Words by Meg Abuan, Photos by Ela Paliza

White Wall Poetry productions fused together hip-hop and spoken word performances for a night of intense lyricism and well-thought-of punchlines as California-based Filipina lyrical rapper Ruby Ibarra returns to Manila on December 20 at B-Side, The Collective for Balikbayan: Ruby Ibarra Live in Manila.

At White Wall Poetry’s Balikbayan: Ruby Ibarra Live in Manila | Photo by Ela Paliza

Hosted by GnarlyDork, the night started with an open mic session from a pre-signed line up. The performers are spoken word artists and rappers from different collectives such as KM64, Arguilla, Artidope, Slick Barbers, and 51 music. An intermission from White Wall Poets, Roc-6 of Titik Poetry/Art Forms Productions, and Righteous One’s surprise performance hyped the night and prepared the crowd for a more intense part of the program. The crowd was lucky enough to witness OG performances such as Syke‘s, who is believed to be one of the people who established the local hip-hop scene in Manila.

At White Wall Poetry’s Balikbayan: Ruby Ibarra Live in Manila | Photo by Ela Paliza

Jo Hussle, rapper from Death Threat, and Ryke from 727 clique made the audience groove and dance to their tunes with their amazing bars. Poets like Dzeli Del Mundo and Neil John Luna talked about relevant themes such as sexual misconduct, feminism, and depression in their performances. Tukar Sinati, a funk fusion hip-hop band, entertained the crowd with their upbeat songs. They were followed by NINNO, who is set to go on a hiatus, making the night his last performance before leaving the country.

Unfortunately, some members of the Mellow Submarine weren’t available that day, but still, vocalist JB Brucal gave a stage that the audience was very much looking forward to. He also performed a song featuring the host of the night – GnarlyDork, and another one with Slac Cayamanda, the event’s organizer from White Wall Poetry.  

At White Wall Poetry’s Balikbayan: Ruby Ibarra Live in Manila | Photo by Ela Paliza

The night wouldn’t be the same if not for the performance of a young protégé, Alex Bruce. She started covering songs of Ruby Ibarra when she was just eight years old. Now she is 11 years old and already has her own compositions which are truly captivating. Ibarra claimed that Bruce is the future of local hip-hop. The crowd shed a tear when Bruce gave a message to her “Ate Ruby”, saying that she is an inspiration to her and that she wanted to be just as good as she is.

At White Wall Poetry’s Balikbayan: Ruby Ibarra Live in Manila | Photo by Ela Paliza

White Wall Poets gave another set of intermission performances with their spoken word pieces and collaborations, followed by APOC from The Death Architect.

At White Wall Poetry’s Balikbayan: Ruby Ibarra Live in Manila | Photo by Ela Paliza

The moment that everyone was waiting for was when Ruby Ibarra finally hit the stage, singing tracks from her old mixtape to her new album. She sang “Here”, “Someday”, and “Us” featuring Fatima of Tukar Sinati. Despite the delays and technical difficulties, Ibarra managed to entertain the crowd with her amazing lyricism and well-thought-of bars. She also performed a duet with Alex Bruce, after which she surprised the latter with a cake as part of an advanced birthday celebration. The night came to an end with flip top artist BLKD.

Ruby Ibarra has raised Filipino hip-hop to another level. Her tracks weren’t just meant to sell, but to convey a message covering the topics of Filipino culture, society, politics, and most importantly, her own experiences and that of others which are not often told. Hip-hop, indeed, is more than a genre. It is a movement.

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