Fil-Am rapper MBNel thrilled to perform during Cebu’s Sinulog 2024 festival

Charmie Joy Pagulong - The Philippine Star
Fil-Am rapper MBNel thrilled to perform during Cebu�s Sinulog 2024 festival
Filipino-American hip-hop artist MBNel — real name Jhonel Dongon — is thrilled to be performing at the Trademark Club in Cebu City on Sunday during the Sinulog Festival 2024 celebration. Photo shows MBNel during the interview with The STAR.

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino-American hip-hop artist MBNel, real name Jhonel Dongon, is thrilled to be performing at the Trademark Club in Cebu City on Sunday during the Sinulog Festival 2024 celebration. It comes full circle for him to put on a show in Cebu as he spent parts of his childhood there and is also the hometown of his mother.

MBNel, who understands “a little bit” of Bisaya and Tagalog, is currently in the Philippines for promotional activities and for his set on Sunday in Cebu. 

The last time that the 27-year-old rapper visited Cebu was when he was 11 years old. 

“It was dope,” he said to The STAR in a one-on-one interview last Wednesday when queried about his reaction upon learning that he will be performing in Cebu.  “It was super exciting just to see it ‘cause my family is from Cebu. So I had to do some research on (things that) I didn’t know ‘cause I’m like out of touch. But my parents know what it was and surprised when they’ve seen it.”

MBNel describes EZ Mil as ‘super talented’ and praises his songwriting creativity. – Photo from EZ Mil’s Instagram page

His family couldn’t believe it at first that he will be staging a show in the Queen City of the South. “But I have a few family members that (are) gonna come out to see me perform. A few some of them that I haven’t met yet. I met probably back when I visited when I was a kid. Yeah, they’re gonna come out and just see me perform. So it’s exciting.”

MBNel is also looking forward to seeing the parade in the Sinulog festival. He shared, “And I was seeing videos on YouTube and Instagram, and (the festival) looked super dope. And just trying the food out, and just there for the ride and see how it is.” 

It’s been only hours since he got to Manila during the interview and he’s having a good time already.  “I’ve only been here for… since last night. I haven’t gotten sleep really ‘cause I had to wake at 4 a.m. (for a separate media interview). But my time so far has been fun. 

“Like I don’t really do too much yet (but) we just tried a couple of restaurants and we walked around like this little mall area like 10 minutes away (from the hotel)... I’m excited to see what days (ahead) would be like.”

After visiting the Philippines, MBNel will be going back to the States and trying to put some music stuff together. 

Moreover, the title of his latest offering 8 To Infinity album is inspired by the street where he grew up in the States, 8th street in the south side Stockton, California.

“In a nutshell, (to describe the album) I just had to say the name 8 To Infinity. Its 8, it’s for the street I was raised on, the neighborhood area I was from. And to infinity, it’s like the infinity sign. It is the 8 sideways and taking to infinity is just taking it as far as I can,” explained MBNel.

The record showcased the different types of musical arrangements of his sounds. As he elaborated, “I wanted to try different kinds of sounds in my music so that’s why some songs are, like a rap band, other songs are heavy melody, some are like trying to sing like I just wanted to (come up with a) full package of different sounds sonically. Just to kinda entertain my different audiences that I have that like for different reasons.” 

He just “put in a whole package,” he added. 

Last year, MBNel shared the stage with fellow Filipino-American rapper EZ Mil in New York City’s SOB show as part of Filipino Heritage Month. 

He described EZ Mil as “super talented” and praised his songwriting creativity. 

“It was dope. We just got to the studio and we sent each other the tracks. He is super talented and his lyricism is dope, his penmanship. It was dope working with him.”

MBNel was also surprised when EZ Mil cited him as his music inspiration. “It was super dope ‘cause he is super talented and you know, hearing him kinda, it makes me wanna go hard on my lyrics too,” reacted MBNel. 

The two likewise came up with a song collaboration called Coin$ and plan to work on more music in the future.

“I feel like our chemistry is there,” he enthused. 

MBNel also named Filipino-American artists H.E.R. and Bruno Mars as his dream collaborators, given the opportunity. 

He ended the interview encouraging fans and aspiring artists to “keep believing in your dreams, “never give up,” and “whatever it is that you’re chasing, just chase it fully.”

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