Malasimbo’s magical sights and sounds

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Towering over Puerto Galera, one of the country’s more popular beach destinations is the 1231-meter-above-sea-level Mt. Malasimbo, in Northern Mindoro.  It is a haven for flora and fauna—wild boar, deer, and rare species of birds inhabit the mountain. 

It is also home to the highlander Mangyan tribes.  In fact, mountain climbers find themselves interacting with these indigenous people, most of whom have already adopted the use of modern apparel, save for a few older men who still wear the traditional loincloth as their only piece of clothing.

Every year in March, a colorful and well attended Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival hosted by D’Aboville Foundation unfolds in this popular resort destination.  I have to admit that I knew of it only very recently when I met Hubert d’Aboville himself, president and co-founder of the festival.  The photos on this page, taken by avid festival fans Terence Angsioco and Renato Valenzuela, Jr. convince me I have been missing out on a gem-of-an-event. 

When I mentioned this to my eldest son who is into music, he chided me for having been ignorant of the Festival.  He says it is a very popular and important event, which features international and local artists cutting across all genres of music.  I found out from Mr. D’Aboville that its popularity is not only among Filipino music lovers, but also among foreigners.  In fact, more than half of festivalgoers come from Europe, the USA and other parts of Asia just to attend the event.  

Giant Dandelions were Malasmbo curator Olivia D’Aboville’s art installation, which look like bright, giant lampposts 

This year, the featured main performers were the Alfredo Rodriguez Trio, a Quincy Jones protegé; Tennyson, a Canadian brother-and-sister electronic music duo; and Jordan Rakei, an Australian soul jazz performer.  Dubbed by the United Kingdom’s Huffington Post as “the ultimate festival for families,” the Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival provides authentic enjoyment for all age groups, as it combines local and international music ranging from soul to jazz, and from reggae to indigenous.

What makes the three-day festivities even more significant is its plethora of magnificent art installations by various local artists.  Set against the foothills of Mt. Malasimbo, these art pieces are made alive by amazing lighting techniques, in the process, making them look magical.

Some of the participating artists in this year’s event were Hohana Vinas who used knitted mandalas for her Indayog ng Kulay; and Wawi Navarroza overwhelmed curious guests with their masterfully crafted Ang Langit Mong Bughaw; Malasimbo curator Olivia d’Aboville unleashed her iconic Giant Dandelions which glowed in the dark like oversized lamp posts; and Agnes Arellano who pleased visitors with her calming Haliya’s Labyrinth.

The other noteworthy aspect of this seven-year old festival is its advocacy in preserving the rich cultural heritage of the Mangyan tribes and the protection of the environment.  Part of the event is a series of lectures on the appreciation of the indigenous Mangyan cultures of the Irayas and the Hanunos, and saving the endemic tamaraws from extinction.  

These short Talks were made by distinguished authorities, such as Former Presidential Adviser of Environmental Protection Neric Acosta, who spoke on Climate Change Resiliency; Emmanuel Schutz shared his expertise on How To Save the Tamaraw; and Eping Mayot conducted a Surat Mangyan Workshop.

Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival performers dishing out latest musical hits 

The venue was the newly built Demo Mangyan Village Hall, a beautiful testament to the fine quality of Mangyan craftsmanship, using native materials such as bamboo, timber from fallen trees, and cogon grass.  Of course, cash sponsorships from generous agencies like the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) and those from other individual donors made the construction of this hall possible.

What I find really laudable about the Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival is the yearly commitment of the hosts that, for every ticket sold, they will plant one tree in Puerto Galera, in partnership with the local government and the local residents, as part of the area’s efforts in promoting Sustainable Tourism.

I have to admit that knowing about this festival is quite refreshing, as it proves that our country’s music and arts industry can also be an effective tool to care for the environment and for sustaining the rich culture of our indigenous tribes.  Having said that, I am certainly looking forward to next year’s edition, and be among those who will be mesmerized and thrilled by the Malasimbo Magic, through its sights and sounds.

For feedback, I’m at [email protected] 

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