PUERTO GALERA, ORIENTAL MINDORO—Paradise is often regarded as a place untouched by the hand of man, but such a place exists where man and nature come together to conceive an incredibly blissful experience, and it’s right here in the Philippines.
Located on an island just about 150 kilometers south of Manila, Malasimbo’s setting is high up on the mountain that lends the festival its name, overlooking one of the most beautiful bays in the world. Here, festival-goers sway to enthralling sounds of jazz, soul, reggae, dub, and more on a grass amphitheater lined by palm trees under a starlit sky.
In the daytime, the island offers countless activities such as hiking, diving, and beach sports, with yoga classes and a ukulele workshop being added recently by festival organizers. How’s that for a weekend getaway?
Ask anyone who has attended the annual Malasimbo and they will tell you that there’s nothing quite like it. Performing alongside some of the most talented local musicians over the festival’s four-year run have included Grammy Award winners such as Jimmy Cliff, Joss Stone, and Robert Glasper, with Swedish folk singer José González headlining in 2014. Beyond the music, visual artists have also been allowed to use the festival grounds as the canvas for mesmerizing installations, giving it a psychedelic ambiance.
2014 headline musicians June Marieezy (top left) and Roy Ayers (middle right) on stage. The venue also featured installed art from various artists.
Even more impressive is the festival’s continued collaborative effort in environmental conservation and promotion of Mindoro Island’s native and modern cultures. Festival proceeds have funded reforestation projects in the area. The mere tourist draw also does wonders for the community, with the local economy thriving throughout the festival’s duration, and the indigenous Mangyan tribe being introduced to local and foreign tourists alike.
Even T’Boli tribesfolk from as far as Southern Mindanao have been invited to share their heritage to festival-goers willing to listen. If you come with an open mind, there seems to be no limit to what you can learn in a span of a few days.
Indeed, Malasimbo is one of a kind, but its value is so much more than being a boutique festival. It’s exactly the kind of event that keeps the Philippines a premier destination for those who want to see and experience artistic and cultural celebration by the people for the people, while at the same time catering to an international audience.
The Philippines has been a melting pot for centuries, and if we concede that diversity to be its true identity, then Malasimbo truly is a genuinely Filipino festival.
How to get there: Check out Malasimbo’s guide to the different modes of transport.
Pack your trash, especially cigarette butts. You might be surprised how many cigarette filters end up in the environment. Big events such as Malasimbo that draw a large number of tourists are perfect for promoting eco-friendly practices. Who can better appreciate preserving the beauty of the mountain and the ocean than those who enjoy them firsthand?
Dress appropriately. It can get quite chilly on the festival grounds so a change of outfit is necessary after spending the day on the beach.
If weather looks unfavorable, bring an umbrella or a rain jacket to avoid getting drenched.There will be few places to take shelter.
Mobile phone signal on the mountain may be irregular, so it could help your group to have a rendezvous point to avoid losing each other among the crowd.
Bring extra cash for food, drinks, and the ride back to town.
Photos by Joseph Angan