Balikbayan #1 has nothing remarkable for the average Filipino moviegoer, provided he actually gets the unlikely opportunity to watch it. The film would probably come across as a bad movie even, given the Hollywood-satiated audience’s expectations of a ‘movie’: thrilling, spectacular, and highly entertaining.
This is a sad assessment that unfortunately rings true for many of the Filipino films simply called indie. Ironic, given that Kidlat Tahimik is widely recognized as the father of Philippine independent cinema. And here we could nod in agreement before moving on to the next spectacle if it weren’t for a crucial difference: Balikbayan #1 is actually mildly entertaining for its would-be Filipino audience, and this audience wouldn’t even have to know film art to be able to grasp it.
There is music as most people know it: catchy, powerful, or moving, but also canned, repetitive, and disposable. A kind of Pareto principle is at work here: majority of the people appreciate only a fraction of all the aural creations available out there. But an important difference emerges from the fact that unlike the Pareto principle in economics, where the important few deserves a proportionally greater regard, in music anyone has a lot to gain by daring to go beyond the popular few, and attempt to explore the alternative lands. Because there is also music as only a few people would care to experience it.
When music lovers talk of a music “scene”, I’ve realized that they are invoking a sense of community, a tangible one, in fact. I experienced it first-hand when last weekend I finally found a perfect time to enter the hallowed, and admittedly cramped, hall(s) of Saguijo Bar. It’s the place mentioned in passing in the obscure Sandwich track, Her Favorite Band:
Video games killed the video star
YouTube the gig in Saguijo Bar
I was really there
With my girlfriend, yeah
And, as if I were following the lines of this allusion-indulgent song, I actually brought my girlfriend with me there. But unlike the song, Saguijo should not be obscure at all to anyone who has listened with a non-negligible amount of interest to artists such as Sandwich. Saguijo in Makati is, after all, perhaps the most exalted of all the alternative music meccas in the metropolis still opening their bars after dark these days. Its sister acts include Route 196 in Quezon City and 19 East in Parañaque, just to name a few.