cem­ber. Every­thing just changed. And my lola put it per­fectly. She said some­thing like, ‘I think you can call this a mir­a­cle.’ I said why, and then she said, ‘Be­cause God pro­tected you from each other even while be­ing to­gether, un­til the time was right.’ And I got to know him with all his baho, not with his best foot for­ward.”

Moira has found a cre­ative part­ner in Ja­son, who, un­like her, com­pleted his stud­ies in mu­sic pro­duc­tion. He put in a cou­ple of ideas for her de­but al­bum, Malaya, and cowrote at least six songs that will be in­cluded in her next record­ings.

Ja­son and Moira may be play­ing beau­ti­ful mu­sic to­gether, but wed­ding bells may not be ring­ing for them soon. For starters, she’s bent on go­ing back to school ei­ther in the U.S. or in the Philip­pines. Abroad, she’d like to take up short cour­ses in song­writ­ing in in­sti­tu­tions in Los Angeles, Cal­i­for­nia. Here, she wants to take up culi­nary arts or ho­tel man­age­ment as a backup plan.

Mean­time, though, she’s sim­ply liv­ing her dream.

“I don’t want to sound ya­bang about this or any­thing,” she points out. “But I felt, like, I was called to do some­thing like it. I didn’t know I was gonna be fa­mous, but I did know that I was gonna make mu­sic, and, you know, use it to reach out to peo­ple, to en­cour­age, and to send the mes­sage of hope… I’ve never had any other di­rec­tion for my life than this.”

Moira be­lieves that mu­sic is her call­ing. “With or with­out fame, this is what I’m called to do,” she ex­plains. “I had to keep go­ing. I went to the States last year, and I didn’t want to go back be­cause I felt, like, there was more hap­pen­ing for me in...

Moira has over­come a num­ber of ad­ver­si­ties in her young life—a bro­ken home, bul­ly­ing, de­pres­sion, anorexia, pso­ri­a­sis—and she’d like to reach out to those suf­fer­ing from their own is­sues. “I want them to know that they are beau­ti­ful be­cause they are,”...

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