On UP Fair Violence: A Personal and Less Critical Approach

I spent five years in University in the last half of the 90s, and I might have gone to each UP Fair during that time. This was when bands like the Eraserheads was approaching mega-band status, and the very fresh and novel but infectious Parokya ni Edgar were still wearing wigs and jogging pants.

The fair atmosphere was always great. You either go with your college barkada, dormmates, or even that elusive crush who would never really give you the light of day. After graduating, at the onset of the 21st century, the fair was that de facto place to hold reunions. This was also when I heard and saw a body thump loudly, falling on the UP Sunken Garden, after being reportedly stabbed. A year or two after, I saw little parades of kids who couldn’t get in the venue, some with their girlfriends in tow. About an hour later, a part of the fair fence was destroyed. Not long after that, during a band performance, the vocalist pointed out somewhere in the audience and said “Ginigripuhan o!“.

Two years ago, I strategically placed myself just beside the stage, since I wanted to see if I could take any pictures of the bands. I was fine with the predicament: I was happy that my camera gear is relatively safe from the moshing crowd. Did anything else happen of note that night? There was none, but I don’t think I’ll be back anytime soon. I was also glad I was alone, and didn’t have to look after anyone.

I’ve read some blog posts about the recent fair incident, the violence that has again occurred, and though most points are fair, my impression is that the collective voice is somewhat distant, and yes, classist. Noting what I just wrote, this wasn’t the first time this happened, you know.

I’ll cite what’s obvious to me: the Sunken Garden is clearly not the venue for a makeshift-fenced, non-free rock concert these days, and the only preventive measure is increased, and visible security. Place uniformed security 6 feet apart around the perimeter of the venue, and repeat the same setup around the Sunken Garden area. Note that this is only prevention, because I don’t think the violence involved in a big event like this will cease to exist.

Is there really no solution? None. Unless they change the venue of the band performances, and leave the fair grounds to the food and activity booths and the fair rides. Yes, I know, that will suck. Invite less rock bands? The chances of violence will be less, I believe, but it doesn’t matter that much to those who want to have rowdy fun at the expense of others, at a very accessible venue. Give up on the annual fair to finally stop this? Yes, but no one will like that.

Taking a few steps back, one would be wondering long and hard why a good number of the standard rock concert crowd has adapted to this sort of behavior, and if there is anything that can be done about it as well. I don’t think I will ever dwell on it, since I accept that what we’re seeing now is a) part of a natural rock-oriented masa crowd d/evolution; b) relies heavily on one’s peer environment, but one can’t say that it comes generally from one umbrella-like evil influence (rock music?!); c) and that there is little that we -we, being those who want to stop the violence- can do.

But read on.

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Last 2007, I attended 2 rock concerts at large venues: the Blue Wave Open Field at Macapagal Avenue, and the Amoranto Stadium in Quezon City. For the former, the crowd appeared to be filtered through, though the usual suspects of violence were hovering around the venue before the event. Weeding through the crowd during the gig, I didn’t fear for my safety, as well as for the others. Now, for the Amoranto gig, here is what I saw, and wasn’t afraid of:

Kids at MALINIS PLEASE, A Gathering of Rock Ed Artists

Kids at MALINIS PLEASE, A Gathering of Rock Ed Artists

Kids at MALINIS PLEASE, A Gathering of Rock Ed Artists

This was organized by Rock Ed Philippines, but compared to the more popular events held at the same place, this wasn’t a packed venue though, but what was surprising was that these same kids, in a controlled but not suffocating environment, did not incite anything riotous. I bet the fair organizers will learn tons from Rock Ed, and may even have them consider to bring back the long-gone socially-responsible spirit we used to see, participate, and take pride in.

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