In the vibrant and ever-evolving world of music, the journeys of artists are as diverse and compelling as the melodies they create.

Meet Ice Seguerra, a versatile artist with roots in a childhood star’s world; Hannah Jabla, the dynamic drummer of Bird; and En Altomonte, the creative keyboard player of Dilaw. Together, these three artists illustrate the rich tapestry of experiences and identities that make up the trans community in the Philippine music scene, with their stories of discovery, struggle, and triumph offer a beacon of hope and inspiration –– encouraging others to embrace their true selves and find their voices.

ice seguerra en altomonte hannah jabla pride 2024

Photographed by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC.

For our special campaign this Pride Month, Billboard Philippines shines a spotlight on these three extraordinary musicians who have not only enriched the music scene with their talents –– but have also come into their own identities in powerful and inspiring ways.

In this intimate conversation between the three musicians, we celebrate not only their musical achievements –– but also their courage and authenticity, as their stories can continue to break barriers and pave the way for future generations of artists as a testament to resilience, authenticity, and the transformative power of music.

Ice: Hi everyone! It’s a pleasure to be here with you today. First off, I’d like to ask, how did each of you discover your passion for music?

En: I discovered my passion through my parents because they’re also artists. They dabbled in theater and my dad’s a director. And he used to direct a lot of musicals. And you know, we didn’t have a yaya [nanny] most of the time so I was just there watching rehearsals. And just watching was like, wow, live music is so cool.

Hannah: For me, it was through skateboarding. Yeah, because I grew up on Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and I could never forget its soundtrack. It was such a blast, and eventually, it came into punk rock and now I’m here.

En: So growing up, who were the artists that you found yourself relating to the most?

Ice: Well, for me, I grew up listening to my parents’ music. I think that’s where my parents’ music influences. So, it was mostly folk songs and soft rock kind of music. Artists like Bread, Simon and Garfunkel, and of course, The Beatles. That’s where it really started.

En: For me, growing up, aside from the musical songs, my dad was a lot into rock and roll. So, again, for my parents, my dad really liked The Doors and Aerosmith, that kind of classic rock and roll man stuff. But it’s super cool music.

Hannah: For this, my dad was blasting Queen every time he drove. So…it was really like the ultimate road trip soundtrack for us.

Ice: Yeah. One of the soundtracks of my youth was also Queen!

Photographed by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC.

So, could you all share a pivotal moment or experience that helped solidify your sense of identity as an artist, wherein you first realized what sort of career or music you wanted to make?

Hannah: I always just wanted to play the drums ever since I started seeing Linkin Park when I was very, very young. I can’t see them [with their full lineup] now sadly, but I remember wanting to watch them live just for “In The End”. I think “In The End” was in the charts for eight weeks at number one on the Billboard charts, so seeing that and their success made me want to be like, I want to play the drums. And eventually, I did get to play the drums. And then I wanted to play in front of people –– so here I am now. 

Ice: How old were you then? 

Hannah: I was probably in the 7th grade. So, twelve or thirteen.

Ice: This is really embarrassing. I’m so much older than you. *laughs*

Ice: For me, my journey was kind of weird because I started singing before I fully realized that I wanted to be a singer.

Ice: Because, you know, for me it was just a job. From an actor and then I became a singer. It was just a job. So the moment that I realized that I really wanted to do this was when I started hanging out with the Bayang Barrios, and Kuh Ledesma, and it was the joy that spoke to me.

The feeling of joy when they sing. And then that’s when I felt it.

Because before, what happened was that I had an album yet I still didn’t know who I was as a singer. So when I started playing gigs, more concerts, and then more of the gigs, I didn’t realize that I really wanted to do this.

Hannah: Oh wow, I love that.

En: For me, I guess I’d say, well, it comes from a bit of background of how I got into the piano. My parents put me in classical music lessons for like a year. Then after that, they put me under a musical director for a special performing arts group. His name is Kuya Ethan, and he’s really one of the best music teachers out there.

He’s a really good musician and he was a really big inspiration to me. And he showed me that music is much more than just sound. It’s much more than just wavelengths. It’s a really cool language that not that many people in the world speak, when you compare it to everyone else. So it’s kind of like a secret language we have. And it’s super cool. 

Hannah: You’re so lucky with your parents. 

Ice: That is so lovely. It’s more than just wavelengths. Like oh, my God –– science! That’s so nice. You were really born to be a musician. Like at every step of the way. It’s like if you weren’t a musician in his family, what would happen to you? Why be a doctor? 

*All laugh*

Photographed by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC.

Hannah: So, speaking of childhood, Ice, you first came onto the scene as a child star, eventually becoming a musician in your teenage years. How has your journey in the public eye over the years influenced your understanding of your own identity, such as what sort of artistry and music you want to set out into the world?

Ice: It’s a long one, but it’s a universal journey I believe. So, with coming to terms with my identity at first, I thought I was lesbian. Now, I realize it’s trans, right? So I’d like to think that I am also like that with music.

I think I only realized late in life that I am meant for this career and this path. Because growing up, I was the breadwinner. So unlike other artists who entered this industry because they wanted to express themselves through music, this was a job for me. I had to put food on the table. I was helping my dad. So for the longest time, you know, when the time came for everything, my mindset was, that I had to save and earn money because I needed the work.

It was the same thing with my identity at that time as well. I was kind of confused in terms of who I was because when I first came out as a lesbian, that was all the way back in 2000. And that was a totally different in landscape, right? It wasn’t, you know, it’s not even celebrated. 

Pride was unheard of. It was really different. It’s like when you come out, you’re scared because you don’t know if you have a career to finish. So I couldn’t celebrate myself, because I was so scared that I might lose work. But as I started to fully immerse myself in the world of music and as I began to appreciate the stories of the songs that I got to sing –– the songs that I ended up writing.  I was able to see that I could feel more strength inside, to be free and to be authentic.

Because I realized that in the Philippines, there are a lot of great people who wait and miss out on life and its many opportunities. And the only way that people can identify themselves in their true form is by relating to other people. I wanted to be myself because the only way that people could relate to me was if I was authentic to myself. So that’s how I found that for myself and also for my music.

I don’t even know what genre or category to classify myself as, but above all, I’d like to think that  I’m a storyteller. Because you can only tell a story that will impact people if you get to tell it in your most authentic manner.

Ice: Hannah, being the drummer of bird., what sort of music or sound do you primarily find yourself contributing to the music scene?

Hannah: Punk rock. I really want to inject punk rock. Even though our sound is far from punk rock. *laughs*

But I would still say punk rock because punk itself is about being yourself and being authentic. And you wouldn’t care about what other people say or will say. So that’s exactly who I am right now. That would be it. 

Ice: You’re so cool. So, in bringing stereotypes about female drummers in the music industry, how do you add your unique sound and input to what you do as part of the band?

Hannah: Gosh, this is weird. Whenever my bandmates tell me that they listen to this band while we’re trying to write a song, I never actually listen to what they send me. Because like how I see it is, if I listen to that, then that’s what we’ll end up doing that.

So for me, I think of it like I want us to do us and make it unique to what we put out. So, I never listen to the music they recommend. They know that, and I tell them that. So, that’s how I inject my unique imprint into it.

Ice: You play for two bands right? So, how does that differ between which one you’re playing for at any moment?

Hannah: With bird, it’s very… I don’t know. There’s a sense of discipline, and then  I’m meant to sound like a drum machine with my other band, Lindenwood. There, it’s just pure punk and pure energy all the time. So I can switch off things on the fly.

Ice: That’s good for you because you won’t get tired of it.

Hannah: Yeah, exactly. Sometimes, I’ll just smile at my band-aid and be like, blah, I’ll deal with it. Like okay, this is me.

Photographed by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC.

Ice: So En, and being the keyboard player of Dilaw, what sound do you like to incorporate to each note that you play both in the studio and on the stage?

En: I don’t know if I really think about each and every note. But yeah, like I said a while ago, my technique started out as classical so it started out super rigid but It was very correct in a way. 

But then when I met Kuya Ethan, my other music teacher, that’s when I learned how to jam with other musicians and really feel how you can speak to other people through instruments. 

Because obviously, people who aren’t musicians wouldn’t understand that if you do a cool vocal run where there are no lyrics or a cool drum fill, other musicians will still react like you said something profound.

Which you actually did. And I try to do that too when I’m working with the band because the band is super open-minded. Like we like to throw ideas at each other, we like to give critique and accept critique. It’s a back-and-forth, and we try to keep it healthy. But in all bands, arguments are inevitable –– so we try to get through it. But yeah, that’s it.

Ice: That’s so cool. So with Dilaw becoming known for crossing over a varied set of genres and influences, what do you enjoy most about the sonic freedom it allows? How does it go beyond the music and into your own aesthetic as an individual?

En: Well, I guess I’d say You know me and the band always joke that our genre is animalistic jazz but what I really want to say is we just like to explore whatever we’re feeling. Because as musicians, it’s one of the only ways we know how to do it –– whether we like it or not. So whether that be a love song or a song that’s easy to digest, it can keep us running for the next few months as we’re motivated to really pour our hearts out. It’s a lot of stuff to put into a mixing bowl, but surprisingly we worked out and then we’re a good band I hope.

Photographed by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC.

Hannah: Speaking of genres, Ice, have you have had a long and diverse career that has also spanned across different genres. How did exploring these various musical styles contribute to the formation of your identity as a musician?

Ice: I don’t know really. Because when I listen to music, or at least the songs that I like, I’m not genre-based. I think ––  like you guys –– it’s more of the feel, like what does this song make you feel like? It’s about the experience I get when I listen to this song.

When I do a song, whether I write it or someone asks me to sing a song, I always go for the feeling and whatever would serve the song so that I can tell its story properly.

So what do you believe your music says about your authenticity to your identity? And what do you hope for your music to do for your listeners?

What I believe is, us as musicians, we get to inject our individuality into the songs that we perform. The experiences that we live out in our lives. And that’s very uniquely ours, right? You have your own, I have mine. You have yours, and there’s no one else who has it.

So I think it’s always about just that. Like just ensure that if you put yourself in it, you do it fully with your whole heart. You have to make sure that you feel it in the same way that you want your listeners to feel when they listen to it.

En: Wow, what you said is spot-on

Hannah: I agree. That was very well said.

Ice: But yeah, totally. Like you said even a while ago that if you’re not authentic to yourself ––  no one’s gonna authentically be interested in you.

Photographed by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC.

Hannah: So authenticity plays a huge part in one’s artistry and the indie music scene has always been focused on such themes, and staying true to oneself –– all while embracing more unconventional styles.  Both sonically and aesthetically. Having come to your own identities, how has that impacted your interactions within the community?

En: Well, my experience as a trans woman [so far] in the music industry scene is different. Cause I haven’t been in the scene relatively as long as a lot of people, because I came from the Baguio music scene which is much smaller [than Manila] and has small-town vibes. So it’s kind of weird when LGBTQ issues come into play, but here in Manila, it’s so much more diverse. It’s much more accepting.

I’ve never had any hate thrown towards me from my peers, which I really appreciate. Like even among my fellow artists, it’s not a common phenomenon to see trans people in the music scene. But for me, when I first found out that Hannah was here in the scene too, I was like –– Wow! This is so cool. I feel like I was part of the community, and that I wasn’t alone. And you know, it’s a really nice feeling. 

Hannah: Yeah, I was actually surprised. When I came out, my bandmates were all open arms. Because I think if it happened like a decade ago, I would get punched for sure. But I came out only just a few years ago [in 2020] and I was really surprised that everyone supported me. My friends, my bandmates, and even people who I didn’t know who just listened to our music. They still supported me all throughout my journey. It’s actually weird and I haven’t wrapped my head around it yet.

En: Yeah I get that vibe, like I think the popularity of Drag Race has a part. 

Hannah: Yeah, that’s true. It’s like it just puts everything out there, and then it softens it in the mainstream. Like if it wasn’t for other queer people who have paved the way for us, we couldn’t have even started our own lives. 

Both Hannah and En: Like you! *pointing at Ice* 

Photographed by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC.

Ice: Thank you. But beyond your respective bands, how are the audiences? In terms of how they’ve received this part of yourselves.

Hannah: You know, it’s very surprising. Like when I was a guy, it’s like no one noticed me. But now, it’s like all the girls in the audience want to take pictures with me. Sorry Wifey! But it’s definitely like weird in a way, but it’s also a lot more accepting now. I guess compared to when I was young.

En: It’s super true. I’m not gonna lie, and I’m super privileged to be here in a time where I can be like this because of the people who came before me. And I’m super thankful about it. I’m even surprised that I get a bunch of support from strangers.

Ice: Wow, that’s amazing. I’m so happy for you.

Hannah: You really paved the way for us. Thank you.

Ice: Yeah, we got the bashing. *all laugh*

But really, I mean it. I think It’s nice to see how you’re both flourishing and just living your true selves and being happy. It’s just so fun, and I’m sure that the generations before me then, before us, you know, they feel the same way as well. So I think it’s just right that we carry the torch for everybody.

En: I love that.

Photographed by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC.

Hannah: So Ice, being a more mainstream figure, both the public and industry’s reaction to your coming out must have been overwhelming at first. How has it been for you? 

Ice: Oh my god. I don’t know if [people] know this, but that’s a whole other interview.

I don’t know, I knew [my identity] already. Because I started working at three, and I’ve been in the industry for 37 Years. So I’m probably older than most of you here. And as a kid, sometimes, they can see through you. You know, they can see your movement, so imagine during that time there was no social media. 

It’s all just newspaper tabloids writing about a kid, that they would say that Ice is a guy. So it was very hard, especially because of what happened in my career which only got worse when I was a teenager. It was that awkward stage, which was the time that you weren’t a kid anymore, but you’re not old enough to do mature roles yet. 

So that’s when it normalized the love team, and they really tried to give me a love team for a while. Which was just awkward, obviously, and they started all these write-ups about me. So when the time came, there was all this speculation, and then I got outed in a television interview. 

En: Oh, my.

Hannah: That’s terrible.

Ice: But even with that, I’m glad I’ve gotten to where I am at this point in my life. 

Photographed by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC.

Hannah: Alright, so what do you hope our experiences about finding our respective places and roles in the music scene can do for other artists going through the same, if not a similar journey such as ours?

Ice: I guess I would say that the advice I want to give is that this is an ongoing thing that we have to worry about, you know? This isn’t just something that will be done and dusted just like that.

En: It’s always going to be an uphill battle most of the time, but you’ve got to remember that, like you said, always. So you’ve got to pass on the torch.

Hannah: Like, if you’re thankful for being able to be who you are today, then make it so that it’s the same for the next as well.

En: So, like, there may be a whole lot of hate in the world, but there’s more love.

Hannah: Yeah.

En: So, don’t be afraid to be authentic and just be yourselves. I mean, be happy.

Ice: For me, like what En said, it’s really an uphill battle. But, coming from where we were before and looking at where we are now because there’s more of us. More of us will not be courageous enough to just live their lives authentically.

Hannah: I’m sure it will inspire more people, like us, to come out. And at the same time, more people will be inspired.

En: Hopefully someday, there will be no more labels. We’ll just see each other as Hannah, Ice, and not Hannah and the trans person. We’ll be able to show ourselves to the people we’re giving to. And not just as who we are, or what we are. Because we’re people too.

Photographed by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC.

Photography by Kieran Punay of KLIQ INC. Creative Direction by Nicole Almero. Shoot Coordination by Mika Cruz