While members of the audience waited for the start of the show, they were given red heart-shaped paper cut-outs.
It was all for the mushy purpose of letting people write down, on the heart cut-outs, all their love frustrations over their love lives. Later at the show, these were read by performers out loud in-between sets.
The fun part is that audiences really made the most of out every piece of heart-shaped paper: they gave messages to their crushes and love interests. Some also took the chance to squeeze in some jokes that are relevant–even if it means being political.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is how PUP students celebrate Valentine’s Day. This is also how they celebrate National Arts Month, which is in February.
It all comes together in a mushy, hopelessly romantic themed sub-activity that is Himig Feb-Ibig.
Students, visitors, and guest performers crowded the university theater to gather and party on through an adrenaline-fuelled mash of performances.
Music and kilig in PUP Theater
By 5:30 PM. Mr. Mark Gregory Isip, PUP Bagong Himig Serenata’s Choir Instructor and organizer in-charge, declared the start of the program proper.
Students from senior high school showcased their musical talents in singing, playing instruments, and song-writing as they kicked off with their originally composed love songs and gave the audience some serenading.
It got even more fun when a new OPM band — already gaining some popularity — went up the stage and rocked the whole theater. It was Esremborak who made the crowd laugh and jam to their trademarked kengkoy music.
Being PUP alumni themselves, Esremborak mentioned that the PUP audience is really something. The University was where their band originally debuted before they rose from the underground scene.
Esremborak has now become one of the recognized underground bands due to their unique musical genre which is Ukulele Rock. The band plays ukulele as their main stringed-instrument unlike the usual electric guitar for lead and rhythm.
Band members include Mclou Mislan who performs the vocals; Leomar Requejo does lead guita… oops, lead ukelele; Nathaniel Panganiban provides the rhythm uke; Michael Tamayo handles the bass guitar, and their only female member Mary Help Paredes does the percussion.
When asked about what’s unique about their band apart from their uke-rock genre, Mclou replied:
“Sa lahat ng band, mas marami ‘yung masakit. Eh kami masaya! ‘Yung masakit na masaya. Kengkoy kami eh. Saya lang tsaka ukulele ‘yung music. Parang promote na rin sa Happy Music sa ukulele scene.”
(Most bands today express pain. We are happier! Painful but happy! We’re hilarious. And we do ukelele music. It’s a way to promote Happy Music in the ukelele scene.)
According to Mclou, Esremborak also means “East Rembo,” which is East Rembo, Makati City. The slum area became their reference for their music, hence “music of the slums” or “musika para sa masa” as he put it.
After that energetic set from Esremborak, the PUP Harana String Company went on stage and played some sing-along love songs to be enjoyed by the crowd. There was this one song when the crowd got hyped: when the conga beats were followed by familiar melodies of Ben&Ben’s Ride Home.
Next up was PUP Bagong Himig Serenata. The university’s official choir group did a great job in performing their renditions of currently trending love songs. They performed another Ben&Ben favorite, Kathang Isip.Their last song gave goosebumps to the crowd: “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman musical.
The last group to perform was the PUP Polysound Band. The university’s official showband serenaded the audience with love songs — rendered in their trademark loud sound. These included some Paramore classics, mushy pop songs, and OPM favorites.
Before the program came to an end, Polysound brought in some of their former members (all PUP alumni, of course) on-stage. They jammed to the last beat of Kamikazee’s Huling Sayaw. That’s when the crowd finally stood up and rocked along with the performers.
The whole night was surely a blast. It was a night full of fun and music in solidarity for arts and love–and it didn’t only target people who believe in the power of love but also those have the passion to showcase their art.
Talking about this year’s theme for their National Arts Month celebration, Mr. Isip mentioned that the idea has already been used before, but was used again due to its relevance to their situation.
“‘Yung MadiskARTe kasi, sa totoo lang nagamit na namin siya dati. Ang main point namin doon ay ‘yung pagiging resourceful ng PUPian–dahil very tight ang budget natin, nagagawan pa rin ng paraan na mapatakbo ang mga programa kahit limited ang resources na naibibigay,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ygot further explained how this year’s theme is relevant not only to the Filipino arts community but also to the pressing issues involving the cultural office and the whole society.
“When I took this position, malinaw sa akin na wala akong ibang pagsisilbihan kundi si PUP. Si PUP na binubuo ng 78,000 students, 2,500 faculty, 1,500 admin, and 22 branches. Naniniwala ako na si PUP ay repleksyon ng Pilipinas sa kabuuan. At malinaw sa atin bilang artists na wala tayong nakukuhang tangible privilege. Wala tayong tangible benefit from here. So malinaw sa akin, the only thing I can give my artists is exposure at ‘yung paniniwala na kaya mong pagsilbihan si PUP kahit anong meron ka.”
Mr. Ygot expressed his disappointment about the no-budget action of admin to this year’s Arts Month celebration. Despite that, they still managed to push through and stick to what their theme really means–PUP MadiskARTe: Tumutugon sa Hamon ng Panahon.
“Hindi ko masabing walang suporta ‘yung school kasi at the end of the day, ang school ay ginagawa niyang maging eskwelehan. Wala naman sa mandate niyang magtayo ng theater or bumuo ng artists. So bilang cultural office ng PUP, kailangan maging challenge mo ‘yun.”
Amidst the budget issues, PUP UCCA still holds onto the main goal of the cultural office–to provide an outlet to every passionate student artist even without an expected reward or benefit. And Himig Feb-Ibig 5 and other more activities of UCCA have provided every artist the outlet they deserve.
“Kasi for an artist to become an artist, he/she needs space and an audience para paghawakan niya ‘yung idea na ‘God, I’m a performer. Whatever it takes,’” he explained.
“Sa limitadong espasyo na meron tayo, hindi ka pa rin mawawalan ng audience–and it takes actors, space, and audience to create theater. So through this, through Himig Feb-ibig 5, unang-una we’re achieving the significance of February 14 at malinaw sa mandate ko na lahat ng event ng UCCA ay dapat libre kasi hindi natin kayang maningil sa mga estudyante. Second, nabibigyan tayo ng pagkakataon na lahat tayo, across genres, ay maging mushy.”
“Love makes people artistic”
He further went on to explain how this event is for those hopeless romantic people. According to him, “Love makes people artistic. ‘Yun ‘yung gusto kong mangyari dito. ‘Yung event, it’s a no-holds-barred event. Kung anong mangyari, protektado ka kung anong trip mo sa buhay.”
Meanwhile, Leomar Requejo of Esremborak also talked about the significance of PUP UCCA’s theme for this year’s National Arts Month. The former Music Section Chief that is now part of the rising underground band Esremborak explained:
“Ang unique sa Arts Month celebration ng UCCA at PUP, in general, ay hindi siya kumakalas doon sa karanasan ng tao at lipunan.”
Leomar also lauded the UCCA’s theme for according to him, “Lagi silang relevant sa kung anong experience ng society. Lagi silang may advocacy na sinusulong. Lagi nilang inilalapit ang sining nang libre sa mga mag-aaral. Isang sining na nagtuturo at hindi lang nagpapasaya at nag-eentertain. ‘Yung pino-propagate din ‘yung advocacy ng school.”
Going back, when Mr. Ygot was asked about his sentiments to every PUP student artist, his emotional message became his anecdote of how he kind of disappoints himself for what he could have done more to the cultural office.
“No matter how well we do things, hindi ako makapanood sa theater. Nasasaktan ako each time na kapag nakaupo ako, hindi ako makapag-enjoy kasi nakikita kong pangit ‘yung paligid. Hindi ko siya ma-enjoy each time. Parang how I wish I could have done more. ‘Yun ‘yung laging masakit sa akin. Parang hindi ko magawa at my own house, on my own turf na mag-enjoy. Kasi parang lagi kong pinu-push sarili ko each time so ‘di ko talaga kayang humarap sa mga artist,” Mr. Ygot expressed.
He mentioned how he dreams of wanting every student artist who graduates to acknowledge PUP as their by-world where people would recall them as someone who performed in PUP.
He added, “Gusto kong mahiya ‘yung mga artist na gamitin ‘yung word na ‘artist.’ Pwede nilang sabihin na ‘I was a student and I enjoyed my life because I played the instrument, I drew the best I could, I played with a band. Call me an artist, but it would come from the audience. But I would not call myself as an artist because you humble at the thought of being an artist.’ Dahil malinaw sayo, during your time, you served your school well.”
At the end of the day, pioneers of the cultural office simply want to give every aspiring artist and their currently serving student artist an outlet for their love for music and art.
And speaking of love, for those who didn’t have someone to spend Valentine’s Day with, making use of art is also a way of exercising love. With a short but sweet advice, Mr. Isip wants to give everyone this message:
“Ang ART ay malaya pero timbangin ang gagawin at maging malalim ang pag-ugatan sana ng ginagawa. Dapat ito ay nakatutulong sa paglago ng sarili, kasabay ng paghahangad na lumago ang komunidad at lipunang ginagalawan. Maging matalino sa pagpili ng gagawing sining. Ito ay dapat may kaakibat na responsibilidad sa sarili at sa kapwa. Gamitin ang kapangyarihan ng sining upang maglingkod sa bayan.”