manang at the rockfest

So last night I went to the Tanduay Rhum Rockfest (TRR).

I hadn’t gone before, my sis had tickets, my brother and cousins — the Taycos are loyal followers of the rockfest — were going, and I really, really, needed to go out and lose myself in something, anything. TRR seemed the thing, it was big, it was loud, it would force me out of the house.

I got more than I bargained for.

I kinda like things blurry.

Right off, the place was PACKED. I’m told the SM Mall of Asia grounds probably accommodated as many as 80,000 people, which is more than the entire population of Pateros (at last census, a mere 64,147).

The crowd wanted to have fun, they were rowdy, and a goodly portion of them were wearing black. And facial hair. And ink. In fact, they bore a remarkable resemblance to some of their idols, who sang about salsal (masturbation) and took off their shirts to show off their tattoos (can’t blame ’em, it was frickin hot onstage with all those lights).

One of the funnier displays was made by Dong Abay, former Yano frontman, Pan leader and rumored agoraphobic (gossip of his alleged self-imposed isolation because of a bout with depression in ’97 persists). He cheekily showed the crowd his ass, where he’d had a dog with a halo tattooed (banal na aso? with the possibility of santong kabayo on the other ass cheek later on? ehem). He divulged that the ink was done by Jay Contreras (frontman of Kamikazee, who has pretty much run out of space on his torso for tattoos).

Ba’t nagpalagay ka ng patay na aso sa puwet mo? (Why’d you put a dead dog on your ass?)” I kidded him later, offstage, in the band section.
Gusto ko siya (I like it),” he said, before his dragon-lady handler did her job and got between him and stalker me.

I thought I’d recorded the brief exchange (pressed the button on the off-chance he wanted to talk), but it turns out I had instead erased the entire set of recordings on my Android phone (good thing I’d already transcribed everything else in it). I was on my third Boracay Rum Mojito, so my fingers may have slipped during the ambush. (I’d also used the phone to light the darkness of the portalet interior after the fourth mojito, so I may have pressed the wrong buttons then. One forgets.)

[UPDATE: T’was an SD glitch. My recordings are safe, including that snippet from Abay. Yay. Now I can erase the lot, haha. Talk about a senior moment.]


Tanduay is not my drink of choice — it’s my dad’s. He always has a bottle in the kitchen or in a glass (not a shotglass, an actual glass) by his favorite couch in front of the TV. He drinks it more than water I believe.

Photo by Jun Tayco

But what I do like about Tanduay is this rockfest. Chiefly because it gives Filipino rock musicians a venue to play in — a tour, in fact, because this starts out in Cebu and Davao before culminating in Manila. In a country that rarely has music festivals of this magnitude, this single annual event is something these musicians can look forward to. As Abay’s t-shirt proclaimed (before he took it off), what you’ve got here would be “Believers of Filipino music.”

Yes, it’s branding. It’s a marketing gimmick. It sells a lot of the drink (for tickets) and is massive publicity. The cigarette companies weep in envy. But it’s also backing Filipino artists.

Some of these guys have been at it a while, and I bet they’d tell you how hard it can still be, even if you’re already “famous.”

The line-up was full of OPM favorites, including Parokya ni Edgar, Rico Blanco, Urbandub, Wolfgang, Franco, Chicosci, Gloc 9, Ebe Dancel, The Dawn, Siakol, Up Dharma Down, Sandwich, Rivermaya, Radioactive Sago Project, Paramita, The Youth, True Faith, Color It Red, Session Road, Hilera, Taken By Cars, etc. etc. etc.

A good number of the bands and soloists are still producing new music, others are playing what are already classics in OPM.

(I read that another concert with a target of 40 rock bands, more than the 30 in this rockfest, will be held at the MoA Arena this December. That’s gotta be a good sign — that musicians en masse are commercially viable — although I’m wondering how the competition works out. And if support for “solo” gigs with a single headliner and only a few if not just one fronter/s will taper off because the standard MO is “the more, the merrier.” Something for later.)

If my teenage self had gotten that all-access pass, she would have probably been ecstatic. (Heck, I wasn’t even a fan of Wolfgang in my youth, but still experienced a mild case of WTF at seeing Basti Artadi — within accosting range, but I refrained. I think my niece and nephew had their pics taken with him though).

A decade and then some past the giddiness of all that, I still felt a tug when I saw Buddy Zabala play “Perpekto” and especially “Esem” with Abay. Those back-in-the-day hits have far more emotive appeal with some nostalgia thrown in.

It was exhausting though. The energy level spiked several times — rockfest stalwart 6cyclemind was pretty good at rousing the crowd, Giniling Festival brought in mascots (including a costumed Iron Man for “Hari ng Metal”) even as Jeje Santos swished his dinosaur tail, Kamikazee exploded all over the stage — and one can hardly say there was a real lull when the top billed guys started playing.

This is how I kinda realized that I’ve aged.

I got a kick out of the atmosphere — the kids sitting in exhaustion beneath the giant balloons and making sculptures of empty plastic cups, the roadies sleeping in the dark beneath the stage despite all the racket, the bouncers being gentlemanly even as they kidded me over my drink refills, the backstage supportive taps between musicians as one got off and another got on.

I also got mildly irritated when the drunks started kicking drinks around, spilling alcohol on my bare legs, moshing and jostling.

At one point I left the front in favor of the wings of the stage, where it was cooler, and there was seating, and one could glimpse the press of bodies but not feel the humidity, and sing-along to Ebe croon about being “Hari ng Sablay (King of Awkward).”

As the night went on, I ended up in the VIP (Very Inaantok Ppl) lounge with its big-ass screen, simultaneously eating cake and leftover breaded fish fillet, while Wolfgang went on. I took a power nap and barely registered Gloc 9, PNE, and RSP turnover their sets. (Although I did watch Chito Miranda sing “Narda” with Contreras.)

Yes, I am officially an old woman. I longed for it to be over. When I’m 80, I will blame Siakol and Typecast (amplified on skyscraper speakers) for my hearing impairment.

But I gotta admit, on the whole, it was fun fun fun. That’s why, after the nap, this manang went back up front, into the fray, and the undulating men in black. So thanks Tanduay.

Now, excuse me, while I relive the moment Up Dharma Down sang “Tadhana.”

My favorite quiet moment of the night.


  1. Good lord! Its the same guys performing as back in the day when my ears could still take loud music (that was a loooong time ago.).

    1. yep! diehard hehe.

      if there is one criticism that can be made: by all means, honor the bands with history, the bands that have longevity. but also create venues for the newbies to show their stuff. especially because music is ever-evolving… and new music is being created.

      some of these bands haven’t been producing, but i’m glad that there’s a resurgence of creativity. abay, for example came out with a new album this year. PNE also came out with “inuman sessions volume 2” this year. giniling festival just launched their new EP.

      as long as the bands are producing, creating new music, s’all good.

      although of course, you have to give them props din for still cranking out their old hits with as much gusto as they did back in the day. there’s always a new audience. at this particular event, our little familial unit had varying ages, from teens to 30-YOs to 40-YOs 🙂

      (beyond the 90s, some of the songs i still like were made before i was born. or were recorded and launched when i was around six or seven. if the musicians can still play, give a good show, why not? more power to ’em.)

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