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Maybe It's Magic: Malasimbo 2019

“Malasimbo Magic.” There’s a reason why “magic” is often intertwined with the quirky and spunky music and arts festival that is Malasimbo. With its setting being the shores of Puerta Galera’s white sand beach, nestled within the island’s forests and coconut groves, the Malasimbo Festival is, indeed, magical. Now on its ninth year, it nurtures a carefree vibe that truly carries the la vie bohèmspirit. Festival-goers were witnesses to a breathtaking movement that celebrates art, music, and creative souls. Some of the country’s most established visual artists were present to install their work around the festival grounds. The talents who performed on the Malasimbo stages covered genres that ranged from pop rock, funk soul, jazz, house, hip hop, and techno, all of which unexpectedly jived so well together. Without a doubt, everyone was in for a treat. 

Skip a Beat

The musicians that took the stage for this year’s Malasimbo Festival displayed a wide array of dynamism that somehow took the audience to worlds unexplored. Though the genres of music varied, every performance had its own unique charm. It left people on a musical high, as they gnawed through every beat, strum, and lyric offered. Malasimbo had three stages: a live stage where bands would perform, a DJ’s stage, and an area for the silent disco. Like in any music festival, these stages were brought to life and simultaneously had something to offer throughout the entire event. 

People danced. There was no exception to it. Whether it was on the dance floor, the live stage, or any corner of the festival grounds, people moved their bodies, let loose, and had fun. The main stage was home to a few younger bands in the local music scene, as well as veterans, living legends that have made a name for themselves globally. One of the highly anticipated acts of the festival was Ruby Ibarra, a Filipino-American rapper whose music is a powerful tool in raising awareness about the life, challenges, and experiences that Filipino immigrants face in the United States. Robert Glasper, a three-time Grammy-winning jazz musician, graced the Malasimbo stage together with the ever brilliant Taylor McFerrin, Derrick Hodge, and their band.

Homegrown DJs, as well as international ones, were present to play their music and gave everyone a good time. Both the DJ’s stage and the silent disco area never saw a dull moment—people had a lot of fun. New York’s Danny Krivit took people back to the iconic Studio 54 days as he played funky electronic beats that made everyone get up and dance. Other DJs included Wax’o Paradiso, Jessica Miler, and Katsy Lee. There’s a saying that goes, “The music makes the party,” and undoubtedly, Malasimbo knows how to throw a party. The DJs were doing it right. 

Filipino-American rapper, Ruby Ibarra takes the stage

Art in the Woods

Apart from the music, art is one of the backbones of Malasimbo. All over the festival grounds, one would find art installations made by some of the country’s finest visual artists and designers. Names like Leeroy New, Agnes Arellano, Kawayan de Guia, Denis Lagdameo, and Olivia d’Aboville aren’t new to the Malasimbo scene, for they’ve been a part of it year after year. Their artwork is very telling of what they stand for—many are thought-provoking, moving, and beguiling. When the sun sets and day turns into night, Malasimbo transforms into a wonderland of lights and visual effects. The art installations light up and offer a totally different visual experience for anyone who comes across them.

An art installation by Olivia d'Aboville


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Leeroy New's art installation


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Festival favorites

In Malasimbo, there’s art and music—but what else do people keep coming back for? Of course, no festival is complete without food and booze. A crowd favorite would be the famous D’abodobo and kesong puti, deliciously home-cooked by Ara D’aboville. Other fusions of international cuisines were available too, with Indian food being a personal favorite, oven-baked pizza, grilled skewers, and shawarma as well. Nothing better than a nice cold beer to enjoy under the sun, all of which were provided by local brewery Joe’s Brew. Blended juice drinks were also available, as well as other crafted liquors, as they all highlighted Filipino flavors. 

At the entrance of the festival grounds, there were small shops that sold handmade trinkets, artefacts, and accessories. Most of these were to help local craftsmen and artisans, and quite strikingly, indigenous communities of the Philippines. What a wonderful way to showcase the creativity of the Filipino people. 


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To Be Continued

Malasimbo is a celebration of the local and the global—taking pride in the music, art, flavors, and crafts that the Philippines can offer, but at the same time, embracing the wonders of global cultures and diversities. Though there may be questions about whether Malasimbo is to continue next year, the strong support of the music and art community keeps it going. Malasimbo is a kind of movement that enflames passion and free-thinking, igniting the love of music and art for anyone who takes part in it. The magic that comes with Malasimbo, or rather the magic that is formed through it, is something so special and rare. Many ardently hope that the festival continues next year, and many years after that. 

Photos by Daniel Soriano