Sahara shares best Christmas gift ever

Published December 4, 2021, 7:41 PM

by Robert Requintina


With Christmas just around the corner, you’ve probably heard American OPM singer and recording star Sahara singing her very first OPM holiday single, “Tanging Hiling.”

“This is an early Christmas gift for all of you,” says Sahara, during an online interview recently. She recalls how the OPM Christmas song came to be.

“My co-producer Dennis surprised me one day and brought a demo of an unreleased Christmas song to the studio to play for the team (me, Dennis and Michael). I instantly fell in love with the music and message, and I knew we had to record it.”

“What was amazing about recording ‘Tanging Hiling’ was how quick and smooth it was. The pronunciation and the vibe just fell into place, but I didn’t know it would be like that when we started. We knew we needed to record it quickly to get it out in time, which made me nervous. But I trusted my team and believed in myself and I’m very proud of the results,” Sahara said.

Quila explained the song is “about how love is more important than anything else, and why it’s always a perfect gift instead of material things.”

“I wrote this song way back on August 11, 1999, that was 22 years ago. I was in Japan at that time working as a pianist in a hotel, and it was my first time being so far away from my family during Christmastime,” he recalled.

“After the release of ‘DBSK’, we were brainstorming for a follow-up song. So I searched my treasure chest of original compositions and happened to review this Christmas song. It has never been recorded before, and I never even tried presenting ‘Tanging Hiling’ to other artists. But when I presented this song to Michael and Sahara, I was blown away by their reaction. So Sahara put all her effort into studying ‘Tanging Hiling’ and then I hurried right away with the areglo, live guitars (done by Ricky Topacio) and the recording process since it’s getting close to ‘Ber months. This is a dream come true to me since Christmas songs are only played on the last quarter of every year,” Quila said.

Sahara also shared her thoughts about Christmas in the Philippines and the best gift she has ever received for the holidays:

1) Tell us your Christmas wish?

“To spread love, positivity and healing through my music. I’m not into material things, I’m very much into positive vibes and harmony. To be honest, my single Tanging Hiling says it the best. It really represents the true me.”

2) Are you aware the Philippines has the longest Christmas in the world? What are your thoughts about it?

“I am aware, and I love the ‘Bers! I couldn’t believe it was true when my Phil-Am friends told me, and the more I learned, the more I loved it. I adore the colors of the parols, the seasonal food like bibingkas, and spreading love for so many months. I even convinced my husband to put up our Christmas tree two months early, haha!”

3) What are some OPM Christmas songs that you know?

“Of course, I know and love Christmas in our Hearts, and Pasko Na Sinta Ko. And I love watching the Christmas station IDs to get really into the spirit!”

4) So far, what’s the best Christmas gift you have received?

“Overall, it was my husband, we were married during the Bers a couple years ago. But this year my best Christmas gift was when Dennis R. G. Quila (my co-producer) played his demo of Tanging Hiling and asked me to record it. I felt honored and bless. It was a beautiful early Christmas gift.”

5) Have you been to the Philippines? Share with us your memorable moments in PH. If not, what are you looking forward to given the chance to visit PH?

“I haven’t been yet, the pandemic interrupted my travel plans. But when I can go, first and foremost, I want to meet my fans and do a musical tour. And then as soon as there’s time to rest, hit the beach and eat all the street food I can find. There’s no one place I really want to visit, I want to see the big cities and all the provinces.”

Sahara’s ‘Tanging Hiling’

Sahara also revealed some of her favorite Christmas songs, including her favorite Christmas traditions and Christmas meals. “My favorite Christmas songs are ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’ ‘Feliz Navidad,’ and I have a soft spot for ‘Santa Baby.’ To be honest, I usually listen to the Vintage Christmas playlist on Spotify.”

“My mother is Native American and Mexican, so one of our traditions is making homemade tamales for Christmas. They smelled so good and it was so much fun. And I love to eat! These days, I really look forward to decorating the Christmas tree with my husband and our cat.”

On her favorite Christmas meals, Sahara shared: “We usually eat traditional Mexican and American food around the holidays, but in the past couple years we’ve started adding leche flan, buko pandan and grilled pork belly. This year, we’re planning on making pork and chicken longganisas. My producer/husband Michael learned how to make them, so he has to show off.”

Sahara’s “Tanging Hiling” this Christmas is “I like life to return to normal – safely – for everyone. But more so, for everyone to be blessed with another year of good health.” She also expresses a strong desire to tour the Philippines, meet her new fans, and visit the beach.

“Much has happened since then. I really feel like I’m in the stars. It’s still hard to believe. It’s so exciting! But more than anything, I’m honored that so many people not only accept my contribution to OPM, but also embrace it. I’m amazed that some people think I’m Filipina when they hear me sing. Everyone has been so positive and loving! I got tingles when I heard Wish FM play ‘DBSK’ to the whole country after my very first interview! The energy from the young Filipinos on Showtime’s Online U and I Want ASAP was so vibrant. I like humor, so I really enjoyed the laughs I had with Jigo and Papa Gio. And I can’t lie, having some virtual drinks with the peeps at Over a Glass or Two felt like meeting two best friends for the first time.”

She continued, “There are a couple moments that really stood out when I was promoting ‘Dahil Ba Sa Kanya’. I really felt like I got to share some deep thoughts with Kiara on TOPsilog. And I was really touched when Von from News5 told me my rendition of ‘DBSK’ was healing. I almost cried when he said that. That’s the whole reason I sing.”

Asked about her goals and plans for the New Year, Sahara pondered for a while before answering.

“To be honest, it’s been a hard couple of years for everyone. But I’ve learned a lot about myself, and how to stay grounded and stay focused on a project, a goal, and a dream. I just want to keep being a better, more positive person, and share positive energy, love, joy, emotion, etc. with my fans and the world through music.”

Sahara is also gearing up for something big, due next year. “Yes, we have a small album (EP) of original OPM songs planned for the beginning of next year. I work with my team every day towards that goal.”

“Right now, I’m not planning on recording another cover. But I’m combining my love of opera and OPM, and I am learning a classic Kundiman song that I can’t wait to share with my fans. I’ve also mastered ‘Sayang na Sayang’, to perform live and on a future tour.”