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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Saturday, June 25, 2011

entry arrow5:32 PM | A Decade of Sound and Dancing (and Zombie) on Hump Day



You could not escape the tenth anniversary of Reggae Wednesday at Hayahay last June 22.

Passing by Escaño, with a view of Tañon Strait dark as the night, you would not miss, for one thing, the beat and strum of local reggae bands carrying on from early evening what has become almost a tradition of this kind of sound. And for this special night, the bands were pledging their talent fees for a cause, the amount raised matched by Hayahay, with the proceeds going to various soup kitchens around town.

There was, for another thing, that sense of inevitability of a celebration. Already a regular party date on everyone’s weekly calendar (which jumpstarts, one might say, the young Dumaguete crowd’s love affair for a long weekend of surf, sound, and Zombie), celebrating Reggae Wednesday’s almost unbelievable turn a decade older was an excuse to even party harder. As Enchi’s lead singer Bembem Timtim remarked onstage before segueing to the band’s first number around midnight for the anniversary jam: “Who would have thought? Who would have thought that ten years would pass, and we’d still be here doing Reggae Wednesday?”



If you think about it, RW has indeed become an institution of sorts, and almost despite itself, too. Here is a perfect confluence of youthful rebellion, bohemian schtick, endless booze, alternative music, and frenetic dancing—and it has lasted this long. Ten years. Who would have thought?

Thus, a week before festivities even began on that stretch of party called Escaño Boulevard, the tongues were wagging in excitement around town, even as far as Facebook wall shoutouts: “Reggae Wednesday is ten years old!” And so we all went to celebrate. Enchi was playing after all, Bembem being in town from Singapore—and it has been quite a while since we last heard them play together.

You could not escape the RW anniversary anyway. Even when you chose to stay home that Wednesday night, or to stay away hostaged by faraway geography, the whole night was streaming live on video feed in the Internet. Reggae Wednesday has invaded the interwebs, and has indeed entered the digital age. Who would have thought?

But to flashback to 2001, when it all began.

There was no streaming video then. And no one thought it would last ten years. And the whole thing began, curiously enough, on a Monday.

Or at least, the first informal gig was planned for a Monday, with a bunch of friends fiddling with time, alcohol, and the search for an appropriate space to jam. All they wanted was that space—and the best time possible—for a bunch of friends to come together for a musical jam of sorts. “They” included Sande Fuentes and a bunch of his friends from both high school and college days: JM Abregana, Bembem Timtim, JJ Amparo, Gabby Flores, Oswald Singson, Kim Zerrudo, and some other buddies. “We just wanted a place to play music regularly, and back then,” Sande recalls, “the repertoire we used to play a lot consisted of Bob Marley, Sublime, 311… Mostly reggae, but with lot of punk and ska thrown in.”

One particular drinking weekend at Hayahay (which Sande now manages for the family), they all decided to give it a go. On a Monday.

“It was supposed to be Reggae Monday,” Sande says with a laugh, “but everybody was hung-over that Monday, and the easy excuse was: ‘Let’s do it mid-week.’ Do it during Hump Night Wednesday, and then we roll through towards the weekend.”

The plan was then set for Wednesday, certainly considering hangover recovery time. “We did a text brigade,” Sande recalls, “and I drew the announcement on paper napkins and we photocopied them and gave them away as flyers to a bunch to friends to distribute. A bunch of them helped. There were our El Amigo and Memento friends like Babu Wenceslao… The Cuernos de Negros boys… Micky Ybañez… There are too many to mention. A lot of friends helped us and supported us in the beginning.”

Enchi then played every other Wednesday, “and they played on the stage that is right next to the Hayahay restrooms now, beside the aquarium…,” Sande says. After the gig, the boys in the band would chip-in money for drinks, “or whatever else was the choice for the night.” The origin of RW was simply just a pursuit of fun and shared music among friends.

But the whole endeavor soon grew, bit by bit. Enchi and Reggae Wednesday veritably started the music scene for Hayahay, and they then added the Friday lineup with Kakay and the H Project playing jazz. Then there was Saturday Rock with Tracy Teves’ Last Train. And soon, San Miguel was sponsoring the Philippines’ top reggae bands to perform in Dumaguete, from Myra Ruaros-Brownbeat All Stars, Tropical Depression, Junior Kilat, Brownman Revival, and others.



“And thanks to our music friends from abroad,” Sande said, “we got our first international act with dancehall reggae phenomenon Lexie Lee from Los Angeles.” She was doing an Asian tour that included Vietnam and Thailand in 2009, and was more than happy to tuck Manila and Dumaguete in as stopovers. “Our second international act was Malaysia’s Pure Vibracion,” Sande said. “All these musicians and bands gracing our stage encouraged us to keep on playing uncompromised music—and hopefully bring to Dumagueteños even just a small sample of what’s out there musically. Recently, we have brought here some super bands from Manila, like Franco, Urban Dub, and veteran rockers Razorback.”

And what of the immediate future?

"We’re going to have Thursday Eargasm with With DJ Devnic,” Sande says, “and we will be have a peek at underground music scene for techno, house, and tribal beats.”

And Reggae Wednesday?

Easy enough to answer: it’s here to stay, as long as the take remains fresh. And Dumaguete is still willing to rock to the vibes of this sound. Perhaps for another ten years. Ten years. Who would have thought?


Photo of Hayahay by Hersley-Ven Casero. Photos of Enchi by Earnest Hope Tinambacan

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