This week, we speak with the curators of the Pinoy Playlist Music Festival, National Artist for Music Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, Moy Ortiz, Noel Ferrer, and Maribel Garcia, about the beginnings of this celebration of Filipino music and how it has evolved from simply being a venue for Filipino artists into a musical movement. Reminisce and dream with us as the curators share their most memorable moments and their hopes for the future of Pinoy Playlist.
What sparked the idea to have a Pinoy Playlist Music Festival?
MOY: It has always been a pipe dream of mine to have something similar to the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta. I attended that twice and it has grown to become the largest jazz festival in the world. And it is just so overwhelming when you see high school and college kids in Indonesia digging and loving jazz, and everyone flies to Jakarta to play and celebrate jazz music.
I think it was in 2017 when my friend and classmate from Ateneo, Maribel, requested that I meet her in BGC. She informed me that she will now be head of the BGC Arts Center and she asked for possibilities. What can be done with the venue?
I broached it to Maribel and I said, ‘What if we do something like Java Jazz but make it Filipino or OPM festival and make it very, very inclusive. All styles, all music genres, all ages.’ And it was also very important to me that it would not be Manila-centric because I've always believed that Manila does not have a monopoly on musical excellence.
So I presented this to Maribel and she said we should develop this idea, let it gestate, and think about it. After a couple of months we met again. I did think to invite our national artist, Ryan Cayabyab who is beloved and ever since we know where his heart is in terms of OPM, and my good, good friend Noel Ferrer who wanted a space and a venue for Filipino music artists who sometimes are not given the break to perform their music, to be a part of this advocacy, of this pipe dream. So I prepared this little PowerPoint presentation for Ryan, Maribel, and Noel. And the following year, we gave birth to the Pinoy Playlist Music Festival.
What did you think of when you first heard of Pinoy Playlist Music Festival?
RYAN: Excited. I didn't even think twice. I actually didn't think about it at all. Any celebratory event for Filipino music, ride lang ako lagi. It’s also a good chance to work with Maribel, Noel, and Moy. I really didn’t have to think about it.
NOEL: When we were gathered there, instant lang talaga ‘yung connection naming lahat! And then the notion is sino nga bang magsusuportahan kung hindi tayo-tayo lang. And that resonates until now.
So we were there to support music artists, composers, and musicians. And we needed that venue. Thank you to the BGC Arts Center. Hindi lang isa, hindi lang dalawa, kung hindi tatlong venues! Ang maganda pa, we had different years. Lumalaki at nanganangak ng iba-iba pang ideas, kasi ang dami pang pwedeng gawin. It’s not just about performance, mayroon ding lectures, then mag-e-evolve pa to acknowledging and recognizing icons who have given valuable contributions to the music industry. Hindi nauubusan ng pwedeng gawin.
And then this year was really very unique! And it’s because of Mr. C (Ryan). That’s the genius of a national artist, Mr. C popped the question, ‘Paano kung original pieces?’ Mahirap, masakit kasi you’ll dig into your experiences during the pandemic but it's so productive kasi may bagong material na lalabas. Thank you, Mr. C, for that idea that we go original and it was really a big challenge but putting it together was fun! It’s a level-up from the Pinoy Playlist that we never really expected.
MARIBEL: Ako naman, parang Big Bang kasi it was so dense with purpose. It has no other way but to burst with so many other possibilities. Artistry usually get stuck with an idea but working with these three, it was also dense with solutions. It’s quite easy because they're all brilliant in coming up with ideas but to come up with the ‘how’ is something I always require. So we push each other and sobra-sobra pa sa original expectations namin ‘yung nangyayari. I’m absolutely grateful that we are working with these three.
Knowing that BGC Arts Center then was really new, and this is a flagship program of the Arts Center. What did you feel during the first night in 2018?
MARIBEL: I was absolutely ecstatic and confident because the process built me up. It did not happen overnight. I knew there was so much hard work. And I always tell my own team this: Panalo na kayo if you worked hard and believed in what you're doing. Bonus na lang ‘yung may ibang taong makaka-acknowledge later because acknowledgment does not happen only once. Sometimes it takes a long time before people realize the value of your work.
It was my pride and joy that my young team was able to carry this through and they learned so much in doing this. That's such a rare opportunity when you're young. It's really problem-solving. There was no manual we followed. There's no formula for that. But what serendipity and what a privilege that we had a path and along the path came the national artist (Ryan), Moy, and Noel.
I did not for once doubt that we would falter or fail. And even if we do, I don’t really recognize it as a big blunder. We just move on, it's all part of the whole journey.
For those who have not attended the past two PPMFs, how would you describe the experience in terms of the most memorable moments?
RYAN: Ang daming memorable. Number one ‘yung pagtakbo-takbo ko between the three venues. That is, for me, such an energizing and very exciting experience, to be running from one act to another. There are three venues a night, sabay-sabay. It really gives me such a high. Happening there outside is a rock concert. Happening inside the recital hall is a recital, very intimate. Then you have the main theater that is the main attraction. Pero hindi naman diminished ‘yung ibang attraction kasi ibang-iba sila.
Then another memorable point during the second year was when we awarded Basil Valdez, and teachers and composers such as Louis Ocampo and Father Manoling Francisco. PPMF has evolved into giving out recognition to OPM, and featuring only Filipino music is really something.
Itong dalawang ‘to are really highlights for me.
MOY: The fact that it happened the first year (2018) and on the second year (2019) it got bigger because of buzz. And the fact that it happened in our lifetime is a big deal.
There are many, many acts that moved me to tears because I am in awe— It's spiritual, ‘yung ganda ng OPM. It's on that level. When you are inside the room and you feel the music of a Basil Valdez, and you are exposed to the energy between Ben&Ben and their fans. That is priceless. After the performance is done and over with, you carry that in your heart and you never forget those moments. Music is spiritual. It's in your soul. When it hits you, it hits you, and many, many, many times it happened in the first year and the second year.
So the fact that it happened in our lifetime. I'm most grateful. That's a highlight for me.
NOEL: For me, we saw the development, the progression of PPMF. The first year it was all about getting performers or getting acts that are mostly solo very generously sharing their talents. On the second year our goal was to have more collabs. Ang dami pang pwedeng gawin: may recognition sa icons, we wanted a fans day, we wanted merchandise. Sana in the future, may fusion of visual arts and music. When the pandemic happened, hindi pa rin tumigil! We'll never run out of possibilities.
But what's good here is that people are not thinking of themselves. The vibe is that people are supporting each other. Kung nagsu-survive ka para sa sarili mo lang, after your act uuwi ka na. But that's not the case with Pinoy Playlist. Artists watch each other’s performances. We build a community. It’s not just a project, it becomes a movement with a commitment to working together. The dynamics of Pinoy Playlist were able to contribute to that oneness of the society.
MARIBEL: One of the most touching singular experiences for me was when I watch the audience connect with the act. One of the best examples I always give is may isang teenager sabi niya sa kasama niya, “Nando’n ako sa lolo ang galing mag-violin! Hindi ako makaalis ang galing nung lolo!” That cross-discovery, no preference for age. Music knows none of those limitations at all; that we were all singing the same tune. Sobrang ganda.
Pinoy Playlist Music Festival does not stop even amidst the pandemic. This year, watch the PPMF Project, M-FLIX 2021: Da Pinoy Pandemic Palabas, an original and virtual musical about our pandemic emotions. Dedicated to our frontliners and the community, M-FLIX Act 1 premieres on Saturday, November 6, 2021, stream it for free on the Mind S-Cool YouTube channel.
Catch the continuation of our interview with the PPMF curators next week here on Insider’s Look.