The only thing worse than the violence and bloodshed going on around the world is how much of its seems to go unnoticed. It’s a feeling that those in the Philippines know all too well.
Since Rodrigo Duterte won the 2016 Philippine presidential election by promising to kill tens of thousands of criminals and urging people to kill drug addicts, the country has become an ongoing war zone that’s left over 20,000 dead. Despite the assertion that it is only drug dealers and addicts being targeted, many of those killed in police raids and government assassinations are actually community organizers, progressives, street children and political activists–not the cartel drug pushers, Duterte claims to be fighting.
It’s a subject that, while gaining some attention from mainstream media, barely covers the surface of what’s going on, including media in the US where the topic rarely seems to be discussed.
“Mainstream media has only given one narrative which is that it’s a drug war and the President is killing people left and right,” says Long Beach musician and community organizer Menchie Caliboso. “While that’s true, there’s a lot more to that story.”
Growing up Filipino in a state like California that garners the largest population of Filipino immigrants in the U.S. (over 1.4 million), Caliboso and fellow activist/organizer Nikole Cababa have always felt a lack of attention being paid to the struggles and the history of their culture despite being surrounded by those who’ve fled the violence and dire political and economic conditions that plague the Philippines.
As the killings continue to reach staggering numbers, the two activists and local musicians decided they had to create a project that gave a voice to the voiceless in the form embark on a creative project that put the rage and sadness of their people into song. This idea coincided with a national launch by the US chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-US) in December of 2017 that gave them a platform to release an album titled Rock the Mic for Human Rights in the Philippines: Stop the Killings Album Compilation that served both a creative and political purpose.
“We wanted to reach people without giving them the whole political spiel and after the launch [of ICHRP-US] there were people all over the country joining it and we had our own networks of artists actively contributing to the campaign,” Caliboso says. “We had an idea to create an album that will talk explicitly about human rights crisis in the Philippines and encourage people to learn more about it and take action.”
The 12-track Rock the Mic album features a full lineup of Filipino-fronted acts, including Santa Ana beat scene producer Chris Alfaro, better known as Free the Robots, Caliboso’s R&B/soul band Bootleg Orchestra and NYC punks Material Support, who came together with original songs for the compilation. Though the project took about three months to complete, its weight carries a lifetime of sorrow, frustration over what is happening in their home country and the pride of recognizing people who’ve chosen to fight against the corrupt government even at the cost of their own lives.
“Growing up Filipino American you’re not really taught about your culture so a lot of us growing up search for ways to feel more connected to it,” Caliboso says. “So when opportunities like this come up it’s easy for many of us to say yes I wanna contribute my art to the movement going on in Philippines. This is a good segue to become politically involved.”
The release of the album also coincides with a national Stop the Killings speaking tour that started in April traveling from D.C. to the west coast stopping at several major cities before it reaches its final destination in LA at Philippine consulate on Friday. The speaking tour includes featuring several delegates for the Philippines–peace consultants, indigenous leaders, journalists, and human rights advocates from Philippines who will be talking about human rights crisis and call for an end to US military aid to Philippines that is funding the human rights crisis. The tour kicked off at the end of April so this Friday is the last stop in LA for this tour. Next week also marks the first annual Filipino Festival in LA, March 19.
Sounds on the albums 12-song tracklist showcase a stylistic range from hip-hop to punk rock while also exhibiting a variety of ways in which the killings in the Philippines affect artists in the US who have a desire to raise money and awareness to aid ICHRP and Malaya–the two main organizations behind the Stop the Killings Speaking tour. All the proceeds from the album so far have helped fund the speaking tour and allowed music fans and artists to make a concrete difference by getting the Filipino delegates a platform to inform the country about what’s going on in their home country.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say this is an important soundtrack for them to deal with the feelings of rage and sadness and mourning,” Cababa says. “A lot of the album speaks to people who are martyrs so in a lot of ways it helps folks process what’s happening but do it in a productive way that reaches a new audience.”
For full info on the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour in LA tomorrow, May 11, click here.
To buy/stream the Rock the Mic album and support the Stop the Killings movement and speaking tour, click here toRock the Mic for Human Rights in the Philippines: Stop the Killings Album Compilation by International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – US Chapter“> listen and learn more.