These days, a rock concert is considered a luxury a regular Isko would have to save up for. Even late-night gigs in the local music scene charge door fees for two to three musical acts plus a bottle of beer. This is why thousands of music lovers eagerly await the annual UP Fair in Diliman, the February Fair in Los Baños and their relatively younger cousin, the UP Manila (UPM) Fiesta in—you guessed it—Manila. For a small fee or even none, fairgoers are treated to local band performances in the comfort of UP campuses.
The February Fair in UP Los Baños (UPLB) started as a protest fair during the martial law era in the ‘70s, according to the UPLB University Student Council (USC), which is primarily in charge of organizing the event. It was originally held in September as a way of expressing dissent against the declaration of martial law and the worsening state of the country. This week-long celebration was spearheaded by several organizations in UPLB that eventually made their way into the leadership of the Council of Student Leaders, and then, the UPLB USC.
In Diliman, what started as a simple “perya-like” event, the UP Fair, has evolved into a full-blown celebration of Philippine art, music, and culture—a platform for showcasing UP Diliman’s homegrown talents. Today, it carries with it advocacies as a means of generating awareness of national issues. The UP Diliman USC heads the organizing team of the UP Fair with student organizations serving as night handlers for every UP Fair night. Every year, the UP Fair attracts more than 10,000 people from within and outside the UP community.
In Padre Faura, the UP Manila Fiesta was launched by the UP Manila USC in 2014 as an attempt to make a splash on the music scene like the UP Fair and the UPLB Feb Fair. The cultural arm of the UPM USC, Ugnayan ng Nagkakaisang Artista (UNA), partnered with cultural organizations to organize the first UP Manila Fiesta featuring local talents as front acts as well as rising indie bands. With the help of the UP Manila Musicians Organization, the UP Manila Fiesta has reshaped its format and refocused its goals. Currently, members of Salinlahi, an organization of Philippine Arts majors, make up the executive team as well as volunteers of the UP Manila Fiesta.
True to its roots
The UPLB Feb Fair stayed true to its roots by incorporating relevant issues with pop culture, even after martial law was lifted. Program proposals, sponsorships, and event partnerships are proposed by various organizations, fraternities, sororities, alliances and formations even outside of UPLB to ensure that its audience gets the most out of this unique offering—a concert, a protest, a campout, and a celebration all at the same time (and did I mention it’s free?). To a regular fairgoer, it’s where you can have a date with your significant other, unwind by yourself, have fun with your college barkada, or come back as an alumnus to reminisce your days on campus, while calling for genuine social change.
A more intimate version of the UP Fair and UPLB Feb Fair is the weeklong UP Manila Fiesta. The goal is to rekindle the spirit of the Iskolar ng Bayan at the heart of Manila where it all began, as UP Manila is the oldest of UP campuses. The culture of resistance and persistence lives in the performances by cultural and homegrown talents, true to the mandate of dangal at husay na iniaalay sa sambayanan. This year’s UP Manila Fiesta will go back in time to highlight the horrors of the martial-law era and its growing threat during the current administration. With the theme Memory, its attendees are enjoined to oppose the wave of historical revisionism which is setting the stage for human rights violations.
Seven student organizations are hosting UP Fair 2018 in February. These include four “veteran” night handlers: UP Junior Marketing Association for Cosmos, UP Junior Philippine Institute of Accountants for Elements, and UP Economics Society with UP Underground Music Society for Roots, who are joined by two newcomers celebrating their golden and silver anniversaries: UP Sigma Kappa Pi Fraternity for Rev, and UP Babaylan for Flames. The UP Advertising Core will once again join it as the UP Fair’s official promotions arm.
Each night handler has formed its advocacy team to ensure that each fair night will have a centerpiece campaign. In recent years, the UP Fair has raised funds for UP athletes and dormers, and this year, the primary beneficiary will be a local civic organization involved in the Marawi City rehabilitation. More than a fun night of musical performances, fairgoers may check out art and campaign installations, interactive game booths and food concessionaires.
Platforms for change
The UP Manila Fiesta will be UPM’s grandest event this academic year. It will also exhibit the art of graphic designers, dancers, and writers, providing a platform for Manila’s homegrown artists to be seen and heard and, ultimately, use their craft to generate genuine social change.
For the UP Fair, there will be no USC-sponsored night to kick off the week because all six slots have been filled by night handlers. As early as the midyear, consultations had been held with previous night handlers and a market analysis done to produce a bigger UP Fair in 2018. All the campaigns are centered on the Marawi conflict in relation to the national context of historical revisionism, fake news, and human rights violations. To the UPD USC, the dynamic art and music productions this February are necessary platforms to spread awareness and encourage action in achieving genuine change.
The UPLB Feb Fair with its Southern Tagalog Audience will banner the theme ARANGKADA as a celebration of recent victories in the movement and a protest against all anti-people policies imposed against the Filipinos. Its triumph is also a challenge to the Iskolar ng Bayan to truly serve the people. As in the past, entrance to the Feb Fair is free. It will be held in the UPLB Freedom Grounds.
The author wishes to thank contributors to this article from the respective University Student Councils of each constituent unit: Isabelle Beatriz Ginez and Philippe Jefferson Galban (Diliman), Charmane Jay Maranan and John Joseph Ilagan (Los Baños), and Cid Ryan Manalo and Christiana Catu (Manila). Email the author at email@example.com.