Philippines’ Live Music Scene Perseveres Through a Pandemic

Metro Manila has officially transitioned to a modified enhanced community quarantine allowing us residents to regain parts of our normal lives, while still being mindful of physical distancing, proper handwashing at all times, and following strict community rules like curfew and limited movement.

We are seeing malls, commercial centers and restaurants reopening once again, as well as some offices and businesses as long as these observe MECQ guidelines.

The live music scene, however, is yet to recover since non-essential mass gatherings cannot be allowed still, and for all the good reasons. This entails countless job loss not just for the musical artists but also for managers, roadies, assistants and employees who all work for live gigs and venues.

Thankfully, musicians can turn to Facebook as their “online” stage. Nowadays, concerts and gigs are being staged by your favorite artists. I myself watched Ebe Dancel, Bullet Dumas and Johnoy Danao (otherwise known as 3D), Barbie Almalbis, Kitchie Nadal and Aia De Leon (who came together again for a show), Ben&Ben, Clara Benin and Urbandub. More importantly, these musical artists are performing all for the benefit of the industry or other causes to alleviate the situation of Filipinos during the health crisis.

But did you ever think about the live music scene outside of Metro Manila? In Baguio City and the rest of Benguet, local musical artists have found a way to support each another and their industry.

These musicians have performed live on Facebook not only to entertain but also to relieve people’s anxieties brought about by the pandemic.

Three Igorots were behind this idea, namely Clef Siguaben, a Benguet-born now US-based Igorot, Isko Macgui-ing, one of Baguio’s pioneer musicians, and music enthusiast Ned Micklay. Together, they initiated “Facebook Live Music For A Cause” to give back to local musicians who have been impacted by the lockdown.

Clef Siguaben (left) and Isko Macgui-ing initiated the project together with fellow local artists.

“These musicians, they make a few hundred pesos every gig, just enough to survive in the next day or two. Ngayon dahil sa quarantine, walang-wala na talaga sila, and these guys have families too,” he added.

Since the live Facebook performances began last April 7, the musicians have so far raised about P300,000. They continuously perform at least twice a day to call for donations.

Now that Benguet has been placed in General Community Quarantine, Clef shared to this author that “Facebook Live Music For A Cause” has also moved to its second phase.

“We have transitioned to the Part 2 of our program. We now call it Isko and Friends 2.0 (I&F 2.0), or known to us as ‘Isko and Friends Online Music Lounge.'”

According to him, I&F Online Music Lounge is meant to provide a means of sustenance to Benguet’s local musicians and their families whose sole source of income cannot operate until August per the General Community Quarantine guidelines.

“The big difference with I&F 2.0 is that we now offer five different services or packages for a very low fee. This way, the donor gets something for themselves too while helping our local musicians at the same time,” he said.

These five services are:

1. Personalized video: Pick a song, pick a performer. Will record your favorite song with custom dedication or “shout out” for only P1000.

2. Private parties or concerts: Have live music on your special occasion via FB, exclusively! Project your device to a big screen and speaker, interact with performers and let I&F 2.0 rock your party! Priced at P3000 / three-hour set.

3. Business advertising: Let I&F 2.0 plug in and promote your business in their videos, posts and LIVE performances! For P5000 a month. Price is negotiable and payment may be installment.

4. Albums for sale: Buy the following albums from local musicians for P500 each. 50% of proceeds goes to Isko and Friends Musicians talent fee and various causes!

  • Isko Macgui-ing’s 12-track album “Baguio”
  • Carlos Puno’s 9-track album called “My True Story”

5. FB Live Entertainment: Will perform live via Isko and Friends page to entertain for tips/donations. After a long day, you deserve a nice drink and good music!

“At day two of our Online Music Lounge, we have raised P30,000!” enthused Clef!

Take your pick and join in the cause for Benguet musicians.

(Parts of this post were lifted from an article for Philstar.com.)

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