The different voices that will converge at the stage of BaRaptasan 2024

Ang Mga Supling ni Angela from Tabaco City, Albay.

For a mambabalagtas, verbal joust and poetry are so much more than a way to express complex emotions and stories. While it was born as a form of entertainment during the era of American colonial government, balagtasan — a form of poetic jousting or debate — became a way to discuss socio-political issues that besieged contemporary society. 

Through facts, rhymes and clever lines, the mambabalagtas would exchange discussions on the pros and cons of a topic relevant to the community. When it first happened on 6 April 1924, balagtasan became the rage.

Townsfolk would gather at the plaza and listen to mambalalagtas defend their stand on certain issues. While also a display of mastery of the Filipino language, it became a powerful tool to engage the public and create informed conversations on social realities. But through the years, with the advent of new forms of entertainment, the popularity of poetic jousts dwindled.

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) embarks on a new project to make balagtasan and other types of poetic jousts and oral traditions remain in the consciousness of the Filipinos, especially the young generations.

To commemorate the centennial of the balagtasan, CCP, through its Kanto Kultura program, presents “BaRaptasan,” a balagtasan competition with a twist. The competition gives balagtasan a contemporary feel with the incorporation of rap.

With topics discussing the clash between modernity and tradition, the CCP’s Kanto Kultura BaRaptasan grand finals is open to the public. Ten finalists will battle it out in the finale, slated for 6 April, 2 p.m., at the Rizal Park Open-Air Auditorium of the Rizal Park in Manila.

Know more about the group finalists:

Ang Mga Supling ni Angela from Tabaco City, Albay

Its name a homage to Filipino poet Angela Manalang Gloria, one of Tabaco City’s proud daughters, Ang Mga Supling ni Angela hopes to represent Tabaco City with a bang on the national stage. The group is composed of Kirschen Xyvrl Balajadia, Carlo Campit and Franco Balingbing.

The proud children of Tabaco believe that their home city is a tight-knit creative community. “Kasi ‘pag sinabing Albay, ang unang naiisip ay Legazpi City. Pero meron ding Tabaco City. Gusto naming ipakilala sa national stage na nandito kami (When Albay is mentioned, Legazpi City first springs to mind. But there is also Tabaco City, which we want to let people know about on the national stage),” said the group.

Bagong Koronadal Advocates from Koronadal City, South Cotabato

Working students and full-time storytellers Angel Faith Leal, Jhon Van Lapu, and Philip Jay Leaño make up the group Bagong Koronadal Advocates. Aside from being familiar with poetic joust competitions, the members share the same love for theater.

Pare-pareho naming mahal ang entablado (We all love the stage),” declared the group.

The group wants to bring the city of Koronadal wherever they go, especially to “BaRaptasan.” To sincerely support the group, the city’s mayor, Eliordo U. Ogena, even went to the extent of awarding them the Gawad Parangal ng Sining of Koronadal City.

Barapbida Normalista from Tacloban City, Leyte

Members Ray Padiwan, Wally Concepcion, and Dave Padel are third-year students taking up Education (majoring in Filipino) at Leyte Normal University. Handpicked by their professor for the competition, the three want to reintroduce their university as an avenue for creatives, not just academics.

May kakayahan ang mga taga-Leyte Normal University na ipamalas ang kanilang galing sa mga ganitong malikhaing paligsahan (We at Leyte Normal University have the ability to show their mettle in these kinds of creative competitions),” said Barapbida Normalista.

DMD from Makati City

DMD consists of rappers John Dave P. Rosimo, Marielle Lou C. Bernardo and Reynaldo S. Bernardo from Makati City. Their group’s name is made up of initials of their names. Before BaRaptasan, the three had been joining rap competitions. Couple Bernardo and Bernardo are members of Champion Paikot, a group of rappers, but would sometimes join contests as a duo. Rosimo has also been competing in rap contests.

El Setecientos from Santa Rosa, Laguna

El Setecientos, from Santa Rosa, Laguna, is composed of Simon, Mhagz and Arkyak. Besides continuously honing their craft as rappers, they now want to present their craft to the national stage. Always eager to experience something new, El Setecientos signed up for “BaRaptasan” to contribute to the cultural landscape of the country.

Harayasista Group from Labo, Camarines Norte

The Harayasista Group comprises Louie L. Francia, John Earnest M. Evidor and Amynel L. Garino, but it also has Angel Yasis as its coach. Hailing from Camarines Norte, Yasis looked for performers to create his own group after assisting another competitor.

Evidor became interested in “BaRaptasan” because it engages his two passions—music and poetry. “Nagkaroon po ako ng interes dahil pinagsama ‘yong rap at balagtasan. Ang ganda! (I became interested because it merges rap and balagtasan; it’s beautiful),” he exclaimed.

Their group’s name comes from the Filipino word haraya, which translates to “wandering mind.” Yasis inserted his surname, Asis, and added the syllable “-ta” for “tao” or people.

Lakbay Iral from Dasmariñas City, Cavite

Lakbay Iral members Aaron Vincent G. Jimenez, Louie Ross P. Reyes and Gabriel Angelo Pedrosa formed the group because of the “BaRaptasan” competition. True to the meaning of its name, Lakbay Iral aims to live life by creating and immersing in the arts.

Shortly after realizing their passion for sharing arts and crafts, the three members found themselves in a non-government organization, strengthening their bond as artists. Its members participate in open-mic competitions despite their busy schedules as students.

Rapper sa Pinas from Bocaue, Bulacan

Ernesto Canoy Jr., Oliver Monidero and Fernando Melencio Jr. met through a Facebook group for rappers. Melencio reached out to the other two and quickly became friends. Eventually, they formed Rapper sa Pinas and applied for the competition. They want to bring to the competition the natural nature of their performance, emphasizing their message and working hard to make sure it will be heard.

Tagapagtaguyod ng Literatura at Wika from Ilocos Sur

The Tagapagtaguyod ng Literatura at Wika or Tanglaw is actually an organization from the Ilocos Sur Polytechnic State College, under the Secondary Education Program. Edlyn Baniqued, Deprisse Guco and Schulamight Manzano chose to honor their school as they represent their institution on the “BaRaptasan stage.” They are all third-year Filipino language majors who were invited by their professor to join this competition.

Waraptasan from Tacloban City, Leyte

The name Waraptasan was spun by its members to show that they are from Tacloban City. With Waray as their language, members Maria Regina Babon, James Leala and Kenneth Cinco believe that “when doing art, you have to bring your own identity.” And that is exactly what they plan to do in “BaRaptasan.”

Despite coming from different parts of the Philippines and different backgrounds, all 10 finalists share the same passion for storytelling, rap, poetry and theater. All of them rely on their passions, hoping they will emerge victorious and be named the first “Hari ng BaRaptasan.”