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Thomasian indie artists struggle for in-campus recognition

INDEPENDENT artists hailing from the University of Santo Tomas played last June 21 as part of the annual and global Fête dela Musique music festival.

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INDEPENDENT artists hailing from the University of Santo Tomas played last June 21 as part of the annual and global Fête dela Musique music festival.

Bands such as the Farewell Fair Weather (FFW) was one of the Thomasian performers on the indie stage set up at 12 Monkeys Bar in Makati. The band is composed of Mic Manalo, Gani Palabyab, Ethan Muriel, Timothy Dadivas, and Kim Hue Jin; all, except for Muriel who is from the College of Fine Arts and Design, are from the Conservatory of Music.

“It started around January 2012,” said keyboardist Palabyab. “We wanted to form a band just to relax, just to release everything. Music has always been our channeling output for everything.”

Offering something new

The band claimed that their music came out naturally during their jam sessions and that they did not plan out their sound. They are not yet fully decided on what genre they are into but they currently identify it as ‘soul fusion’.

“The safest thing we call our genre is soul fusion – fusion because we have different influences,” Palabyab said.

Their set at Fête dela Musique was a medley of different genres, taking cues from soul, mellow, and rock.

“Feeling namin, hindi na kami mags-stick sa isang genre,” said vocalist Manalo. “One of our aims, siyempre as artists, we want to develop something. I think our goal is to parang maghain ng something new.”

“That’s the beauty of the independent scene, since we’re all new, you’re gonna hear something fresh,” Palabyab added.

All about connections

Palabyab stated that Farewell is struggling through the indie scene politically and financially. “It’s all about contact – the lesser contacts you have, the lesser chances you have of getting out there,” he said. “We’re still students and digitally, it’s so expensive to record, to invest in instruments and other equipments and produce CDs, when it comes to that, it’s a struggle talaga.”

FFW said that Thomasian indie bands like them have not been able to play in the campus. “Ang daming banda sa UST pero walang boses,” said Manalo.

Sud, Three.!, Autotelic, and Paranoid City are among the bands with Thomasian members who also played at Fête, but they never had the chance to perform in front of the Thomasian community.

“If you don’t have the friends or if you don’t have the connections, they’re not gonna pay attention to you. That’s reality,” stated Palabyab.

For example, Manalo argued that the underground scene from the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University is well-known and well-received within their campuses, whereas in the University of Santo Tomas, reception has been nothing but lukewarm even to the point where no recognition is given.

Pag dating sa UST parang wala silang [masasagot sa tanong] na, ‘Sino local band niyo?’ ‘Meroon ba tayo nun?’ Ang dami-dami, hindi nila alam,” she added.

Time to accept change

Chii Balanaa, member of the ambient electronic duo Three.!, said that the Thomasian community’s lack of support for its independent artists is rooted in bigoted classicalism. “UST Music kasi, sobrang classical nila. They’re so close-minded. Ang direksyon nila is classical lang,” he said. “Ako, yung ginagawa ko sa banda ko ngayon with my gadgets, never siya ia-accept as ‘real music’ sa Conservatory. Minsan, im-mock pa siya because of its simplicity,” he added.

Marc Reyes, a former Thomasian and guitarist for R&B band, Sud, shared the same opinion with Balanaa and believes that it is time to accept modern music for a good change.

Both Balanaa and Reyes believed that the Conservatory of Music is too centered on music theory. “Ang puno, hindi mo naman gagamitin lahat para mag-sculpt eh. Diba? Magch-chip away ka ng mga parts diba?” Balanaa said. Reyes added, “Okay yung may theory [pero] it makes you a better musician lang eh, it doesn’t make you the musician itself.”

Dalawa yun eh, may theory, and may emotion – balanced dapat yun; and UST thinks about theory lang palagi.

More room for independent bands

“We love UST man, and we want to play for UST, but UST never really gave us the opportunity. They haven’t really given us the opportunity yet,” said Palabyab. “Actually kami pwede kami kunin for free, we’re happy to play for free kung para lang sa fellow Thomasians,” said Muriel to which he jokingly added, “Pero kung meroong [payment], mas okay.”

“I think Thomasians need to support more local bands. It doesn’t have to be Farewell Fair Weather, we don’t really care. If they support us, thank you, pero para sa mga susunod na local bands, sana suportahan nila,” Manalo stated. “It’s a craft, and it’s a beautiful craft. Sana maappreciate siya ng mga fellow Thomasians,” she added.

Ang gusto lang din namin is sana bigyan din nila ng room yung mga independent bands para makita rin nila,” said Dadivas.

Palabyab suggested that a music festival, wherein underground Thomasian artists can participate in, should be organized so that more independent artists can be known inside the university.

Push through walls

Not all is bleak for the Thomasian indie artists. Dadivas and Reyes believe that the local independent scene will gradually rise in the next few years. “In time, naf-feel naman din namin na maririnig na rin kami ng UST,” said Dadivas.

Manalo encouraged her fellow artists to continue creating innovative art. “Wag kayong magpipigil. Gusto niyong mag-gawa ng kahit anong bago in music, or kahit anong form of art, okay lang yan. Basta wala kang naapakan na ibang tao. Basta hindi ka nakakasakit, okay lang yun. Express yourself in the right way,” she said.

Amidst the hardships experienced by many independent artists, Balanaa believed that they should never give up on their craft. “Kapag sumuko ka, susuko ka, walang mangyayari,” he said.

“Every band will hit a wall. Pero you have to push through the wall talaga to get to the other side. Just to get to the finish line,” said Reyes.

Kahit anong banggain niyo, banggain niyo lahat. Banggain niyo lahat ‘tas gibain niyo lahat,” said Balanaa.

Experiencing the solstice

Set to coincide with the summer solstice, Fête dela Musique’s band line-up at the indie stage was engineered to match the sun’s natural lighting over the Makati skyline that was seen from 12 Monkeys Bar.

Starting a few hours just before sundown with a chill set by indie-pop band, Ourselves the Elves, the show gradually progressed from slow jams to fun and preppy tunes as the bright afternoon sky faded into lighted skyscrapers, backdropped by a partly cloudy night sky.

Other performers included The Ransom Collective, Hana ACBD, The Jireh Calo Project, Jensen and the Flips, Sinyma, Identikit, Brisom, Carlos Castano, Tide/Edit, Earthmover, Pitik, Neverending Weekend, and Tarsius.

 

Farewell Fair Weather will be releasing a music video soon and is currently working on a full-length album. Their EP is available for purchase through their Facebook page.

Sud has recently released a music video for their single ‘Smilky‘. Their EP is available for streaming and download through their Bandcamp profile.

While Three.!’s EP is available for streaming and purchase through their Bandcamp profile.

Click here for more photos from the event.

Photo by Joshua Lugti

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Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo: An Endless Cycle

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose.

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Screengrab from Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo official trailer

Labels. There is a silent debate going on about whether labels are important or a factor for complications. Though there is a need to define relationships to know where to draw the line between friends and lovers, it is often terrifying to know what the truth really is. The word ‘commitment’ may seem an intimidating word for some, but it is also loved by many. 

Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo is one of the entries for the Cinema One Originals 2019. Written and directed by Denise O’Hara, who won an award for Best Director in this year’s Gawad Urian for a movie called Mamang, a film about dementia and the struggles of remembering one’s life. 

The film festival ran from November 7 until November 17 in selected malls and microcinemas. Starring Jane Oineza and JC Santos as Alex and Carlo, the story portrays the characters’ struggle in the process of falling in love, falling out, being confused, and being sure at the same time. 

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose. 

Alex, played by Jane Oineza, is a woman with big dreams and ambitions, eager to prove to the world that she is more than just a pretty face. Carlo, played by JC Santos, on the other hand, is your typical go-with-the-flow kind of guy who works in the field of graphic design and freelance work. The story progresses as the two create something that neither of them knows what is and what to call. 

By slowly cracking her shell and breaking down her walls, Carlo manages to see the parts of Alex that no one really sees. Underneath her cold gazes and intimidating aura, lies a sappy and marupok girl. One night, after planning and talking about the design for Alex’s upcoming project, a cockroach scare prompts a rush to the bedroom; ensuing a somewhat emotional conversation that turns the atmosphere into purple and red hazes. 

After that night, awkwardness sits between them in the office. Alex, trying to figure out what happened, asks Carlo directly; as to his reply, along with the words “Masaya pa rin naman ‘diba?” creates a questionable feeling both to the characters and the audience. 

Stemming from the title itself, the movie—from start to finish—draws a problematic and complicated cycle that reflects dating and almost-dating. The dialogues lacked a bit of emotional appeal and the concreteness of thought cannot be easily grasped. The movie has a back and forth sequence, showing the past and the present, how the moments came to be, what arguments were thrown out to get to the scene where they chase each other in the sidewalk with pain and hesitation in their eyes. 

Cinematography-wise, the color palette of the film shifts along with the emotion that is being presented on the screen, making up for the lack of substance in the exchange of dialogues. It is a mess, paralleling to Alex and Carlos’ relationship, the shaky camera angles and the abrupt shift from one scene to another provides support in pulling off the movie’s complicated narrative. It could have had more backstory and fewer gaps in the storyline but it somehow works as it leaves you hanging and still questioning what happened. It keeps you in the cycle even though you have stepped out of the cinema already. 

Filled with contradictions and trouble waiting to happen, O’Hara’s work garners attention from those who are in the same position. The film dwells on complex-minded characters, pretty much like our generation, and their decisions on whether they should leave or keep fighting for something that is vague. It is a ticking time bomb of tears and regret or maybe, just maybe, something magical and worthwhile. 

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Tia Madre, psychotic yet serene

Tia Madre seemingly portrays a fragmented storyline needing more fortifications—leaving the audience more confused than impressed. While the story can sometimes be disordered and inconsistent, the character-centric story invokes superb acting.

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Tia Madre
Screengrab from Tia Madre’s Official Trailer

Rising director Eve Baswel arrives with her first-ever horror feature film, Tia Madre. This 15th year of the Cinema One Originals, the film entered the list of finalists gracing Filipino screens with her daunting horror film.

Opening with a puff, Emilia, actress Cherie Gil’s character, smokes in a faraway forest—setting the film’s ominous atmosphere. Her daughter Camille, played by child-actress Jana Agoncillo, follows her everywhere. Spurned by a former lover, Emilia is driven to depression, smoking and alcoholism. The move to an old house prompts dark changes immediately noticed by her daughter.  

Hyper-active and imaginative, Camille’s budding interest in Filipino mythology, especially in among the engkanto, prompt her vivid mind to one wild conclusion to the next. With the abuse that Emilia inflicts upon her daughter, Camille starts to associate the aggressive characteristics of her mother to an engkanto, blurring the lines between hallucinations and reality. 

Overall, the film has great cinematography. To an extent, some effects and musical scores undermine certain scenes, trying its best to convey terror and complexity. At certain points in the film, Tia Madre seemingly portrays a fragmented storyline needing more fortifications—leaving the audience more confused than impressed. While the story can sometimes be disordered and inconsistent, the character-centric story invokes superb acting. 

Jana Agoncillo’s portrayal of eccentric and peculiar Camille is a gem alongside veteran Cherie Gil. Despite its flaws, the film has the uncanny ability to get under the skin—making the audience anticipate more. 

Baswel’s directorial debut was worth the build-up. One of the eight films for Cinema One Originals’s 15th year line-up, Tia Madre is screened in selected cinemas including TriNoma, Glorietta, Gateway, Ayala Manila Bay, and Power Plant Makati through November 7 to 17. 

Additional screenings also commence at Evia Lifestyle, Cinema Centenario, Cinema ’76, Black Maria, UP Cine Adarna, FDCP Cinematheque Manila and Vista Cinemas in Iloilo.

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Cheering for the Cheerleaders

“Ilang gabi naming siyang pinagpractice-an, ilang gabi naming siyang iniyakan tapos six minutes lang naming siya ipapakita sa buong sambayanan.”

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Photo by Alec Go

In every game at any sport, the cheerleaders’ presence are always seen, if not, heard. As an instigator of spirit in both the audience and in the game, they are the vital voice and image of encouragement— in leading chants, “Go USTe!” and representing the University’s growl. 

Their astonishing air times cement the Salinggawi Dance Troupe’s excellence in the eyes of Thomasians. For Querstine Flandez, this is more than a cheer dance, this is the drive that they carry within themselves.

Querstine, who calls herself as Q, has been an athlete under Salinggawi for the last six years. Pumped up for the Cheerdance Competition this upcoming November 17, Q shares in an interview with TomasinoWeb, “I’m very thankful for Salinggawi because malayo ako sa [immediate] family ko. So, sobrang minahal ako ng Salinggawi at tinanggap ako ng buo.” The sport has become a second family, bringing out the best in her.

Years of performing for ‘Gawi has garnered numerous recollections of memories and experiences both—molding who she is today. Unforgettable, like her debut in CDC, opening her eyes to how the dance troupe tackles the competition. There are also memories that serve as lessons, undesirable injuries and misapprehension with teammates. These experiences are unavoidable and part of the training. Nevertheless, this never stopped her from pursuing and showing the best of her abilities. 

Since the competition is nearly here, Salinggawi is preparing for their grand theme, training harder than before. Q and her teammates are filled with excitement, toppling their nervous thoughts. It helps that the team cannot wait to exhibit their striking air time to the rest of the world. 

“You’re like in Cloud 9,” Querstine exclaims. While in the air, she emphasizes that trust is not built on whether her teammates will be able to catch her, but it’s also how they make you feel that they trust you as well. It goes both ways. 

 

 

Querstine Flandez during a practice of Salinggawi a week before the 2019 UAAP Cheerdance Competition | Larizza Lucas/TomasinoWeb

From her debut all those years ago, Querstine’s sentiments remain unchanged—their purpose is clear. The black, gold and white crowd is the most imperative symbol in every game. For her, the means and ends of Salinggawi is esteem. “Kung gaano minamahal ng UST ang Salinggawi at kung gaano din nagmamahal ang Salinggawi sa UST,” she explains. With the competition fast approaching, the Thomasian community’s fervor makes them feel like they are not alone in this journey.

Heartbreak is a constant part of every competition. In this case, last year’s defeat in the UAAP season. Seemingly, this does not halt Q’s mindset of aiming for a better performance in her sixth and last year of being an athlete, “Sa pagiging Thomasian mo, kahit matalo ka, andiyan pa rin sila para sayo.

Expectations and pressure from the UST community is evident in the atmosphere, accelerated when the team released teasers with the hashtag #OneFORESTpaña! When asked as to how the team handles outlooks from the university, Q believes that inner circle character-building comes first—how they fight for it and to whom they offer their countless routines.

This is the result of their blood, sweat and tears, an offering of their efforts first for themselves then to the public. This tactic allows them to tackle the pressure from the outside of their circle. 

Effort, as accentuated by the team, are the days they offered themselves in the mat and the innumerable amount of routines. “Ilang gabi naming siyang pinagpractice-an, ilang gabi naming siyang iniyakan tapos six minutes lang naming siya ipapakita sa buong sambayanan,” Querstine laments. 

To better understand Salinggawi, one must place their feet in their training shoes first—walking by the routine that the team follows is not an easy task for the light-hearted. Commonly, they train from Monday to Saturday, from 6:00 in the evening down to 10:00 PM. When its off-season, trainings are by segment with basics and foundations but shift to quality-checking of routines by strengthening their formations when the competition is nearing.

The time has come and Salinggawi is prepared to serve not only the Thomasian community but also the vigorous spectators of this year’s UAAP CDC Season ’82. Support from various individuals will be witnessed by the team and they are more than ready to bring back the gold to where it belongs—to España and its tigers. 

Sa screams nila, sa sigaw nila ng ‘Go USTe!’, parang nah-hypen up kami. Nab-boost kami, nawawala yung pagod namin sa buong routine.”

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