Editor's Note: The Ransom Collective is a folk band featured in the first season of Coke Studio Philippines, a program that promotes homegrown talent and brings different artists of various genres together to collaborate on fresh, uniquely Filipino sounds. On December 2, 2017, Coke Studio brought The Ransom Collective to the war-stricken municipality of Marawi for a relief operation and benefit concert. Here, the band shares with us their first-hand account on what it's like to spark hope back into the people of Marawi the best way they know how: through music.
Bands are often called to bring life to a gathering, to engage a crowd, to get people dancing, or to add emphasis to a certain portion of a program. As a member of a band, I've been used to bringing entertaiment to various events. But this time around, playing in front of a live audience became something beyond what we normally do.
Following a six-month struggle in Marawi that led to over a thousand casualties and displaced hundreds of thousands more, my band The Ransom Collective was invited by Coke Studio Philippines to play for evacuees residing in the nearest town, Saguiran. The date: December 2, 2017. To us, the task of performing for an audience crossed over with a sense of civic duty, making us feel the importance of giving our best and going beyond the usual. Crowds usually come to see the bands to show their support, but this time, it was the other way around.
We left Manila at around 6:30 AM and arrived at the venue at around noon. As told by one of the organizer volunteers, a refugee from Marawi herself, they have all been residing in the temporary camp for six months. Those who’ve had some "remnants" of a home have returned to the city; but those who have lost everything and have nothing to return to in Marawi City remain.
After playing our small part in handing out relief goods, we went on stage to deliver our performance. “Just go out there and show some energy. Ask them to dance with you. Mag-e-enjoy din 'yung mga 'yan,” advised one of our organizers. The audience was a mix of children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens. There was little chance that those who watched us perform knew our songs, but we invited them to sing and dance with us anyway. Indeed, we noticed some people would dance, clap, smile, or cheer. Though we were just 20 minutes away from Ground Zero—which we were told seemed like a ghost town—we couldn’t help but notice the joy that emanated from the faces in the crowd. It was enough to fill our hearts with more bliss than ever before. We were reminded that the spirit of Filipinos is not so easily broken even in such difficult times.
Though the distance was long, the whole trip was quite short. We flew out at midnight that same day after spending most of our time either at the venue or in transit. As tiring as it was, every part of our trip to visit the people of Marawi was a privilege in itself. It was no ordinary gig; it was an experience that reminded us of hope and resiliency and how we can play a part in it through the gift of music.
For the culmination of Coke Studio Philippines Season 1, a live benefit concert entitled Bringing Back Music To Marawi will be held on December 9, 2017 at the Mall of Asia Concert Grounds. The event will feature a total of 26 bands including Coke Studio artists such as The Ransom Collective, Autotelic, Reese Lansangan, Urbandub, Ebe Dancel, and Franco, plus other local acts like Leanne and Naara, Where's Ramona?, and Rob and The Hitmen. See you there!
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Photos from The Ransom Collective/Coca Cola Philippines