Malaya Music Festival 2022: The sound of freedom

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
Malaya Music Festival 2022: The sound of freedom
Zack Tabudlo.

If music was the cure-all that would liberate everyone from the threat of the pandemic, the live performances of new breed artists at the Malaya Music Festival 2022 last Saturday at the Okada Manila would be the perfect booster shot.

For more than five hours, from 6 p.m. to past 11 p.m., the white-sneakers crowd of the young ones, and the few once-young, swayed to the music of Nobita, The Juans, I Belong to the Zoo, Adie, and Zack Tabudlo at Cove Manila, the state-of-the-art performances venue of Okada Manila. Five hours was no joke for concert-goers who had to stand up all throughout the gigs. But to souls and spirits who have missed going to concerts for more than two years because of the pandemic, the long hours were peanuts to their varicose veins, especially when they were listening to good Filipino music.

(The following day, the hotel saw the performances of a more established set of artists like Ben&Ben, Urbandub, Mayonnaise, Moonstar88, and Imago.)

The gates of Cove Manila opened at 4 p.m. and already the venue was packed. My niece Alex Tenorio and I arrived at 5 p.m. and for the first time in a long, long while we were attending a concert. It was surreal and celebratory. It was freedom day, an apt description for the Malaya Music Festival, a commitment, an appreciation, and an ode of Okada Manila to the music artistry of the Filipino artists. And Okada did not disappoint the crowd with the mounting of the music fest.


Nobita started the ball of bands rolling — with six or seven songs for 45 minutes. (Each band rendered 45 minutes of pure, unadulterated performance.) In its final song, Ikaw lang, an ode to tender, sincere, certain love, the crowd went crazy. I was singing along with the rest:

“Tumingin ka sa ‘king mga mata

At hindi mo na kailangan pang

Magtanong nang paulit-ulit

Ikaw lang ang iniibig.

At kung ‘di kumbinsido’y magtiwala ka

Hawakan ang puso’t maniwala

Na ikaw lang ang s’yang inibig

Ikaw lang ang iibigin.”

Nobita has a way of making the threat of the pandemic bearable, if not at all invisible. The band’s performance almost had the power to make everyone at the Cove Manila invincible. Nobita’s music heals.

When The Juans ruled over the crowd, one concert-goer we met, in his lonesomeness, quipped: “We paid for this concert to get emotionally hurt.” Truly, the songs of The Juans are for the broken-hearted — those who want to lounge in the dignity of pain, those who want to hold on to love, even if its reciprocity is nil, those who were left behind but kept holding on to love and its memories, and those whose decision to leave a relationship was the solution to a toxic affair.

The Juans.

When the Juans sang Dulo, there was a tug inside me. I looked around, the crowd was singing along, their sadness well emphasized, paradoxically with an applause after the performance.

I still sing Dulo in my head:

“Naubos na ang luha at mga salita siguro’y ‘di sapat aking pagmamahal

Ito na ba ang hinihintay ang pagwawakas ng paglalakbay

Lahat nama’y ibinigay ngunit balewala lang kaya paalam

Kailangan na yatang harapin na ito ay ‘di para sa atin

Mahirap man na tanggapin hanggang dito lang tayo ito na ang dulo.”

The crowd’s emotional threshold was further stretched when I Belong to the Zoo took the stage. The lead vocalist of the band, Argee Guerrero, possessed the most calming voice albeit the lyrics of the song Sana are a needle to the soul that’s hurting.

“Sana sinabi mo

Para ‘di na umasang may tayo pa sa huli

Sana sinabi mo

Hahayaan naman kitang sumaya’t umalis.”

When Adie was introduced to the crowd, I thought the dome of the Cove gave in. He was nervous and candid and even had to repeat the intro of a song because he came off tune. His was a soothing voice. He had the ability to quiet the crowd and silence the meanderings of their hearts. His Paraluman is lit!

“Namumukadkad ang aking ligaya

Sa tuwing ikaw ay papalapit na

Hawakan mo ang aking kamay

Oh, Paraluman

Ika’y akin nang dadalhin sa

‘Di mo inaasahang paraiso.”

If Adie blew the roof, Zack Tabudlo took Malaya Music Festival 2022 by storm. This celebrated artist, whose vocal dexterity was first presented in The Voice Kids Philippines, is a musical genius. His Pano, which talks about the many questions of unrequited love, seems to be an anthem of the generation now.

“Pano naman ako

Naghintay ng matagal sa ‘yo

Wala lang ba talaga lahat ng ‘yon sa ‘yo?

Ano na bang gagawin ko?”

Okada’s Malaya Music Festival 2022 proved that music heals. And the songs of Nobita, The Juans, I Belong to the Zoo, Adie and Zack Tabudlo are a balm to the soul.

(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at [email protected]. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)



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