A delightful concoction of contradictions, the Philippine Islands are home to many. With immaculate and alluring white beaches lining the edges of the islands while the grubby and swarming cities bustle with traffic and pollution, the Philippines is certainly not perfect. However, it's the kindness and the warmth of the Filipino culture that makes us distinctive. The Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival (March 10-12) in Puerto Galera is the complete and utter embodiment of all things Filipino.
With escalating attention towards Western culture and a fervent desire to have the latest Western trends on the Filipino soil, it would seem as if any festival celebrating Filipino culture would've been abandoned a long time ago. However, with the Malasimbo Festival, the remarkable combination of both local and international music is embraced and culture is explored deeper in ways that cannot be imagined.
Festivals are often perceived as having raucous teenagers, excessive drinking and deafening music. However, this idyllic and tranquil festival combines the best of both worlds. Deemed as the ultimate festival for families, the artists span different genres including jazz, reggae and soul. From Goldie to Jose Gonzales, the festival is considered a 'record label platform' with the aim of discovering new local soul jazz and electronic music. Malasimbo's live performances include Alfredo Rodriguez (an Afro-Cuban jazz pianist and Quincy Jones protégé) and Tennyson (a Canadian electronic music sister-brother duo). If live music isn't your thing, the silent disco includes the best international and local DJs, in conjunction with watching numerous people dance like there's no tomorrow with absolutely no music playing out loud. (An image which will make you laugh endlessly.) Alongside that, if the booming music ever gets too much, there's even a six-day yoga retreat at the Malasimbo grounds (March 8-13) to help relax anyone's soul.
The Philippines isn't just purely known for its astonishing music but for its distinctively beautiful visual arts. The fundamental component in the Malasimbo Magic is the plethora of art installations and lights that facilitate the transformation of the venue into a soothing tropical wonderland at night. The emphasis on contemporary Filipino and international artists has been highlighted by using their artworks, embellishing the foothills with an authentic and unique look. To keep the momentum of vibrant nature going, new artists continuously join the Malasimbo resident artists with their various pieces.
Furthermore, the government's "More Fun in the Philippines" campaign has seen vast amounts of effort poured into marketing and branding in an attempt to increase tourism. Hence, it's no surprise that the Malasimbo Festival partnered with the Department of Tourism and was endorsed heavily, sparking the rapid development of the country's culture and arts. Included as one of the key events in the "Visit the Philippines Year 2015" national campaign, the Malasimbo Festival is certainly not to be missed. As a coastal town with numerous delightful pocket beaches, enormous neon-lit palm trees, and a scintillating ocean for snorkeling and diving, the festival's location on Puerto Galera is undeniably Instagram worthy.
With emphasis on eco-cultural tourism and the environment, every ticket sold results in the planting of a mangrove seedling which supports the continued development of the region's natural sights. The d'Aboville Foundation's community program in honour of the island's indigenous Mangyans has workshops on the Mangyan language and their handcrafted baskets and jewellery. Thus, not only does the festival highlight the beauty of the Mindoro landscape but the beauty of the indigenous people too.
Whilst festivals in other parts of the world have a sole emphasis on getting drunk and making a mess, this festival has an emphasis on thinking about Mother Nature and authentic enjoyment. With the soulful music, gleaming blue skies and an intense focus on giving back to the community, this festival is unique to the Philippines and is a remarkable hidden gem.