Watching Herbert Hernandez’s music career unfold has been like watching a juggernaut. His story has all the hallmarks of a great movie: a gifted child, taught to play guitar by his older brother, starts a band in college that becomes a national sensation, and ultimately finds long-term success as one of the most prolific songwriters and performers in Filipino history. Now in his early 40s, Hernandez still isn’t slowing down or moving out of the public eye.
Hernandez is the lead guitarist for both Moonstar88 (the band he started while in college at the University of Santo Tomas), and 6cyclemind (who he has toured with since 2010). He’s a bona fide rock star, but that’s only one element of his very busy life. He has also co-founded a successful advertising agency, GIGIL, has been married to his wife for more than 15 years, is a father to three children, stays active by biking and running, travels extensively, and pursues a few pet projects that are near and dear to his heart.
Did we mention that he’s also humble and grateful, showering God and his family with all of the credit for his success?
It’s really hard not to like the guy.
From an early age, Hernandez excelled at nearly everything he tried his hand at visual arts, music, and movies, as well as sports and school. With an insurance sales agent for a mother and a mechanical engineer for a father, he wasn’t about to skip out on a traditional education, but he kept creative endeavors front and center. Herbert’s brother Darwin was the one who taught him to play guitar in high school, but he never let his grades drop. His many hobbies and interests - and we mean many - made him very well-rounded.
Hernandez served as student council president, a member of the dance troupe, the head of the drum and lyre club, and played table tennis. He won first place in the Math Olympiad Provincial Competition and won the Juan Luna Award and the Gerry Roxas Leadership Award. It feels like everything he touches turns to gold.
That level of success continued into college, where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Fine Arts, majoring in Advertising. He also founded Moonstar88 in 1999, the pop/alternative rock band that has become a fixture in the Filipino music scene that we know and love. Although Hernandez tried to stay in the role of lead guitarist, it was in 2002 that he pitched an idea for a song that Moonstar88’s vocalist thought he was best suited to write.
Luckily, he took the bait and wrote “Sulat,” a huge hit for the band and his first foray into songwriting. Since then, he has written some of our other favorite songs, like “Migraine,” and has even been recognized by the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (FILSCAP) as one of the top songwriters in the Philippines. This honor has given him the opportunity to work with other composers, industry arrangers, and song interpreters to create completely different music than what he works on with his band.
It’s hard to believe that at one point, Hernandez seriously considered quitting music altogether. As a young professional who was quickly climbing the corporate advertising ladder, he worried that music would distract or take away from his primary career. But his boss at the time encouraged him to stick it out with music, using it as a creative outlet and stress reliever.
One of Hernandez's most beloved pet projects is 'Lakihan Mo Logo' ('Make the Logo Bigger'). Lakihan mo Logo is a concert series featuring bands made up of Manila-based ad agency talent, giving his fellow advertising people an outlet for their stress. They have performed 58 concerts over the last 12 years, and some of the participants have been signed as recording artists. Hernandez also put together 12 “Rockovery” concerts to raise money to cover the medical bills for seriously ill members of the advertising industry, finding the perfect marriage of his two loves: music and advertising.
While us fans see Hernandez’s career as a series of stepping stones to super-stardom, Herbert himself calls each step in the right direction a “happy accident.” Every time he unlocks another level of his talent, or finds another way to express himself, he chalks it up to divine intervention. Nevermind his raw talent, hard work, and unique perspective; he’s just being helped from above.
Forever looking for ways to elevate and celebrate his fellow Filipino artists, Hernandez has another pet project that brings his two worlds together. In 2018, he co-founded The Indierectory, which provides a platform for advertising independents and freelancers to showcase their work directly to hiring agencies and companies. He is passionate about connecting Filipino independent talents with paid gigs, hoping to eventually do so on a global level. For Hernandez, The Indierectory is one of the projects he is most excited about.
So what’s next for our favorite Filipino rock star?
Although Hernandez continues to play gigs with Moonstar88 and 6cyclemind all around the country, neither band has released a studio album since 2012. Moonstar88 promises new music in 2023, with a vinyl release called “Lourdes 2088.”
With his advertising career front and center as GIGIL grows exponentially and takes on some of the biggest clients in the world, Hernandez is working overtime to maintain his music career. That means long days in the office, followed by brief family time, and then shows at night that only allow for 4 hours of sleep. It’s a labor of love, but his fans are grateful he’s still performing and making music.
When GIGIL was just getting started, Hernandez remembers how heavily he relied on his music career to bridge the gap financially between leaving his advertising executive position, and starting his own business. Now, he may not need the money, but the outpouring of love from fans keeps him invested in music. There aren’t that many jobs that give the positive reinforcement that being a rock star does, and knowing he brings joy to people means a lot to Hernandez.
Here’s hoping there are many more years of music from Herbert Hernandez, with both Moonstar88 and 6cyclemind.
We love you, Herbert!