UNIFY Youth is an electronic Gospel rock band who recently launched their debut single “Sumigaw Ka” that transpired last March 13 at the 70’s Bistro, by which I am more than privileged to be a part of. Ergo, on the 30th of March 2018, their first original track will finally be available on all the digital music platforms. This newest addition to the roster of calibre musicians will surely not disappoint especially when it comes to their live performances. They bring in passion and energy to the table, one that will keep you dancing and jumping to every beat.
In 2005, UNIFY originally started as a movement of passionate young talents serving God and the church in Guiguinto, Bulacan. Years later, a vision dawned upon the UNIFY founder and Callalily drummer and songwriter Lem Belaro—a vision that gave birth to UNIFY’s bold invasion. “One day, I had a vision that I was speaking in front of thousands of people, worshiping Jesus. I’ve been writing songs for Callalily but I believe this is the time that I start composing songs with Jesus’ name on it. We aim to bring the Gospel out of the four walls of our church and out into the world,” says Lem Belaro.
Since his Callalily days, Belaro has been known for having the knack for putting into words every listener’s bottled up emotions. What most people don’t know, their hit songs like Stars, Magbalik and Pansamantala are actually “polysemic songs” [where both Gospel and secular meanings coexist]. Belaro did this for the fear of turning people off with the kind of songs he writes but in 2017, he said it’s about time that they no longer compromise. Thus, UNIFY Youth brought to reality the vision of audaciously composing songs with Jesus’ name on it.
UNIFY Youth’s songs and campus invasions and budding local impact is the result of a few ordinary teenagers with this core mission: to encounter God’s presence, to reach out people and to point them back to the love of Christ. They are a group of worshippers who believe that music has no cultural or social barriers and they aim to break that stigma toward Christianity. This Christian band sets their hearts on penetrating the mainstream OPM scene with Gospel music.
I had the privilege of listening to each of the band members’ stories and truth be told, they aren’t all about the façade. They’ve got passion. They’ve got fire. They have authentic love for Jesus.
UNIFY Youth’s lead vocalist Tim Dionela says, “I once fell in love with a sport. It was my ultimate dream, to be a part of that team until finally I had it all at the palm of my hands. A big university was offering me a varsity scholarship but saying yes to this meant I could no longer serve the Lord. That’s when I prayed and asked Jesus to use me and compel me to do His will for my life where His name will be glorified. And then UNIFY happened.”
“I came from a Christian family. Growing up, I’d hear a lot of words about Jesus, words from the Bible but I never truly encountered Him in my life. Not until a revival in our church happened. There I asked God to save me and deliver me from all my emptiness and sadness. I prayed for Him to cleanse and change me. I believe one of the most euphoric movements of God in my life is when UNIFY panned out. It kind of gave me a new sense of direction and purpose—to worship Christ through our music and to bring more souls back to the love of God,” says Ken Tiongson, lead guitarist of UNIFY Youth and Callalily.
Jackie Arcega, one of UNIFY Youth’s trio, shares, “As a kid, I’ve been hearing stories from my grandmother about how Jesus loves us, telling us to dedicate our talents for His glory. I remember praying, asking God to make me become more like Him, to break me until none of myself was left. The second I encountered His unchanging love, it seemed like Jesus threw His arms around me, telling me that I do not have to do anything or prove anything for me to gain His love. Because I am a child of God. I have an all-access pass, that is who I am.”
“If I didn’t come to know Christ, I think I could have just been one of those out-of-school youths, addicted to vices, “fight-starter,” no direction, no purpose in life. I could have been one of those youths who ended up in jail at a juvenile age as I almost killed someone due to the influences of my so-called friends. Though my parents are Christians, I never really had that personal encounter with Christ until my girlfriend decided to break up with me. Thereafter, I started attending their church. That’s when God began using me and finally had a personal relationship with Jesus. From then on, my prayer has been to be changed by God from the inside out, to be used by Him, and to share about His love. The fight-starter before has become a fire-starter now—spreading the fire of Christ, ” shares UNIFY Youth’s bassist, Green dela Cruz.
Completing the UNIFY Youth’s trio is Joy Gamba, she recounts, “If I have never met Christ, I seriously don’t think I’d still be alive. I tried to find love in the wrong places, leaving nothing for myself. In my search for happiness, I only stumbled upon hurt and sadness. Until one day, the Lord touched my heart, telling me that He loves me, that He will never leave me, and that I am never alone. There was a point in my life when I lived in fear. I was afraid of everything; I was battling depression. But it was God’s love that casts out all fear and His peace that transcends all understanding that helped me get through each day.”
“Without Jesus, my life would have been a complete mess. I remember, without Christ, I felt so invincible yet empty and broken. I’ve heard a lot about Him when I was a kid; I knew Him but I couldn’t really say that I have faith in Him. That’s when I stopped attending church, got involved with the wrong set of friends. But God never gave up on me. One day, my sister brought me to a youth service. The pastor prayed for me and his words were the words that will certainly stay with me for the rest of my life: “You are one of God’s chosen. He has called you to serve Him.” It struck a chord within me. I only attended that church again because they needed a bassist for their youth service but little did I know, it was God’s way of calling me back home. He encountered me with His love and that’s the time I surrendered my whole life and heart to Christ,” Gherald Gueverra, synth player and guitarist of UNIFY Youth.
Coming from diverse backgrounds, united by the love and grace of God, UNIFY is led to compassion as a response to and overflow of that love. More so, this should be no surprise; the radical blend of raw passion and youthful perspective seems to be the genetic makeup of movements throughout Asia and the world in general. Jesus Himself chose ordinary young people to lead His ministry on earth—outcasts that society had given up on, wilful kids brimming with unrefined passion and enthusiasm. Following suit is UNIFY Youth, a local movement seeking to start a battle cry urging other believers to step out of the comfort of the four walls of their church and to precipitate revival among countless lives through remarkable and authentic worship experience; serving as a mouthpiece of love, an instrument of healing, creating music that will bring hope to the downcast and hopeless.