“If you’re different, you could get pegged as a drug dealer or a criminal. Automatically, you deserve to die.”
This is BP Valenzuela’s statement when talking about what it’s like being a creative in Manila. BP and fellow underground musicians RH Xanders, Den Sy Ty, OWFUCK, Teenage Granny, and Jeona Zoleta share their thoughts on the place of art and creatives in the political climate of a Duterte-governed Manila in the 16-minute documentary titled “To Live & Die in Manila.”
The film is produced by Boiler Room under the direction of Angela Stephenson. In the director’s Instagram post, she shares how originally the film was meant to showcase local artists, but given the palpable tension due to Duterte’s War on Drugs, the documentary took a steep political turn.
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When I went to Manila in 2017 to put on a Boiler Room show it was all part of a bigger plan to make a film about the music scene. All I wanted was to give the artists in this film a platform to express themselves and tell their stories, but we ended up in the face of a violent political climate which still feels absurd and unresolved, and at times was painful to document. Sometimes all we can really do is keep each other safe and continue to create art that documents the struggle and being able to do my part for the Manila scene means more than I can say. This is the trailer for ‘To Live and Die in Manila’ and you can watch it via the link in my bio. Featuring the incredibly talented @_teenagegranny, @eyedress, @bpvalenzuela, @similarobjects, @owfuckkk, @rhxanders and @explodingassholes, thank you all for your courage. ?? ++ endless thank yous to everyone involved, special mention to @beeeyes, as well as @eyedress and @jasmineicabrera for inspiring me from day one. @__ram_ for shooting with me and @cocoquizon for translating. @mamasunnn for housing us and letting us film in her clubs, which host some of the most forward thinking and inclusive nights in the city. @pacoraterta for being so supportive and letting me use his ‘Manila Ice’ video which so bravely captured the realities of what was going on in the Philippines. And @joe_alexander, who allowed me to run with this idea and stayed so patient despite this taking me nearly two years to finish. ??❤️ Trailer music – ‘Highly Educated’ by Eyedress ft. @lustbass & Tan Trees ?
It touches on dark stuff from the artists’ personal lives, like suicide and loss of loved ones through extrajudicial killings. OWFUCK rapper Lexus Santino shares that 2 of his friends were taken down in the crossfire. “Hindi masakit mamatay. Masakit mamatayan,” he says.
It’s apparent how the current regime has seeped into the collective consciousness of the local music scene, where artists have turned to music to cry foul. In spite of the bloodshed, it’s encouraging to see how these artists are here to resist.
Watch the documentary below.
Still from “To Live & Die in Manila”