IN PHOTOS: Malasimbo Festival makes a daring leap on its 10th year

Paolo Abad
From the seaside of Puerto Galera, Malasimbo moves to the verdant haven of La Mesa Eco Park in Metro Manila

MALASIMBO TURNS TEN. The 10th edition of Malasimbo tries to bring the island magic to Metro Manila. Photos by Paolo Abad/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Is Malasimbo still Malasimbo?

Last year, there were some raised eyebrows as the music and arts festival transferred from the Malasimbo Amphitheatre to the seaside of Puerto Galera. Yet that move had seemed to prove naysayers wrong as the 9th edition was spectacular as ever. (IN PHOTOS: 7 standout moments at the ‘new’ Malasimbo Festival

This time, as it marks a decade in existence, the festival makes its most audacious undertaking ever. It was transplanted to La Mesa Eco Park, located near the last rainforest in Metro Manila – far away from its namesake mountain.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

For those who have made going to the festival their yearly tradition, it was sort of a rejuvenating pilgrimage – never mind the arrangements needed to make the trip to the island.

The festival had ties to the Mangyan communities there, too. It also supported environmental conservation efforts there as well.

Apart from being relatively easier to mount, given logistical advantages, it seemed inconceivable for the festival to be uprooted from its cradle. 

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Malasimbo, in its 10 year run, seemed to be inseparable from Puerto Galera. In moving to Metro Manila, it might have lost some of its magic.

“People got used to our old venue, so they struggled to understand why someone would have the audacity to flip the switch the way I did,” festival founder Miro Grgić told Rappler. 

“But I get a big kick out of shocking people and going against the grain. Risk is enthralling.”

The seemingly madcap decision to move it to the outskirts of the big city wasn’t entirely out of character though. Few would dare to hold a music festival in the hinterlands, yet there was Malasimbo.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Grgić recounted, “When I first told people I would do something on a mountain of Mindoro, they all said I was crazy and that people would never go. People can often be too complacent and scared to think outside the box.”

Indeed, people came. Year after year, faithful pilgrims came back and newcomers discovered how special Malasimbo can be.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

For its tenth run, there was no turning back. Last February 29 to March 1, La Mesa Ecopark hosted Malasimbo.

“Most people in our circle, had never been to La Mesa Ecopark,” Grgić shared with Rappler. “It was amazing bringing them to La Mesa this year, to discover what is Manila’s last rainforest. It needs to be treasured because it’s the most beautiful part of Manila.” (READ: Forest paradise re-emerges in Philippine capital)

SIDE ACTIVITIES. A pavilion near the main stage hosted a variety of lessons and jamming sessions for festivalgoers. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Colorful lights illuminated the foliage surrounding the amphitheater. The stage was set in front as onlookers can flock near it or just lounge on the ground.

Aside from the likes of Kawayan de Guia’s disco rockets (called “Bomba”) and Olivia d’Aboville-Grgić’s iconic glowing dandelions, there was little art installations this time around, but the projection mapping on the trees was nonetheless awe-inspiring. 

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

“I love showcasing sound quality and lighting trees,” said Grgić, an engineer by profession who was found running the show from front of house himself – as he always has.

As always, there was a great, well-curated mix of local and foreign artists on the billing – even some returning acts from Malasimbos past.

MIKE LOVE. The Hawaii-based artist brought his brand of ‘evangelical reggae’ to Malasimbo, performing twice: solo, and with a band. ‘Let me remind you that we have strength in our compassion,’ he told the Malasimbo crowd. ‘We don’t need judgment. We don’t need anger. We don’t need negativity. We need love and forgiveness. Thank you so much for imbibing those things.’ Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

CORY HENRY AND THE FUNK APOSTLES. Supported by his band, the Funk Apostles, the R&B and soul musician kept festivalgoers on their feet with a funk-filled set. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

JESÚS MOLINA. Proudly inspired by his faith, the Colombian jazz pianist draws from a variety of traditions, including the cumbia of his native country. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

ANOMALIE. Keyboardist and beatmaker Anomalie from Montréal made his return to the Malasimbo stage, dishing out some unrelenting grooves. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

LANEOUS. The Australian soul artist also makes another appearance at the tenth Malasimbo. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

 

YOSHA. The Manila-based funk fusion quartet of Yosha Honasan, Karel Honasan, Michael Alba, and Nikko Rivera draws a substantial portion of the Malasimbo crowd. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

INTERGALACTIX. The Australian band brings the Malasimbo crowd on a voyage filled with extremely dancey funk. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

BRIGADA. The percussion ensemble captivates the crowd with a thundering array of drums, bells, and whistles. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

RHYTHM MASALA. The Singaporean record-breaking percussion group (50 hours of non-stop drumming) serves fresh, undulating beats. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

 

MALANA. The five-piece soul, jazz & R&B band makes their mark on the Malasimbo stage. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

TAGO JAZZ COLLECTIVE. The jazz ensemble from the eponymous EDSA club holds their own on the Malasimbo stage. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

UNCOMFORTABLE SCIENCE. ‘These songs have never been played before, and will never be played again,’ the jazz improv band explained their music. Lachlan Mitchell (a.k.a. Laneous) and their good friend, Malasimbo alum and pianist RJ Pineda, even joined them in the fun. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

KADANGYAN. Using indigenous, handcrafted instruments, Kadangyan’s unique take on rock music draws inspiration from the different corners of the Philippines. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

TALATA NI TALA. The guitar-cello-ukulele trio opened the Malasimbo festivities nice and easy. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Malasimbo also took over the Ecopark’s Drilon Orchidarium for another edition of its Silent Disco. A handful of DJs lent some variety to the festival’s music offering – each with their own distinct selections.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

SQUID 9. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

EAN MAYOR. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

ST. VINCENT & THE GRENADINES. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

ABDEL AZIZ. Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

In the daytime, the same venue hosted talks on various aspects of the music business.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

There was only so much that could be done to allay doubts and appease the naysayers. But this Malasimbo run, on this milestone of 10 years, can open doors. 

The Ecopark is quite a woefully underused location for this sort of event. If the festival continues next year and returns to the place, it can tap more into its potential.

Maybe Malasimbo had never lost its charm. Maybe it brought its magic from the beachside along with it.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

“We brought so many more people and tourists to Puerto Galera in those 9 years, despite our independent mentality and financial constraints,” Grgić reflected.

“But there is no use in being the richest person in the cemetery,” the festival’s founder added. “I don’t need much money to survive, but I do need a lot of happiness, joy and a sense of accomplishment and I’ve had a truck load of that, which I then share with people and help them in their quest that’s called Love, or God or Jah or whatever you choose to call it.”

“And that’s what Malasimbo is about.” – Rappler.com

Paolo Abad

Paolo Abad writes, edits, and shoots for a living. He is one of the founding partners of the online radio platform Manila Community Radio.