Archipelago Music Intro

The Music Village

Dec 24, 2008

Something to learn from the Koreans

It was in fourth year high school that Koreans began making their appearance in my consciousness. Today, I’m a fan of the Korean people and I dream of the day when the Philippines can mimic the framework of South Korea in its path toward global progress.

After the successful Taiwanese TV drama ‘Meteor Garden’ of ABS-CBN and the not-so-successful ‘My MVP Valentine’ of GMA-7, the latter network put the first Koreanovela (how Korean TV dramas are called in the Philippines) on primetime: ‘Lavender.’ From then on, Koreanovelas have penetrated Pinoy culture well—from ‘Jewel in the Palace’ to ‘Lovers in Paris,’ ‘from ‘Winter Sonata’ to ‘My Name is Kim Sam Soon.’

I was able to try Korean food when we went to the US in Summer 2005. We went there through Asiana Airlines, the stewardess of which served either Korean food or Western food for their meals. My mother and big brother would choose “itang balu da na,” while I, the hard-headed and adventurous Laxamana boy, insisted on trying what Koreans had to offer when it comes to dining. After all, it’s not everyday that you get to try Korean food. If it tastes awful, then charge it to experience. But fortunately, I loved it! Kimchi didn’t taste good at first but I have learned to love it, in spite of my mother wanting to puke at the smell of it.

Our stopover was in Incheon, South Korea, and we were to stay there for 10 hours. I liked the place. It was cold. It was clean. I couldn’t get over the idea that South Korea used to be poorer than the Philippines. It was hard conversing using English with the natives working at the airport, but they were friendly enough.

The airline company offered two choices for us to spend our 10 hours: take a short Korean tour, or take a rest at a Korean hotel. I wanted a tour, but my company wanted to rest. What a waste of opportunity! It’s not everyday that we get to stay for 10 hours in South Korea.

In college, I was introduced to Korean films in my Film 100 class, where the professor recounted how the film industry of South Korea developed, to the point of making a global wave in a decade’s span. I then grabbed hold of Korean war films like ‘Taegukci’ and romance films like ‘Il Mare,’ and I must say kudos. The unpretentious support of the government contributed highly to the development of Korean entertainment, so said my professor.

In one of my Broadcast Communication class, Music in Media, we had one Korean classmate. I already forgot his name, but I still remember our encounters with him. He was always bringing with him an electronic Korean-English dictionary which he would consult often when he couldn’t remember the appropriate English words to express his remarks. It was amusing, really. I had the chance to have him as a group mate, and his linguistic and cultural struggles didn’t make him less participative. He was indispensable in class. In fact, when deciding for the photo theme of our CD project inlay, he came up with this very artistic idea of fusing classical music flavor with stinking toilets, which to me was very fresh, but to my conservative professor was, well, stinking.

In my college life, more and more students were trying to enlist in Korean language subjects, learning how to write Hanggul and learning basic Korean sentences, phrases, and expressions. Angeles City nowadays also celebrate Choo-Seok festival for the people in that Korean avenue called Friendship, the Korean signboards of which, I think, outnumber the Kapampangan signboards present in the city. In Cebu, they have this Cebuanovela titled ‘Saranghe’ (‘Kaluguran Da Ka’ in Korean), which features a love triangle—two boys and a girl. One of the boys is Korean.

Evidently, Koreans, as well as other Asians, own this decade, and the future is teeming with grander Asian possibilities. I just wonder when the Philippines and other Austronesians will take part.

Korean Singers in the US

Three big Korean entertainers are attempting to conquer US after conquering much of Asia. They are none other than Rain, famous in the Philippines for the Koreanovela ‘Full House’ and that shampoo commercial with a popular line ‘My name is Rain’; Se7en, another Justin Timberlake-like South Korean RnB crooner who is not yet known in the Philippines but is celebrated throughout Asia; and BoA, a multitalented girl who can sing, dance, sing in many languages, and who has a beautiful face and body to flaunt.

BoA has already debuted in the US, but I haven’t heard whether she’s successful. Her debut US debut music video looked like the typical Britney Spears or Beyonce music videos, only with the English lyrics being sung with Asian accent.

Rain’s debut and a lot of concerts have been postponed due to trademark conflicts, while Se7en’s debut is, in my opinion, the most watched out for, as the production team of his US debut album consists of big people who contributed to the success of big US names like Beyonce, Black Eyed Peas, Madonna, Fergie, etc. His first single would be ‘Girls’ featuring Lil’ Kim. The song was produced by Darkchild.

In a newspaper article, of the Black Eyed Peas opined that he sees no reason as to why Korean entertainers couldn’t make it big in the US. If American singers can make it big in other places, why not the other way around?

Dec 16, 2008

Kapampangans and Mindanao Cinema

December 14 marked the beginning of the 4th Mindanao Film Festival, the organization of which contributes to the sign that, as one blogger put it, “the Art and Culture movements in the regions are gaining momentum and covering more ground.”

The Mindanao Film Festival began five years ago. Originally, it featured short films made by Dabawenyo artists (from the Guerrilla Filmmaking Workshops). In its fourth year, not only shall it feature short films in competition, it will also exhibit full-length Mindanaon films such as ‘Concerto: Davao War Diary,’ which was screened on the opening day.

‘Concerto: Davao War Diary’ is a period digital film set during the time after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when Davao was attacked by the Imperial Army of Japan. Due to the circumstances, one wealthy family leaves behind their properties and takes refuge in the forest where they befriend some Japanese while holding support for the guerrilla movement. Before the end of the war, they hold a special piano concert.

Charliebebs Gohetia, a colleague of mine in the UP College of Mass Communication and one of Brillante Mendoza’s trusted editors for his films, has his own contribution to Mindanao Cinema, too. His full-length debut, ‘The Thank You Girls,’ which failed to be a finalist twice in the Cinemalaya full-length category, but was independently produced nonetheless, is also part of the festival.

‘The Thank You Girls’ is a film in Bisaya with a gay lingo twist. The official synopsis reads: “Tired of losing in all the beauty competitions in Davao City, five dysfunctional gay beauty pageant veterans decide to travel north to Cagayan de Oro City, in the island of Mindanao. Their mission: to conquer the grandest competition of beauty, personality and brains in the whole province. They believe that being city dwellers, gays in the province will never stand a chance against them.”

Included in the festival as well is Cinema One Originals Best Picture ‘Ang Huling Balyan Ng Buhi’ (English title is ‘The Woven Stories of the Other,’ but the title literally translates to “the last priestess of life”) by Sherad Anthony Sanchez. Set in the forest village of Napalico in the Arakan Valley of North Cotabato, it mainly features a seemingly insane local priestess (balyan or tagbawian) named Manay who communes with the river, who one night performs her last miracle—a stigmata. NPA communist rebels, government soldiers, and children also take roles in the story.

War and peace situations in Mindanao is tackled in the advocacy film ‘Hunghong Sa Yuta’ (‘Earth’s Whisper’), directed by Arnel Mardoquio. The film is about deaf mute children in a community in the mountains. The children are a mixture of Christians, Muslims, and Lumads, and are introduced to the alphabets and numerals by a teacher from the city. “War between rebels and the military has devastated the community of Hinyok, its most telling casualty being children born without the ability to speak and hear whose fathers are now intent on training them to become fighters to defend their land. Vigo Cruz, artist and toy-maker, answers a posted notice about Hinyok’s need for a teacher, and his work with the children brings joy and hope to the young war victims and their mothers.”

An upcoming Chabacano-Bisaya film was also announced during the festival. It will be shot in Davao and Zamboanga next year.

Kapampangan Cinema

The emergence of Mindanao Cinema, as well as film scenes in other regions, especially the Visayan and Cordilleran region, is inspiring, and I keep on dreaming of the day when this idea called “Kapampangan Cinema” would take corporeal form in Central Luzon and in the long run, prove to be a powerful branch of Philippine cinema.

The production of several award-winning Kapampangan films such as 2008’s Most Outstanding Kapampangan for Mass Media Brillante Mendoza’s ‘Masahista,’ ‘Kaleldo,’ ‘Manoro,’ and ‘Serbis’ and Francis Xavier Pasion’s ‘Jay’ is a good sign, as their presence may cause a domino effect to other aspiring Kapampangan filmmakers.

The Mindanao Film Festival is a joint effort among the Mindanao Film and Television Development Foundation, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, the City Government and City Tourism Office of Davao, the Museo Dabawenyo, plus some admirable support from the private sector.

If not only for the chaos in the Pampanga Capitol, I believe the Tourism Office of Pampanga would have spearheaded the first ever Kapampangan interschool short film competition this Aldo Ning Kapampangan. Sadly, it did not push through.

Will 2009 mark the conception of Kapampangan Cinema and the introduction of its concept to universities in the Kapampangan region?

Student Filmmakers

Students (especially college ones) are often seen as the hope of emerging film scenes. A problem—a curable, minor one at that—with the students in the Kapampangan region is that they are still more or less ignorant of independent cinema.

Ask them to do a short film and you’d see that they’re trying to poorly mimic Hollywood and the stuff they see on free TV. Worse, the Kapampangan reality/experience is seldom or never featured in the stories.

Kapampangan student filmmakers studying in Manila, however, have made Kapampangan-themed works, and it makes me wonder—why do they arise in Manila? Perhaps it’s because when one studies in Manila, he/she is dipped in a ocean of diverse races. To project a unique identity in his/her film, who else to consult but the dear homeland? After all, only you know the stories of the Kapampangan region. Why waste time competing using Manila-themed films?

Thus, I take this opportunity to inform the Kapampangans about Kapampangan short films done in Manila.

First is Mark Dela Cruz’ ‘Misteryo Ng Hapis’ (‘The Sorrowful Mystery’) which bagged the Best Thesis title during its time at the UP Film Institute. It’s about a young gay who confronts his painful memories with his homophobic father during the wake of the latter. The film is like a rosary prayer narration.

Watch the whole film by searching ‘Misteryo Ng Hapis’ at Google Video.

Another is Jacqueline Nakpil’s ‘Lual Kulambu’ (‘Outside the Mosquito Net’), also from the UP Film Institute. It’s about a young boy from Bacolor who lives with his grandmother in the barrio. However, when his grandmother dies, he is forced to live in his uncle’s house in Manila. In there, he struggles to adapt to his new home.

Lastly is ‘Pupul’ (‘Harvest’) by Nicolette Henson, a Mutya Ning Kapampangan and a Kapampanganovela actor who currently takes up Mass Communication at St. Scholastica’s Academy Manila. In her AVP class, ‘Pupul’ was branded the best narrative. It tells the story of a single mother who tries to keep her son from seeing his real father in the farm due to personal reasons.

It will be uploaded soon through the Internet.

Shameless Plug

Allow me to plug our own contribution to this Kapampangan Cinema dream. Our group Kalalangan Kamaru, in cooperation with the Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies, presents ‘Ing Bangkeru’ (‘The Boatman’), a 10-minute screen adaptation of the anonymous Kapampangan ballad of the same title. Shot in the Pampanga River, it tells an anecdote about an arrogant student from Manila intellectually challenging a young, lowly boatman about the philosophies the student had learned in his Spanish school.

We also have our very first Kapampangan documentary called ‘Sexmoan Adventures.’ Its synopsis: “A town in the Philippine province of Pampanga has for long been known as Sexmoan. One day, the municipal government decided to dump its scandalous spelling and replaced it with how residents traditionally call their homeland: Sasmuan.” The documentary lightly interviews residents of Sasmuan about their attitude toward Sexmoan and their current lifestyle.

Lastly, we are making a new digital short film titled ‘Balangingi’ (‘Nosebleed’ in English; ‘Balinguyngoy’ in Tagalog). It’s a Kapampangan romantic comedy about two discriminating intellectuals forced to attend a blind date. This short film gives a peek to that minority in Philippine society who are unlikely to survive socially by being themselves-- the Filipino intellectuals. Or as laymen would call them: Nerds! As parents call them: Pilosopo.

Dec 13, 2008

Zamboanga's Chabacano Band, Comic Relief

OCM is OPM! Original Chavacano Music is Original Pilipino Music!

Ruling the airwaves of Zamboanga City is Comic Relief, a local band that writes and performs original compositions in the Chabacano Philippine language. To Filipinos ignorant of this seemingly-Spanish language called Chabacano, be fooled not. Zamboanga's mother language is not a dialect of Spanish, as it's not mutually intelligible with the Spanish languages.

Here is an article I found related to Comic Relief and the emerging OCM scene:

Councilor Gerky Valesco, in his support to Original Chabacano Music (OCM) is encouraging young musicians and artists to make use of the Chabacano language in their artistic attempts.

Valesco’s reiteration of support came as he was tapped by young musicians to direct the first major concert of “Comic Relief”, an all Zamboangueno band whose power rock ballad “Cuando” is enjoying commercial success since the song is one of the top ten most requested songs in the city’s many FM stations.

“I am happy that there is an upsurge of Chabacano materials in music and in poetry. This is indeed a welcome development which shows how special and how vibrant Chabacano is”. Valesco said.

Zach Quijano, composer and leader of ‘Comic Relief’ band said they have already engaged in series of talks with Valesco requesting the alderman from Santa Maria to be the director of their first major concert slated on December 16, 2008.

“We want Sir Valesco to direct our show owing the fact that Valesco has been supportive to music and arts. We also know that Sir Gerky, is very much down to earth, and has been responsible in helping organized many of the concerts in Zamboanga,” Quijano said.

Quijano said that since last August they have been meeting with Valesco regarding their desire to have their songs promoted. Last September, Valesco brought CD samplers to some FM stations in Manila and to some executives of recording labels.

Quijano said besides, their reason for requesting Valesco to help them because according to them Valesco understands them better since Valesco is also an artist. “We’re comfortable with him (Valesco) because he knows the circuit and he knows the plight of the artists,” Quijano said.

Valesco, prior to his political career has been a director and organizer of many concerts. He has directed the show of Jose Mari Chan, Armarie Saavedra, Revelation Band, Marc Velasco, and many others. Valesco also organized the shows of David Pomeranz, Rossana Roces, and the Lettermen last July.

Dec 4, 2008

Kreak Bathala and their Bikol song "Kagadanan"

Krear Bathala is a band formed in Tabaco City, Albay, Philippines in the year 2000 by Jimple Borlagdan , Nukie Cañon , and Rodel Aguilar as Haunted Garage—a tribute to the old room in Jimple’s Lola’s house, where the band jams. When Nukie and Rodel eventually left the band in 2003, Jimple’s brother Jimzzy Borlagdan , Waxx Ko , and Binat Pelaez on bass, all from other groups, joined in.

The band was among the poineer bands of the Tabaco City, Albay, Roots series, created by Auwgz Pelaez, Binat’s Brother, which booked 13 major gigs in Legazpi City and Tabaco City, Albay for four years. Then when Binat Pelaez was voted out of the band, due to differences, Jun Lim was taken in. During this time two singles (Clowns and Hari ng Walang Hanggang Parusa) by the band were recorded. In the end Jun Lim had to go and Waxx assumed the jinxed bass slot.

Recently, the band gave in to a foreign band of the same name (Haunted Garage) after years of cyber disputes, and adopted Krear Bathala as the band’s name, for it heralds a new musical direction that veers more to Bikolano-sensitive songs, and it repackaged the band’s new three-piece line-up.

This year, three of their singles (Clowns, Hari ng Walang Hanggang Parusa, bootlegged Kagadanan) were included in the “Tanog Tabaco: A definitive Original Tabaqueño Music Compilation” album, and their newly recorded song “Kagadanan” will come out in the Albay music compilation “Ribok.”

Musically, the band is hard to define, as they fuse unpopular mixtures of traditional colonial music with old and new schools of rock. Some categorize them as old school metal, like Iron Maiden and Wolfgang, while others label them as prog rock or just plain rock. In spite of this, Krear Bathala is clear on one thing: They exist only for the attainment of Tanog Tabaco, the mythical true Bikolano Sound.

Their works can be sampled at their official website,

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Jaime Borlagdan, Correspondent