On stage, she sits and plays away from the frontlines. The crowds cheer and sing while she stays lost in her sound, harmonizing with the music of her band. What matters most to her isn’t the fame, the fans, the persona expected of her, nor the judgment of others—it’s her passion for the craft that stands above all.
Pat Sarabia, a Filipino drummer and percussionist, is no different from any other drummer—her presence, subtle but striking, illuminating in spite of the dark shadow cast by the back of the stage.
The sound of drums, loud but defined—striking in their own way.
Finding the rhythm
During the year that irrevocably set her path, Pat found herself getting lost in the distinctive style of rock music. And with every rock song that came on, it was the beat of the drums that stood out for her. “The drums [were] just the thing I heard the most and clearly. I just seemed to understand what was happening,” she exclaims.
Armed with a knack for understanding accents and backbeats plus a simple “Mom, Dad, I want to learn how to play the drums”, she was set. For more than half her life, she has spent her time behind the drums, practicing whenever inspiration hits her, trying to keep her momentum going and her dedication to the craft steady.
“Moments of magic,” she shares, describing her experience behind the drums.
Authenticity amid adversities
Years have rolled by since she first picked up the drums, and now Pat plays for Original Pinoy Music (OPM) bands like Apartel, Oh, Flamingo!, and Twin Lobster. In a country where the music industry is growing and the population of aspiring artists is rising, now is an ideal time for musicians. “People have more chances of being heard [nowadays],” Pat says.
However, amid the idyllic possibilities it holds, the industry is not without its difficulties. “We live in a third-world country so, in a sense, everything’s going to be harder for us here. But we should never use those things as a crutch or as some sort of handicap,” Pat states, speaking honestly about the industry.
Pat explains that there are many in the industry who are stuck in their old ways and those who still believe that “music is a thing for guys only, or that women are always lesser than males.” Female artists in particular may find themselves struggling to move past such adversities and prove themselves not just to others, but most importantly to themselves. “Not to gain their respect, but to own yourself,” as Pat puts it, “It’s ultimately up to that person to decide if they want to respect you or not.”
Still, beyond everything, the Philippine music industry remains an avenue for artists to explore and nurture their creativity and their passion. Pat put it succinctly, “We just got to do our own thing all the time. Acceptance is very important. Be authentic and be genuine. It’ll resonate with the right people.”
Unraveling your sound
Authenticity in sound is one of the products of self-discovery. It unravels once you’ve found yourself enlightened after being asked “who are you?”
“If you strip yourself of everything, of all your riches, of all the luxuries you have, of all the good things in your life, all your skills and talents—who are you when all of that is gone?” Pat prompts, directing the question to aspiring drummers. There’s a fine line between who you are and what you do, she says, indistinguishable until you get to know your inner voice.
When they stand on a stage, it’s the artists’ true selves that resonate. In every calculated and practiced blow laid down by the drummer, it’s their individual sound that reverberates across the room. “When you don’t know yourself as a person, it’s going to reflect in the way you play. It’s just going to be copying everyone, imitating everyone, comparing yourself to everyone. So, know yourself,” Pat asserts. Essentially, the sound you unravel is the only thing you can hold on to, and it will ultimately set you apart.
Collective sound, individual rhythm
Up on stage, artists carry with them their band’s identity. But when they start to play, they play to the rhythm that resonates with them and aligns with their band’s collective sound. “Everything I play, I don’t play randomly; it comes with reflection. I have to be sure of the things I play because it has to serve the music that will be best for the music. I can’t overplay things. It comes with spirit, developing taste in the same way that parallels life,” Pat reflects.
Drummers like Pat play to be heard. They join bands to contribute in the creation of a sound that would be uniquely theirs, one that unifies the different beats of each artist into one harmonious sound.
Others get to shine under the limelight—alone or in groups—while others are far from the frontlines.
Still, you can feel their influence from each in sync beat of the drums with your heart.