Behind the Music: 'Bakit Pa' by Jessa Zaragoza

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Feb 20 2021 11:52 AM

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That was the word used to describe the recording success of actress-turned-singer Jessa Zaragoza, when her Tagalog single, “Bakit Pa,” became such a big hit in the local music scene.

In fact, Zaragoza could hardly believe it when, at only 18 years old, she successfully crossed over to recording and instantly scored a hit song from her debut album, “Just Can’t Help Feelin,’” released by OctoArt EMI Philippines in 1997.

“As an 18 year old at that time, I was simply ecstatic,” Zaragoza told ABS-CBN News. “I couldn’t believe I was fulfilling my dream and at the same time, already having a hit song at that age.”

Up to this day, more than two decades after she released her debut album, Zaragoza still gets thrilled when she talks about her initial salvo into recording.

“I can still remember the feeling of hearing my songs playing on the radio for the first time,” she recalled. “Especially with ‘Bakit Pa.’ That was such a tremendous experience of having it played by multiple stations sometimes simultaneously. It was unbelievable.”

Although “Just Can’t Help Feelin’” was her maiden recording, she formally joined showbiz when she was only 11 years old.

Even earlier than that, Zaragoza, whose real name is Richelle Ann Loyola, auditioned for the talent competition, “Little Miss Philippines,” in 1987, although she did not get to bag the title.

“I started out as an actress,” Zaragoza clarified. “The song, ‘Bakit Pa,’ signified my entry into the music business, which is what I really wanted to do. I am thankful to Tito Vehnee Saturno, who wrote and produced ‘Bakit Pa.’ He really believed in me and introduced me to OctoArts. The rest, as you would put it, is history.”

“Bakit Pa” became a much-requested song on the airlanes and in all of Zaragoza’s performances then and now. The beautiful ballad is something that will always be attached and identified to Zaragoza.

“Not many people know this, but ‘Bakit Pa’ was actually a fill-in song just to complete my album,” Zaragoza revealed. “'Bakit Pa’ was the last song to be included. Nasa ‘baul’ ni Tito Vehnee.

“Little did we know that it would turn out to be one of the most requested songs on the radio and probably the most sung Tagalog song in karaoke bars all over at that time. It was also not a carrier single, but the second single from that album.

“We chose ‘Bakit Pa’ because we felt that song is the one that most people can easily relate to. It was easy to sing and, for me, I really liked the first line, ‘Parang ‘di ko yata kaya.’ It felt real to me.”

That opening line is perhaps one of the most aped when Zaragoza released “Bakit Pa.” Her husky, yet distinctly deep vocals became easily identifiable and unmistakably hers, with her effortless rendition of her hit.

“I was finally recognized as a legitimate singer,” she beamed. “In fact, there were a number of actresses who approached Tito Vehnee later on and specifically used me as a peg, because they, too, wanted to crossover.

“But Tito Vehnee said, it’s not just the song. You need to have something else. I think what I brought to the table at that time was my distinct voice that really gave life to the song. Another added achievement is that album also turned platinum, a record eight times.”

“Just Can’t Help Feelin’” yielded other hits like “Pa’no Kaya?,” “Di Ba’t Ikaw” and the title track.

“Looking back, I would have to agree with the entertainment press then, when they tagged me as ‘Phenomenal,’” Zaragoza said. “Because no one thought that I would make it as a singer, let alone receive that kind of success and recognition for someone who started out as a sexy actress with a deep sounding voice. That is why they coined the name for me as the Phenomenal Diva.”

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“Bakit Pa” has been recorded by other local artists through the years. “The biggest compliment an artist can get is when other people, especially my fellow artists, sing your song,” Zaragoza said. “I believe there were a number of local artists who recorded it. I think Miss Kuh Ledesma even has a version.”

In 1999, “Bakit Pa” even became the theme song of Zaragoza’s film of the same title with Troy Montero and Diether Ocampo, directed by Jose Javier Reyes. It was her first lead role, although she made her big screen debut much earlier in Joel Lamangan’s “Kadenang Bulaklak” (1993).

Undoubtedly, “Bakit Pa” became Zaragoza’s biggest hit. However, when asked to choose her personal favorite among the songs that she recorded through the years, Zaragoza admitted it is not that simple.

“That would be a hard one, because I have so many favorites among my songs,” she insisted. “But if I were to choose, it would be a tie between ‘Ikakasal Ka Na’ and ‘Di Ba’t Ikaw.’

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“I like the melody of ‘Ikakasal Ka Na.’ I remember we didn’t even promote that as a single, but people on the street, especially the kids were already singing it. With ‘Di Ba’t Ikaw,’ well, it eventually became my song for the man I married, Dingdong [Avanzado].”

But it is “Bakit Pa” that ultimately landed in the roster of local and memorable songs of all time. It has undoubtedly become a sentimental favorite by many.

“I will always be forever grateful to that song and most especially to all the fans who, until this day, hold a special place for that song in their hearts,” Zaragoza maintained. 

In 2012, Zaragoza was reunited with Saturno when she recorded a five-track, all-Tagalog album, “Pag Wala Na and Ulan," to mark her 15th year in the music business. Saturno penned the poignant carrier single, “Nasaan,” while Zaragoza’s better half, Avanzado, wrote the heartbreaking track, “Ayoko Na.”

Zaragoza once tried her hand into writing songs, too. She delivered “Til’ the End,” a track included in her third album, “Siya Ba ang Dahilan,” also released by OctoArts EMI Philippines.

After more than two decades in showbiz, Zaragoza has done records, TV shows, films and performances here and abroad. She doesn’t rule out theater and expresses her desire to venture into stage acting, too.

However, she is aware that it cannot happen anytime soon, due to this pandemic. She believes, though, that she will also get the opportunity to also try theater acting one day.

“What I would want to happen is for me to get back to doing movies again,” Zaragoza said. “Our motion picture-making has significantly improved over the years. I would like to have the opportunity to work with the new artists and directors of today.”

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