Written by John Levy Masuli

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A few kilometers away from Baguio town, the city lights drip through twisty roads into bonfires, where gin tiptoes from hands, and the first tagay goes to the gods. It was in this intimate setting that I first witnessed Jake Espiritu’s light works dance with Jethro Sandico’s music. This was in Jake’s backyard, nestled in a steep roadside in Marcos Highway, among pine trees. The bonfire sizzled as strange projected patterns latched themselves into the dark foliage while electronic beats shyly pulsate from a small set of speakers. Witnessing algorithmic luminous lines drawn on a canvass of leaves and darkness beside a hearty bonfire is, to say the least, sure to warm the soul.

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First played for close friends and acquaintances, Sandico and Espiritu’s shows (if you could call it that) eventually culminated in a public event at the La Casa Adela in Upper Abanao Street, featuring music, art and dance. Now Algoritmo has two shows under its belt, both of which transpired at the newly-revived Baguio Garden Theater. I was invited to perform for the first show.

“We wish to simply showcase what we do using modern tools, while utilizing traditional methods,” Sandico said in an online interview. He expressed interest in developing this concept through Algoritmo, an audiovisual art and dance performance event, organized by a group of young Baguio artists from various affiliations.

“We view the equipment that we have today as just another set of tools that we could use to convey our message, our emotions.”

This dialectic between the traditional and the  contemporary evokes the ‘hybrid’ in what have been previously explored in the bizarre theatrics of the likes of Rene Aquitaňa and Roberto Villanueva, to the indie films of Kidlat Tahimik and other members Baguio art canon. But Algoritmo is made up of a younger group, digital natives who have thought that the divide between tradition and technology is less of a temporal but formal one, if not totally illusory.

Jethro added, “When we were conceptualizing this show, the mission was to mainly showcase illustrators and musicians who are involved in electronic music production. But then it grew a bit bigger than expected, so we threw in some dance, videography, photography, graphic art and animation to create a broader experience.”

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Espiritu’s live drawing, the choreography of Maicah Hipolito and Yuri Noefe brought life to the Garden Theater. Photos by Sela Gonzales, Ja Turla, Troy Esperanza, and projections by Gaea Claver provided eye candies, while Samuel Fianza aka Statua, Mac Mina (Beyond Constellation) and Sandico’s shattering sounds filled the crevices with vibrations. The audience were free to bring saunter around the building, listen, chat, jam or just hang out. One could almost smell the gin or tapey being leisurely passed around. It is more of a kickback than a proper formal scene.

But the event seems to be more concerned with a sense of rootedness. Sandico added, “we are always looking for ways to improve things but our fundamentals will always be vital to our growth. Most of the fundamentals that we have established don’t need any revisions at all. It is the approach to creating that changes from era to era.” It is not wonder that the despite their apparent fascination with the potentials of technology, the scene thrives not in a huge organized ‘scene’ but in more intimate settings.

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Algoritmo’s emphasis on technology seems to aim to highlight this generation’s nativeness to technology. But its intimate embeddedness to Baguio culture and everyday life, with its current urban verve and bonfires, and the heart of a passionate local community of creatives is what seems to be of the more profound interest in this endeavor.

There is much too be excited about in Baguio today, and they are in the quietest of corners.

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