Urbandub frontman, Gabby Alipe, talks about fatherhood for the first time, the importance of discipline, and learning from the best— his parents.
Becoming a parent is a life changing experience, there’s no doubt about that. Having kids come with an entire range of emotions, with fear and uncertainty usually leading the pack. It’s no different for Gabby —Gab—Alipe. For the Urbandub lead vocalist/guitarist, becoming a dad happened at the peak of his career, when his life revolved around performing with one of the country’s most popular bands. In true rockstar fashion, he navigated his way through it in the coolest way possible— by fully embracing his new role as a father.
Definitely one for the books
In 2012, Gabby and his long-time partner, Erika Hocson, were taken by surprise when they found out they were expecting. As Gab recalls, “We weren’t prepared. When we found out that she was pregnant, my first instinct was fear. I was afraid. Am I ready to be a father? I wasn’t ready to be a dad, of course. In all honesty, it was the farthest thing from my mind.”
His schedule kept him busy, playing late nights and going on tour. In fact, he missed his son’s birth as Erika went in for an emergency C-section while he was en route to an event in La Union. The band went on to perform, and with fans still screaming at the end of their set, Gab hightailed his way back to Manila to meet his newborn son, Jacob.
“Something clicked in me when I saw him for the first time, as cliche as that may sound. I didn’t think it would happen to me. But the first time I saw him, I just kind of looked down and said, ‘Wow, this is real’. And the first time I held him— that was the crazy part,” shares Gab, immediately convinced that his life had changed for the better.
Stepping out of the spotlight
Late nights blended into early mornings as Gab adjusted to being a dad, especially with Erika still healing from the birth. “My line of work is not very normal. I’d come home at four in the morning, since we played last. Erika needed to rest, so I would take care of the baby. The lack of sleep and then having to go back out to play at night was a hurdle,” Gab explains. Life with the band continued on for a few more years, with baby Jacob making short appearances in rehearsals at the studio and even a couple of the shows.
By 2015, Urbandub announced that they were going on hiatus and it was timely, with all the members having decided that they needed a break and wanted to focus on their families. “My mindset kind of changed. I just wanted to be home rather than perform,” says Gabby. He continues, “Personally, a lot of my plans were either postponed or cancelled, but I don’t regret anything. It feels right that some things just didn’t pan out.”
It was a sad moment for Dubistas, but a much needed intermission for the musician. While he fully dedicated himself to his family, he would later find himself back in the studio to work on solo projects, and once again reunite with the band— which only proves that it’s not so easy to step away from your calling.
Life as Jacob’s Dad
Prior to the pandemic, Gab and Jacob spent a lot of time outdoors. They would take frequent walks to a park nearby and play around. These days, with most of their time being spent indoors, Gab has made that extra effort to find exciting things for Jacob to get into, as well as activities they can do together to bond. “I try my best to expose him to physical activities or working with his hands. It’s difficult to find new things to keep him interested and stimulate his mind. I guess that’s been one of my challenges, as a parent.”
“We play a lot, and he likes to draw. So, we watch YouTube videos on artwork, we read books together, and then we do jiu jitsu together,” shares the proud Papa, who has been practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu since 2008. “I started rolling around with him on the mats when he was four. My style of teaching is harut-harutan (playful), and then I incorporate small techniques here and there until I see that he understands it. By the time he hit six, that’s when he started really getting into it. It’s rough play, but it’s controlled.”
Not spared from the lockdown trends of 2020, the father and son tandem also tried their hand at baking. “Whenever I have certain interests, I always try to include him. I kind of got into making pandesal for fun. I’m not good at it. It’s nothing special, but it’s edible,” he laughs. “Even after 10 million tries— but during the process of making them, Jacob would help me.”
Learning from the best, with a few added touches
When it comes to the more serious aspects of parenting, Gabby doesn’t play around. He takes the matters of discipline to heart, while taking into account what works best for his family as a whole. “I try to mix old school style with the new school style. I think maybe because that’s how I was raised— I was raised very strict and very old school. So I try to find a balance by taking the best parts of what I learned from my parents and incorporate that with a new approach.”
An important takeaway, which Gab learned from his mom, is discernment when it comes to physical force. “I don’t believe in spanking. The only time he gets hit is when he does something that’s either a danger to himself, to somebody else, or when he talks back to his mom— I get involved.” When applied to the real world, Gabby emphasizes that actions will always have a consequence, and sometimes, that consequence can be a physical one.
He continues, “I have levels. I’ll start talking to him first, calmly. If he still doesn’t listen, I take it up a level and become more stern. But I’m always hands-off. Sometimes, I don’t even have to say anything. I just look at him and ask if he knows why I’m upset, and he understands.”
Looking ahead, when asked whether he’s concerned about Jacob’s teen years, Gabby says, “Yun ang fear ko.” He adds, “That’s why I’m trying my best to instill a sense of discipline with him now, especially with his exposure to martial arts. That’s a huge component to how I often discipline him, or at least how I instill focus, discipline, and accountability.” A lesson he learned from his dad, which he intends to pass on.
When cliches are there for a reason
Gabby prides himself in being a naturally family-oriented individual, which he credits to his parents. “I take my cues from trying to be creative from my mom, and my dad as the disciplinarian,” he explains.
“The biggest thing I have learned in becoming a parent is how much I love my parents. How I appreciate them, for all the crazy things I put them through. There would be times I would have conversations with my mom and she would apologize for being so hard on me, and I’d have to tell her, no, I understand!” Gab quips. “Especially when I find myself in a situation where Jacob reminds me of my younger self!”
Gab also mentions that all the cliches he used to scoff at, funnily enough, turned out to be true. “We used to make fun of friends that became parents when we were younger and call them corny when they’d say, ‘It changes you,’ but it’s the truth. It really does change you. Well, at least for me.”
Fatherhood is one tough gig
Just last May, Gabby released a very personal single, his second solo venture since 2016. Sun and Moon is about his relationship with Jacob, and the obvious change in style is a nod to his evolution as an artist, and a father, over the years. “It was a darker time, but my material has never been that controversial. I view my music as something we can use as a talking point when Jacob gets older— I was a certain way when I was younger, but this is how I changed after being a dad to you.”
He’s learned a great many things in his eight years as a Dad. One thing he believes in is the importance of respecting your child as an individual, doling out some useful advice to other parents saying, “Listen and be aware of who your kid is. Listen to what they say, and to how they feel. Gage and be aware of your temperament because you can’t enforce who you are onto them. I try my best to react towards what he’s actually feeling instead of imposing my own perspective.”
Embracing their roles as parents, he says, “We’re still learning. I don’t think that ever stops because we all have different ways of thinking. We’re constantly learning that as we go. As Jacob grows, with each age level there’s always going to be a new challenge. So, you have to go with the changes and evolve as you go along as a parent.”
Having gone through most of adulthood as a bonafide rockstar, it’s easy to assume that Gabby Alipe has already gone through the best experiences that life has to offer. What we’ve learned through his story, however, is that if there’s anything better than being a rock icon, it’s most definitely being called Papa.