With the advent of new business opportunities for the Filipino songwriter, it is appropriate that the Philpop Music Foundation now builds a venue for aspiring hitmakers to stand out and jumpstart their careers.

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Left to right: Noel Cabangon, Dinah Remolacio, Patrick Pangilinan, and Ryan Cayabyab.

The same organization that has year-after-year since 2012, engaged Filipino listeners by shining a light on fresh and local songwriting talent through the Philpop Songwriting Festival, this year launches their first Philpop Songwriting Bootcamp.

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Johann Garcia, Jungee Marcelo, and Jeroel Maranan arrive at the Bootcamp.

The sun is out as the fellows arrive in First Pacific Leadership Academy. They are wide awake, up on their feet, and ready to make their first impressions.

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Bootcamp host, Jungee Marcelo.

When it comes to breaking the ice, host Jungee Marcelo knows exactly what to do. All inhibition is shattered when he takes the microphone in his hand and infects the room with the witty sense of humor that is second nature to him.

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Host and mentor Jungee Marcelo and fellow Jhen Milante.
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Jungee Marcelo facilitates the ice-breaker.
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Host and mentor Jungee Marcelo and fellow Ian Acosta.

“Learn the rules so you could eventually break them.” – RYAN CAYABYAB

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After a quick warm-up, Bootcamp Master Ryan Cayabyab walks the fellows through an informative Songwriting 101 class. But beyond music theory and its elements, he emphasizes “Explore the range of what you can do as a songwriter. […] Learn the rules so you could eventually break them. Also, learn from one another.”

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Antipolo bootcamp fellows.

The two-and-a-half day long intimate workshop caters to a manageable count of 35 fellows, each pre-selected through online submissions and live auditions supervised by a panel of Philpop alumni, industry executives, and students. As expected, the mood of a workshop can depend largely on the mix of personalities present among all participants. While one may argue that each will retain unique memories of the camp, there’s no denying the common spirit that lives through the collective presence contributed by fellows and mentors alike.

The learning does not stop outside the classroom. The bootcamp exists merely as an incubator for these talents to jumpstart their growth. Equipped to plant these seeds of inspiration and direction in each fellow are the mentors.

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Gary Granada: Lyric Writing
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Marvin Querido: Musical Arrangement
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Jonathan Manalo: How To Get Your Songs Produced
Philpop Alumni (Davey Langit, Thyro Alfaro, and Yumi Lacsamana) facilitating the workshop.
Philpop Alumni facilitating the workshop.

The succeeding bootcamp legs can only hope to meet a similar blend of personalities: a passionate and inquisitive Enrico Navarro who bravely opens up an engaging two-way discussion, a cheerful Jennifer Milante who so innocently projects her charisma throughout the entire hall, team-players like Lex Mendoza who without second thought uplifts and applauds his co-fellows, a natural comic like Kulas Ramil who won’t run dry of puns and jokes, competent musicians like Brad Coronel who may prove to be instrumental in the performances of other co-fellows, and performers like Gherns Calina whose stage showmanship encourages fellows to leave a lasting impression.

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Halfway into the camp, fellows learn that the diversity in characters is no coincidence. Even among mentors, variety in experience and musical taste invites greater opportunity for everyone to learn.  As Ryan Cayayab tells it, “similar to how chords and notes produce songs filled with stories and emotions, gathering people in a room and engaging them towards one common goal yields amazing results.”

“Everything you learn here, you may accept, reject, tweak, OR deconstruct.”

– RYAN CAYABYAB

“Everything you learn here, you may accept, reject, tweak, or deconstruct,” says Ryan Cayabyab to the fellows on their first day. By the end of the camp, a few participants share their insights with BillboardPH.

Gio Levy expresses it’s the clear end goal that sets the bootcamp apart from other learning opportunities he’s taken. “It’s been put in place to develop budding songwriters to win the PhilPop songwriting competition. The workshop brought in previous contestants and winners from the competition telling us about their songs and giving us advice on how to win. It’s like a Championship Basketball team teaching their competition how to be as good if not better than them. It’s bizarre but beautiful.”

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Brad Coronel is one among many who value getting to know his coaches from work ethic to musical influences. “Knowing what makes them write, how they start writing lyrics and melodies and kung saan nila kinukuha ang ideas […], dun ako nag kainterest sobra.” Similar to Coronel, Mike Regalado marks spontaneous moments with Ryan Cayabyab (whom he addresses as Mr. C) as his fondest memories from the camp. “Mr C. played for almost 45 minutes and everyone was singing nothing but OPM songs.”

“The one on one critique with the coaches!” With enthusiasm and certainty, Zsaris Mendioro is quick with her response. “They nitpick your song with you, you know immediately what works and what doesn’t. The vibe is never intimidating. And it’s also a huge chance to help you understand what kind of songwriter you are. It’s an opportunity that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

Jhen Milante tells BillboardPH, “On the first day of the camp, I have to admit that I was frantic; the idea of seeing veteran musicians made me so nervous, I swear I almost peed. It was intimidating, but the moment Sir Jungee Marcelo began the program, all the nervousness I felt went away. […] To know that the coaches experienced the same struggles that I experience as a songwriter motivated me to write even more, and to write even better. It was comforting to know that I wasn’t alone.”

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These fellows are just few of the many passionate songwriters aspiring to be part of an industry that is immensely sensitive to even the slightest of changes in the way people receive music. The power of community can not be overemphasized by the bootcamp masters. Noel Cabangon imparts his message to the fellows. “Always remember that you are part of a community. You are part of this nation and music is part of nation-building.”

As the hall is emptied, fellows take one last glimpse of their surroundings before they realize what they’re bringing home with them: something of greater value than just two days worth of knowledge in songwriting – a sense of community.

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The list of selected applicants for the succeeding bootcamp legs will be announced on the following dates:

  • Baguio Boot Camp – June 15
  • Cebu Boot Camp – August 15
  • Davao Boot Camp – October 15

PHOTOS: Bughaw Digital

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