Traipsing Barefoot through Mt. Malasimbo

It has been brewing since 2011, has caught the attention of artists, music-lovers, and festival-goers from all over the globe, and garnered a local and international following numbering by the thousands.

It is called the Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival, and it celebrates its fifth successful year with not just one, but two jam-packed weekends this March 2015. The festival is unprecedented and considered one of the best international music and arts festivals in the Philippines, bringing together a variety of local and international acts ranging from jazz and soul, electronic, rhythm and blues, rock, and reggae that blend together into one refreshing, rejuvenating, and soul-awakening wonder.

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Set high up in the foothills of the majestic Mount Malasimbo in Puerto Galera, the festival was first organized by a group of individuals who sought to promote the Philippines’ unique heritage and “eco-cultural  tourism”  by  choosing  to  highlight  local  artists  and  showcase  local  crafts  through  special performances, exhibits, and art installations, all in one location.

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This  year’s  show kicked off with performances by Australian beat-box internet-sensation Tom Thum, reggae master Ky-Mani Marley, and the now world-renowned Golden Sound led by Peter Golikov. Local percussion group Brigada brought the crowd to their  feet with a stunning,  heart-thumping set,  and spirits soared with the smooth sounds of French Kiwi Juice’s, more popularly known as FKJ, futuristically classy collaboration with jazz virtuoso June Marieezy, the latter an artist who has credited the festival asa principal catalyst in jumpstarting her own music career.

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The organizers could not have chosen a more perfect backdrop for the festival: Mt. Malasimbo’s most prominent feature is a grass-terrace surrounded by coconut trees,  and it  creates the perfect natural amphitheater from where artists and revelers converge. The mountain comes to life at night, when the trees are lit by multi-colored lights and the sound of music and dancing permeates the cold night air, enticing many of its visitors into a trance-like state and leaving them to marvel at the ethereal, fascinating thing we have now all come to know as “Malasimbo Magic.”

Jeanne Nicole Lizares is a conservationist and youth educator. Her pursuit to spread environmental awareness has led her to adventures in the wilderness of South Africa, remote islands off the coast of Cambodia, and most recently, the majestic Amazon rainforest.

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