Friday ∗ 22 May 2009

Livin’ Rakenrol!

a version of this was published in the 2Byou section of The Philippine Daily Inquirer on May 22 2009.

You don’t know rock ‘n’ roll – or in Pinoy slang rakenrol – until you’ve lived it. No, I’m not talking about turning back time and living in the 60’s and 70’s. What I’m talking about is going through a day of only surprises, being made to imbibe the enterprise of letting go and letting be: rakenrol! as Pepe Smith has told us countless times.

At the Red Horse Beer Muziklaban Media Challenge, this was the one thing that rang true. Kicking off the 11th Muziklaban amateur rock band competition, the media challenge was an introduction to the new and improved project of RHB. Happening too early in the morning for media people (a 7AM calltime at the Ortigas San Miguel Building), the day began with the realization that we were all participants in an amazing race that would bring us all the way to SMC’s Management Training Center in Tagaytay. I couldn’t help but imagine eating some creature I would rather step on and kill in a heartbeat.

Ah, but the truth about expecting the worst, is that you end up rolling with the punches – rakenrol na lang talaga!

Which for the three non-athletic kikay girls of the White Team began with trying to make our uniforms more… fashionable. Or just girl-friendly. So we folded the sleeves of our large Muziklaban shirts and knotted it at the waist. We wore our white bandanas as peasant headbands. And we decided that we would have fun and not take everything too seriously. Of course we wanted to win, but heck, we also wanted to enjoy ourselves. We even cheered the other teams on – how’s that for team spirit? Faced with challenges that were unfamiliar therefore difficult, there was nothing to do but rakenrol.

Try tattooing the Red Horse logo on raw pig skin for one (DI-FFI-CULT, I tell you). Climb up a wall while gathering pictures of Muziklaban’s endorsers (my teammate Nicki was just fabulous here). Ride a bike on rough terrain and try to do a bunny hop (impossible for non-pros as it turns out). Trust your teammates and allow yourself to fall backward into their open arms (the plunge my co-kikay Camille took).

All of these activities introduced us to the expanded Muziklaban Challenge of RHB. Now tagged with “Bago na ang Labanan!” the project has evolved from being a rock band competition to one that includes tattoo, extreme sports and indie film challenges. This is of course telling of the new faces to endorse RHB: tattoo artist Ricky Sta. Ana, extreme biker Armand Mariano, indie filmmaker R.A. Rivera, alongside legendary rockstar Pepe Smith.

All of whom, save for Pepe, are a surprise to see selling beer – RHB at that and its reputation as an extra strong beer – just because there seems to be a discipline to each individual’s craft that requires sobriety and focus. But depend on Ricky to respond accordingly: “Pag-umiinom ka, dalawa lang naman ang puwedeng puntahan e …sa masama at sa mabuti… everything in moderation lang.”

Spoken like a true Red Horse Beer drinker, yes? But also spoken like a true artist, who knows and acknowledges that creativity isn’t entirely distinct from the high that alcohol brings, or the relationship between the pain of getting inked and having some alcohol in one’s body. In individual conversations over beer and cigarettes at the dinner cum concert that followed the race, it became clear to me that for all these three young artists, there was nothing contradictory about their craft and this endorsement.

When asked about the probable criticism that this was a form of selling out, all three spoke of their relationship with RHB as a partnership – they aren’t mere endorsers here. They were collaborating with the one brand that sees their individual sub-cultures as a valid creative force. As far as Ricky, Armand and R.A. were concerned, this was about being able to team-up with a beer they do drink, and being able to promote their art in the process. It was a win-win situation.

The media challenge in itself was a way of bringing the subcultures into the mainstream, forcing those who have no idea what extreme sports or tattoos or indie filmmaking are, to contend with it as a matter of truth: they exist as contemporary forms of expression, for a younger generation that dares defy the rules. Ricky, after all, has single-handedly put the Pinoy tattoo artist on the world map. Armand has lived extreme biking to become its iconic figure across social classes. And R.A.? Turn your TV on to your preferred music channel, and he would be the director of the more interesting videos.

Ah, but they would have much to contend with – sila mismo ay may kani-kaniyang laban. Case in point: at the press conference earlier in the day, the three were barely comfortable, half the time having to explain to an older generation what it was they did, and why. It would be in the context of overflowing beer and rock ‘n’ roll (to the music of last year’s Muziklaban winner Even – priceless!) and their group of friends that Ricky, R.A. and Armand would become themselves. Here, they talked about being Pinoy, in their lifestyles and their craft, and proved that they were able representatives of their generation, and of RHB – alongside Pepe who was absent for the day.

If there was anything missing in this launch, it was seeing Armand do his thing on a bike, Ricky doing someone’s tattoo (I would’ve volunteered in a heartbeat!), and RA doing a film or a video of the days’ proceedings. Ah, but maybe that’s too much to ask?  In the end, this day with Red Horse’s Muziklaban launch was still rakenrol for contemporary times, as breathed, lived and created by a young generation of artists – unconventional, revolutionary, quirky and unique in turns. It is apt that Red Horse Beer put together this tour d’ force under its Muziklaban project. There is nothing that screams rakenrol! more than a bunch of iconoclasts led by Pepe Smith. Nothing like a younger generation that continues to believe in what Pepe stands for, and how he has lived by it. Pinoy rakenrol culture lives!

Posted in: arteng biswal, kultura, pelikula, tugtugan

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