MANILA -- In a gathering of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal supporters on the last Friday of February, an unfamiliar face emerged from the crowd with a guitar in hand. She went up on stage after the performance of Elmo Magalona. She did not have an impassioned speech or an iconic anthem to sing, but her gentle voice that carried the meaningful lyrics behind a song she composed turned heads and moved hearts.
The artist’s name is Tarra Quismundo, a deputy editor of ABS-CBN News Online whose quiet confidence has taken her to great heights in her life. A storyteller at heart, Tarra had long discovered her love for both the written word and for music at a young age, thanks to her exposure to newspaper subscriptions and her father’s musical influence.
“My name is Monika Tarra. My dad named me after harmonica and gitara, the two musical instruments that he played while my mom was giving birth to me,” she reminisced. Tarra’s dad earned a living by playing music. He was her mentor.
When she studied journalism in UP Diliman, Tarra’s passion for music took a backseat, only to eventually find its way back into her life when her dad passed away in 2018. She started writing her own songs, which led her to breakthroughs, including a song titled “Isang Bangka” that landed on Spotify.
On the day of the network’s Senate hearing, Tarra had creative bursts of inspiration that pushed her to finish her original composition aptly titled, “Isang Pamilya Tayo,” just like ABS-CBN’s 2016 Christmas Station ID. This was the song she sang on that fateful Friday.
“The chorus came first before the big hearing and then I’ve been thinking about writing something that’s just nostalgic that goes back to how I grew up watching and listening to DZMM and watching ABS-CBN shows. So I wanted to make an ode for that and at the same time, write a tribute for the network in the face of this challenge,” she explained.
“Isang Pamilya Tayo” is consistently nostalgic from beginning to finish. It’s also a clever composition as Tarra weaved a portion of the network’s famed station ID melody into her piece. “Isang Pamilya Tayo” is a love song that Tarra penned straight from the heart that made it an instant crowd favorite that night.
For Tarra, the moment she performed “Isang Pamilya Tayo” in front of a sea of Kapamilya supporters was unforgettable. “When you write a song and you get to perform it before a crowd and they try to sing-along with you, it’s so rewarding. I don’t know how to describe the feeling. It was just really…parang, you feel cozy inside. Parang, ‘awww, they’re singing along with my song,’” she animatedly shared.
The Tarra who produced her musical milestones is vastly different from the younger Tarra, who had to overcome moments of self-doubt. She described her first attempts in songwriting as ‘corny.’ But her baby steps eventually led Tarra to hone her craft and tame her inner perfectionist. Encouraging friends also helped her fight her shyness.
“I delayed my involvement in music because my thought was always, ‘oh, bakit ako gagawa ng music page, eh hindi naman ako celebrity?’ But you know, it’s a start. Once I overcame that and did it, ang daming nangyari because I was brave enough to let go of those limiting thoughts,” she said.
Music was not only the area where she pushed herself to be better. Even in the newsroom, when Tarra dons her journalist hat, she constantly strives to improve herself, which shows how committed she is to dream big and become more -- just like the many female journalists that she had the opportunity to work with.
“I look forward to growing even more solid in terms of me being a stronger newsroom leader,” she mused.
Her vision for herself in the new decade is bold because ABS-CBN’s newsroom is brimming with fearless women leaders who are great role models. For Tarra, it’s a ‘matter of pride’ and also ‘aspirational’ to see women managing ABS-CBN News. She gushed about Ging Reyes, Lynda Jumilla, and Cathy Yang, among others, with a sparkle in her eyes.
“It helps you every day to actually love your job more and feel more privileged that you’re in this kind of newsroom where gender is not an issue, but rather it’s a merit,” she said.
As a veteran, Tarra is thankful that the journalism industry in the country never made her feel like she had to prove herself more than her male peers because she is a woman. In her early years as a reporter, Tarra covered disasters and coup situations.
“I’ve never felt like I was looked down upon because I was a woman, because I was a female journalist,” she elaborated as she looked back on her career.
Whether it be journalism or music, Tarra will definitely be capturing more hearts with her music and lyrics, add to that her confidence-boosting advice: “The only opinion of you that matters is your own.”