INTERVIEW: 'Sound of Strike' Raising Awareness on Filipino Issues 'The Filipino Way'

INTERVIEW: 'Sound of Strike' Raising Awareness on Filipino Issues 'The Filipino Way'
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sound of Strike.

What you need to know

'The Philippines is a country that is under a lot of attention. But the attention it gets is very one-sided,' says 23-year-old Jun Lin, one of the three working on the project. 'After Duterte took office, we have been seeing a lot of news coverage on the Philippines, but it’s all about what Duterte said.'

What comes to mind when the Philippines is mentioned? Duterte, War on Drugs, poverty?

The “Sound of Strike: Filipino Art and Cultural Exchange Project” in Taiwan is aiming to add more to the Taiwanese understanding of the Southeast Asian country.

With a team of three, the project is bringing Filipino blues rock group The General Strike and rapper BLKD — both members of the vibrant political music scene in the Philippines — to Taiwan for a nine-day series of performances and talks starting July 28.

“Sound of Strike” is funded by an NT$700,000 (US$23,000) grant from the Ministry of Culture’s Emerald Initiative, which aims to encourage private organizations to recommend and invite personnel from Southeast Asia to live in Taiwan. The team is spending NT$400,000 of the grant for events in Taiwan and will put in the remaining NT$300,000 to host a short film festival at the UP Film Institute in the Philippines in September.

“The Philippines is a country that is under a lot of attention. But the attention it gets is very one-sided,” says 23-year-old Jun Lin (林劭寰), one of the three working on the project. “After Duterte took office, we have been seeing a lot of news coverage on the Philippines, but it’s all about what Duterte said.”

“It’s like the Philippines equals Duterte,” echoes Analeigh Yao (姚羽亭), 23, a second team member.

Having all spent months in the Southeast Asian country, the three believe there are many more local issues that are worth getting to know, such as the rise of the Filipino middle class. The team was especially intrigued by how local artists and musicians raised awareness to social issues through their art, and came up with the idea to educate the Taiwanese on Filipino issues with a cultural exchange program.

Ahead of “Sound of Strike,” the team held a series of preliminary events to provide the public with a more diverse and deeper understanding of the art and culture of the Philippines. These events started in June and included six film screenings, 22 talks and a mini-exhibition — all of which were funded by the team or tickets sold at the film screenings.

Filipino immigrants in Taiwan, exhibition curators, authors, film directors and the team members themselves hosted the talks that delved into poverty issues, the Martial Law period, social movements and civil society in the Philippines.

“At most of these events, members of the audience would often come up to us and ask why they haven’t seen any news reports on these issues,” says Wendy Chang (張馨云), 22, the last member. “We hope the participants can gain a better understanding of the Philippines through the different problems the country is seeing.”

Aside from educating Taiwanese on Filipino issues, the team also aims to show the differences between social movements in the two countries and inspire those involved.

“Social movements in Taiwan are mostly organized by intellectuals, but that’s not the way it’s done in the Philippines. Though intellectuals also help in coordinating the movements, most of the organizers don’t have a high level of education,” says Yao.

The other two agree with this observation, adding the use of cultural media in social movements in the Philippines is “very dynamic” and is a significant feature.

“They let more people understand these issues through art performances and language that is easier to comprehend,” says Yao. “This is rarely seen in Taiwan social movements.”

The team is aspiring to do a lot with “Sound of Strike” and it hasn’t been easy.

They have seen obstacles in communicating with those in the Philippines because most Filipinos don’t have unlimited internet access on their phones. This means a lot of waiting for people to respond to questions or requests.

“Another challenge is deciding which issues we want to discuss,” says Chang. “Our team members are pretty knowledgeable about these issues so we always want to share more with our audience. But some of them have said that the amount of information provided is too much for them to digest.”

Nevertheless, the team pushed on, and the first performance will be on July 28, followed by a talk held by The General Strike. Another free Taiwan-Philippines crossover music party will be held on July 30, with The General Strike and BLKD from the Philippines performing alongside local bands LEO37 + SOSS and No-nonsense Collective (無妄合作社).

“It’s about filling in the blanks that haven’t been covered by the media,” says Lin. “We hope that those who come [to our events] will leave with a seed, and next time when people are talking about issues [in the Philippines], these people can bring a different perspective to the discussion.”

List of events in "Sound of Strike" here.

Editor: Edward White


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