Songwriting can be viewed as basically a loner’s activity. Besides, fewer songs properly recorded and officially released were actually written by a pair or a pool. Thus, a songwriting camp is sort of a come-out party for a melody-driven and lyrically empowered the individual.
With FILSCAP (Filipino Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, Inc.) now urging Society members to apply for the fourth edition of its own initiative, I can’t help but take myself back to the experience of being in the first batch myself. More than anything, it was an undertaking that boosted morale, with all the mentoring and camaraderie that came with it.
Conducted in 2016 at the First Pacific Leadership Academy in Antipolo, the first FILSCAP Songwriting Camp was a thrill on its own since no one had come before us. While most of us enlisted were practically capable songwriters, the idea that we were about to learn more about the craft excited us. Somehow you’d feel it was necessary to be in such spot as validation of your lifelong passion.
The celebrity mentors who joined that first year was naturally a strong cast led by prolific hitmakers Vehnee Saturno and Jim Paredes. The campers were divided into four, with me ending up in Camp Mariposa under the wing of Ebe Dancel whose talent turned Sugarfree into an iconic outfit. He informed everyone he was really a clumsy kid growing up, hitting walls with his mind elsewhere and a kind of liability that evolved into “Hari Ng Sablay.”
Ebe’s presence was doubly special, too, considering that Gary Valenciano’s cover of his composition, “Wag Ka Nang Umiyak,” was, at the time, high up in the consciousness of teleserye-loving Pinoys. He emphatically performed the track as token for campers as I observed he was extra focused tuning his guitar and spending a lot of time on it. Well, when I earlier sat down to show him what I had written, he quickly asked if I was sure enough that my guitar’s really in tune.
Both Paredes and guitar-virtuoso Mike Villegas, who rounded up the mentoring quartet, revealed peg songs to their hits, with “Apo’s Tuyo Na’ng Damdamin” revealed to be inspired by The Beatles’ “For No One” and Rizal Underground’s “Bilanggo” somehow coming off while the classic “Blue Moon” was in Mike’s head. Saturno, for his part, shared how one of his Ariel Rivera songs became so big it was picked up abroad for cover versions.
Still, even tips from masters were, at least to me, less special compared to friendships born out of the Camp. Being around people who behave and see the world like you is definitely inspiring. If the loneliest songs were penned because the writer feels he’s up against the world, a songwriting camp makes you feel you have finally found the one you belong to.
(FILSCAP Songwriting Camp Year 4 is scheduled Aug. 21 to 23 at Hacienda Isabela, Indang, Cavite.)
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