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