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Independent’s Day

Printed navy blue polo shirt, Human

MANILA, Philippines - Breaking molds and doing it their way in industries usually dominated by the storied and established, five young creatives are showing us how to be independent and live up to #PinoyPride — a perfect fit for this season’s top threads from Human, a local brand that’s always had its ear to the ground and a fresh take on Filipino fashion.

King Puentespina

22, musician, (soundcloud.com/crwnrecordings)

King is most popularly known as his musical alter-ego CRWN — EDM magician and producer of laid-back, smooth beats. With the steady rise of a local independent music scene that is somewhat outside of the local music industry, King is at the forefront with a following that, thanks to the Internet, reaches way beyond the archipelago. Recently, he’s been collaborating with local and international artists like Jess Connely and Kajo with the goal to show the world what Filipino musicians can do.

YOUNG STAR: What do you think of your side of the local music industry?

I think it’s like a new age of our industry in the Philippines, here in Manila. People are coming up with more and more songs that are more close to them and more personal. Now, ‘cause you share a song, you can easily record things. I think that we’re about to burst out. It’s weird. I never really think about the sides kasi. I think that mainly what you do is music, and music is music, whatever genre or style it is. People write those things for a reason, and the reason for mainstream music is making money. But me, as an artist who wants to create something new, something fresh for Manila, or for the Philippines — it’s a good side to be on. 

You’ve been pushing the industry forward. How are you doing it? Or how do you think you and other local musicians like your peers in Logiclub, are pushing it forward?

I think it’s trying to be different, but at the same time trying to be yourself. Like, keep it close to home. I mean, your experiences, the things you grew up [with]. It’s easier din for us, ‘cause we share the same vibe, we share the same vision of where we want the music industry to go.

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What do you think makes local music what it is?

I think people have the same stories around here, a lot of artists like that. It’s almost the same mentality for everyone.

What do you base your material on? What inspires your sound?

Everyday experiences — relationships, girls, the need for making something more than what I can achieve. I just wanna keep pushing myself. I’m very inspired to always push and push and stay hungry for more recognition for our country, or for what musicians here can do. I’d like to think that we can all be international.

So with all these local acts performing abroad — your band (She’s Only Sixteen) went to Taiwan, and BP Valenzuela performed in Singapore — what do you feel when you see them all making it internationally?

Great! It also shows that we can do something about whatever’s happening here. BP’s a really good friend of mine. Right now, in the state that we’re in... we’re all on a plateau right now, and I feel like the musicians — I feel like everyone, actually, is just waiting for that wave and sitting down trying to catch the next wave.

Printed navy blue polo shirt, Human

Thea de Rivera

 

 

23, restaurant owner, The Girl + The Bull and 12/10 (@theaderivera)

Thea means business, and not just because she’s one half of the duo that owns and manages The Girl + The Bull in BF Parañaque and 12/10 in Guijo St., Makati. She is in charge of the service end of the restaurants, manning the front of operations by taking care of customers and making sure that food comes out on time. In an industry where you’d think that a great deal of preparation is key when opening a restaurant, Thea and her partner Gab just “went into it,” serving up new ideas that left local foodies wanting more. After a year and a half of successful operations (and mouth-watering salmon kushiyaki) we can safely say that what they’ve been doing is working.

YOUNG STAR: You were both quite young when you first started, and you didn’t have much experience. People must have said something about that. What did you think about those reactions, and the initial response to the restaurant?

Well, I guess when it comes to peoples’ reactions it’s always about how we’re so young. But most of the reactions that we got were people looking up to us because we just did our thing at such a young age. It’s surprising and humbling at the same time because we didn’t know the impact would be this positive. Knowing that, we always try to put those who are inspired by us (especially our families) into consideration. We make sure that we really work hard because a lot of people are already inspired or supporting it. So we try to give back in that sense.

What do you think the local industry is like now?

Kasi when we started The Girl + The Bull, it was very unorthodox. We didn’t establish our market, or we didn’t study the BF market. At the time, it was more of self-expression rather than catering to what was going on. It was like an introduction of ourselves to the industry, and the industry to us also. Every day we were learning na, “Oh! The food industry is growing,” or “The service industry needs a lot of updating,” so it’s still a process. We never have a concrete idea.

You’ve been bringing so many new ideas to the local food industry. Based on what you’ve learned, is there anything you think it should do?

I guess what the local industry should realize is that it’s okay to just do your thing. You don’t have to adjust to any market, or you don’t have to pattern your style or your art into whatever is going on right now. Or if there’s a trend or whatever, you don’t have to follow those. Just be yourself, and people will recognize that more. Especially in the food industry, there are always trends. What we notice from other restaurants is that they try to ride those. For us, we try to follow our personality. We try to keep that to make sure we don’t lose ourselves in the process. You have to stay true to what you believe in. Because, especially what’s going on here in Manila, parang what’s going on in the States or Australia. I think the local industry should start believing in (its) art.

Do you think there’s a problem in our service industry? How do you think we can change that mindset?

One thing that Gab and I are doing right now is that... well, if you go (to our restaurants), you’d notice that most of the staff are our age. We get a lot of part-time students, or people like us. So what we try to do is encourage people to work with us to see how running a restaurant works, or running a business works because, in that case, I guess we get to inspire people to do their own thing as well. A lot of people apply because they wanna open their own restaurants or businesses and they wanna learn from us. Some establishments wouldn’t get those kinds of people, but for us, we encourage that because if we get to push people to do their own thing, then that’s one way that we try to help.

What do you see for the future? Is it promising?

Yeah, I guess. Right now, it’s already starting. I think that people are starting to realize and recognize that. From what I’m noticing, people are not as scared anymore to follow their passion. And of course, with the help of social media, everything is a lot easier. I guess in the future, I hope it’s like what’s happening now but times 10 or something. I really can’t say because I haven’t seen it, but from my point of view, I think it would really bloom later on.

In terms of the Filipino restaurant scene, that’s how you see it?

It’s already fast-growing, and I’m sure that it’ll be more established in the coming years. I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are a lot more homegrown restaurants popping up, or less commercial. A lot more restaurants are opening that aren’t in malls. A lot of restaurants are opening na rin because of the chefs, parang mas chef-driven na siya. I feel like the food industry is growing in that sense, but at the same time with the customers, what we noticed is that the people who are trying our food out are more adventurous. Before, we’d get customers who’d be like, “Wala ba kayong rice?” because Filipinos are used to pairing everything with rice. But now, whatever we serve them, they’ll be adventurous. It helps, customer-wise, because they’re more adventurous. And entrepreneurs would like to open their restaurants. It’s more for the art of making food now, not just like, yung mga franchise-franchise lang.

 

Regina de Vera

26, theater actress  (@regina_devera)

You may know Regina from the crowdfunder campaign that caused a stir in the Filipino online community, garnering widespread support but also some backlash. But whatever your opinion on the matter, you can’t deny the fact that she is one talented thespian, being one of 18 applicants admitted to Juillard (arguably one of the most prestigious drama schools in the world) out of 1,900. Before that, she kept herself busy by serving as a resident actor for CCP’s Tanghalang Pilipino. For Regina, the opportunities that can come up in four years in New York are endless, and she’s taking everything one step at a time.

YOUNG STAR: What do you think about peoples’ reaction to your #GoFundRegina campaign?

I actually intend to release a video about that. I think the various responses to the campaign says a lot about how the Filipino online community sees the relevance of art in the context of nation building. It also says a lot about how we encourage local artists to pursue our craft. It also says a lot about how people perceive the relevance of pursuing further studies abroad.

What do you think about the current state of Philippine theater?

I think it’s thriving. The good thing about this generation, at least from my point of view, is that this generation of local theater artists do not wait for other people to give them roles or give them opportunities to make plays. They create their own opportunities and they create their own platforms to do their work. So they make their own companies, and they just use social media to market their own plays, and they get their friends to direct, act and produce. So we’re very independent.

How do you think people can contribute to the industry?

Basically, watch more plays. The good thing about Rak of Aegis is that they continue to have reruns of that particular play. They developed an audience specifically for original Filipino musicals. So instead of just watching movies or watching Broadway plays because of the success of Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady and Rak of Aegis, more Filipinos are getting more acquainted with original Filipino musicals. And if the audience continues to come, instead of the average life span of a play in the Philippines, which is three weeks, pretty soon there could be a time where original Filipino materials can run for one year or two years just like on Broadway. Only if we develop the audience for that.

Do you have any personal goals related to that? Would you want to be part of something like that, that brings theater closer to Filipinos?

Oh yes, definitely. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I think one of the reasons that pushed me to finally tell people that I got into Julliard is not really to gain attention for myself. I came out also because I want people to know that someone who was born and raised here in the Philippines and someone who has been trained in local theater and original Filipino plays… someone who has been part of the Filipino theater community has made it to one of the most prestigious drama schools in the world. And that’s important because it means that homegrown local theater talent is... excellent. So if there’s one thing that the fundraising campaign has accomplished is to just bring awareness to local theater talent.

 

 

Zean Cabangis

30, artist (@zeancabangis)

Like every other young artist, Zean says that he owes his talent to his kapraningan, and his multi-tasking skills. Unlike most young artists, however, he was recently announced as one of the recipients of CCP’s 13 Artists Awards. The program is the institution’s oldest, and one of its most prestigious. Being chosen to be one of the 13 is a very, very big deal. Zean’s method of using emulsion transfers and acrylic to create his paintings is something that was well within the award criteria to “restrengthen and restructure” art making and thinking.

YOUNG STAR: You were chosen along with 12 other talented artists who took the “chance and risk to restructure, restrengthen, and renew art making and art thinking.” How do you think the 13 of you have been pushing the industry forward?

I don’t know, maybe by doing something new? Pero what’s new nowadays? Maybe by doing something we really want. Pero for me, I’m not really conscious sa magiging effect ng works ko once they’re shown to the public. I just try to do better every time I make a piece. Sabi nga ni Ely Buendia, “You’re only as good as your last song”

So your passion is art. What do you think of the industry now?

Now? Parang moving na. Kasi nanuod ako ng thesis defense recently sa (UP) Fine Arts. Napansin ko ang mga bata, parang mas daring na sila. ‘Yung major nila painting eh, pero konti lang nag-paint. Lahat nag-installation, 3D pieces. Nung time namin, gusto namin painting talaga.

A lot of people have been getting interested in art nowadays. You see through social media that lots of people are visiting museums and galleries. Based on that, how do you see the industry evolving in terms of appreciators?

Oo. Maganda nga, eh. Kasi parang mas naging open ‘yung tao. Dati parang, ilang sila magpunta sa galleries kasi napaka-formal. Ngayon, kahit sino puwede. Tapos pag-open ng (places like) Pinto (Art Gallery) — kahit sino puwedeng pumunta, kumain. Hindi lang art-art tinitingnan mo. Puwede kang mag-relax.

What influences you?

Yun nga, yung kapraningan ko lang talaga. Tsaka gusto ko lang mag-experiment every time. Tsaka gusto ko kung maganda ang work ko before, gagawin ko mas maganda dapat ngayon. Ma-challenge. Gusto ko lang magkamali, kasi feeling ko dun ko madi-discover ng something new.

How do you think you’ve been pushing the art scene forward?

Feel ko selfish ako, eh. Dun ako sa studio ko, wala akong pakialam sa outside world. Don’t compromise. Napaka-cliché, pero yan. Tapos wag mong sundin ‘yung market, yung trend.

Style ko kasi, hindi siya paint talaga, transfer. Kinabahan ako na hindi siya itanggap, pero kebs.

 

 

RJ Santos

25, designer and owner, Randolf clothing/photographer (@rjcsantos)

It may come as a surprise to everyone familiar with the clothing brand Randolf, but owner RJ confesses that he isn’t that fashionable. Though he loves designing clothes (80 percent of the items he sells in his store are made by him), he likes to be practical. “When I dress up, I wanna make sure that I can work in it, that I can move in it,” he explains. Fashion sensibilities aside, RJ came to our shoot in a “reject” shirt from his line: a simple white tee adorned with a drawing of Anna Wintour’s face with a pink slash on top of it.

YOUNG STAR: So your brand is something new compared to what people are used to. How do you think you’ve been pushing the industry forward with what you do?

Well, I just do what I like. I just make the things that I want. It’s very personal. It’s not naman more of pushing the industry, but more na... I just do what I like doing.

How has doing what you want worked out so far?

Okay lang naman. The first year, it wasn’t really that great, pero after the first year, medyo nag-pick up na rin siya, tas mas marami na nag-notice. ‘Cause with my first year, I just experimented. I did not release a collection until last December. So basically, inaral ko muna what I really want before putting everything else out.

What do you think draws people to buy local clothes?

May pagka-unique siya. Like if you’re gonna buy in fast fashion, ang dami ‘nun. Parang isang style, hundreds. With the brands in SOMA, one style is mga five pieces lang, six pieces lang. With my particular brand, mas na-attract sila sa mga prints na ginagawa ko.

What has the response been in general?

Yun nga, they’ve been saying they they like the fit and some of the prints, ‘tas ‘yung collection ko mostly is with pop art, pop culture, ganyan. And I like parang spoof. May ginawa akong picture — dinraw ko si Kim Kardashian crying. So ‘yun. So far, positive pa naman.

What do you see for the future of your brand, and local fashion in general?

Ngayon kasi, nagiging OK siya. Pero feeling ko kailangan natin nang more avenues aside from (places like independent brand mecca) SOMA where more local brands can sell para mas lumawak ‘yung market ng indie brands. I guess ‘yung mga local brands, ‘yung big brands, they’ve been doing well naman. My focus is on the independent brands though. For me, ‘yung mga independent brands, they help in creating an image for our industry. It’s not the fast fashion local brands who create an image. Like for example, with London, you have an image of how London fashion is, and what Japanese fashion is, what New York fashion is. If you want that to happen in the Philippines, you need to really support the designers and the local brands because mas catered sila ‘dun sa market.

Do you think we’re getting our own identity? Is it getting there?

Not yet? I guess meron na, pero hindi pa siya ganoon kalaki. Nandun pa tayo sa phase ng Uniqlo, Cotton On, Forever 21, pero I believe na mao-oversaturate ‘yun. If we keep pushing, it will happen.

Photos by Everywhere We Shoot

Sittings by Raymond Ang

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