Somewhere in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, five men board a bus.
Their destination: Handlebar in Polaris Street, Makati for the FILSCAP LMP 2017 Open Mic Songwriters Night. Travel time: ten hours plus.
They will reach the NCR a few hours early for their mission; thus, they will head for an affordable motel (“Dahil mahal kita…” anyone?) to stretch out and nap.
They wake up and head for the now-cramped venue. They set-up and immediately play their original 70s-flavoured jazz-pop love song “Sa Tabi Mo” in front of their peers and a few FILSCAP officers including Noel Cabangon and Vehnee Saturno. The tune is catchy, the reception encouraging.
They hang out for a beer, maybe two… and head for the terminal to catch the last bus back home which departs at 11 pm. They will reach Pagudpud roughly around lunchtime, back to their families, their day jobs, and their next gig.
The band called Better Than Noise endured it all for one song: hours of butt-numbing travel in exchange for five heartfelt minutes.
You can be cynical and call them foolhardy and impractical. Or you can be gracious and consider that they are aspiring for something higher, expense be damned. They aimed for the moon, and got to orbit it somewhat; it means everything. At least they refused to stand still and merely stare.
And FILSCAP GM Thursday Alciso adds that there is a Davao-based performer who made the same effort.
The week-long Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino events organised by FILSCAP aim to put into action Proclamation 933.2017. While music industry veterans and practitioners are looking to strengthen the cultural–and yes, business–ramifications, it is during an Open Mic Night where it is clear that the purpose is actually closer to the chest of an aspiring songwriter. There were over a hundred registrants for the Open Mic Songwriters Night in Handlebar but only 60 could be accommodated behind the mic with a target running time of six hours; eventually an extra hour was added.
There is Eloisa Jayloni, a planning engineer by day. She actually played in one of the LMP events called Folk You in July 22, attended the Elements Singer/Songwriter Camp, and has released an EP. Eloisa says she is torn between what she was educated to do and where her passion lies… and both have been beneficial to her so far.
Blind since the age of 15, Riane Foronda shared his tune “Message Of The Youth” with a clear cheerful melodic voice, and a pop-punk attack on his acoustic guitar.
PETA (the Philippine Educational Theater Association, not the other one) artist/teacher Ada Marie Tayao arrived with Kit Manlangit an hour after the Night officially began and lamented that they were too late for the cut-off. Fortunately, a slot opened up and their attentive peers enjoyed the duo’s endearing and witty love song “Sinok.”
Ex-FILSCAP President Noel Cabangon was invited to explain the purpose of the LMP Proclamation and naturally was egged on to perform. Cabangon relented and joked, “Yan ang napapala ng nagmamarunong... At ang aawitin ko po ay tungkol sa ating kalikasan, pero hindi ito yung ‘Kanlungan.’ Para maiba naman!”
The award-winning veteran hit-maker Vehnee Saturno also shared his sentiments onstage. Upon returning to his table and witnessing the first ten performers, he opined that in the future– given that there are only five minutes to showcase their respective tunes– aspirants should perhaps consider a performance format beyond the singer/acoustic guitarist mode. “Maganda kung yung iba siguro maghanap ng kaibigan na marunong mag-areglo or mag-keyboards. Para lumawak lalo yung potential ng mga kanta nila, ma-explore mga ibang related chords at harmony etc.”
The biggest investment for the participants is their unbridled earnestness, a heart-on-their-sleeves honesty fuelled first by the need to be heard, and secondly the dream to succeed. Sofia Carpizo, in tears and her voice breaking, confessed that she was going through a personal rough patch on this particular night–her band quit on her– but forged on. She mustered enough will to deliver a powerful performance as if her life depended on it.
For Carpizo– and yes, everyone else– perhaps it did, even if it was only for five minutes. And hopefully, they will keep aiming for the next five… or thirty, beyond an audience of peers.
Photos by Francis Reyes/BillboardPH