Cover Story

It started with a germ of an idea—celebrating artists, their voices, their vision, even their oddities.

On paper, the idea is sound and simple. But the creative union of band frontman-turned-actor Kean Cipriano and actress and host-turned-musician Chynna Ortaleza, following years of being together as a couple and their thrust in the world of mainstream media years before that, knew that it will never be that simple. But, with childlike wonder, caution was thrown into the wind and the road to the ambitious dream was undertaken. The result was more than fulfilling.

With four years in the music industry, O/C Records, has long since built a space that has tirelessly helped weave the dreams of incredibly great artists under its name. The process of bringing together such amazing and creative talents didn’t happen easily.

Starting with six artists, including Unique Salonga, Frizzle Anne, Earl Generao, Rice Lucido, Bita and the Botflies, and Cipriano himself, and numerous other up-and-coming, bizarrely creative musicians, O/C Records stood its ground not only to welcome but hone distinctive artists.

In the Beginning

On Chynna: Full ensemble, Nina Amoncio. On Kean: Vest, Nina Amoncio. Sweat shirt, Proudrace. Trousers, Edwin Tan.

For co-founders Cipriano and Ortaleza, musically also called The Cips, O/C Record’s roots and goals have always relied on the ethos of going against the grain—easier said but with a mountain of challenges to do.

It all started when Cipriano managed the band IV of Spades in 2017, and after parting ways, the musical mentor in him helped Unique (Salonga) with his album. “Basta ang alam lang namin, gusto naming gawin yung album niya, pero wala pa kaming direksyon, and then that time we were contacted by Boss Vic Del Rosario (CEO of Viva Entertainment), they asked us, kami ni Chynna, if we wanted to start our own record label with them, na partners namin sila.”

The deal almost didn’t go through due to some circumstances, but everything fell into its right place. “All of a sudden, it just fell into place. Natuloy yung deal and then yun nga, we started O/C Records with six artists. We launched the record label in 2018.”

Blazer, Edwin Tan. Pants, Nina Amoncio.

Overcoat, Uniqlo. Custom embroidered top, Kelvin Morales. Mesh top (worn underneath), Proudrace.

But this is only the beginning of a challenge, for both Cipriano and Ortaleza, navigating uncharted territories. “Kasi ako ilang taon na ako na artist, pero nandun lang ako sa sa artist fence kumbaga, wala pa akong experience talaga with the backend, with the songs, and publishing and all of that, so inaral talaga namin.

Ortaleza, who would eventually wear the Vice President hat for the label, adds, “Para talagang extensive course, but it’s the best way to learn, kasi it’s really like first-hand experience. Whatever challenges that were coming our way, we really had to cope and equip ourselves on how to handle them.”

Home for the Odd

On Unique Salonga: Dress, HaMu. Shirt and mesh top (worn underneath), Proudrace.

On Adie: Button-down top and oversized pullover, Nina Amoncio. Pants, HaMu.

O/C Records had a bumpy start, acknowledging learnings from missteps on how to produce artists and their songs, starting with just three people in the office, to growing by signing new artists and learning from the experiences they had in the initial years of operation, the road to becoming the established mover in the field that they are now is one that is marked by passion and regard to everyone’s artistic evolution.

They continued by discovering unusual artists, for which they are known. “Pag mayroon kaming naririnig na kanta na nakikiliti kami or nae-excite kami, or parang may narinig kaming weirdo or may nakikita kaming artist na may x-factor na hindi mo ma-describe kung bakit nada-draw ka sakaniya.

Ortaleza notes, “It’s really like a home for the odd. We didn’t even coin that term—odd creatures—it just eventually came [into] existence. But it really is a home for artists who are not afraid to express themselves to the way that they want, to fight for what they really want to put out in this world. It’s always consistent with myself and Kean that we don’t want to change them. We really want them to be in this business and feel like they express themselves fully, are accepted fully for what they do, whether or not they change paths in the middle of it. We are here to support that, and artists cannot be boxed and we are limitless. “

The authenticity of an artist is what O/C Records seeks to protect, and with that in mind, there are adjustments and learning along the way. “It’s difficult. It’s just that we’re happy sa ginagawa namin. And yung passion namin sa arts ay nandiyan. Pero mahirap talaga, hindi siya biro.”

On Kenaniah: Top, HaMu. Pants, Proudrace.

On Gold Aceron: Jacket and pants, Nina Amoncio. Lace top (worn underneath), Proudrace.

Cipriano continues, “Number one, you deal with different artists every single day. a different topak, a different mindset, a different personal issue, or whatever. Relationship-based yung ginagawa namin so, hindi madali na balansehin yung emosyon, at, negosyo. But we always try to find that perfect balance ng art and business.” 

“You get so humbled with all the difficulties that you have to go through day in and day out. We’ve never worked this hard in our lives, and to think before I would always say, ‘I’m so tired, I’m working like the next day’. This is a different story because this is like working twenty-four seven, past that even. It’s a commitment to serve our artists, but at the same time, you feel really proud of the achievement of the label,” Ortaleza chimes in, revisiting her years as television actress and host, gaining a new perspective as she continues to tread into that same world even as she began to take on the titanic job of helping Cipriano handle the artistic and entrepreneurial demands of running an artist’s house.

But being on the backend of things in producing music taught her the importance of what a manager is, “Pati yung difficulties ng pagiging manager, sabi ko nga, it’s probably like the time in my sixteen years that I went up to my manager and said, ‘Thank you’ and meant it because now I understand.” 

Where The Wild Things Are

On Gwy Saludes: dress, HaMu. Shorts (worn underneath), Edwin Tan.

On Kris Cazin: Overcoat and trousers, Nina Amoncio.

On Chelsea Ronquillo: Mesh dress, Proudrace. Embellished skirt, HaMu.

The couple had never really anticipated the growth of O/C Records from its beginnings to what is now, growing exponentially even amidst an unprecedented global standstill brought by the pandemic. Right now, the management company has beefed up its portfolio to house artists not limited to music like Adie, Kenaniah, but other creatives and creators like Gwy Saludes, Chelsea Ronquillo, and director Kris Cazin. Most recently, the label has welcomed its first signed actor in multi-awarded independent film circuit regular, Gold Aceron.

“It’s shocking. It’s just the two of us, two artists, two partners together trying to do something crazy. And after four years, three hundred songs, after thirty-seven artists, for me, it’s a big surprise that it went this far. “

Cipriano divulges, “Nung nag-pandemic masasabi kong [unexpectedly, we’ve reached a milestone] for OC Records kasi mas nag-push kami to work harder and make things work.”  

This growth extended beyond their business and into their personal lives. Ortaleza shares, “As we say, we helped them weave their dreams and they helped us a lot as well. Being exposed to the artists that trust us, helps us in our process so much, because they also inspire us to be centered and really check on what’s important as an artist, because we keep on telling them these things, but of course, it is different if you really walk the talk.”

Aside from striving for growth everyday, balancing the creative side and the business side is what Kean and Chynna are working on. “Now maybe after four years, when you ask us anong difference nung first year sa fourth year, the perspective when it comes to creative freedom has turned another page. Because now, I understand—to be able to be creatively free, you also have to be empowered in a business manner so that you’re able to put things out there.”

Theirs is a state of growth that almost feels like just at the starting point of their ultimate objective. Cipriano opens up, “I’m not gonna lie, of course, I have this dream of becoming the biggest entertainment company in the country. Gusto ko talaga na maging ganon siya, since mahal ko yung lahat na aspeto ng entertainment-music, arts, film, tv, visual arts. If magtuloy-tuloy kami at ma-reach namin yung tamang balance nung success na gusto namin, ako kasi lagi lang akong gutom for greatness. Ako kasi ganon ko siya nakikita, kasi feeling ko lahat ng artists na nakakasama namin, nakakasama namin sila for a reason. “

“Much like with any kind of success, it’s a mix of talent and fate. So, what we do as O/C, at this point, our goal is we want to grow further. Aside from the label to becoming a success, my prayer for my artists is to realize those dreams that they’ve known since they were children and then make it explode on their own. If they’re able to do that, we did a good job.”

Four short but storied years, including two in the middle of a pandemic, since the celebrity couple braved the unimaginable and opened doors to impressive Filipino talents, O/C Records has now served as a breeding ground for the bold, the raw, and the unapologetically “odd”.

The growing and ever-evolving family of “odd creatures” nurtured within the young, but steadfast foundations of O/C Records has exponentially grown, with the talent management house will continue flex its muscles to cross over the vast expanse of entertainment with musicians, content creators, creatives, and even actors under its wing and Cipriano, Ortaleza, as is expected, is showing no signs of slowing down.

Produced in collaboration with O/C Records

Creative Direction, styling, and interview by Leo Balante

Photography by Jerick Sanchez

Styling associate Bhernn Saenz

Grooming by Trix Galura, Vanessa Estor Salvador, Kim Roy Opog, Jodi Flong Katalbas, Ash Kagami

Video direction and editing by Patrick Uy

Behind-the-scenes video and shoot assistant Emil Santiago

Featuring fashion from HaMu, Nina Amoncio, Proudrace, Edwin Tan

Shot on location at the O/C Studios

With acknowledgments to Nicole Uson