We need to talk about your music festival

It’s not like I’m going, but I do know that there need to be more productive discussions that don’t involve *gasp* taxpayer’s money or *GASP!* questionable taste, and worst of all questionable ethics. Some of those things have yet to be proven anyway. Others are a matter of perspective. The Peppers have a lot of fans…and that’s great! Isn’t that why they were called in to play this thing?

That I can refer to it as “your” music festival, and still risk being blocked on twitter or sued for libel says a lot though–especially if you’ll be pitching your tent beneath a banner that carries the name of a country I was born in as well.

Which brings me to my first point:

Ultimately, what I think is (because I’m entitled to an opinion) the problem with the Music Festival that will not be named is one of nomenclature. It’s not only a matter of what’s in a name, considering how difficult it would be to represent the Philippines, island for island, but the Music Festival part. Let’s not kid ourselves about this festival business: 8 to 20ish grand is not just going to buy you a ticket to see all these local and international acts, it buys you the illusion of safety that comes with it.

Kind of like this:


When it comes to the word “festival” though, there are problems with pegging a ticket price at an amount which will also serve to alienate. Misappropriating the vocabulary of public space to mediate an alternative cultural expression, i.e. rock music (do kids today still say “rock”?) is just…shitty. It nullifies any potential for public engagement by carving out boundaries within an already fragmented society.

This would be a lot simpler if it were just a matter of shelling out for a weekend in Clark to see some bands, but there’s been an absence of other channels to expand and develop an audience for the alternative–which is how we can safely characterize many of the acts on this lineup–and venues such as festivals are crucial forms of both public engagement and cultural development. It makes very little sense that we circulate ads and platitudes about “Filipino creativity” and how we’re basically the greatest musicians the world has ever seen (I mean have you seen how well we perform on cruise ships and American Idol?!), when we can’t even get the message through on our own shores.

This is also why it’s so tragic that there are no more genre-specific radio stations, because no matter what’s been written about the internet as a forum for attracting audiences, what eventually reaches you ears is not in the airwaves. It’s not something you run into when you board a jeep or just happen to be browsing aimlessly in a department store. The consumption one engages in online is something else entirely, and it’s not as egalitarian as we’d like to think.

This is where low-priced, if not free, festivals tend to pick up the slack, and this has to be the greatest shortcoming of the Music Festival that will not be named. The live performance has gone from being a confirmation of fandom to a gateway to cultural expression. You discover what else is on the lineup through its association with the headliner—assuming there is any association at all.

Here’s another example so we can stop pretending this upcoming shindig is some kind of milestone:

(yeah, I know this wasn’t what your people had in mind when you guys said “Music” festival…but…)

Which brings us to the music: The problem with any poster boasting of a mile-long lineup is not only that some names will be on top, but they will be larger than anything else in the frame; thus drawing attention not to the work these artists do, but the benediction they’re given through the company they keep, gunning the very same engine of celebrification used to sell everything else in this country. With the way the line-up is constructed, it’s not about seeing an act, but about being in the presence of an endorser.

So what makes this even funnier (if it’s worth the laugh) is that for an event that is so problematically named—that calls itself a music festival, despite promoting itself in a way that has so little concern with both music and festivals—all it really has to peddle are names. As if to say that the only way to make certain artists worth watching is to highlight who they’re with. As if the only way a Filipino act can sell records and cultivate a following on the global and globalized platform that is music production is by being associated with…

The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

It’s not even that I don’t like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s just that so much arrogance goes with enlisting an act who will siphon a massive portion of the event’s resources for the sake of capturing an audience that has existed since I was in grade school.

For a festival that claims to believe in Filipino music, plastering one “big name” over dozens of tiny others only speaks of the opposite: it testifies to a lack of faith in what local talent has to offer. It insults both the capacity of the performer to draw a crowd and the agency of the audience to make a choice.

And of course, it had to be called what it’s called.


Children, when they become teenagers and then young adults, grow unforgiving. Anything but perfection is pathos. Children are judgmental on an Old Testament level. All errors are unforgivable, as if a contract of perfection has been broken.
Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King

When I was 14, one of my good friends was a professional dancer who was taking classes at the same studio where my sister and I went. This friend did not have it easy, and looking back, I now see how simple it was for me to either romanticize or oversimplify what her life may have been like. She was, to my mind, an adult: an awe-inducing, beautiful, specimen of adulthood who either achieved or failed with nothing else in between. One night, I ran into her outside an Italian restaurant in Shangri-la, and in my head she was smoking, but come to think of it that wasn’t possible given that we were in a mall. In my head, she was smoking because (thinking about it now, at least) she really needed to talk to someone, anyone.

That I hardly knew her at the time did not seem to matter. Compounded with my being a child, it became a little strange that she would tell me about things like getting hit by a boyfriend, her job as a dancer in a club, and other fleeting, nail-and-bail type relationships that I–at 14–could not really be expected to understand. But she told me these things anyway, and there’s a sense of respect and generosity to it that I’ve only come to fully appreciate now, 14 years later. (It is also possible that she was just very drunk)

She was a friend, and being forced to look at the the differences between my life and hers (with her having the generosity not to undermine my intelligence, or stop and think, “Wait, why am I telling a 14 year old about domestic violence?”) forced me to understand the massive grey area that most of my relationships would later inhabit. After all of that, she was okay; we called it a night, and went home with a clearer picture of each other, as people, as human beings, as microcosms of this condition of being forced to hang out on a rock that’s suspended in mid-air, loving some, tolerating everyone else, and trying not to lose the plot. She wasn’t always a good person, but no one is ever always a good person; but the stories we tell our friends about ourselves fill a gap that would otherwise be filled by really good literature. The problem is people here don’t really read.

Anyway, back to regular programming:

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

I started paying for my own rent, and everything that comes with it: bought a couch, bought a refrigerator. I am now the proud owner of an Aryx retractable mop.

I also went to Europe for a crash course in whatever the hell Former West was (Documents, Constellations, Prospects, etc., most of the conference dealt with the question “What is the former west?” so there you have it. It’s not easy to talk about the end of capitalism if you’re from a country where it’s barely even spread its evil agenda–at least not in the way it’s supposed to, if there is such a thing [whoops, rambled a bit!]), either way, that was fun. Other first places were Kaohsiung, Cheongju, and Yogyakarta.

I had to have a kitten put to sleep, but a week before I had to do that, she bit me. Because she was sick in the first place (hence having to be put to sleep), she couldn’t get anti-rabies shots. Which meant I had to get anti-rabies shots.

I got my first peer-reviewed article published, which should explain why everything else on the writing front has been pretty quiet. I wrote my first monograph, which will be out sometime next year. I would not have gotten that assignment without my internship at the Vargas Museum, which was also my first museum internship, for which I wrote the text for two of CANVAS’s exhibits.

It was also my first time to do a government-sponsored homestay, which involved cultural immersion and promotion of awesome Korean things and a Korean family being REALLY, REALLY NICE to me for all of three days in Cheongju.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

2012: “I have to start doing my own laundry!”

Well fuck, as if that can be avoided.

3. What do you wish you’d done more of?

More like “less of”. I wish I’d spent less time alone. It’s one thing to respect that I like having my own space, and giving myself time to think things through, but it has also taken a long time to find a group of people I really love and to have faith in the mutual benefits that our relationships involve. I needed to be there, too. I needed to see when it was my turn to go certain distances rather than just expecting people to meet me halfway.

Last year, I regretted being so impatient with my dad, and I followed through with that because we’re doing much better now.

4. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I didn’t really listen to anything besides Adam Green and Binki Shapiro’s album, mostly because I regret not having caught them play when I was in Berlin.

5. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I really missed watching TV.
Like, seriously, just having a mind-numbing stream of lights and colors hitting my face, backed with senseless running commentary.

I think I had a deadline that night, so I worked for most of the day, then hung out at Hit with Tara, Edu, Yasha, and Jomel so I could bask in the glory of their massive wall-sized TV-like thing (I actually can’t even remember if it was a projector rigged to a cable box). Then we ate cake.

I turned 28.

6. People:

I can’t think of anyone tougher than my sister, who has demonstrated nothing but grace in dealing with the curve balls she has been tossed this year.