The many faces of Kate Torralba

Published July 10, 2021, 1:50 PM

by Rica Arevalo

After music and fashion, filmmaking is her new passion

MODERN RENDITION OF A CLASSIC Kate Torralba as Lidi Makbet, the Visayan incarnation of Lady Macbeth

There is a new director on the block—musician and fashion designer Kate Torralba! We were invited to critique the “recital” of Mowelfund Film Institute’s Master Class in Film Direction under Jose Javier Reyes last month and we were surprised to see the Philippines’ Petite Piano Princess act and direct her short film, Kulba, a suspense doppelganger film. 

Her touring musician life was put to a stop due to the worldwide pandemic. She lost loved ones from COVID-19. “In my family alone, 17 people got the virus,” she confesses. Depression came in but thankfully, her art saved her. “I’m honestly surprised at how I’m thriving creatively,” says the former piano prodigy. The post-pandemic creative renaissance is something Kate is looking forward in the coming months. “We’ve got a lot of pent-up energy being cooped up indoors—imagine the colors, the music, the films, the art that come out of this!”

An instant authority in music and fashion, Kate feels that in screenwriting and filmmaking, she has limited experience. But learning never stops for her even at the height of the lockdown. “Since I’m always hungry for learning, I managed to get some scholarships that have kept me busy all throughout the pandemic,” she volunteers. She applied for Ricky Lee’s First Online Scriptwriting Workshop, attended music theory courses with her mentor, National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, and took Cherie Gil’s Acting Masterclass.

Kate began her creative journey in music, then drawing, moved to fashion, and now film. “I just really love beautiful things and I enjoy making beautiful, meaningful things,” says the Cebuana. “I’ve had a non-linear path as an artist but it all makes sense to me now—film marries all of these different mediums. I don’t think I’ve ever been this prolific in my artistic life, a silver lining of the pandemic.”

The former front of the pop-alternative rock band Hard Candy is not going back to fashion design any time soon. “I never considered going back, but perhaps, through costume design for film, or a limited edition collab,” she says.

Inquiries for her clothes continue to pour in from interested clients. “Nakakatuwa (heartwarming),” beams the Drunk on Your Love singer. She gets tagged in throwback posts of her clients wearing her designs. “I swear, if I had a good business partner running the show for me, I would go back but it’s a really tough, demanding business,” says she, the first San Miguel Cebu Music Awards’ Female Vocalist of the Year. “Only those who are in fashion know how unglamorous it really is!”

DRAWN TO KATE Robert Alejandro illustration of Kate Torralba

Her debut album, Long Overdue was released in 2013. Is she coming up with a new repertoire after acclaimed performances in Bangkok, Singapore, Paris, Berlin, London, among others? “I was on the verge of recording my long-awaited second album Moods in Berlin last year,” she says. “Everything was set but Germany declared lockdown and we had to cancel just the night before we started recording.” But her distinctive music thrives on.  A long lost track, “Freefall” is gaining popularity thanks to her good friend, Ellen Adarna who played it during her engagement. “Apparently it became a theme song of sorts as she and Derek Ramsey were getting to know each other—it’s a song about taking a leap and falling in love.”

As an artist who works internationally, I always feel that huge pang of envy when I see how governments abroad like France, South Korea, Norway, and New Zealand are championing and supporting their artists.

A song almost forgotten two decades ago can take on a new life unexpectedly. “That’s the sound of young KT, playing terrible violin too,” she cringes. “I was channeling Andrea Corr and was shameless enough to record!” Nostalgic and sweet, it portrays the multi-talented artist during her juvenile time. “I think that’s the beauty of art, whether it’s music, film, or whatever medium,” she adds. “It captures who the artist is at that time, that moment.”

RETROSPECTIVE MUSIC Kate Torralba’s Long Overdue album

Recently, her music gigs include Fete de la Musique Philippines’ Visayas Stage along with Brass Pas Pas Pas Pas, and Project Yazz. It was also featured in the Pinoy Jam Paris show. “Thanks to virtual performance, I got to perform in two countries this fete!” she exclaims. The songwriter also played Lidi Makbet, the Visayan incarnation of Lady Macbeth for Khavn de la Cruz’s Makbetamaximus Theater of Destruction.

Nowadays, what keeps her busy is being the founder and creative director of a transcontinental artists’ initiative called Pandemic Pop-up. “I set it up at the height of the pandemic to foster community and mutual support among my artist-friends around the world,” she says. “As an artist who works internationally, I always feel that huge pang of envy when I see how governments abroad like France, South Korea, Norway, and New Zealand are championing and supporting their artists.”

She is supporting the lobby for for the Philippine Creative Industries Act (House Bill No. 8101) to recognize the potential of our country’s creative economy. “The Philippine is teeming with talent, it’s mindblowing, but the lack of infrastructure and support inhibits the bigger success we could achieve as a creative economy,” she says.

The aspiring director also acts in her short films and we asked her if she aspires to be the next Angelina Jolie, Woody Allen, or Clint Eastwood, artists who turned into directors. “I’m acting in my short films only by default. There is no one else to shoot at the moment!” she laughs.