Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rocking Hard Pays Off at the Muziklaban

 2012 Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban grand champion, A Music Theory

 2012 Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban grand champion, A Music Theory, raises a toast

The crowd enjoying themselves as they watch the performances at the Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban
  The main stage of the 2012 RedHorse Pambansang Muziklaban

 Years of diligence and learning paid off for a Metro Manila band as they were hailed as the champion of the 2012 Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban Rock Challenge grand finals held last Feb. 2 at the reclaimed field at the corner of Edsa and Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City.
A Music Theory (AMT), formed in 2008 by four college students of the De La Salle University, took home P500,000 cash prize, an exclusive recording contract and a big shot at Filipino rock superstardom.
“When our band was announced the grand champion, it felt magical,” described lead vocalist and band leader Jaime Miguel “Cholo” Pabalan. “It was the kind of happiness kids feel when they walk through the gates of Disneyland for the first time whilst an instrumental version of ‘A Whole New World’ is playing in the background. It was just pure, unadulterated happiness. After over four years as a band playing gig after gig after gig around the metro, it felt as if the hard work finally paid off. Also, we felt honored to be given the chance to hold the Red Horse banner just like the industry’s finest bands do.”
This was the third time AMT joined Muziklaban.
“We got booted at eliminations back in 2009 and 2010. We decided not to join in 2011 to concentrate on band growth. Luckily, the third time was the charm in 2012,” Pabalan related.
AMT traces its beginnings in 2006 when Pabalan, JC Santos (lead guitar/backup vocals), Lorce Manaois (bass guitar), John Jo Presingular (drums/backup vocals) and other classmates made a music video project for their Filipino class, calling themselves Sevensticks. After the project, they thought of starting a real band. The group fizzled out with the remaining members calling themselves as BFKAS (Band Formerly Known as Sevensticks). Manaois met Santos again in a philosophy class and revived their intent of forming a band, now calling it A Music Theory, officially born on Oct. 24, 2008 at the JNJ Studio in Malate, Manila.
AMT started doing gigs and eventually joining Muziklaban.
“The Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban is the premier amateur band competition in the country. We saw it as an opportunity to break into an industry we love to get a chance to get to do what we all love doing. We want the songs we play to be heard so that people would be able to appreciate it and feel all the emotions it holds just like we do. Also, we would like to someday be able to contribute to our country’s rich history of music,” Pabalan said.
Now on its 14th year, the Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban Rock Challenge, an annual rock band competition to promote the strong beer brand of San Miguel Brewery, the Philippines’ leading beer maker, has become an influential force in the music industry, discovering new talents and establishing itself as a major rock event in the country.
Pabalan explained: “The opportunity Muziklaban brings to an amateur band is golden and opportunities like that do not come often in the indie band scene. And being a Muziklaban champion is really something to be proud of. It’s a title that a band will carry forever. Winning at Muziklaban is possibly the best opportunity that any aspiring amateur band can get.”
Past winners include 3rd Degree (2001), 18th Issue (2002), Fuseboxx (2003), Hardboiledeggz (2006), Mayonnaise (2004), Sunflower Day Camp (2005), Gayuma (2007), Even (2008), Hatankaru (2009), Light of Luna (2010) and David vs. Goliath (2011).
Months of elimination rounds conducted around the country precedes each Muziklaban grand finals. This year, Red Horse Beer came up with five bands to represent the different regions — A Music Theory for Metro Manila, Memoronnie for Mindanao, Fidortchi for southern Luzon, Diesngage for the Visayas and Katulad for northern Luzon.
Based in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, in northeastern Mindanao, Memoronnie plays indie/alternative rock with four members — Rosaire (lead vocals), Philip (drums), Jfoi (guitar) and Dancapz (bass guitar). The band is named in memory of a deceased member, Ronnie. On the other hand, Disengage, based in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, in Central Visayas, plays hardcore and Death Metal rock. Formed in 2011, it is composed of Julius Mananquil (vocals), Jesse Antiquiera (guitar), Kim Nochefranca (bass), Matthew Lee (guitar) and Joseph Corleone (drums). 
The northern Luzon band Katulad is from Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, and was formed in 2011. Its members — Dave Gualberto (vocals), Allan Teneza  (bass), Andrew Sardillo (guitar), Paul Tumaliuan (guitar), Dan Calling  (percussion), Gudo Dela Cruz (percussion), Gideon Reyes (drums) — were formerly members of other bands. With Pinikpikan, Kalayo, Francis Magalona and Eraserheads as influences, Katulad fuses ethnic and modern music to form what they call “malayang musika” (literally, free music).
Fidortchi hails from Naga City in the Bicol Region and is composed of Rommel Sandagon (vocals), Alvin Bautista (drums), Mario Bulao (bass), Mark Owen Mendez (guitars) and Nong Legacion Jr. (guitars). Formed on October 2010, the band has been visible in the Bicol music scene, as well as numerous band competitions.
Hosted by Francis Brew Reyes and model Phoemela Barranda, the grand finals attracted hundreds rock enthusiasts, beer drinkers and anyone in between. Aside from the performances at the main stage, there were many things going on. The Pinoy Ink Tent featured tattoo demonstration and exhibit by Chris Garcia, notable tattoo artist in Hollywood and brother of Slapshock’s lead singer. The Extreme Sports Zone had BMX and skateboard stunt riders. The Horsepower Zone highlighted amateur bands poised to join next year’s Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban Rock Challenge. There were also wall climbing activities, ring toss games, etc.
At the main stage, guest performers included band ambassadors Slapshock, Kjwan, Wilabaliw, Greyhoundz and Razorback as well as past champs Mayonnaise, Gayuma, Even, Hatankaru and Light of Luna. Pepe Smith and his band Juna dela Cruz and Ely Buendia with his band Pupil provided the highlights. The event also unveiled the Red Horse Beer motorbike customized by Hardcore Brothers, which boasts of an original Red Horse airbrush paint finish, bobber fender, Vance and Hines exhaust, Cobra Chrome Pwerflo Air Intake custom rev meter, fuel cap, handle bars, solo saddle, tail lights, deuce-style signal lights and Kuryakin grips. This was raffled off to patrons.
In between the established bands, the contenders performed like no tomorrow. This year, they performed original songs as well as covers. AMT’s songs caught the attention of judges and audience.
“The two original songs we played during the finals were ‘Anthem’ and ‘Endgame,’” Pabalan said. “‘Anthem’ is a song about feeling your way through life and not just living by so-called rules and norms dictated by society. Endgame, on the other hand, is sort of an emotional love song based on certain personal experiences by the band’s bassist.”
Pabalan related their journey: “The semi-finals (which was also Rakrakan Series XVII) and the grand finals of the Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban were the first two times wherein we got to play on a huge stage in front of a huge crowd. We learned that bar gigs are so much different. The nervousness comes at a different level on a big stage with thousands of people watching as compared to a bar with dozens. Also, we learned the true meaning of perseverance.”
He further said: “In preparation for the RHB Muziklaban Grand Finals, we rehearsed for two hours, two to three times a week. We also took a couple of gigs to help us prepare for the finals. Also, we tried our best to eat right and stay healthy to avoid any and all kinds of illnesses that could come upon us. Murphy’s Law was on the back of our minds so we took extra precaution in almost everything. However, it didn’t hurt to have a little fun. We still went out and chilled as usual to keep the vibe warm and happy.”
AMT’s win followed the victories of National Capital Region bets Mayonnaise in 2004 and Hatankaru in 2009.
“We will be touring with the industry’s finest bands, learning from them every step of the way. And we’ll also be starting on our first album very soon. Hopefully, it all rolls on the right direction from there,” Pabalan said.
With a Muziklaban feather in their cap, Pabalan revealed the band’s dreams: “Because we love what we do, we’d love to tour and play around the country and even abroad if given the chance. We’d also like to release an album or two so that our music would be heard. And who knows? Maybe we could even become a successful, international band someday which harbors national pride and serves as an influence to others to achieve greatness and be conferred upon the Order of Lakandula. Dream big, right?”

A BMX stunt rider showing his moves at the Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban Extreme Sports Zone
 A Music Theory's lead singer, Jaime Miguel de Guia Pabalan

A graffiti wall turns into a work of art at the Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban graffiti wall competition

Slapshock's high intensity performance

For more information, visit www.redhorsebeer.com.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Daragang Magayon Revitalized

Mount Mayon is not only an icon of tourism in the province of Albay, but of the whole Philippines. The splendor of the 8,077-foot active volcano, known for its almost perfect symmetry, inspires awe among visitors and is a constant companion of Albayanos living under its shadow, becoming an integral part of their culture.
There is a popular folklore about the origin of Mount Mayon that Albayanos often tell.
Once there was a princess named Magayon (literally meaning “beautiful”), daughter of Makusog, who was the most beautiful and the most modest in Kabikolan. Among her many suitors was the wealthy and wicked Pagtuga, but Magayon disliked him. When Magayon was about to take a bath at the river, she slipped and was carried away by the currents. A handsome stranger, Panganoron or Ulap (cloud), from Katagalogan saved Magayon’s life. They fell in love. Magayon told this to his father, who remained open-minded despite his disappointment. Pagtuga kidnapped Makusog and threathened to kill him unless Magayon agreed to marry him. To save her father’s life, Magayon consented. On the day of the wedding, Ulap arrived, having heard of the news, with his trusted guide Amihan and several men ready to rescue Magayon. Fighting ensued. Pagtuga was killed by Ulap. Magayon ran to her lover, but was hit by an arrow. As she died in his arms, Ulap was stabbed at the back. The lovers were laid to rest. Magayon was buried with Pagtuga’s gift of diamonds, pearls, gold and other precious stones. A mound appeared on Magayon’s grave the next day, and it grew bigger and bigger until it became a mountain. Occasionally, quakes were felt by the people coming from the mountain. Sometimes, thick clouds would form around the top. It is said that the spirit of Pagtuga, which the help of Linog (earthquake), tries to exhume Magayon’s grave to get the gifts he had given her. It is also said that the clouds forming around the mountain is Ulap, shielding Magayon from the sun, sending raindrops and kissing her.   
Mount Mayon and its story have inspired many artists. The legend was retold in an epic in English and Filipino by Albayano writer Merlinda Bobis, Cantata of the Warrior Woman Daragang Magayon/Kantada ng Babaing Mandirigma Daragang Magayon, published in 1993. Bobis would do a dramatic reading of her epic.
An experimental theatrical piece was staged at the ramp of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) based on the epic. Noted musicologist and composer Dr. Ramon Santos, who was involved in the production, recalled that a young ballet dancer, choreographer and teacher, Gerald Mercado, liked it and wanted to revive it. 

With the help of the provincial government of Albay, the multi-media dance production Daragang Magayon: An Istorya ni Mayon is to be staged by the 10-year-old group of young independent artists, E-Dance Theater Performing Lab, on Feb. 8, 2013, at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.).
Mercado related: “Tinatrato kong anak ang Daragang Magayon. Para kong dinaanan ang panganganak at pagpapalaki ng anak mag-isa (I treated Daragang Magayon like my own child. It was like going through giving birth and raising a child by myself). Its inception — when I had to look at the story and read it again, and research deeper into Bicol folklore — took several years in the making. Pinaikot-ikot ko ang mundo ni Magayon ng paulit-ulit sa imahinasyon ko, hanggang sa finally nabuo rin ang puzzle, at ito ang kinalabasan (I made the world of Magayon revolve inside my imagination again and again until finally the puzzle was solved, and this is the outcome). The choreography, which up until now is still in the process, is for me a process of creating and recreating movement, inventing and reinventing myself.”
“The artistic team intended Daragang Magayon to be a breakthrough for the Philippine art scene — that is the first-ever Filipino multi-media production in quite literally epic proportions,” Mercado said. “And to do this meant bringing together the best that literature and music have.”
Several important artists were gathered for this endeavor. Most notable are Dr. Santos, who created new music for the production, and National Artist for literature Virgilio Almario, whose poetry is featured.
The dramaturgy is by Abdon Balde Jr., who was a civil engineer who turned to writing and literature upon retirement. The award-winning and prodigious Bikolano fictionist and poet was recently appointed as the first poet laureate of Albay by its provincial government. Film is incorporated into the work by filmmaker Chuck Escasa with script by Aimee Escasa and Boni Ilagan, cinematography by Henry Posadas and animation by Niko Salazar. The set design is created by Leo Abaya, while costume design is by Carlo Pagunaling and lights design by John Batalla. Mercado does the direction and choreography.
The cast of dancers, actors and singers include Ea Torrado as Magayon, Victor Maguad as Ulap, Francis Cascaño as Pagtuga, Pamela Josef as Usa, Marcus Tolentino as Makusog, Roduardo Ma and Earvin Guillermo as Linog, Ronnie Lazaro as Gugurang, Pontri Bernardo as Aswang, soprano Stephanie Quintin, tenor Jay-El Viteño, bass Jonak del Fierro, the University of the Philippines Rondalla and the Novo Concertante.

“This rendition of the legend of Mount Mayon is unique in two ways — the incorporation of Bicolano deities in the myth and the particular emphasis of Magayon as a warrior princess,” wrote Mercado. “I decided to merge the different facets of Bicolano folklore into one cohesive story. The gods Gugurang and Aswang, and the goddess Calayo are usually credited for the creation of the world and the fire that made it possible for humankind to survive. The love story of Ulap and Magayon tells the tale of the Mount Mayon. For me, these two stories are in essence, mirror images of each other. It is the same story of the war of two powers, of fire and the triumph of love.”
Santos, who was selected as National Artist for music in 2009 but was dropped by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in favor of her choices, said he created innovations for this production. Notable is his creation of a score for rondalla, the plucked string music.
Maraming magagaling na rondalista sa Bikol (There are many good rondalla players in Bicol),” Santos said.
Rondalla music has always been used as intermissions in programs, as welcome to visitors during important occasions and as accompaniment to celebrations but according to Santos, “rondalla has never been used in a ‘serious’ production.” His composition “proved to be challenging even for the players,” but is haunting and unique.
The local government of the province of Albay is supporting the production as part of its revitalized tourism program.
“Ang pagtatampok ng Daragang Magayon: An Istorya ni Mayon sa Cultural Center of the Philippines…ay ang pagdadala ng liwanag sa mga taong nasa karimlan ng kawalang-alam sa mga tradisyong Albayano (The staging of Daragang Magayon: An Istorya ni Mayon at the Cultural Center of the Philippines…is [like] bringing light to those who are in the dark about Albay tradition),” said the governor of Albay Joey Sarte Salceda. “Mahalaga ito sa amin na maibahagi ang kagandahan ng aming kultura sa mga taga-ibang rehiyon ng ating bansa. Napapanahon nang makita nila ang kagandahan ng aming probinsiya, ang kariktan ng aming mga dilag, at ang yaman ng aming kultura. Sa ganitong paraan, hangad namin na katulad ni ulap, maakit kayo na dalawin ang Albay, umibig sa Albayana at makibahagi sa aming pagdiriwang.” (It is important for us to share the beauty of our culture to other regions of our country. It is already time for them to see the beauty of our province, the loveliness of our maidens and the richness of our culture. This way, we wish that like ulap you will be enticed to visit albay, to fall in love with albay women and to take part in our celebration.)
Salceda is said to be supportive of arts and culture, and his projects included regular exhibits at the provincial capitol building, the commissioning of local sculptors to create statues of historical figures of Albay, the staging of the opera in Bikol Dance of the Three Mountains by Balde during the 2012 Magayon Festival, and the creation of the Office of the Poet Laureate. This latest endeavor is a way to showcase Bicolano culture for the whole country to see, and the legend of Daragang Magayon is an apt avenue.
Salceda said: “Ang alamat ni Daragang Magayon ay paulit-ulit na ipinagdiriwang n gaming probinsiya sa mga dula, sayaw, awit at tugtog dahil ito ay naglalarawan ng aming pinagmulan. Ito ay naglalarawan ng pinakamaganda sa amin sa ugali, anyo, pag-ibig, pakikipagkapwa-tao at ang aking kaligiran. Pinayayaman nito an gaming buhay. Pinahahalagahan nito ang aming mga kaugalian.” (The legend of Daragang Magayon is frequently celebrated in our province in plays, dance, songs and music because it showcases our roots. It displays the best in us—in conduct, form, love, camaraderie and surroundings. It enriches our lives. It honors our traditions.) 
Ang alamat ni Daragang Magayon na sa kamatayan ay naging isang napakagandang bulkan ay naglalarawan ng anyo at kaluluwa ng aming probinsiya, ng mga Albayano. Sumasalamin ito sa aming kultura (The legend of Daragang Magayon, who in death becomes a very beautiful volcano, represents the image and soul of our province, of the Albayanos. It is a glimpse into our culture),” he explained. “Una sa lahat, ang paggalang sa Diyos — na katulad ni Gugurang — at ang pag-alay ng atang kung may biyayang dumating sa aming buhay (First of all, the respect for God — like Gugurang’s — and the thanksgiving if there are blessings in our life).”
Ang paggalang sa magulang, lalo sa ama ng tahanan. Handa si Magayon na isakripisyo ang sariling kaligayan para lamang sa kaligtasan ng kanyang ama (The respect for parents, especially for the father of the house. Magayon is ready to sacrifice her own happiness for the safety of her father),” he added. “Ang likas na ganda ng paligid na tampok ang Bulkang Mayon ay ipinagdiriwang at pinahahalagahan namin bilang biyaya ng Diyos at ng kalikasan. (The innate beauty of the environment featuring Mayon Volcano is being celebrated and valued as a blessing from God and from nature) ”
At bakit naming ilalarawan ang aming kultura sa pamamagitan ng isang makabagong ballet sa Cultural Center? Sapagkat hangad namin na madali ninyo kaming maunawaan sa pamamagitan ng sining. Magiging madali para sa atin ang magkaunawaan. Madali ang pag-ambag ng kaalaman. Nagiging isang komunidad tayo sa magkahawig na kultura. At higit sa lahat, ito ay masayang pagtitipon. (And why are we showcasing our culture through a modern ballet at the Cultural Center? Because it is our wish that you would easily understand us through art. It would easier to understand one another. It is easy for the transfer of knowledge. We become one community with the with the similarities in our cultures. And best of all, it is a fun gathering.)” he concluded. 

Daragang Magayon: An Istorya ni Mayon will be shown on Feb. 8, at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. For more information, call 425-0509, 0920-9266387 and 832-1125 local 1116. For ticket inquiries, call 829-3591, 0906-2735400, 0922-8477639 and 0933-4372744. Call Ticketworld at 891-9999.