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Fair warning: This interview contains heavy doses of audacity, a pinch of irreverence, and an unapologetic amount of unfiltered opinions.
Quezon City is a lot of things. Besides being the first city in the Philippines to launch the Right to Care card, which authorizes queer couples to make medical decisions for their partners, it is also home to a diverse community of creatives. Every street seemingly has its own stories to tell—and tucked away in one of its vibrant neighborhoods is an audacious 23-year-old queer musician named Pette Shabu.
Going through Pette’s discography for the first time feels like stepping into a funhouse of sonic surprises. In a landscape filled with generic beats and formulaic hooks, her soundscapes and lyricism stand out like a neon sign in the darkness. Pette produces music that demands attention and refuses to be confined to any box—or rather, it breaks every box with its unapologetic and rebellious energy.
But beneath the experimental tunes and edgy wordplay lie deeper layers of substance—a fearless exploration of topics that often make other people uncomfortable. Her songs act as a vessel for her thoughts, frustrations, and experiences as a transgender individual, and she bravely addresses social issues with a sharp tongue and a dash of humor. It’s a delicate balance that Pette navigates with ease, making sure that her craft remains entertaining without trivializing the subjects at hand.
In an exclusive conversation with Scout, the 23-year-old musician discloses her songwriting approach: “I always work my way towards an agenda, most likely a struggle that I’m facing, and translate that into rage. It’s [my] way of [reacting] to adversities—and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
Pette emphasizes that dialing back to her “true self” before everything else is a crucial step in her creative process. “I have to be myself—because with that, everything falls into place and everything intersects. I know what I can showcase, and I’m always built like that.” She also reveals that her journey as a transgender individual has deeply influenced her musical identity. The whole process of self-discovery and acceptance has allowed her to expand her artistic boundaries and tap into a power she didn’t know she had.
As the talk progresses, it becomes even more apparent that Pette isn’t one to shy away from controversial matters. Her unfiltered honesty and acerbic wit shine through as she shares the most unconventional production choice she has made, her sentiments on the SOGIE Bill discourse, and her hopes for the future representation of LGBTQIA+ creatives in the industry.
Describe your musical identity in three words.
In. Your. Face.
Being an underground musician requires a lot of resourcefulness and creativity. What’s the most unusual or unconventional thing you did to finish a song?
We sampled “Papuri sa Diyos” in one of my songs: “Muriatic Acid Gospel.” There was no thought process to it. I just love how it sounded dreadful and deconstructed—compared to the normal celebratory sound—when added with some [sound effects] and other clashing sounds. You can really play with blasphemy like that. I’m sorry, Catholic Church.
Give us a glimpse into the stories or inspirations behind some of your most personal tracks.
“Bulbulin Ka Na” is my favorite. It was produced by my friend Horseboyy. It is simply a song about grown men not acting [in accordance with] their age. Remember when your parents or other grown people saw you doing petty or childish stuff? They would always say: “Ang laki-laki mo na, bulbulin ka na.” It relates to puberty, I don’t know why people have a fascination [with] pubes like that, but pun intended, I guess. It’s like “You’re grown, why?”
You’re at the studio when the door suddenly bursts open and three musicians walk in. Who would they be and what kind of songs would you create together?
Azealia Banks, Arca, [and] Megumi Acorda. Azealia Banks is my favorite rapper. I love how she dissects life. Arca is generally my inspiration in art. I love her viewpoint—and goddamn, [her] music. Megumi Acorda is far from rap, but I really, really, really love their writing.
If you were given a chance to hold a private concert for the lawmakers involved in the processing of the SOGIE Bill, which songs from your own repertoire would you choose to perform? Who would you invite as guest artists and why?
I’d perform “Bulbulin Ka Na” [and] it’s pretty simple [why]. They are grown people who don’t take their job seriously when queer folks are [already] dying because of discrimination and bigotry. The [longer] we don’t [pass] this law, the more we need to organize and revolt. I’d [also] invite the queer DJs I know—because queer is rave.
Write a quick verse on how you feel about the ongoing discussions and debates surrounding the bill.
“Pakyu kayu, namamatay na kami dito.” (Fuck you all, we’re already dying here.)
The power of music lies in its ability to connect with people on a deep level. What do you hope the cisgender community takes away from your songs?
Good question. They should know that allyship is more [of] what they can do for themselves, and [less of] what they can do for queer people. I advise them to reflect and understand [the concept] on their own, because not all the time, queer people would be their educators. It’s kind of sadistic to think that if [a person] is cisgender, they’re not [anymore] accountable to learn it. So, you can go and show your support by doing this—and I know what genuine support [looks like and what] doesn’t.
If you could time-travel back to your childhood and give your younger self a piece of advice, what would you say?
Be more gentle to yourself.
How do you see the current representation of queer creatives in the industry? What misconceptions or stereotypes need to be shattered, and what changes should be done to achieve a more inclusive environment?
[Compensate] us accordingly. I come from a working-class upbringing and environment, so I know [what life is like] bouncing from one paycheck to another to sustain basic human needs. I see how people drown [in] debt to [survive]. Paying us is the bare minimum, and I think [it roots from a] bigger problem—exploitation.
Pride Month is when it happens the most. I don’t want it to happen to every queer artist who wants to thrive, because I can say for myself that I’m not thriving [due to] a lot of bullcrap from people who [only] want to get clout from a queer or trans person.
One more thing—don’t [immediately categorize] a queer artist’s music [as] hyperpop. Get to know their stuff first. And please, don’t waste our time; like, we have individual lives here.
Since the genesis of life, trans people have been the intersection of all things great—protectors of spiritual life and wisdom.
In a parallel universe where you pursued a different career path, what do you think you’d be doing? What other hobbies/interests do you have besides making music?
Fashion. I love it.
Imagine a world where the SOGIE Bill has been successfully passed. What does it look like?
I think it would lessen the discrimination—and of course, it would be an achievement for the country. Life would shift for queer Filipinos in a positive way. Mas magaan. And that’s why we need to fight for it with all we’ve got. But [that’s] only one step. I believe in the “Malayo na, malayo pa” saying.
What advice would you give to other queer individuals who are currently struggling to find their voice and navigate the challenges of self-expression?
Center yourself and don’t compromise anything that will make you feel worthless and devalued. At the end of the day, it’s always for your own good.
Is the future trans? Why?
Since the genesis of life, trans people have been the intersection of all things great—protectors of spiritual life and wisdom. We strive for freedom with an unbelievable amount of strength that cannot be compared. We know our worth and truth everywhere we go in this dreadful life and still, we continue and thrive. We make life more beautiful [because] we are also beautiful. We really crack the code—and that’s undeniable.
Art by Gaby Zayco
Photo from Pette Shabu’s Instagram page