There’s a lot we could say about what it truly means to be independent. Five hundred years ago, when Lapu-Lapu fought the Spanish colonizers on the shores of Mactan, Cebu, independence was defined as resisting conversion to Catholicism. Three centuries after that, as Jose Rizal was shot dead, independence meant being free from the oppressive Spanish rule. Today, when battles are no longer fought with spears and guns, when the tense political climate is enough to once again question our country’s independence, the definition of freedom becomes murky. One might ask — are we ever truly free?
It’s a lot to take in, really. Nowadays, activism is (literally) deemed as a criminal act. Activists are frowned upon, jailed, some even killed. At a time when there is an urgent need to defend our sovereignty, our rights and our freedom, how can we fight back?
This brings us to the Philpop Bootcamp 2019, a four-day intensive workshop for aspiring singer-songwriters all over the country. If you’re out there asking what music has to do with independence, here’s the short answer: a lot. Music and art have long been intertwined with advocacy and activism, and seeing how things are going right now in our country, I say it’s about time we make a sound.
The Philpop Music Foundation, more commonly known as Philpop, is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote Filipino music and hone the skills of young singer-songwriters from all over the country. It started as a songwriting contest in 2012, which later also included a series of music camps held in various locations in the country. Among some notable songs from the competition are Di Na Muli, written by Jazz Nicolas and Wally Acolola, which was performed by Itchyworms and used on the soundtrack to the Anne Curtis/Dingdong Dantes film Sid & Aya. Miguel and Paolo Guico of Ben&Ben are also alums of Philpop, finalists for the 2016 competition with their song Tinatangi.
Philpop mentors unite: Noel Cabangon, Jungee Marcelo, Gary Granada, Marlon Barnuevo, Lara Maigue, Ryan Cayabyab, Yumi Lacsamana, Jim Paredes, Trina Belamide, Jek Buenafe, Davey Langit are this year’s Philpop mentors.
Instead of just focusing on songwriting, this year’s Philpop Bootcamp in Batangas focused on honing the skills singer/songwriters, emphasizing how to become better performers. Mentored by some big names in the industry like singer/songwriter Noel Cabangon, composers Jungee Marcelo and Trina Belamide, and Philpop alums Yumi Lacsamana, Davey Langit and Jek Buenafe, the camp was packed with workshops and lectures on everything that a budding musician needs to know: from sharpening their compositions, to arranging music, to writing advocacy songs.
“Philpop is not just a contest,” notes Trina. “The bootcamp encourages community building. It encourages songwriters from all over the country to join. They are able to network with fellow songwriters, with access to music practitioners like the coaches and mentors. The fellows gain friendships and collaborators, and that is how the songwriting community flourishes.”
Collaboration is key: Maestro Ryan Cayabyab and Jungee Marcelo mentor the fellows on the basics of songwriting.
Done in partnership with the National Quincentennial Committee, the boot camp hosted a songwriting contest, inviting the fellows to write contemporary advocacy songs to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Victory at Mactan. “We wanted to come up with quality compositions that will be part of the Philippine music catalogue,” Noel shares. “We partnered with the NQC to focus on advocacy writing. Writing for advocacy is different from writing regular pop music. Music is a very powerful tool to encourage love for country.”
Philpop executive director Dinah Remolacio shares that this year’s boot camp also aimed to diversify the newest pool of songwriters. “We wanted to solve the problem na, ‘Bakit puro na lang taga-Maynila ang nananalo sa Philpop?’ So we reached out to a lot of places. And we encourage our fellows to write in their vernacular. Hindi kailangan na Tagalog or English lang. It can be Hiligaynon or Cebuano. We believe that inclusivity is one of the best ways to diversify the talent.”
Filipino camp rock: Aspiring singer-songwriters from all over the country attended the Philpop Bootcamp 2019 in Batangas.
Bagani by Roel Rostata and Mactan by Kian Dionisio were the top two winners of the songwriting contest, and these songs will be included in NQC’s digital album to be released later this year.
As the workshop came to an end, fellows and mentors shared some teary smiles and hugs — proof of how welcoming and nurturing the local songwriting community is. Fellows shared generous applause as their peers performed onstage, smiles and hugs were exchanged between collaborators, and the mentors gave out some last words of advice. Maestro Ryan Cayabyab aptly concluded the boot camp with reminders for young musicians: “Be a good and kind person. Be a true Filipino.”
Visit Philpop’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/philpopmusic for more details.