MUSIC serves as a vehicle for social change with its power to emotionally, morally, and culturally affect society.
Political expressions always had their place in music as artists often used their creative talents to send messages on social issues.
Originally held in September, the University of the Philippines Fair (UP Fair) at the Sunken Garden in the Diliman campus started in the early 1980s as an avenue or dissent against the Martial Law era of then dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
The event was more of a series of cultural performances with political undertones organized by the University Student Council (USC) after it was re-established in 1981.
Lean Alejandro became the USC chairman in 1983 and later a key figure in the national anti-dictatorship movement who is known for his statement “The struggle for freedom is the next best thing to actually being free.”
It was in 1984, or almost forty years ago, when the UP fair was institutionalized as a fundraising activity by student organizations led by the USC and considered the biggest student-initiated activity in UP Diliman.
What started as a simple “perya-like” event, the UP Fair was moved to February and has evolved into a full-blown celebration of Philippine art, music, and culture.
The UP Fair is more than just a showcase of talent. It became a platform for change – a venue to campaign for issues that UP students have been fighting for over the years.
Musically-talented students see the campus as a large performing hall full of opportunities and like-minded individuals.
UP Fair has promoted several bands and talents, homegrown and non-UP alike which include The Jerks, The Dawn, Buklod, Yano, Sinaglahi, Patatag, and Eraserheads being the most famous among them.
The Eraserheads made their first performance at the UP Fair in February 1991 which came two years after Ely Buendia, Buddy Zabala, Marcus Adoro, and Raimund Marasigan formed the band in 1989.
They performed again at the UP Fair 1992 with their set which included cover versions of The Knack’s “My Sharona” and John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey”.
Buddy and Raymund were my roommates for two years (1989 to 1991) at the Molave dorm during my last college years.
Because the band members often used our room to play their instruments and practice, I often ended up going out to study somewhere else, as I could not take the “noise”.
As a supportive roommate, I watched them perform during the annual UP Fair at the Sunken Garden at a time when they were just starting to make waves inside the campus.
It was beyond my comprehension that the “noise” that I tried to avoid made them known as one of the most successful and critically acclaimed bands in OPM history, earning them the accolade “The Beatles of the Philippines.” It was in 2019 that they last performed during the UP Fair.
Another fixture was UP’s resident punk Romeo Lee who is best known for his “Wild Thing” persona. A highlight of each concert was Lee freaking out on stage while singing “Wild Thing” or “I Feel Good” with the featured musicians.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the themes evolved around the US bases and the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP).
The theme for 2023 is “Kaisa Ka Sa Musika” that aims to give awareness on specific social issues each day: human rights protection (Tuesday: Rev); urban poor (Wednesday: Kalye Tunes); sustainable and pro-people transportation (Thursday: Dimensions); education, students’ rights, and welfare (Friday: Polaris); and gender emancipation (Saturday: Cosmos).
Performers include Moonstar88, Ben&Ben, Sandwich Mayonnaise, Itchy Worms, Ebe Dacel, Abra, Orange and Lemons. The vocalist of Sandwich is Raymund Marasigan of Eraserheads.
Hey Moonshine also performed with bass guitarist, Atty. Carlo Ybanez, who is the current president of the Maritime Law Association of the Philippines (MARLAWPh). Their lyrics often deal with socially relevant issues like armed conflict and environmental degradation.
Students have always been a potent force in social organization and social change in Philippine society.
The UP student politics has taught us the vision of service to the people.
The campus molded us to fight for the causes we believe in; trained us for the skills we need to communicate ideas and rally others to effect changes in society.
The music festival during UP Fair makes one cherish the concept of academic freedom .
The performances are manifestations of the culture of resistance and persistence of UP as a safe haven for civilized and intelligent discourse of all beliefs and forms of democratic expression.
The UP Fair will continue to be a witness to UP’s existence as an institution with a critical eye on social and historical issues.
As Bob Marley said: “Don’t give up the fight, Stand up for your rights.”
(Peyups is the moniker of University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)