In third grade, we moved to Manila from our little city perched on the mountain. It was the middle of summer and I had never realized how hot a city could be before. As an added insult to injury, my sisters and I somehow managed to contract lice at the same time. After a couple of Kwell baths and extensive hair-combing, my mom had had enough and decided to simply cut off my waist-length hair. (As an adult I somehow got lice from a public bus, and Kwell made a reappearance in my life. But later, I had more patience, and I didn’t lop all my hair off.). Manila also had minimal trees, like some non-tree lover had made an executive decision in the past to simply not let them exist.
School was horrid, especially at first. I was used to smaller, Montessori-style classes where I could freely leave my classroom to go play Chinese Checkers with this blind kid who would also leave his classes to play guitar in the principal’s office. This didn’t fly well at my new, strict, Catholic school.
I was also a probinsyano, which is kind of the equivalent of a redneck from Redneckville moving to New York. Like most Baguio kids, I spoke too much English and mixed it with a local dialect, Ilocano (a social faux pas, to always say kwan, which is more of a punctuation, than an expression if anything else). I could barely speak Tagalog. I had short hair, which wasn’t allowed. I was too nerdy, too eager, too something. I was also, and still am, gullible as all hell.
I felt bad because everyone was listening to Ace of Base and Wooden Heart and songs I had no idea existed. My music education was almost entirely composed of Disney and my parent’s extensive CD collection. I had just discovered the Cranberries, and I loved them. I remember bringing the CD to a school show and tell and a classmate, derisively asking, “Ano yan? Baduy.”
I did not like Zombie, which would later be the hit that they would be remembered for. The music video made me uncomfortable, but the album itself is still quite a classic. I’ve grown to like the song, but anyone who sings it during karaoke sessions instantly loses cred.
This album (which I recently listened to again) revealed sadder songs like Everything I said and Twenty-One. During long trips home to Baguio, we would sing it in the car with my parents, For this reason, I occasionally like to play it on when I travel alone.
Last weekend, we went to the 7107 International Music Festival. I’d purchased the tickets in December, before they announced the full lineup. We attended despite misgivings, rumors of a political criminal funding the show, and stupid festival rules. The diversity of the lineup and a chance to experience a first in the Philippines more than made up for it. Plus Red Hot Chili Peppers! Empire of the Sun! Itchyworms! Up Dharma Down! Radioactive Sago Project! Taken by Cars! Kjwan!
Besides, the festival had a no-refund policy except if the event was unable to push through for any reason, like a zombie apocalypse or a major storm.
A Primer on Portable Toilets
Upon entering, I stifled a gasp of horror at the portable toilets. There were dozens of them scattered around the grounds like little blue houses.
“At least there’s plenty of them. Imagine if they only had, like, four.” The BF said.
He had a good point.
Later, when I did feel the call of nature, I stood in front of one, willing it open with the power of my mind.
“This is nasty.” The girl next to me said. She seemed to be deep in the same ritual, except she had her hands out in front of her in a universal gesture that meant nope.
“Nasty.” I agreed. Inside, despite the heat, it was surprisingly clean and small. It was okay. Nothing earth-shattering marked my first time in a portable toilet. (One day I’ll tell you a story of how I almost peed in a portable toilet, by the side of a road, butt to the highway while cars passed by. I then discovered that I had lice, but not because of the portable toilet).
As the night progressed, peeing became a ritual. Girls held doors open for girls armed with tissue, phone lights/flashlights and sheer determination. You could hear girls holding their breath/speed-praying the precariously balanced plastic contraptions wouldn’t fall over. (I once read a Stephen King story where the antagonist traps the hero in a portable toilet and boy, I really regretted reading it at that point). The men, it seemed, had no issues. They simply peed with the door open and their backs to the world.
Why the ritual? The portable toilets had no lights inside. A simple, overlooked detail that turned peeing into an ordeal.
Our second thought was that we were going to starve. Food was priced at P150 and up! The cheapest thing you could buy was McDonald’s Apple Pie, which is made from sayote, anyway.
I’ll tell you a secret. One of the reasons I’m crazy in love with this man is that he seems to be unruffled by things that ruffle me, such as expensive tricycles rides and idiotic prices for food. He takes life as it comes.
I’ve never paid so much for a bottle of water (P80) in my life! If there was one thing I would suggest to the 7107 organizers, it’s this: next year, please give us refillable tumblers, charge us P300 for them and then give us water for free. In the long run, it’s more sustainable. I suspect the price of water led to a lot of dehydration incidents. Because if you have to pay that much for water, you’ll end up buying beer or going without.
(Before you comment about bringing one’s own, we had to give our water bottles up at the gate or literally empty our tumblers of whatever we had).
“Baka alak laman niyan.” It might be alcohol. Gate Dude told us on the first day. Later, during the 2nd day, my cousin asked a girl drinking from a bottle of Emperador how she smuggled the long-neck bottle in.
She shrugged. “I stuck it in my Survival Kit.” She said, referring to the kits Smart Communications gave/charged for. “They didn’t check it.”
Day 1: Vibes, Hula Hoops and Dancing
I was blown away by the stages. I think we stood there for a minute, just staring.
I loved the way they set everything up — far enough apart so the music wouldn’t mix and just close enough for you to see the overall design. Despite my complaints about the small things, the big things they definitely got right.
It was obvious that the organizers love music and love all kinds of music. To be frank, I’m not really a fan of EDM. Before the concert, I even joked that I’d go to the bathroom during Kaskade’s set. (I didn’t. I went to dance).
We arrived late on the first day due to logistics and bus trips. We set up our yoga mat just in time to hear Motherbasss. It was a good way to ease us in — the mix of beats and heavy, heart-pounding drums. After that, the vibe of the first day just got better. It felt cheerful, to say the least. People were happy! I heard the VIP people had a lot of be happy about too: free food, overflowing drinks, even a pool over at the Guess tent. (It sounded epic and yes, I am jealous. They even had PlayStations set up!)
People danced, hula-hooped, did handstands, took pictures. People strolled around lazily, smiled and waved at each other.
It didn’t matter if you were GA or VIP near the stages — the audience area was open and you could set up wherever you pleased. People brought banigs, sarongs, knocked back beers and chilled.
“I’ve always wanted to go to something like this.” The BF said, contentedly, as the afternoon grew late.
“Me too.” I said.
SCENE: EXT. FESTIVAL GROUNDS. DAY.
GIRL IN TINY SHORTS AND HALF TEE, QUITE HOT: Omigod!
GIRL IN TINY SHORTS, HALF TEE, COWBOY BOOTS: [Insert name here]! I didn’t know you were here!
There was a lot of that.
As evening fell, we met up with a group of friends. We transferred to their little camp in front of the the second stage. This stage was framed by an elaborate set of carabao horns that lit up into the night.
“Parang ASAP-shots lang though.” One friend said, laughing, referring to the camera shots of the band and crowd.
My highlight of this part of the night was Taken by Cars. We ate and get an earful of the local music scene. I’m really happy that the organizers mixed local and international talent. I’m also apparently the only person in the world who wasn’t happy with Kjwan’s set. I thought Mark Abaya was dressed like a 50’s action star and that he talked a little too much.
Eventually, the pounding beats and bright lights of the main stage drew us back. DJ Alvaro was playing by this time and it was an intense set. By now, night had fallen and the winds picked up.
We could feel the heat of the crowd and a couple of my friends even ducked into it to warm up. We danced, we partied and we went home. We were prepped. We were waiting.
Day 2: A Form of Address
To the Girl Who Tried to Use Her Looks to Get to the Front of the Crowd,
Hello. I’m sorry we denied you and really, had to elbow you out of the way. I’m sorry you had to try again and again and we just formed a wall to block you out. I know you wanted Kendrick Lamar to see you. We saw you pout and sniff. We saw you try again with the group of Canadians next to us, who by the way, denied you too. We heard dude next to us loudly and emphatically tell you: “No ******* way!”
You weren’t the only one trying to take our spot, tbh.
We lined up at 11 AM, in the scorching sun. Our friends RAN. Literally, RAN, to get to that spot.
We stayed there the entire day. It was our Thermopylae. We were a phalanx. We didn’t go to the bathroom to keep it. We were literally shaking with hunger by the end of the day.
We were trapped by the massive crowd at certain points and food/water were secondary concerns. But we didn’t mind. We had an end goal.
You see, we really wanted to see the Chili Peppers. We’re big fans. In fact, I’m still suffering from slight hearing loss.
I do have to tell you though, that it was worth it.
Next time, line the fuck up.
P.S. I rarely bring big cams to concerts, because I prefer to enjoy the vibe and music so most of the shots here were taken with my iPhone (sorry about the blurry shots).
P.P.S. If the line up is as good next year, I’m definitely going again!