Baraptasan 2024: Bringing Different Voices in One Stage

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 bleak era of American colonialism, Balagtasan – a form of traditional verbal jousting – became a venue 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 April 6, 1924, Balagtasan became the rage.

Town folks would gather at the plaza and listen to mambalalagtas defend their stand on certain social issues. While it seemed like a verbal display of one’s 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 entertainment platforms, verbal jousts become few and far between in recent times.

With this in mind, the Cultural Center of the Philippines embarks on a new project to make Balagtasan and other types of verbal jousts remain in the consciousness of the Filipino people, especially the young generations. 

To commemorate the centennial of 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 on April 6, 2 PM, at the Rizal Park Open-Air Auditorium.

The group finalists are: Ang Mga Supling ni Angela, Bagong Koronadal Advocates (City of Koronadal), Barapbida Normalista, DMD, El Setecientos, Harayasista Group, Lakbay Iral, Rapper sa Pinas, Tanglaw, and Waraptasan.
Ang Mga Supling Ni Angela Of Tabaco City, Albay
Paying homage to the first Filipina poet Angela Manalang Gloria, and one of Tabaco City’s proud daughters, Ang Mga Supling ni Angela hopes to present 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 hometown has a tight-knit creative community, something that Filipino people should know. “Kasi ‘pag sinabing Albay, ang unang naiisip ay Legazpi City. Pero meron ding Tabaco City. Gusto naming ipakilala sa national stage na nandito kami,” said the group.

Bagong Koronadal Advocates (City Of Koronadal) Of South Cotabato
Working students and full-time storytellers Angel Faith Leal, Jhon Van Lapu, and Philip Jay Leaño make up the Bagong Koronadal Advocates group. Aside from being familiar with verbal joust competitions, the members share the same love for theater. “Pare-pareho naming mahal ang entablado,” declared the group.

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

Barapbida Normalista Of Tacloban, 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,” said Barapbida Normalista.

DMD Of Makati City
The fourth group, DMD, consists of rappers John Dave P. Rosimo, Marielle Lou C. Bernardo, and Reynaldo S. Bernardo from Makati City. Their group name stood for their initials.

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

Harayasista Group Of Labo, Camarines Norte
The Harayasista Group may have performers 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.

Meanwhile, Evidor became interested in BaRaptasan because it engages his two passions – music and poetry. “Nagkaro’n po ako ng interes dahil pinagsama ‘yong rap at Balagtas. Ang ganda!” he exclaimed.

Their group name, Harayasista, came 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 Of 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 its translation, 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 Of 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 (Tanglaw) Of 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 represented their institution on the BaRaptasan stage. They are all third-year Filipino Majors who were invited by their professor to join this competition.

Waraptasan Of Tacloban City, Leyte
Waraptasan is a wordplay spun by its members to show that they are from Tacloban City. With Waray as their language, members Ma. 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 anchor on their passions, hoping they will emerge victorious and be named the first Hari ng BaRaptasan.

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