Learning history through rock ‘n roll

September 6, 2015

Rock Mabini is a good initiative, using popular music, especially rock ‘n roll, to educate the mall-going audience on Philippine history and nationalism. Too bad, it had SM mall as its venue.

Ilang eksena sa Rock Mabini sa SM North Edsa. larawan mula sa NCCA FB account.

A few scenes from the Rock Mabini concert at SM North Edsa. Photos from the NCCA FB account.

Review of Rock Mabini

August 21 might be a holiday but when we add “heavy rains” and “Metro Manila” to the equation, the result will be one hell of a traffic jam. That’s why even organizers of Rock Ed Philippines were overwhelmed with the number of people who flocked the fourth level of SM North Edsa Annex to witness their latest project.

Every one of them had his own unique level of groove that night. There were the fathers who obviously grew up listening to The Dawn in the radio, the sons who were the first to stand when Wolfgang started their jam, the mothers who swayed with Bras Pas Pas Pas’ jazzy “Chili Garlic Buttered Shrimp,” and the daughters who sang every line of “Tulog Na” with Ebe Dancel. They all placed differently in the musical timeline of rock ‘n roll but everyone sustained their energy up to the last jive delivered by the Radio Active Sago Project.

Rock Mabini was an offshoot of Rock Ed Philippines’ previous educational concerts Rock Rizal and Rock Supremo. In cooperation with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the concerts were open for the public for free. But the concerts were not simply musical performances. It provided trivia and opened historical discussions with the audience after every song. Local bands were commissioned to compose a unique piece as a tribute to the Filipino hero being featured in the concert.

The venue was enough for roughly 150 persons. White monobloc chairs were arranged at the right side of the stage for media people so that everything else, except the stage, belonged to the spectators. People sat at the cold SM mall floors while waiting for the concert to start. The program was supposed to commence at 5 PM as advertised but due to some circumstances, which hopefully was relayed to the public, it had to start 45 minutes later. Kudos to Wolfgang for compensating for the delay by rehearsing onstage.

11873722_1181050281921906_3043285621987231986_nThe initial program included a crash course on Philippine Revolution with Apolinario Mabini as the star of the night. Audio-visual presentations like short films, PowerPoint slides, and music videos were shown to aid in the comprehension and probably to help keep the audience’s attention since the venue was a mall and, frankly, nobody goes to the mall to learn history. The organizers also asked questions to the crowd and handed out a book for every correct answer.

They should have opened a small merchandise section where they can sell, for a minimum profit, the books that organizers brought that night. A lot of people volunteered to answer because they were interested in the book—which, of course, was a positive thing. But since they were in a commercial establishment like SM, it probably would have been not allowed by the mall. In hindsight, organizers should have considered staging these concerts in settings like an urban poor community, where more people can benefit from these “alternative classrooms.” Having the venue at SM opens up the project to criticism for tying up with an establishment that is known for repressing workers’ rights. We suspect Mabini won’t approve.

Anyway, back to the concert. As if on cue, everyone rose to their feet and rushed in front of the stage after the host, Gang Badoy, introduced the first band to perform, which was Woflgang, followed by The Dawn. Everyone appreciated that both bands performed extra songs as requested by the crowd. Jett Pangan of The Dawn even granted a fan’s request to perform “Enveloped Ideas.” “Mas matanda pa yata sa’yo itong kantang ito,” Pangan quipped. Wolfgang prepared “Nariong Balisong” while The Dawn had “Paraisong Tanso” as a tribute to the Sublime Paralytic.

Former Sugarfree band vocalist Ebe Dancel’s performance faced technical problems at first, apparently related to his acoustic guitar. His non-verbal expressions hinted that the singer was irked but the show must go on and so he played one of Sugrafree’s hit songs “Tulog Na.” He was followed by Bras Pas Pas Pas and Mike Luis who jazzed up the place with their “Usok” and “Chili Garlic Buttered Shrimp.” Lourd de Veyra of Radio Active Sago Project also performed their newest song “Sipag at Tiyaga” to end the night. (No mention, though, of De Veyra’s recent spat with activists, when he belittled them in a social media post about record-breaking UP valedictorian Tiffany Uy.)

The intention of this event was great—to remind the common Filipino people about their history and its relevance to the present. Gang Badoy reiterated that we cannot move on as a nation unless we fully understand where we came from. We are definitely looking forward to similar projects by Rock Ed Philippines. Such projects indicate to us that country right now is in dire need of a cultural revolution.

Let’s work towards a future where people study history because they understand its necessity and not because it is merely entertaining.

Marjo Malubay

Marjo Malubay

Marjo Malubay is one of our younger Pinoy Weekly reporters. A former staffer of The Catalyst, Polytechnic University of the Philippines' campus paper, Marjo currently studies journalism at the same university.