Picture it: after months on end of working in the crowded and polluted Metro, you travel for hours by bus and by boat to the lush mountains and clear waters of Puerto Galera. For three days, you enjoy the company of good friends and meet interesting strangers as you listen to talented musicians, take in the striking view, and relax underneath the trees. That is the Malasimbo Festival experience.
If it sounds a bit too romanticized, it’s because one can’t help but fall in love with the festival once you’ve had some of that “Malasimbo Magic”, as some frequent attendees have called it. For these people, Malasimbo is a yearly pilgrimage to one of the most beautiful places in the country to celebrate the best of what the Philippines has to offer: music, arts, the cultural heritage of our indigenous peoples, and the breathtaking beauty of the land.
The Malasimbo Arts and Music Festival held last March 10-12, 2017 is a yearly project organized by Volume Unit Entertainment (VUE) and hosted by the D’Aboville Foundation and Demo Farm, Inc. D’Aboville Foundation is a French-Filipino non-profit and non-government organization that works with and for the indigenous Mangyans, the environment, and the eco-cultural tourism of Mindoro. It was established in 2004 by husband and wife Hubert and Ara D’Aboville, both of whom actively participate in and were very visible during the festival.
Now on its 7th year, the idea for Malasimbo came from Miro Grgic, head of VUE and now son-in-law of the D’Abovilles. Foundation President Hubert D’Aboville tells the story:
“In 2010, we dreamt about it. It was Miro who told me, ‘I would like to make a music festival here in Puerto Galera’.”
They approached the city mayor to ask for a place in Puerto Galera where they can hold the festival and invite one to two thousand people. But after two months, the mayor was unable to name a location and the project almost died. The big Aha! Moment came one day as Hubert was taking his daily walk around their estate.
“While I was walking, standing just above here, I turned my back and I say, ‘Wow, this looks like an amphitheater! Why do I go and look far when it’s right under my nose?’”
Once they have decided to have the festival in their own land in Puerto Galera, they began working on putting the event together. And after just four months, the first Malasimbo Festival was held on February 18, 2011. Malasimbo is very much a family event for the D’Abovilles, with everyone involved in the preparations and development each year.
“From the very beginning when we created the Malasimbo Festival, we had four pillars that guided us: music, art, indigenous people, and environment,” Ara D’Aboville, wife of Hubert D’Aboville and a board member of the Foundation, said. The musicians who play during the 3-day festivity are all chosen and invited by Miro Grgic. Olivia D’Aboville, the daughter of Hubert and Ara and a well-known visual artist here in the country, curates the art installations spread out all over the field. And the advocacy for the Mangyans of Mindoro and the environment which are highlighted in the festival through a series of talks is a passion for both Hubert and Ara D’Aboville.
The music in Malasimbo ranges from Funk, Electronic, Soul, Jazz, Reggae, Ethnic, and even Hip-hop. Most of the acts are local performers, making the festival a great avenue for discovering new Pinoy artists to listen to. But Miro also includes at least one international act for each night’s lineup. When asked about how he chooses the performers, he mused:
“I guess it’s a reflection of my taste, but it’s also a reflection of the environment… I think nature is kind of soulful.”
This year’s lineup featured artists like Apartel, Curtismith, Kawangis ng Tribu, Skarm, RH Xanders, and June Marieezy. 9 artists performed each night with Miro playing his music during intermissions as well. Like other similar festivals around the world, music is the major crowd drawer for Malasimbo.
“I think what makes it different (from other festivals) is that it’s in a very unique location… You’re meant to separate yourself from the city madness when you come here,” Miro said.
Aside from the main stage, there was also a silent disco where guests enjoyed music by DJs like Crwn, Similar Objects, Mark Zero, and Safi.