40-year milestone: Odette Quesada takes stock of her musical legacy | Inquirer Entertainment

40-year milestone: Odette Quesada takes stock of her musical legacy

By: - Entertainment Editor
/ 12:25 AM August 28, 2023

Odette Quesada

Odette Quesada

Odette Quesada was only in her teens — maybe around 14, 15, or 16 — when she began writing songs that would eventually become some of OPM’s (Original Pilipino Music) best-loved and most enduring hits. Indeed, while they may have been written and recorded about four decades ago, many of her songs have easily stood the test of time.

To this day, karaoke-loving Pinoys continue to listen or sing-along to Ric Segreto’s “Don’t Know What to Do, Don’t Know What to Say” and “Give Me a Chance,” Raymond Lauchengco’s “I Need You Back” and “Farewell,” Kuh Ledesma’s “Till I Met You” and “A Long, Long Time Ago,” Gary Valenciano’s “Growing Up” (from “Bagets”) and Odette’s very own signature hit, “Friend of Mine.”


The aforementioned lineup wouldn’t be complete without mentioning another karaoke staple that has become Odette’s personal favorite over time.


The articulate and quick-witted US-based singer-songwriter didn’t really write them with the top of the pop charts in mind. “When I was writing them, I didn’t have any inkling if anyone would like them at all,” said Odette when we spoke to her last week. “I thought they’d have a shelf life of probably 10 years, and hoped they’d get revisited by the next generation somehow.

“But to actually have my songs continuously being played because of videoke, karaoke, or YouTube… that’s truly special. These things, as well as the Pinoys’ penchant for love songs, keep them alive and well. I can’t be any happier knowing that they’re going to live on long after I’ve passed on.”

Her top pick

When Odette visited us at the Inquirer office in January 2020—yes, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began rearing its ugly head — she told us that her top pick among her compositions was “Don’t Know What to Do, Don’t Know What to Say.”“But ‘Friend of Mine’ holds a special significance for me because it was my very first single as a singer,” she told us in that hourlong chat. “It wasn’t somebody else interpreting my song. I owe my singing career to Vic del Rosario Jr. (of Viva), who asked me to cut a single after listening to my demo.

“He didn’t even listen to ‘Friend of Mine’… he just told me to prepare two songs. But he didn’t want me to get fancy all of a sudden—he just wanted me to look down-to-earth and be approachable as an artist, like Carole King.”

But the aforementioned lineup wouldn’t be complete without mentioning another karaoke staple that has become Odette’s personal favorite over time. These days, her personal favorite is “To Love Again,” originally recorded by Sharon Cuneta as the theme song of her 1983 film of the same name.

Odette developed “renewed” appreciation for the song only when she turned 50 — eight years after her husband Bodjie Dasig’s (“Sana Dalawa ang Puso Ko”) passing — and realized how its lyrics have increasingly resonated with her.


Over the course of our two-hour interview—conducted more like just another fun- and trivia-filled “shop talk”  — we urged Odette to record an album of hit songs that few people didn’t know she composed, like Verni Varga’s “Love Me Again,” Sharon Cuneta’s “You’re the One” and Ariel Rivera’s “Ayoko na Sana.”

And while she’s at it, why not include Nora Aunor’s “Habang Panahon” and Regine Velasquez’s “Kung Maibabalik Ko Lang” and “Urong Sulong” — two songs, composed by her best friend Christine Bendebel, that Odette was coaxed to sing backup vocals for. “Remember the part in ‘Urong Sulong’ where someone interjects, ‘Sabihin mo na’? Ako ‘yun,” she quipped, laughing.

“‘Love Me Again’ was somewhat different because it’s sexy, unlike many of my songs,” Odette recounted. “But Verni (Varga) didn’t want to sing it because she told Ed Formoso that I was performing it [in the demo] the way I sang ‘Friend of Mine’ (laughs).

Turned into love song

“As for ‘Till I Met You,’ which won the top prize at MetroPop, Kuh initially refused to sing it because she didn’t like the prospect of ‘losing,’ even if it was a songwriters’ competition. But, against my wishes, my lola, who wouldn’t take no for an answer, went to Kuh and got her to agree to sing it!”

“Meanwhile, I wrote my song ‘Breaking In Two’ because of my tampo with my mom, but I turned it into a love song (laughs).

“It’s interesting to note that ‘To Love Again’ is more popular now than it was in 1983 when Sharon first sang it. It wasn’t a big hit back then. But these days, it even has a cult following. Maybe people relate to the idea that [regardless of the heartbreaks we go through,] we need to love again.”

“‘Farewell,’ on the other hand, was a song that I wrote for my graduation class. But Viva Films said they needed an extra track that was sad, for the film ‘Bagets.’

“‘Habang Panahon,’ which I often end my shows with, has the same lasting effect on people. Everybody comes to my show for my hits, but they walk away talking about ‘Habang Panahon.’ And I’m so happy for Bodjie (who composed the song) — how people react to it proves just how powerful music is. “I’ve always believed that whether it’s the first time you’re hearing a song or not, if it is good, you would walk away thinking about it.”

“Habang Panahon,” which Nora Aunor sang for the Metro Manila Film Festival entry “El Presidente,” was originally composed by Bodjie in 1994 as a gift to Odette, when the busy duo couldn’t spend their first Valentine together as husband and wife.

The song is a cut from the heretofore unreleased album that the Superstar and National Artist recorded with Odette and Bodjie in the States — just before she lost her voice to a surgical mishap. So I urged Odette to do everything she could to finally release it.

She said, “When we did the album, I realized how good Nora is — from the quality of her voice to her diction. It’s a very good recording. But while Bodjie and I did write songs for it, somebody else produced and paid for the whole thing. So that’s not our call to make.”

This Friday, Odette is set to revisit her biggest hits in the “Odette Quesada All Hits” anniversary concert at the Newport Performing Arts Theater at Newport World Resorts in Pasay as she marks one milestone after another: It’s her 40th year as a singer and 41st as a songwriter. Her lineup of guests is nothing short of stellar — among them Regine Velasquez, Martin Nievera, Kuh Ledesma, Raymond Lauchengco, Bituin Escalante, and Arman Ferrer, with Nina Campos as the front act.

But, trust us, if we go by how well her “Hopeless Romantic” homecoming concert at Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in 2020 went, the show and its crowd-pleasing lure will bank heavily as much on Odette’s hit songs as her unforced wit and idiosyncratic humor. Certainly, the lovably loquacious Martin Nievera wasn’t the only funny performer in that concert.

The Newport show is produced by the events group AIP (Anything Is Possible), headed by talent manager/producer Noel Ferrer, Crossover head Saripaz Villar, and actor/director Rowell Santiago, who’s also helming it.

The venue may be bigger this time around, but Rowell assured us that “We’re doing something to keep the show as intimate as Odette’s BGC concert.”


When asked what she thought sets the OPM singers of the ’80s apart from their current counterparts, Odette noted, “Joey Albert and I talked about this. I said maybe it’s because our voices are more distinct. Ang gagaling ng singers these days, but didn’t you notice that they’re of the same caliber? Whereas Kuh Ledesma, Ric Segreto, and Basil Valdez don’t sound like anybody else out there.”

Any advice to the young songwriters these days — in terms of making music and also in the business side of it?

“I don’t think they can take advice about songwriting from me because each has his or her own way of going about it,” she asserted. “My only advice is probably this: You can write any song you want, but a good song always needs a hook—if you want a hit song.

“As for the business side of it, every songwriter has to be as knowledgeable about publishing as possible because a lot of them give up their rights needlessly.”When we spoke to Odette three years ago, she told us that she regretted relocating to the States but had to be where Bodjie was.

“To be honest with you, I wish I never left the country to go to the States,” she admitted. “But I followed my husband. Hindi namin pinag-awayan or anything, and I gave it a chance. Kaya lang, when we got there, I felt like we were missing out on the business.”

We reminded Odette that it’s been 22 years since she relocated to Los Angeles. But her music — an enduring legacy that cuts across age, time, and gender — has become so ubiquitous you’ll hardly notice she left at all.

Why does she think Filipino music lovers continue to embrace her songs?

“Perhaps my songs bring you back in time,” Odette mused. “Perhaps it triggers the emotions that you were feeling when you first heard them in the background… especially when bad things were happening in your life.

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“That’s probably the reason why there was never any pressure for me to write happy songs. Everybody here just can’t get enough of songs about unrequited love (laughs).”


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