The successful Bayanihan Musikahan, the marathon concert series on FB live-streaming, blended talent and skill from many fields.
“The coming together of individuals in the music industry, civil society, and the urban poor community leaders has been remarkable”, says civil society leader Danilo Songco, one of the 5 friends who initiated the massive fund-raiser. “It was harmonious right away“, says songwriter and music producer Trina Belamide, another of the core project leaders.
She describes the project as a matching of talents. She took up the task of programming the more than 100 Filipino musical starts through nearly nightly concert that has been on-going for two months as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country. Belamide found herself working in tandem with those in charge of logistics for relief operations, particularly Rey Laguda, Executive Director of Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).
Since March 19 through an entire Season 1, the most talented and popular Filipino musical artists serenaded netizens in nightly virtual concerts. Spearheaded by National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, enthusiasm for the project has been consistently high. Donations reached more than 70 Million Pesos in cash as Season 2 began in early May.
PBSP, the fund managers chosen by Bayanihan Musikahan, deployed its 50-year experience in social development projects as soon as the donations started boming in. Form the start, PBSP partnered with one of the largest people’s organizations in the Philippines, the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pamilya ng Pantawid (SNPP).
SNPP is composed of the urban poor, and its leader had decades of experience at community organizing and relief operations. It has a membership of more than 70,000, of which more that 10,000 live in Metro Manila.
“The talents and skills of the artists met the talents and skills of relief operations,” says Jay Adlao Block, who heads the event organizer group Outbound Asia that gave the production expertise and digital savvy to Bayanihan Musikahan. Block, among the project leads, has also been working closely with independent curator and critic Marian Pastor Roces, who completes the five original project initiators.
It surprises them that “We didn’t know most of the other five when we began. And we had Bayanihan Musikahan up and live-streamed in about three days!” remarked Belamide, who knew Roces, Songco, and Mr. C, as the National Artist is known. Roces knew Songco and Belamide, and Mr. C only in the arts and culture circuit. Mr. C knew Adlao-Block and Belamide, but Songco only in infrequent encounters.
The chemistry among them was nevertheless instantaneous, as soon they started Bayanihan Musikahan in the early days of the pandemic lock-down.
Looking back at the past 2 months, they think that this instant harmony was recognized by viewers, judging from the consistently positive public reception for the concert series. And while many remarkable descriptions have been made about the project – notably about the way online platforms are redefining musical experience – the small group believes that the project’s best aspect is the remarkable harmony of Filipino around citizen action.
Harmonics of civic action
Amid the Enhanced Community Quarantine imposed over Luzon from March 19 to May 15, 2020, PBSP clicked into Bayanihan Musikahan and immediately rebuilt the temporarily collapsed supply chain between farmers and Metro Manila’s urban poor. It trucked vegetables from Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya and rice from Bicol to the capital.
The quickness of the roll-out matched exactly the speed of the roll-out of the musical specials. Both parts of Bayanihan Musikahan worked on the same combination of innovativeness and expertise.
Few of the artists at the start were familiar with live-streaming technology, especially because they only have use of their personal devices; yet their shared empathetic response to the pandemic quickened their speed. Bayanihan Musikahan began with a modest ambition of delivering about 15,000 food packs to the most vulnerable populations of the metropolis.
Nearly 80 musical stars lined up with, but the core team thought the nightly concerts will go on for only about a week or 2.
Bayanihan Musikahan has livestreamed more than 100 concerts through the 1 ½ months of Season One. One week into the beginning of Season 2, the concert series raised more than PhP 70 Million and delivered nearly 100,000 food packs to the poor. It had subsidized a barangay quarantine center in Quezon City; given free hot meals to more than 300 homeless people temporarily housed in colleges and university campuses; and given a grant to the Artists Welfare Project Inc to help the workforce of the performing arts.
As the concerts proceeded, the urban poor organizers received the food packs at designated drop-offs and proceeded to distribute according to an accurate database. Meanwhile the concerts proceeded with the same level of precision: the artists’ livestreamed according to program, and sustained the appeals for donations with their unique powers of persuasion.
Bayanihan Musikahan’s original 5 core leaders were joined by 2 more key collaborators in Corazon Juliano Soliman and Rey Laguda of PBSP. Both re-invented the disaster relief in this project by firstly, introducing fresh vegetables into the food packs; and total reliance on a people’s organization. This civil society innovation, Roces thinks, reflects the “musical artists’ recreation of performance as homely, raw, honest”.