I'm on a personal mission: to proclaim all the reasons backpackers going to South East Asia should make the trip down to my country, the Philippines. After my first time experiencing the Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival, I found another solid one.
1. Where else in the world will you find such a unique setting?
A music festival in a natural amphitheater on a mountain, with art all around, and being surrounded by a host of interesting, beautiful people from all over the world, enjoying good music and the mountain breeze. What's not to like?
As I told my new friend Cat - you're beating the system by being here tonight. What an experience to have in a random place far from home!
Oh, and get this: Silent Discos. I missed this because it was on the second weekend, but this sounds awesome!
2. It's heaps of fun whether you're a 20-year-old party animal or a contemplative old soul.
I never had much appetite to party, but two months shy of 30, I require at least a 50-50 chill-to-party ratio. The thing I loved about Malasimbo --- at least, the first weekend, which I went to --- was that you could have both, and at the same time. The vibe was never boring, but neither too in-your-face. Even staying in the heart of the crowd, I didn't find myself feeling exhausted after 15 minutes. Nonetheless, you could just as easily lose yourself in this atmosphere as you would in a conventional big party, with a little help from alcohol and whatever else was on hand. 0:-)
For the more soulful introvert travelers out there, you can find your little corner of the mountain and lie on the grass, looking at the stars or contemplating the moon in the cool air, or walk around the appreciate the art.
3. The music, of course.
I appreciated that the organizers selected acts that perfectly fit the atmosphere I just described, that perfect balance between fun and relaxed. At times I was actively listening, singing along, and dancing to the music; at others I just let the music wash over me as I lay quietly on the slopes. There's not a lot of music festivals where you can be less than eight meters away from the stage and yet still be able to lie down and chill, then ten minutes later get up and start dancing without moving places!
I enjoyed all the acts and everyone will have their favorites, but my personal highlights were crowd-pleaser Tom Thum (in the video above), whose incredible beat-boxing must be heard live to be believed; award-winning Filipino blues trio Bleu Rascals; and Ky-Mani Marley, who indulged the Saturday night audience by playing a number of his dad's biggest reggae hits.
4. There's world-class diving (and other fun stuff to do) in Puerto Galera.
Puerto Galera, the seaside municipality that plays host to Malasimbo, is situated just off the Verde Island Passage, which according to some scientists is "center of the center of species richness in the Indo-Pacific region." Read that article, and the first sentence reads: "This is the most amazing place I have ever been in my 30 years of research."
My friend, award-winning dive videographer and filmmaker Tony Exall, says Verde Island is the most fish-populated dive site he knows of in the Philippines. It's also just across the strait from the birthplace of Philippine scuba diving, Anilao. (Hop over to Philippine Dive Holidays and let the expert Tony himself show you around.)
Of course, be reminded that a hangover from a night of partying and a morning dive are the not the best combination, so plan around that! :D
As for other stuff to do in PG, there's actually loads of them, just be wary of touts as there a lot of them in places that see a lot of foreigners!
I spent my free time diving then lazing on White Beach with my friends from the Z Hostel contingent and hitching on death-defying motorbike rides from Sabang Beach to get there.
Did I mention the beach?
Because they have those.
5. It happens every year at the cusp of summer in the Philippines --- the perfect time in the perfect place.
Bloggers and mainstream news outlets have already waxed poetic on the beauty of the 7,107 Philippine islands and its friendly, happy people. Escape the winter and find out why, as they say, it's more fun here. So come visit! And if you don't forget to drop me a line! :-)