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Natural wonders |


Natural wonders

- Micaela Benedicto - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - We are sitting in silence at a diner on Bedford Avenue, eating meatballs, counting the minutes to our NYC debut.

My brother Mike and I arrived in New York on a chilly Monday evening in May 2012, weary and sleep-deprived. On the plane, we had the misfortune of sitting next to an unruly man who drank incessantly and spat frequently on the floor. Eight TV episodes and half a paperback later, we rode an unofficial “taxi” to Mark Olivan’s midtown apartment, staring out the window and filled with wonder.

A few days before the show, we were running around the city looking for equipment. Amid the mad rush, I tried to point out every famous spot we encountered — “Look, the Public Library! The Empire State! Times Square! Other Music! Look, pizza!” We ventured into Brooklyn to meet James Baluyut of +/-, who was kind enough to lend us his guitar.

On Thursday, Mike fell sick and cursed the man on the plane for giving him mono. I was also sick for two days (probably psychosomatic sibling empathy) and coughed blood. Mark helped us fashion a complicated line of cables and we rehearsed in bed with his speakers. We felt anxious but also amused at this fun setup, which gives new meaning to the phrase “bedroom pop.”

NYC Pop Fest

It is Saturday May 19 — the day of our NYC Popfest show. I wake up at six and head out for coffee. I sing our entire set under my breath while standing next to the doorman. I feel normal!

Micalela and Mike Benedicto of Outerhope, with brother Bobby and Allan Lumba of Multo

I go back indoors and find Mike in bed, looking like death. This makes me freak out inside, but I try my best to assure him that everything will be fine.

We arrive at Williamsburg and the day is suddenly gorgeous and sunny. The first person we run into is Allan Lumba (of Multo). Grateful to see a dearly missed friend, we walk down to Spike Hill where our first show is about to begin.

Dale Marquez arrives, looking worried (he is performing with us on the Some Gorgeous Accident song Panorama). We had met the NYC popfest organizers, Maz and Clyde, the day before. They had told us kindly, “We read your tweet. Don’t be scared!”

We do a quick sound check and begin our first song, Lost in Numbers. I am overcome with fear and could feel my cheeks burning, but upon looking around and spotting familiar faces, I see that everyone in the room is quietly listening. A number of them are smiling. I think we’re doing all right.

Later, we have the pleasure of meeting Alicia of the amazing Cola Jet Set, and Danny and Jen of my favorite band, Seapony. We meet the Gil, Filipino bassist of The Secret History, who is wonderful and supportive.

The next day, we are happily reunited with our brother Bobby, and we make our way to Littlefield. Allan buys me a beer and says, “I’m really proud of you guys. You killed it last night.” I say, “Is that nationalism?” Bobby chuckles. “Maybe,“Allan says, “but it’s also friendship.” I down my drink and tell him stories about our cat, but I’m deeply moved by what he said.

The band playing at Pianos in New York City

Later, Mark borrows his friend’s phone to read a review at It says, “Michael and Micaela blew away the crowd with their dreamy sound. It’s hard to get a crowd completely transfixed, but that’s exactly what they were as the duo played their set. Bravo, Outerhope.” His friend needs his phone back. “I had to read it thrice to make sure it was real,” I say sheepishly.

On Monday we play at the NYC Popfest hangover show at The Rock Shop. We have a blast getting to know the members of Orca Team, White Town, Sleuth, and Burning Hearts. The conversations involve vocal harmony, Indietracks, Berlin, thrift-shopping, day jobs, stand-up comedy, and Star Trek. We meet Beverly of MTV Iggy, who wrote an astonishing review: “Outerhope recreates the sunny outdoors of all the summers you can’t quite remember. The audience was stilled, hushed, maybe even a little entranced, but not bored. No one yawns in the presence of a natural wonder.”

Clyde books us another show at Pianos. We fly to San Francisco and we have a lovely time. SF Popfest’s Aaron and Debbie are warm and welcoming. A man in the audience tells us we stole the show, and a girl confides that we were the highlight of her night. We meet fellow Filipino indie pop-lovers who took photos and bought us hotdogs on the street. Aaron tells us he hopes we can come back. Everyone is amazed at how far we traveled to do this.

Soon we are back in New York, and a flurry of events follows — we hang out with Bobby, explore the city, scour thrift shops, watch bands we love. A hundred subway rides later, we say goodbye to our brother. We see Marjorie Elliot play jazz at her Harlem apartment, in memory of her two sons who had died. The music reminds me of my dad and I tear up when they play There Will Never Be Another You

We say goodbye to Mark. Not only did he risk his health housing two neurotic siblings with mono, he also took a real, brave chance on us. We give him a new American Apparel gym bag, but it’s definitely not enough. 

On the plane ride home, we’re still arguing about New Girl. Four US shows later, few things have changed. My kneecaps hurt like hell but I have nothing to complain about. The trip taught me new things about music, self-belief, and friendships. I think about our friends back home who ceaselessly helped us raise funds to go on this tour. I think about my brother, the one who lives so far away. I think about my brother in the next seat and how far we’ve come from being little kids singing in the back of the family car, and how we are essentially still the same people.

I think about a scene eight years ago, when I quit my 9-to-5. The man at the café next door had asked me, “What now?” I had said, without blinking, “I’m going to start a band.”

* * *

Listen to Outerhope at

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