Sounds of September: Poetry for Peace–A Spoken Word Benefit Concert for the Scholars of FPTI-ERDA Tech

by Alfonso Tan (G10J)

On September 12, from 5pm to 9pm, Xavier School was host to a night of spoken word poetry, music, and hugot– lots and lots of hugot. Sounds of September: Poetry for Peace was a benefit concert organized by the Lingkod Committee for its primary beneficiary, the students of FPTI-ERDA Tech, in cooperation with both Face to Faith and the Slam Poetry Club.

Last year, in line with peace month, Lingkod had already brought together Xavier musicians and performers to hold a small show next to the Multi-purpose Hall (MPH), but this year, they decided to expand. Lingkod was able to invite four prominent Philippine spoken word organizations–Ampersand, The Upward Project, Logos, and Words Anonymous–to perform at the event, alongside Xavier bands, Pugfish and the Treblejackers. Over 100 people attended, and Lingkod was subsequently able to raise over P20,000 to help FPTI-ERDA Tech in the construction of its new library.

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Photos by Trenton Tan (H4E)

The event featured Nisom Castillo and Raul Recto as MCs, and began with a keynote speech from Scott Chua, the student head of the Lingkod Committee. He gave a short spiel about the importance of peace and, later on, performed a poem on behalf of Ampersand dedicated to his late barber. After Scott’s keynote speech, the program began with spoken word poets and musical performers from Ampersand, a new, student-organized literature and art group featuring members from high schools and colleges around Metro Manila. Ampersand is composed primarily of amateur performers because its mission is to give members of the youth interested in performing and sharing spoken word a venue to express themselves. Given that, its performers came from Xavier School, ICA, Poveda, UP, and even the International School of Manila (ISM), and they graced the stage with poems about love, friendship, and growing up.

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After the performers from Ampersand took the stage, Nisom and Raul introduced four spoken word members from The Upward Project, a Christian organization dedicated to expressing their faith through spoken word poetry. Their performances were passionate and grounded, and often involved a striking amount of vulnerability, such as when one of their poets shared how she managed her depression through her faith. It was refreshing to see religious belief expressed in a medium separate from the usual CLE classes and school-wide masses, and the audience was moved by the heartfelt storytelling.

The Upward Project’s performers were followed by Pugfish, a musical act composed of students from both Xavier and ICA, giving the audience an interlude between the spoken word performances. They shared some soulful, subtle performances, a highlight being their rendition of Yellow, by Coldplay.

Afterwards, Logos took the stage with a varied repertoire of poetry and even some stand-up comedy. The subjects of poems ranged from love to heartbreak, with poets from Logos giving voice to different stories and points of view. There was a lot of levity to its line-up, too, with one poet sharing the story of how her cellphone was stolen and replaced, and the org ended its time on the stage with a stand-up comedy act featuring three previous performers cracking improvised jokes on topics taken from the audience. From Kanye West to Franz Kafka, from ping pong to isaw, Logos’s performers never failed to entertain.

Logos was followed by another musical performance, this time from the Xaverian band with an ever-changing name – the Treblejackers (or Half-and-half). The Treblejackers performed rock songs and pop music, navigating some powerful electric guitar solos and hitting high notes; interestingly, they also experimented with a mix of traditional rock and electronic dance music, such as in their version of OneRepublic’s Good Life, where the chorus’s guitar melodies were combined with a synthesized beat.

To end the program, Words Anonymous, one of the premiere spoken word organizations in the Philippines, took the stage. In an audience composed primarily of high school and college students, their performances covered more adult topics and experiences which were nevertheless affecting. The Words Anonymous performers talked about heartbreak, unrequited love, and the fallout of broken relationships; but they also shared strength and passion, telling stories about how they conquered their own hells.

Sounds of September: Poetry for Peace was created to celebrate peace month in a unique way. According to Scott Chua, student head of the Lingkod Committee, “The real meaning of peace—acceptance, coexistence, dialogue—is so often lost in political jargon, many words with little meaning. Poets are peacemakers, and poetry, our medium of choice, resonates deeply with emotion and our very humanity.”

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Sounds of September: Poetry for Peace was also organized to bring the growing spoken word movement to Xavier School, allowing students in the area to appreciate the increasingly popular art form. When asked about why he helped to organize the event, Ethan Chua, one of the Xaverian representatives of Ampersand, said, “Well, I’ve always wanted a spoken word event here in Xavier School because I’ve always wanted to share the power of that artform with others. One example would be how I worked with Matthew [Matthew Tan of H4I] and Jedd [Jedd Ong of batch 2015] to invite performers from Words Anonymous, which is one of the orgs at the forefront of the spoken word movement. I remember attending one of their events at Sev’s Café, but to get there, it took an hour-and-a-half trip just to reach the venue. And their poetry was great, their stories were great, and I just felt bad that, to students in the San Juan area from schools like Xavier and ICA, their art wasn’t so accessible. That’s what motivated me to bring them here, to perform in our school –I wanted my friends and my classmates to realize what an experience spoken word was. And I wasn’t disappointed at all.”

The night ended with a small but satisfied audience looking forward to future events. Though the event is only on its second year, with the first time it has featured performers outside Xavier, there is no doubt that it will find its place as a venue for the Xavier School community to both express themselves and to hear others share their stories as well.

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