Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — The Malasimbo music and arts festival is a favorite among backpackers and trekkers-at-heart. In the coastal municipality of Puerto Galera where the festival is held every year, there is much to take in — the kind waves and warm sea breeze, the gentle tamaraws, the crafts of the Mangyan locals — it’s the perfect place to connect and, as the trekkers say, “be one with” nature.
Come festival season, the area’s environment is activated. Mt. Malasimbo, the mountain amphitheatre where festivities are held, comes to life with live music, art installation showcases, dancing, and conversations about local craft. It is during the time of the Malasimbo festival that Puerto Galera is most alive.
Last year, 5,000 locals and tourists alike flocked to the festival grounds to watch more than 20 acts from the UK, Australia, Korea, and the Philippines. As tourism in the municipality flourishes, so does Malasimbo.
This year’s edition — the seventh — has almost tripled its number of artists, with live performances from about 50 local and international acts including bands, solo artists, and DJs, as well as more than 20 visual artists showcasing their installations.
Known for putting a show of the world’s musical greats, Malasimbo annually assembles a lineup of artists across a wide genre spectrum — from jazz, soul, roots, and reggae, to dance music. This year, the main stage of the amphitheatre will be headlined by Afro-Cuban jazz pianist and Quincy Jones’ protégé Alfredo Rodriguez, Australian soul jazz performer Jordan Rakei, and Canadian electronic music artist Tennyson. Sharing the stage with them are local soul acts Apartel and June Marieezy, electronic artist Similarobjects, and rapper Curtismith, among others.
A new addition to the festival is the silent disco, where guests can enjoy music through headphones in a sort of battle-of-the-DJs fashion — three DJs at a time will spin their music back to back, and whoever gets the best audience response wins the round. Witness DJ duo The Diegos do a spin-off with Marvelous and Pav Parrotte in an indie dance vs. funk vs. house challenge, or Nix Damn P go head to head with Erwin Edralin and Sky Dominique in a trap vs. house vs. experimental battle.
Though it’s packaged as a competition, the silent disco sessions are a good way to foster collaboration among artists and may help the audience to discover the music of these DJs in one thrilling showdown. There will be more than 10 DJ sessions all in all, which will be held at the Mangyan Village stage.
Where the slope begins to get steep on Mt. Malasimbo, installations are scattered, serving more as symbols in a permanent outdoor exhibit than just mere decorations on a mountain. The intimate interaction of man and nature is celebrated through the sculptures and tapestries of Agnes Arellano, Wawi Navarroza, Ling Quisumbing Ramilo, and Olivia d’Aboville, which have been part of the Malasimbo landscape for several years, as well as new installations from some of the festival’s resident artists: Alwin Reamillo, Denis Lagdameo, Leeroy New, Russ Ligtas, Agus Loedin, and Troy Silvestre.
The mountain’s sculpture garden will also be graced by a new addition of works by Lena Cobangbang, Cristina Escario, Keith Ann Garcia, Venus Mar, Expi Perez, and Raha Rodriguez.
Malasimbo is hosted by the d’Aboville Foundation, an NGO centered on protecting, promoting, and preserving the cultural heritage of the island of Mindoro through working with the indigenous Mangyans, and environment and eco-cultural tourism efforts. In line with this, besides holding workshops on Mangyan practices such as weaving and language, every ticket sold at the festival will be equivalent to the planting of a mangrove seedling.
Backpackers usually praise Malasimbo for being a one-of-a-kind experience, a three-day retreat from the chaos and pollution of Manila. But as reflected by the eco-cultural-healthy activities of the festival, experiences like these are not defined by nature in itself, but by how we interact with it.
The Malasimbo music and arts festival 2017 will run from Friday, March 10 to Sunday, March 12 at Villa Malasimbo, Brgy. Balatero, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. Passes are priced at ₱2,245 for Friday, ₱3,245 for Saturday, and ₱2,745 for Sunday. A three-day pass costs ₱6,495. To avail tickets and view seaplane promos, visit the festival’s website.