I left my heart in Malasimbo
SUPREMO - Tim Yap (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2016 - 9:00am

Iam a Malasimbo virgin. Sure, I’ve heard all about the music and arts festival from friends and seen the snaps on social media, but I still had no preconceived notions of what to expect. All I knew about it was that it was held in Puerto Galera, a place I haven’t been to in years. The last time I was in this side of the world was more than a decade ago, for an unforgettable party on a secret island, but that felt like a lifetime ago.

Progress on modes of transportation lead to ease, and I’m happy I didn’t have to take the trek of car ride plus boat to the island — not that it doesn’t add to the adventure. Took a seaplane by Air Juan which flew me and some of the festival artists from the CCP complex straight to Puerto Galera — in 30 minutes! In an archipelago like the Philippines, I’m surprised we didn’t have it sooner. In this case, we did take a smooth and easy water landing.

A jeepney took us to Sunset on Aninuan Beach where we were welcomed by festival mainstay Lara Parpan and the warm smiles of resort owner Lexy Niederer. The hotel was fully booked by people from all over the world who were Malasimbo regulars. The vibe was chill and the food was good, I knew we were off to a  good start.

I arrived at the festival grounds on the second day, a specially assigned Malasimbo Festival jeepney took us to from the foot of Mount Malasimbo to the top. The jeepney felt like a space ship going up the mountain, so fast and with the cool weather and breeze entering the vehicle, added to the experience. And then all of a sudden, you are surrounded by lights and sounds and a giant stage. You are enveloped with larger than life installations of poppy fields, dreamcatchers, among other trippy sculptures. Welcome to the hippy happy playground of Malasimbo.

Myriad of characters

I felt like a kid in a school fair. It also didn’t feel like I was in the Philippines. It felt almost dream-like, with a myriad of characters just popping by, plus all the visual candy that the natural amphitheater provides. People are friendly, everyone seemed so happy to be in an environment that fosters good vibes and good music. It was relatively chill with people just sitting around and some dancing in front of the stage. I was quite surprised to see a lot of families attending the festival all together.

Artists hung out with other artists. Scenesters with newbies (me!), people from diverse fields all bonded by the gospel of good music and good company. There was so much respect for each other and for nature that I really salute the people behind the festival for doing this effort each year and making it better every time. It was awesome to finally see festival director Miro Grgic and wife Olivia D’Abovile-Grgic in action, and now that they are proud parents to baby Leo, the energy was more calm and joyful.

The music that night was something else. Jacob Collier from the UK brought the house down with his one man band set. He played all the instruments on stage, even his back up vocals were himself. The crowd loved him. Then there was this beat boxer Tom Tum from Australia who has an “orchestra in his mouth” teaming up with the Manila Symphony Orchestra. I particularly loved this musical mashup genius. The following night I was able to catch the sultry and soulful June Marieezy and the sexy grooves of Kat Agarrado and Sinosicat.

If there was action onstage, there was much action also offstage. People with funky lit up hula hoops, glow in the dark gadgets, poi and everything you would expect in a festival, but with less of a “last night of the world” feel. It was beautifully chill.

The food booths were something else, too.  Not to be missed is the now famous Daba Dobo, the D’Aboville’s version of adobo that’s become so famous with festival goers it already has people from all over the world starting franchises, according to Hubert D’Aboville. Ara his wife shared with me some kesong puti panini and told me how she managed to blend French and Filipino in the cuisine she serves in her household. What a yummy experience!

I went back to the city on Monday, with memories of the mountain, of its happy people and wonderful goal of bringing people together via good music and told myself, now I know what Malasimbo Magic is all about. See you again next year, Malasimbo!

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Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival is having a second weekend, with techno electro music this Easter. For more updates check out @malasimbofestival on IG. My IG, Twitter and snapchat, @officialtimyap.

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