Lady I performing at the Main Stage

Manila Music Festival: My Top 5 Highlights

At some point, I had to stop getting jealous of all those Coachella galleries online. I had to stop fantasizing that the Philippines would come up with its own version of Woodstock. I opened my eyes and realized that we do have spectacular music festivals.

From small-scale events such as the upcoming Luna Musikalawaig Full Moon Festival in Talakag, Bukidnon, to heavily marketed festivals such as the recent Malasimbo in Puerto Gallera, the festival culture in the Philippines is alive and growing.

Time check: 9 p.m.
Kate was here.
The Manila Music Festival was organized by Volume Unit Entertainment with the support of the Philippine Department of Tourism.
My three favorite dancers of the night. Dudes, whoever you are, you rocked!

On Tuesday I attended the first Manila Music Festival that was held at the Alphaland Bay City Grounds, a reclaimed area off the coast of Manila Bay, where hundreds gathered from 2 p.m. to the wee hours of the morning to celebrate art and good music.

For some kids it was a chance to unleash their inner hippies; for others it was an extension of the Malasimbo fever. Since I skipped Cebu’s Sinulog among other major festivals early this year, the Manila Music Festival was it—my summer festival getaway. Here, my top five highlights of the MMF:

1. Ali Shaheed Muhammad

He may label himself as a DJ/producer, but fans of ’90s hip-hop will forever know him as one-third of the legendary A Tribe Called Quest. He flew 18 hours from Brooklyn to Manila and was slated to spin for only about an hour that night, but the gracious Ali Shaheed treated his Manila fans to more than two hours of classic tracks from the good old days when hip-hop was more about lyrical poetry and less about shots and hoes. It’s too bad he didn’t play as many ATCQ tracks as I had hoped.

Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest
Lucky Jason Arellano got Al Shaheed to sign his vinyl record of ATCQ.

2. Afrika Bambaataa

It still hasn’t sunk in that I was just a few feet away from music royalty, the man they call the godfather of hip-hop, Afrika Bambaataa. With the help of his group, Zulu Nation, Afrika turned the Manila Music Festival into one big block party. He threw in a few of his ’90s and ’80s singles into his DJ mix of pure, pop-free hip-hop, as the crowd danced on the dirt like there was no tomorrow.

The godfather of hip-hop, Afrika Bambaataa
Afrika Bambaataa’s block party, Manila style
Mosh pit

3. June Marieezy

I have been following her music for months now, and I was ecstatic to finally see this talented Texan perform live with her Manila-based posse, Deeper Manila. As if sprinkled with a little bit of Erykah Badu, June’s soulful jazzy voice is a standout from the hordes of cover-obsessed and pretentious musicians that pollute the local music industry. She was about to end her set when fans such as myself screamed for more, and I was thrilled when she sang my favorite June Marieezy track, “Sometimes.”

She may be part of the indie rock band, Good Morning High Fives, but I like June Marieezy best when she’s doing soul/R&B music with Deeper Manila.
Approximately 4 p.m.
The only pitched tent at the event

4. Sarah Meier

There’s a reason why she’s revered as one of the best TV presenters in the country. As a former MTV VJ, this girl knows her stuff. You can tell how good an event host is when she’s faced with dead air and the need to stretch the chatter while waiting for bands to set up or when the technical stuff is taking longer than expected. Without a dummy board or cliché catch phrases from a cue card, Sarah Meier-Albano engaged the audience with her knowledge of music history. I was impressed with how she introduced Afrika Bambaataa and Al Shaheed by taking us back to the era when hip-hop was a developing genre. Good job, Sarah. We badly need more VJs like you.

Event host Sarah Meier-Albano (right) talks to the crowd while Al Shaheed (middle) sets up.
Lady I performing at the Main Stage
9:30 pm: The audience hears a repetitive “I’m f*****g drunk!” from the Red Bull Stage. The night has definitely kicked in.

5. Parking Lot Party

When faced with overpriced drinks (P100 for a small plastic cup of beer and P200 for a can of Red Bull? No thanks!), you can count on frugal Pinoys to get buzzed in their own terms. Many of us would go back and forth to the parking area to finish stashes of liquor we bought from the convenience store. The result: an impromptu pick-up truck party!

Scroll down to see more photos that hopefully captured enough of the festival’s uninhibited and fun vibe. This event deserves an annual repeat.

Free silkscreen printing if you bring your own white shirt. If not, shirts are for sale at P200 each.
The red velvet rope was a dud.
Who’s the curliest of them all? (L-R) Yours truly, Lara Parpan of Women’s Health Magazine, and Naomi Tamayo of the Philippine Allstars
Tailing the Allstars
Anton Osmena checks out the Guactruck mobile eatery.
Water soakers to beat the heat
The Allstars strut their stuff onstage
Zulu Nation’s words to the new generation: “Is your face always on Facebook? Put your face in a book for a change.”
Souvenir shop
Dee Jae Paeste is ready to paint
Almost finished: Dee Jae Paeste’s graffiti
B-Jeep, a.k.a. electric-powered jeepney
It’s not a music festival without port-o-potties!
This electric jeepney saved the commuters from walking to and from Macapagal Road.

Please bring Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and India.Arie next year!

See more galleries here:
Joseph Villaroman
James Bringas
Status Magazine
Will Wilkins

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