DiscoManila Flyer

DISCOMANILA: Interview with Joel Quizon (aka DJ JoelQuiz)

DiscoManila Flyer

SuperAstig (SA): Tell us the story behind the genesis of this project.

Joel (JQ): Well it pretty much started a few years ago. I collect records, Filipino records mainly. So I put together some of the “danciest” Filipino records that I had, which were from the 70s and early 80s—the Manila Sound era—and I did a mix called “DiscoManila.” About a year and a half ago, Leigh Annek Hahn from Grand Performances posted the mix on Facebook. She was Facebook friends with Rani (de Leon) and he said, “Hey, I know the guy who did that (mix). That’s my friend.” So they were kind of talking back and forth about it. Then she came up with the idea of doing a show for this year’s summer schedule.

She approached us about a year ago, or less, and said, “Let’s do a show.” And I said, “Great! What do you mean? (laughs) Like a concert? Like bring all these people?” And she said, “Just get a band together.” I’m thinking “Oh, this is like a Filipino version of ‘The COMMITMENTS’. Get a band together to do a genre.”

My thing was: it would be nice to kind of have some of the legends, or at least some of the performers who lived there and performed it or who were in show bands during that time. They could add a kind of authenticity while also really shedding light on Filipino musical artists who maybe younger generation Filipinos in the U.S. had probably never heard of. Or whose names they might have heard but whose music they had never actually listened to—Hot Dog, V.S.T. & Co., and others, for example. So, that was our intent.

Then I discovered this company called Creative Concepts International, led by Jet Montelibano and his wife Edith Montelibano. Jet is one of the original members of Music & Magic, Kuh Ledesma’s original band. They started back in the late 70s and were one of the top and most popular show bands in the Philippines.



I asked them, “Do you guys have some connections to some talent, Filipino talent….in L.A.?” I was just going to try to focus on L.A., see who was based here, because of our budget. And they said, “We know everybody!” because they had booked everyone from VST and Boyfriends and Rico J. (Puno) and Hotdog. So I just worked with them in trying to find people, working within our budget. They know folks and are a part of the very rich Filipino and Filipino American music scene here in Southern California. And some of these local musicians have played in the show bands and disco bands of the late 70s, early 80s….like Music & Magic, New Minstrels, Something Special, Click.

We were going to try and get a few of the more well-known musical acts. But then, schedule and money didn’t work out. Last minute, when we were about to wrap up our roster, Jet and Edith got a hold of Spanky and Roger Rigor from VST. They’re both local. They live in Seattle and San Francisco. And it was like, “Great! Stop everything. Let’s add them to the roster.” It was like the best thing because VST is like a central band in the Manila Sound era.


VSTCo - Wall


SA: So you started this all as a record collector. What was it about that era’s music that you felt drawn to? Or why did you decide to focus on collecting that era?

JQ: Well, I left the Philippines in 1978. So I still remember the music. It’s still in the back of my head. You know, Florante and Freddie Aguilar and VST….along with the Jackson Five. I remember hearing that all, as a kid, growing up.

When I started collecting records….you know, as a record collector, you can do the rare grooves thing, look for the rare funk and it’s like, “Okay, everyone does that, looks for that.” Me, I usually go, “Okay, what do people not like…or are not looking for…that I can support?” I love helping the underdog.

So I went, “Wow, look at all this Filipino music that is in that era and is really funky.” And when you really start listening to these albums, they are really well-produced and really well-done and it’s really such a small time frame in the larger scheme of popular music (history). So like, everything is “rare,” right?


Cinderella - Front

Cinderella - Back


Fifteen years ago, I used to go on Ebay and find A LOT. Like you could get 10 records for (the price of) 20. You know, they’d be really cheap and I’d be able to find stuff. You know it would be someone from the Philippines selling them. Or someone in the Bay with their Tito’s or their dad’s records. They weren’t sought after…yet. But, in the last few years, people are actually looking for them. And a lot of it is just because of vinyl itself. Even in the Philippines, there’s like (regular) record swap meet nights, right?

SA: Yes! Even a record store in the SM Aura mall (at the Fort) was selling vinyl. It was VST, Boyfriends, and music of that era. So it’s both this resurgence of vinyl as well as their recognition of local music history.

JQ: Yeah, I think these millenials or record collectors or hipsters, whatever you want to call them, are the ones buying records. And if they are buying records in the Philippines, they are looking at their parents’ records. If you really want to look at records that were on vinyl and from the Philippines…I mean, you could pull out the Nora Aunor, the Pilita (Corrales) records (aside: Pilita did do a disco record….disco-ish). But, it also makes sense that they gravitate towards VST and those bands.




For me, I just loved dance music in general. I loved the history of disco in the United States and all over the world. So obviously, for me, disco in the Philippines is like, “Wow, that’s really interesting.” I didn’t live it. But just to know that that existed…and to do more research on its culture. That really was intriguing to me.

Then it became about finding the funkiest music out of the Philippines. And it’s hard. I could find an album and say, “Oh, look at this Rico J. Puno. It looks pretty funky. Look, he’s like got the hair and stuff.” But then you listen to it and it’s all ballads! (chuckles) So you gotta keep looking. And there are a few where it’s like, wow, that’s pretty cool and that’s pretty groovy. It’s got that backbeat. So when you dig and look for that stuff, you end up finding it in 1970s disco Filipino music.




SA: Earlier you mentioned the important role that Creative Concepts played in pulling the show together. Could you also walk us through the line-up for Saturday’s DiscoManila?

JQ: Initially, we were just going to get a house band. Like a really good solid house band. And I knew there was definitely a lot of (Filipino) musicians. But I didn’t know if there were ones that played that particular music, you know? But actually some do.

And so Creative Concepts knew some people and instead of…well, so we have one main house band that is going to play all the way through. But we also have vocal groups who are going to perform — The Union (Jet Montelibano, Jessica Casas, Nino de Jesus, JoAnn Visitacion, Fulton Montoya), 4700 Band (Maricar Cabrera, Ninette Tenza, Alvin Reyes, Val Villar), Eva Caparas & more. Many were former members of bands like New Minstrels and they have their own vocal bands around town. And they have played and continue to play at venues like Josephine’s in Cerritos. It’s a Filipino restaurant  where you can go to hear live music.




So we have the band, we have the vocalists, we have Spanky and Roger from VST who are the headliners. We basically broke up the show by artists, so it’s going to play like a mixtape of almost all dance music. There will be maybe one or two ballads. Almost all Filipino originals with a few non-Filipino songs thrown in for reference. Like, “Here’s Hagibis. But here’s a little bit of ‘In the Navy’” because Hagibis was like the Filipino version of the Village People. Mar Manuel was our music supervisor. Jet Montelibano was the stage and technical director for the show.

We also have Mark Redito (FKA Spazzkid) because we wanted to have someone who could bridge these eras of dance music. Really, disco is dance music and dance music has evolved into all these forms of electronic dance music, all kinds and types. So I wanted to show that it’s evolved. Also, Mark has sampled VST in some of his music. On his first record, he has this song called “Forgiveness” and he sampled (pretty liberally) VST. But you can’t recognize it until the end of it when he totally unwinds it and you hear it.


Mark Redito


So I thought, “Wow, it would be cool to have somebody who could say, this is where we were. This is what happened. And here’s the potential of what it’s morphed into.” At first, if you listen to Mark’s music, it sounds so different from disco. But he was actually informed by that music. I wanted someone that I know appreciated that music. He’s perfect to bridge that generation gap. We want people to come to the event, folks like Mark Redito who are younger and didn’t experience it (first hand). Or maybe others who didn’t listen to it as a kid. But Mark himself went back to Manila Sound because he’s just a music lover….who is also Filipino.

So he’s gonna do a short set to kick off the second half. I haven’t heard it yet. But we’ve been talking and he’s gonna remix some stuff…everything from VST to Donna Cruz. I don’t know what it’s gonna be but I know it’s gonna be good because he’s a really talented musician. The first time I hear it is probably going to be sound check or something. It’s exciting!

And I’m going to do a set of vinyl, just at the beginning, as a type of narrative of the show itself. It started with vinyl and it’s gone on from there. So it’s going to be a nice tribute to the records themselves.


DJ JoelQuiz


SA: I wanted to back to something you mentioned earlier, the whole difficulty of finding musicians who actually played Manila Sound. Because to say, “Oh, they don’t play Manila Sound,” that’s actually an interesting concept. What does Manila Sound sound like? Or what makes certain musicians more adept at playing Manila Sound?

JQ: I think…well there’s this thing about Filipinos and “local” stuff, right? So like, local music, that is, music made by Filipinos, is always seen as like “second-grade.” It’s “b-grade,” not as good as some “original.” So Filipinos tend to make fun of it, like, “Oh, it’s so baduy,” etcetera. I remember when I was in Manila, back in 2006, I was buying all these Pinoy rock CDs because they were so cheap. Like, “Why are these so cheap?” (grins) “$5 to buy a Juan de la Cruz CD.” And folks were asking me, “Why are you buying that stuff? It’s corny.” And I was like, “It’s not corny.” By the way, Juan de la Cruz records go for $500 now on EBay, just so you know. So we always look down on those things, for some reason.


Juan de la Cruz


But, for me, it’s like, “Why? This is so good!” And, for me, that Manila Sound era (sometimes) might sound like it was copying or mimicking Western music. But like we’re so good at like copying…So those musicians who came out of there were just like, really good musicians and were also good at copying certain styles. But I think that, living in the Philippines, there are just certain melodic sensibilities, a certain Filipino sound…

SA: Now that I’m thinking about it…you talked earlier about the band formation. And a lot of the time, like you said, we forget to think of disco music as black music. So, perhaps having a kind of funkiness is a musical quality that not all musicians might have. I’m just intrigued by it as a musician, as well. If you’re in a show band or a cover band then you should be able to play everything. But, it’s true, if there is a certain funk to music of that era, then you need to have that funkiness, something of that sensibility.

JQ: That’s really what made good show bands, some of the best show bands. They could do that funkiness and that’s what separated out the really good ones.

Talking with Jet, he played with Music & Magic but he also DJed at certain disco clubs and that’s totally his generation. So he was in his early 20s. Have you ever heard of this place called Coco Banana? It’s the Studio 54 of the Philippines. If you look it up, there are some photos…but yeah, it’s where all the socialites, all the celebrities…it’s where they would all go. Wow, that’s gotta be a movie or something…I mean, that scene (and its history) was so rich.


Coco Banana - Imee

Coco Banana Robot


But I mean, the history of show bands, I mean, people might make fun of it now. But there were really good musicians because they had to play everything. They could play bossanova. They could play disco. They could play rock. And I think that, just being flexible…I mean, you have to survive (over there). So if you’re a drummer in Manila, you better know how to play some James Brown or play some Eagles or whatever…to get a job.

I feel like some of the Philippines’ biggest “exports” back then were musicians. Now it’s like domestic workers. But then, it was like…my uncle, all my aunts were working in Singapore, they were working overseas doing jazz and big band. My uncle did all that stuff. He was a dancer, up into his 50s. But they all worked as performers overseas. It’s become it’s own tradition now.

But you know, it’s so funny. When people think “Filipino music,” they think we haven’t created our own “sound.”

SA: But, no! We have SO many types of music…

JQ: Right?! And with Manila Sound, when you think about it, there’s a certain melody, there’s a certain “breeziness” to it. That’s kind of hard to describe. But when you think about it (or hear it) you know, that’s Manila Sound.

You don’t really get it until you start listening to all types of Filipino music…from like, the folk to the R&B to the disco and then you’re like, “I kinda get it. I hear it now.” And then you totally lose it in OPM. It’s like, when you listen to OPM it’s like, “Where’s all the groove? Where’s all the funk?” (chuckles)

SA: All that sappiness, all that feeling…that’s Filipino too! (laughs) One last question: what do you envision or hope for August 13th?


Rani DiscoManila GP


JQ: Well, I imagine it like this: you’re walking from wherever you parked or took public transportation in downtown LA on a summer night…

You’re walking up Grand. Or you’re walking up the steps from Olive Street. And maybe you’re running late. But you can hear someone singing a VST song. In Tagalog. Emanating from a big outdoor theatre in downtown L.A. And for me, that will be it. I just want people to hear it. You could be a Filipino kid who’s never really put it into (historical) context. You could be a 20-year old who’s never even heard of this stuff. And then you could be like, “Oh yeah, my aunts, my uncles, my parents were grooving back then to this stuff.”

I just remember when I was DJing and I was playing my Filipino records at a certain gallery event. I played a certain Celeste Legaspi song (“Paibig Na Lubus-Lubos“). It was a cover of Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Making Love.” But it’s all in Tagalog. And it’s really beautiful. These three young girls, college kids, asked, “What is that you just played? I’ve never heard a Filipino song like that before.” And that was so sad. Because it’s there. But you’ve probably heard of Brazilian music or know about Fela Kuti or whatever. But it’s sad that we don’t even look to the Philippines or the history of its music.

So I just want those different people to, at least once, hear Filipino music from that era and then know it. And I think they will get it.

And then, of course, I just want people to have fun. Dance! Move your butt. Then you can get all nostalgic later.

For me, I just want to hear that music blasting out into the city. That’ll be it.


FLYING IPIS in L.A. | This SATURDAY, March 12th! | SXSW Fundraiser


Join Super Astig Blog & LockedDown Entertainment for this private in-studio gig with the FLYING IPIS band — all the way from Manila and en route to SXSW.



The first show/set is at 9pm. The second show/set is at 11pm. Doors open 30 minutes before each show/set. Due to building fire codes, only 20 guests are allowed in-studio PER set.

All proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales benefit the band’s costs in traveling to SXSW.


$20 (admission only)
$30 (admission + CD)
$40 (admission + FLYING IPIS T-shirt OR Tote bag)
$50 (admission + CD + T-shirt OR Tote Bag)

Album IpisTShirtBack IpisTShirtFront IpisTotes

To purchase tickets to 9pm show (DOORS OPEN 8:30pm), click here.

To purchase tickets to 11pm show (DOORS OPEN 10:30pm), click here.

Online ticket sales only. No tickets will be sold at the door. Exact venue/studio location will be sent to ticket holders after their purchase is confirmed. Ticket holders can pick up merch at gig.




Flying Ipis is an all-girl, garage punk rock quartet hailing from Manila, Philippines. Composed of Deng Garcia on vocals/guitars, Ymi Castel on guitars, Tanya Singh on bass, and Gaki Azurin on drums, the band’s notoriously cheeky name (“ipis” = “cockroach” in English) endeared them and their music to rising cult status. Originally formed in the corridors of an all-girl, Catholic high school, Flying Ipis debuted their music in the local circuit with THE FLYING EP in 2009.

In 2011, Flying Ipis formally joined LockedDown Entertainment, where they released their first full-length album, GIVE IPIS A CHANCE (2013) – which included their widely acclaimed singles, ‘Sssikreto’ and ‘Past is Past, Bitch!’ A cut from the same album, ‘This Song Is About You’ was a part of the soundtrack for the multi-awarded Cinemalaya film, ANG NAWAWALA (What Isn’t There, dir. Marie Jamora, 2012).

Known for their infectious, borderline dangerous, energy on stage, Flying Ipis successfully and consistently translates the palpable mania of their music from the studio to an audience of ranging scale. The band has opened for international acts Japandroids and Metric, played for local rock fests and festivals, notably the Oktoberfest, Fete de la Musique, and the Jack Daniel’s Indie Fest.

To check out their latest music & videos, visit their YouTube channel here


The Songs We Carry Project


Prof. Lucy Burns listens in to stories by Elaine Dolalas (#6) & Danessa Iniguito (#7) after dialing in to 323-736-4334. Part of #thesongswecarry a collab btw @search2involve #superastigblog @musiccenterla that premiered at today's #popupsla

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LA's own superstar Kennedy Kabasares dialed 323-736-4334 & pressed #4 for Faith Santilla's story & #5 for Joel Quizon's…and so should you! #thesongswecarry, a collab btw @search2involve #superastigblog @musiccenterla at today's #popupsla

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SIPA's own Francis & Via Cullado invite you to call 323-736-4334 and to press #8 to hear @waxstyles tales of driving to the Eheads & to press #9 to hear how @un_g tackled his fears on the way to a Sandwich show. These are both a part of #thesongswecarry (a collab btw SIPA, Super Astig Blog, & @musiccenterla )

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SIPA's own Alvin Nuval dialed 323-736-4334 & pressed #9 to hear his story…and so should you! Check out #thesongswecarry, a collaborative project btw @search2involve @superastigblog @musiccenterla and part of today's #popupsla

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Happening now: join us here on the plaza for Thriller dance warm-up as part of @musiccenterla Pop-Up Museum. #musiccenterla #popupsla #thesongswecarry

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Happening now: Super Astig's The Songs We Carry is so proud to be part of today's Storytelling Cluster & Pop Up Museum at @musiccenterla Plaza. Join us! Free & open to the public until 4pm today. #popupsla #thesongswecarry

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Alvin Nuval

Faith Santilla

Joel Quizon

Elaine Dolalas

Danessa Inguito

Michael Nailat

Gary Gabisan

Interview with Joel Quizon, Director of The Cotabato Sessions

Joel Quizon, Director of The Cotabato Sessions

Good friend and DJ partner on the past Raket & Rambol performance, has a cool project coming out called “The Cotabato Sessions.”

Joel is the director of the project and is working with world renowned composer / percussion, Susie Ibarra.

The Cotabato Sessions is a full length music album and 30 minute short music film that features the music legacy of one family, the Kalanduyans, in Cotabato City, Mindanao, Philippines.

Joel stopped by Super Astig HQ last Sunday (2/9) and we chatted about working with Susie Ibarra, shooting in Cotabato City and documenting indigenous Philippine music.

Take a listen below:

Part 1 – From Fan to Collaborator, Joel explains how he got involved with the project. (4:11)

Part 2 – Shooting in Cotabato City and Form Follows Function (5:40)

Part 3 – Documenting Music versus Staging Music (4:27)

Part 4 – What is the value of this film to Filipino-Americans? (4:30)

To donate funds to The Cotabato Sessions, check out their Kickstarter page:

Related Links:
Form Follows Function

Susie Ibarra

Download the full interview with Joel Quizon here:

RAKENROL Benefit Screening (12/05/2013)


On December 5th, 2013 a benefit screening of RAKENROL went down in Los Angeles. The event was organized by Quark, the cool folks of Appleseed LA and the proprietors of this blog to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines.

Quark Henares Post Benefit Screening of RAKENROL

The night consisted of a screening of Rakenrol, a QA session with Director Quark Henares & Writer Diego Castillo, performances by local LA area artist, Spazzkid and Sandwich from Manila.

Spazzkid Live

Opening up the night was Spazzkid. I’ve always been a big fan of Spazzkid’s music and it was a joy to see him work with visuals this time around. Peep his new music video here, beautiful stuff!

QA Session with Quark Henares & Diego Castillo

In this clip, Quark & Diego reveal the real-life inspiration for one of the songs in the film that goes “Salot! Salot! Salot sa Lipunan!” (Cancer, Cancer, Cancer to Society)

Sandwich Live – “Sunburn”

Sandwich closed out the night with “Sunburn.” Joining Sandwich on stage was Director Marie Jamora (Ang Nawawala) on snare and Rakenrol Director Quark Henares coupled with the Jack Lord Orchestra’s Christine on back up vocals. Even Raims’ nephew got on stage and folks who Sandwich borrowed gear from got to play.

Quark & Marie - Benefit Screening of RAKENROL

Overall, felt lots of love in the room and I know a good chuck of change was raised by the 200 folks in attendance. Hopefully, the funds and resources will go to the right place but that’s another story.


Related Links:
Sandwich’s Latest Album on iTunes- Fat Salt & Flame

Spazzkid on Bandcamp.com – http://spazzkid.bandcamp.com/

Cypress Junkies at Stones Throw vs Beat Junkies Warehouse Party

Cypress Junkies

Cypress Junkies is a DJ / percussion duo made up of percussionist Eric Bobo (Cypress Hill & Beastie Boys) and DJ Rhettmatic (Beat Junkies), hence where we get the name Cypress Junkies. Over the weekend, I checked them out at the Stones Throw vs. Beat Junkies warehouse party thrown by the good folks of Art Don’t Sleep.

Man, I was quite impressed.

I’ve seen percussionist / DJ performances before that seemed more visual spectacle than some thing musical. Cypress Junkies just didn’t sound like dudes banging on top of beats. Eric Bobo and Rhett played with the right touch that added extra dopeness to the songs they jammed on. Quite intricate to my ears.

I got to talk to Rhett at the end of the night and asked him how they got started. Rhettmatic said about three to four years ago Eric Bobo asked him to lay some scratches on a solo project of his. They continued to experiment and jam, and eventually developed into the live show they have going on today.

Scratch and Response

I really enjoyed the orchestrated call and response moments or shall we call it scratch and response moments Eric Bobo and Rhettmatic pulled off. The clip below isn’t from the warehouse party but an earlier performance. You can get a taste of scratch and response.


Listen to their Mixtape here:

Related Links:
StonesThrowVsBeatJunkies Party

Cypress Junkies

Art Don’t Sleep

Raket & Rambol: Audio Visions 1081 Magiks

Raket & Rambol

Last Saturday (09/21/13), DJ JoelQuiz and I performed our “Raket & Rambol: Audio Visions 1081 Magiks” for Kularts’ Make Your Own Revolution: Fictions of Dictatorship event.

Our performance took place at the legendary Bindlestiff Studio in the ever so vibrant and notorious Tenderloin district of San Francisco.

Check out the magik in the videos below.

The curators of the event (Prof. Lucy Burns UCLA & ang asawa ko, Prof. Christine Balance UCI) asked Joel and I to collaborate and produce a Martial Law themed performance.

We figured since…

  • Joel has deep knowledge and deep crates of original Pinoy music…
  • And I’ve been experimenting with video and visuals at my DJ gigs…
  • Plus both of us being big music and film nerds…

We thought of doing an improvised set of music and visuals that told an impressionistic story of Martial Law in the Philippines.

In the audience that night were award winning Philippine filmmakers Kidlat Tahimik (Mababangong Bangungot) and Auraeus Solito aka Kanakan Balintagos (Busong, Ang Huling El Bimbo – Eraserheads Music Video.)

Hey @joelquiz Kidlat said he enjoyed the performance! #myor #kularts #sf #bindlestiffstudio

@basyang76 & @joelquiz w/ director Auraeus Solito (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, Ang Huling -music video) post #makeyourownrevolution show last Sat.

Getting compliments from Kidlat and Kanakan at the end of the night was a real honor.

For those who checked out the performance here’s what we used…
Continue reading

Dead Man’s Party on a Saturday Night

With my regular Saturday night DJ gig canceled at the last minute, I find myself and a few friends at the Buccaneer Bar in the city of Sierra Madre on the outskirts of LA County.

Dead Man's Party

At the bar, there was a three piece band, playing mostly covers of the Beatles and Led Zepplin. Quite extraordinarily well, I might add. Later on I learn the musicians are seasoned session players that tour with arena packing classic rock acts.

After a few rounds of Pabst Blue Ribbon (from a tap), we hear the guitarist announce they’ll be playing a cover from the bassist’s old band, who just happen to be the bassist of Oingo Boingo.

Check out this version of “Dead Man’s Party”

If you don’t recognize the song, here’s the official music video.

Bet you didn’t know Iron Man and Rodney Dangerfield were in a movie together.

Now you know.

Related Links:

Wasak Future

On my last trip to the PI, I had the pleasure of opening up for Manila’s very own dynamic DJ duo The Diegos.

Today x Future Flyer

The venue was at this funky resto/bar/gallery/art space called Today x Future. The vibe of the place very much reminded me of spaces I use to work in the lower east side circa early 90s. Big shout out to bar owners, Chie and Sharon!




Below is a photo of The Diegos rocking an all vinyl set. The Diegos are Diego Mapa (Pedicab) and Diego Castillo (Sandwich) who work together as a Djing duo. You can check out one of their most recent remixes right here:

The Diegos

I played a cross-genre set that included mixing Toro Y Moi with Van Halen into some Soul Makousa. Surprisingly, everyone seemed to appreciate the musical taste and people actually danced. A DJ’s dream come true.

I was telling a friend at the night, when I need to find out what’s good these days, I ask folks in the Philippines cause they’re up on state side music but also on other sounds from around the world, which unfortunately never reach ‘Murica’s shores. So Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

Below is a picture of me (post DJ set and several rides on the Red Horse later), Diego C. (The Diegos) and fellow LA based Filmmaker/DJ Joel Quizon. Joel and Maya (another friend from LA) were in town working on their documentary.

Take a listen to Joel’s latest mix: Beat Soul Funk: The Pinoy Groove Experience


And finally here’s a video of Sunday longboarding through the leaves at UP.

Camera by Sir Raims, thanks for lending me the board!

Until the next adventure,

Para kay E/Heads

Filipino indie rockers, The Eraserheads, emerged during (and for) a Philippines-based generation growing up in the aftermath of martial law. Growing up under two decades of violent government-based suppression, some of these “martial law babies” sought respite for their cultural and political exhaustion and found refuge in the simple sounds and lyrics of the country’s homegrown version of the Fab Four.

For myself, The Eraserheads also came during a time of cultural exhaustion. By my third year as an undergrad at UC Berkeley, I grew tired and confused by “brown power” fronting and Sproul Plaza-style proclamations and propaganda. As a firm believer in the political power of the arts, I had worked on maganda magazine all during my college years and was beginning to feel at home in a little black box theatre called Bindlestiff Studio, in the heart of San Francisco’s South of Market Area (SoMA). In both of these places, I found a sense of belonging in the artistic work created by Filipino artists in the U.S. as well as in the plays, songs, and poetry of Philippines-based artists.

With a different type of politicized consciousness—based less in rhetoric and more in real-life—and a different type of cultural confidence (thanks to two years of Tagalog classes), I returned to the Philippines in 1997. I made a pact with myself that, on this trip, I would only speak Tagalog or Visayan—to my family, to people on the street, even with myself. At first, my cousins were playfully irritated with my obstinate attitude, wanting to hear their cousin’s American accent. After a few days, however, they learned to accept it while I learned the importance of listening—for intonation, for silences, for the power of what wasn’t being said—and learned to dream in other languages.

It was on this particular trip (as seemed to happen to other Fil-Ams who returned to the Philippines in the late 1990s) that I first heard The Eraserheads on the radio. Amid the saccharine sweet sounds of Bryan Adams’ ballads and MYMP’s cover songs, The E-heads’ original music—consisting of rock arrangements that worked in tandem with their vivid lyrical storytelling—struck an emotional chord with my own college-aged sentiments. Deeply ensconced in the constant rotation of “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” I too knew a thing or two about nostalgia for simpler times and for the “one that got away.”

Not until many years later (while researching the book that is still “in progress”) would I come to realize the cultural significance of this gang of four. How they battled their nation’s censors with songs that contained everyday curse words, psychedelic images, and messages of acceptance (and looking forward) for queer folks. How their success helped record companies believe in the “marketability” of local Pinoy musicians and helped inspire a new generation of indie rockers. How they were the first band from the Philippines to win MTV’s coveted Moon Man and accept the award on the international stage of Radio City Music Hall.

Despite these more easily recognizable historical events, the importance of The Eraserheads for a certain generation—one growing up in-between the 20th and 21st centuries, in-between America and the Philippines, in-between the way their parents imagined life in these two countries and the way they would end up living it themselves—remains in the way that their songs marked special moments in one’s own personal history. The joy of first loves. Life’s natural (and man-made) highs. Day-tripping exhilaration. The longing that comes with unbridgeable distances.

About this time last year, I found myself in a hotel room in Cebu City. Still basking in the after-glow of a free outdoor Rock Ed concert to celebrate the centennial of nationalist hero Jose Rizal’s birth, I uploaded onto Facebook a video of Paolo Santos’ live rendition of “Magasin” (later accompanied by Raimund Marasigan on drums) and tagged all those friends who I knew would understand. The first comment (“Walastik!”) came from my friend E. Fructuoso and, little did I know, it would be his last. Other friends informed me, a few hours later, that E. had passed away from a heart attack at the tender age of 44.

All these memories from San Francisco to the Manila Bay, and the magic they bestow, will be with me tomorrow night at the Regency Ballroom. It’s a show that me and over four hundred other fans have waited more than a decade to witness. Amid all the screams of excitement, I know that E. will be right there with us, smiling and singing along. – (Christine)


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