The entertainment landscape has changed drastically. With every aspect of the industry struck down by the pandemic, our creatives have had to think further out-of-the-box. While cinemas, theaters, and performance venues were being closed and screenings, shows, and concerts were also being canceled. Most of us in the entertainment industry went on social media to share our talents and perform for a cause.
The spontaneous show of support for those was nothing short of awesome, especially when viewed in context of so much hate on social media. I wonder if the rants against some of our outspoken celebrities are true sentiments of actual people or if these are just made-up gripes exaggerated by “bots” or trolls subsidized by unseen hands that have learned to manipulate the new system.
The spirit of kindness and rationality that emerge from chaos gives me reason to believe that good will always win. Thanks to many of my creative buddies, I feel hopeful and inspired again.
One of the best examples of this inspiration was in full display in the online project named Bayanihan Musikahan. From mid-March to the end of May, Filipino musical artists mounted nightly concerts via Facebook Live to raise funds for the poor that were most affected by COVID-19.
At the helm of the project were National Artist Ryan Cayabyab, together with composer-friend Trina Belamide, production/tech support Jay Block, with civil leaders Dan Songco, Rey Laguda, Dinky Soliman, Marian Pastor Roces, Anna Rodriguez de la Cruz, and many more. Many selfless singers, musical acts, and bands gave their time and services for free, collectively raising a total of Php 122 million. The proceeds of which bought supplies directly from farmers, fishermen, and fed countless more than 100,000 families in need.
Whenever I witness or hear of uplifting stories of civic generosity in action, I always think of the Bible story of the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. Bayanihan Musikahan is no different. It began Jwith two friends, Mr. C. and Trina, thinking of how they can be of help and then asking other friends to pitch in.
The simple idea just grew and grew. The title of the concert series, Bayanihan Musikahan, coined by Jhett Baroma, was taken from Mr. C’s musical program, Ryan, Ryan Musikahan that was aired on ABS-CBN. The word bayanihan, of course, is the term for the Filipino trait of community spirit. The movement began unassumingly with the online show of Mr. C who passed the ball to Karylle and her husband Yael Yuzon and Yael’s band Sponge Cola.
Mr. C., Trina, Karylle, and myself contacted the artists to ask if they would be willing to spend at least an hour singing in front of a computer screen for the live Facebook-thon. The concept snowballed.
Singers Take on the Facebook Live Challenge
From then on, the endeavor snowballed. Once word got around, everyone got on board. The artists just had to be taught how to do so. The technical part was not really an obstacle. The singers and the bands had the time since everyone was on lockdown, and, being true performers at heart, the idea really resonated with them.
Personally, I was not surprised that almost everyone we talked to said yes. From past experience, I know artists are quick to respond to fundraisers as long as the people associated with it are people they know and respect. And who doesn’t love Mr. C?
Many singers who have never done Facebook Live accepted the challenge without the assistance of their usual entourage of production assistants and glam teams, and just sang.
I watched most of the nightly concerts from Massachusetts where I have been locked-down since the pandemic, and was amazed by the singers’ humility and courage. And the joy they displayed was luminous. Without a live audience cheering them on, they managed to perform with grace. Their sincere desire to entertain and help was more than enough reason for me to wake up early. I sent the links of the concerts to my siblings living in the US and to my other friends and encouraged them to watch and donate.
What an illustrious, music-filled two months!
Seventies diva Celeste Legaspi with the assistance of daughter Lala Gallardo put on an hour show during which she sang mixing a capella and old minus ones. Tech savvy Lea Salonga managed with few technical glitches and raised more than a million pesos all by herself. Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera, Regine Velasquez with husband Ogie Alcasid, Jed Madela, Morissette Amon, Kuh Ledesma and daughter Isabella, independent artists Nino Alejandro, Nicole Asensio, Tim Pavino, Jett Pangan, Ebe Dancel, Chito Miranda, and Grace — A Smokey Mountain reunion with Geneva Cruz were just some of the names who contributed their talents to Bayanihan Musikahan. A couple of them—like Raymond Lauchengco with sister Menchu (quarantined separately)—got technical back-up to get on with their respective shows. Raymond and Menchu were hosted technically by composer Louie Ocampo.
Filipino singers based abroad also pitched in. Joey Albert in Vancouver and Rachel Alejandro in New York adjusted to the time difference to find a slot. Rachel, in particular, had to be taught how to set up FB Live, along with husband Carlos, by cousin Nino and Nino’s wife Michelle. The arrangement worked well during the practice run. However, during the actual live broadcast, her music minus ones would not play from her laptop. They ended up having to use Carlos’ iPhone to play the music. Since not all music was on his phone, Rachel had to sing acapella for some of her songs. The show must go on–and did.
The continued absence of shows and gigs do put a dent on the financial stability of artists. Actually, not all the artists who participated in Bayanihan Musikahan were financially secure, but none of them hesitated to contribute to the cause.
A Reason to Sing
In spite of the prevailing mood of fear and uncertainty, I felt good, almost normal, while watching the FB Live concerts. Artists will always respond with grace and will always share and not withhold their gift of song, no matter what their personal situation may be.
More than a month after the last Bayanihan Musikahan show was broadcast on May 31, the funds that were raised have been utilized to provide food packs to families, support quarantine centers, feed the homeless and provide PPEs to frontliners. The spirit continues as the proceeds are being used to fund livelihood projects for the urban poor.
Live entertainment such as stage plays, musical shows and concerts wield a magical appeal because of the interactive factor. The performers perform; the audience reacts. Each instantaneous response gives motivation to the other in a never-ending cycle until the last note is sung. We’ve all experienced how an enthralling live presentation can mesmerize, can make the hair on our skin stand up.
Facebook Live is a poor substitute for what we cannot have now, but we take what we can with gratitude and optimism. When a social media platform that others take advantage of to sow hatred and fear can be the same venue to showcase the best of our humanity–that is truly a reason to sing. In the end, isn’t that what National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin said we should do? “To remember and to sing, that is my vocation.”
Girlie Rodis, fondly called GR, is a talent manager, producer for film, concert, and stage, ana marketing executive. She is President and CEO of her company Global Resource Creative Exchange Inc. Together with Celeste Legaspi, and Rachel Alejandro, GR is founder and co-executive producer of Culturtain Musicat Productions.
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