These are days

Your correspondent spent the last day and a half on activities connected with the Bambanti Festival in the provincial seat of Ilagan, Isabela. There were contests to witness, and so at the opening night of the festival, we spent six hours watching youths from twenty of Isabela’s towns and cities perform dances showcasing what was unique about their places of origin and its place in the province’s largely agrarian economy. It was surprising, though, to observe the way drum and lyre bands in this part of the country played. Perhaps because of the timing–yes, it is almost that time of year in Rio I believe–the beats were variations on samba beats made familiar to me by the likes of the Brigada ensemble in Manila. One ensemble stood out with the use of PVC pipes (!) of varying lengths as additional percussion instruments. And they got it quite right, prompting me to express the feeling that, while here, I missed the music.

Sadly, we didn’t go anywhere of note on our last full day here. It was mostly a shuttle between our small hotel (the Hotel Sophia, whom I must congratulate for getting a lot right as we were their “trial” guests) and the Governor’s house on the capitol grounds. The final night was a song and dance competition between dance crews from a smaller number of towns and twelve singers of varying quality. (But not awful, mind you. The competition screened well.) Before a number of jurors behind whom we sat, we witnessed demonstrations of talent–but one stand-out was a young kid who was a dead ringer for a cousin on my dad’s side. (The latter also sings well.) He must have been ten, but he got down “Listen” by Beyonce to the point that the crowd really went behind him after.

The highlight though was the visiting talent the organizers brought in. I had never seen Vina Morales or Jed Maddela live before, but I was more familiar with Maddela’s material as his repertoire can be heard on “senti” stations back in Manila. (In other words, stations that love to play the dominant pop theme of silly love songs.) Maddela was, I must say, quite impressive. And I am still moved by a cover of a song that will be turning twenty in its recorded form (if I am right). “Ligaya” by the Eraserheads was a remarkable song when I first heard it as a high school freshman. After two decades, it turns out I still knew the lyrics.

A lot has changed in those two decades. The band that performed that tune has gone their separate ways, or graduated, as their erstwhile lead put it. (Two of them were asked to re-record “Minsan,” which sounds more moving with the passing of time.) They have had other bands since, and they have become mentors and friends to musicians in a scene which has changed since the days Mayric’s was one of the places to go if one wanted to play original stuff, even to a very small crowd. Mayric’s closed shop last year.

Perhaps, twenty years from now, I might be moved to tears when someone digs up Ang Bandang Shirley’s “Nakauwi Na” and sings it in concert. Some people are still writing that kind of stuff. Perhaps it’s time we paid attention.

Incidentally, two weeks ago, I saw Ebe Dancel sing live (and express his excitement over the Sugarfree jukebox musical). It brought a huge smile of recognition to hear excerpts of his collaboration with Gloc-9, “Sirena,” being used last night by a dance troupe.

So today, we’re making the long journey back to Manila. All that remains is for me to thank the government and people of Isabela for hosting me and my colleagues, and I am looking forward to a much less dramatic visit to Isabela. (Cues another song by Shirley, “Tama Na Ang Drama.”)

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Dreaming of laughter

I was in the beginnings of a crash last night. It is a feeling I sometimes get when the emotional high gives way, sometimes triggered by the smallest of things, to a time where it may be hard for me to keep things in check. I had to stop myself from making definite decisions at that point. I promised to sleep on everything.

Then it happened. Probably before five in the morning, I caught myself laughing.

I don’t exactly recall how this happened, but I do know I dreamt of something funny. I know this, though: for the first time in a long while, I became aware that it was possible to do that. To say anything more would be to deny the mystery its potency.

When we came forth from the place of darkness, we felt it was like a dream.

The week begins – Climb ev’ry mountain

I am currently heading for Magat Dam in the mountains of southern Isabela. We are with a group of media folk brought here by the provincial government for a festival.

Yesterday, I managed to challenge my fear of heights by riding the country’s fastest zipline–approximately 270 feet in 20 seconds. I can only think of all the metaphors for riding such a thing without being far too personal, but I have indeed thought about some of them.

More from Isabela later.

Three things (2013/2) – Skipping around the mulberry bush edition

1. I skipped a visual art event or two today. I had enough for this week, and this one was the Philippine-Australia joint show at the Yuchengco Museum, which opened last Tuesday night. The show will be on until February 20. Tomorrow, there will be three visual arts exhibits opening: one at My Little Art Space, another at Light and Space Contemporary (which is just ten minutes from my place), and still another at the Likha-Diwa Cafe on C.P. Garcia road, near the UP Diliman campus. The latter is a much smaller show to which I was invited some time back.

2. Incidentally, my friend Eric and I got to see Slamdance official selection Ang Nawawala (What Isn’t There) at the UP Film Center yesterday night. It was his first time, and it was my fourth. The film opened July 2012, and I wondered if seven months on, it still made an impact. To the extent that it brought forth a lot of memories and stories, it did.

What was noteworthy about that night was that I met someone who has seen the film seven times. That only proved what Geek Fight! founder Paolo Cruz (who was an extra in the film) told me about it, that what Ang Nawawala had was potential repeat value. (His new interactive fiction piece, Escape from Cluster Zeta, has just been launched in beta mode.)

3. Sometime early next week, I will be blogging from Isabela province. I will be there for an agricultural/cultural festival the provincial government is sponsoring, and I am covering this for one of the outlets for which I write. I will be leaving Manila late on Saturday evening for the overnight ride north.

I hope you will all have a good weekend!

UPDATED: Three things (2013/1) – It’s Cold Outside

(Updated to reflect one additional event in item number 2)

Yes, it’s cold outside, especially at night. This is a great time for spicy food, and I hope I could have something of that ilk this weekend.

We’re back to a periodic (hopefully weekly) series on these pages, and I would like to start with a bit of a mention of what I did last Wednesday night.

1. Gabriel Lynch was here in town for the second time, and I got to see him perform at Saguijo in a gig that also featured Ebe Dancel, Hannah+Gabi, the Purplechickens, and Evee (of Pinoytuner, who sponsored the gig). It was a wonderful night of music, and a very intimate one. He’ll be performing at the place where I met him in March 2012, Conspiracy Garden Cafe, tonight at around 9 PM.

2. Just a calendar note: two visual arts shows are opening at the Collective on Malugay Street (more on that place in a moment), at Kanto and Vinyl on Vinyl. These shows will open around 7 PM. Before that, though, do drop by 98b in Escolta (note: Facebook page) for a talk at 3 PM on performance art practices in the Philippines. After yesterday’s CCP forum on art as criticism, chaired by Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez (who will also lead tomorrow’s session), I expect this to be as memorable an affair.

3. Finally, the Collective’s courtyard (which is directly across from Kanto) has seen a lot of musical affairs, but none as memorable as a musical affair staged for a film. What Isn’t There (known to us here as Ang Nawawala) opens tomorrow in the US at the Slamdance Film Festival, Sundance’s lesser-known but no less interesting sibling. I hope it does well, but I won’t mention aloud here exactly how–might jinx it.

For those who wish to learn more about the world of What Isn’t There, check out this handy map made by visual artist Kitkat Pecson. Yep, the courtyard is right there. Metro Manila residents can check out the film on January 24 and 25 at the UP Film Institute. (Here’s more information about this and other screenings this month.)

Have a great weekend everyone!