The year was 1985.
Anybody who was somebody was there: Queen. U2. Bowie. McCartney. Elton John. Sting. The Who. Led Zeppelin. Mick Jagger.
The purpose: To raise funds for the famine-stricken Ethiopia.
That same year, the supergroup USA for Africa led by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie released charity single We are the World for the same reason.
We have heard of other efforts where artists from across genres collaborate to raise funds. Whether it is for AIDS awareness, for Mother Earth, for the heroes of 9/11, artists are always among the first to come together for whatever noble cause, to come to the aid of those who need it most.
But what happens when the artists are the ones needing help? To whom do they come for help?
Not just art for art’s sake
Enter Buhat Paglaum.
Buhat is Hiligaynon for “create”, while paglaum means “hope”.
And that is precisely what the project intends to do: providing hope to artists who were suddenly out of jobs no thanks to the CoViD-19 pandemic.
Directed by Juno Oebando and organized by stalwarts in the entertainment and events scene like Ryan Saez, who gave us the Love Dance Festival, and entrepreneur and art connoisseur Jae Espino, the project aims to provide artists a chance not just an opportunity to flex their artistic muscle but to connect them through art.
How? Through an online concert using digital tech through the skills of producers, talents, and technical crew in what could be the first-ever of its kind in the Philippines.
“We have to find a way for artists to create again, to perform their craft,” Ryan tells DNX.
Ryan is referring to the lost opportunities for artists and people involved in the events and entertainment scene whose careers were put on hold because of the pandemic. And it’s not just the performers. We are talking of an industry that spans videographers, production assistants, sound engineers, lighting directors, musicians, and even the suppliers.
“We are easily talking of 400,000 people affected,” Ryan says. If this keeps on, if performers and artists are deprived of their platforms, or a means to perform, they might stop doing their art altogether.
Jae, whose businesses like 13th Parea, and Swivel Lifestyle Lounge have for years been nurturing artists, says the art scene here in Bacolod is more serious than in Manila.
“Here, people are taking their art seriously,” he says.
For instance, people in Manila have day jobs, but in Bacolod, art becomes both leisure and profession. This makes the starving artist trope even more grounded, and thus more tragic.
“Everybody is affected,” Jae notices, adding that even the more stable ones – or the bigger names in the industry – are feeling the economic pinch brought about by the pandemic.
Buhat Paglaum would hopefully address these issues.
“During the pandemic, don’t tell me you didn’t turn to artists to entertain yourselves? You must have listened to music, watched films to entertain yourself, to pass time,” Jae said.
Thus, he says, it is just fair that artists are given the much-needed support now that they need it.
And that, Ryan and Jae said, is how Buhat Paglaum came to be.
By artists, for artists
For artists whose life and work are currently affected by the pandemic, the collaborative project – which will have its first airing come June 6 — could not have come sooner.
Ryan reveals that the collab is really big.
“We are talking of big acts,” he says, mentioning Mighty Hillamoon, Nancy Brew, and Kokoy Baldo. Big names from Manila are also collaborating like Raimund Marasigan (Eraserheads), Francis Reyes (The Dawn), Junji Lerma (Radioactive Sago Project), and Manuel Legarda (Wolfgang).
And it’s not just artists, too. Grilled Cheese Studios, for instance, with the team of Paolo Lindaya, is also helping on the production side.
The online concert could hopefully kickstart something new.
“This is not yet the new normal,” Jae says, “but this could be transition phase for the art scene that we are looking for.”
Buhat Paglaum provides not just a new platform for artists for their talent, but an opportunity for those at home to watch a concert without necessary leaving their homes.
More importantly, of course, would be the funds that would be raised which go to the artists. Part of the funds will also go to Viva ExCon, the Visayas Visual Arts Exhibition and Conference, a Visayan-wide exhibit for visual artists organized by Manny Montelibano.
Buhat Paglaum, in other words, would ensure that art nourishes not just the soul but the body as well.
“We should support our artists,” Jae said, “They are somebody’s brother, neighbor, sister… they are people we know.”
For those who want to donate, please go to gogetfunding.com/buhatpaglaum, or go to the Buhat Paglaum Facebook page for more details.