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Bogart the Explorer: Kick-ass musican in a kick-ass band

By Francis Brew

Giniling Festival launches new EP in a shoe store. (Photo by Francis Brew)Outside a small shoe store inside the trenches of Trinoma, a young crowd gathers. No, they did not show up for a shoe sale. They came to attend the launch of Giniling Festival's EP "Effico."

Though mall regulations required the band to play behind the store's glass door, it didn't stop vocalist Jeje Santos from connecting with the hundred or so people who showed up, a tiny fraction of their 49,000-plus fans on Facebook.

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Giniling Festival launches new EP in a shoe store. (Photo by Francis Brew)Giniling Festival launches new EP in a shoe store. (Photo by Francis Brew)

Behind Jeje, guitarists Bombee Duerme and Jebs Mangahas play metallic riffs on their Stratocasters as bassist Lec Cruz locks down tight grooves with drummer Marco Ho.

Prog rock at its best

Prog rockers Giniling Festival (Photo by Francis Brew)The band barrels their way through the songs in "Effico," threatening to rattle footwear off the  display shelves.

Giniling Festival's seamless musical brand of tribal-into-classical-into-metal-into-God-knows-what (prog in the best sense of the word) overlaid with humorous yet socially critical lyrics and catchy melodies may seem out of place in a mall. But, whatever.

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After the brief set, everybody in the crowd actually lined up to purchase a copy of the EP. Yep, here's an un-rowdy bunch, looking as intelligent as the band itself.

Prog rockers Giniling Festival (Photo by Francis Brew)Prog rockers Giniling Festival (Photo by Francis Brew)

I think: yes, there is hope for the local music scene… in a mall of all places.

Bogart, the alter ego

Between the set and the meet-and-greet, the band gamely answered questions from the media.

Watch "Bogart the Explorer" in action

Marco Ho as Bogart the Explorer (Photo by Francis Brew)...and as Giniling Festival's kick-ass drummer (Photo by Francis Brew)Marco, the powerful drummer, sat smiling quietly amongst his mates until chided to give a sample of his alter ego with whom he wears, literally and metaphorically, a different hat.

He refuses at first but eventually relents.

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"G'day mates! I'm Bogart D'Explorer pram Dabaw Siti," Marco says.

The crowd cheers its approval but Marco does not mine the moment and quickly retreats back to his role for the day: as drummer for his critically acclaimed rock band.

Marco Ho as Bogart the Explorer (Photo by Francis Brew)Marco Ho as Bogart the Explorer (Photo by Francis Brew) ...and as Giniling Festival's kick-ass drummer (Photo by Francis Brew)...and as Giniling Festival's kick-ass drummer (Photo by Francis Brew)

Poking gentle fun at Pinoy culture

If you've never seen Bogart the Explorer (YouTube, dude!), imagine this: a somewhat corpulent and very Filipino looking guy with an Australian accent, dressed like the late wildlife expert Steve Irwin (the obvious reference).

Bogart'a explorations of Filipino "wildlife" include his take on snatchers, upper-class people,  the "kapre" and practically anything else on local culture.

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He gently and intelligently pokes fun at everything and manages not to be crass or cheap.

His Facebook page has reached 50,000-plus fans and in the 2012 GlobeTatt Awards, he won, well, "The Explorer" category.

Healthy music scene in Davao

As Bogart, he was asked by the all-OPM site Radio Republic to be one of the guest hosts for the successful first Dagsa Festival in Dumaguete.

Marco took the time the day before the concert proper to shoot new episodes around the city. We hung out and had beers as proper Aussies would do.

He says that while he is obviously happy with his fame as Bogart, he hopes that the attention and interest shifts a bit more to Giniling Festival, especially with their new EP out and the healthy music scene in his home city of Davao.

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He asks me if I remember a gig of The Dawn in the Insular Hotel in Davao around 1992. Well, it's hard to forget a gig where, in contrast to the normal rowdy concert environs, the band was surrounded by rowdy children. And parents. And balloons.

It was a Christmas party for the Insular Hotel employees and I may even have a few photographs. It was particularly wholesome gig.

Back in the day...and right now

"Do you remember a kid, around nine or ten years old who suddenly got onstage, grabbed the mike and started singing really loud?" Marco asked

I think back to the time. "I do," I replied. "I may have gotten a bit irritated but, hey, it was essentially a family-orientated gig and…"

Marco breaks into a shit-eating grin.

"Holy crap, that was YOU!!!"

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The next time I see him, it's at a gig in Saguijo. I was about to play in Peso Movement; he was about to play for the punk band Penguin after playing a Giniling Festival gig the same night.

Now that's one kick-ass musical explorer.

To know more about Giniling Festival and Bogart the Explorer, check out their Facebook.

Francis "Brew" Reyes wears many hats: guitarist, producer, arranger, music journalist, photographer and TV host. He once played guitar for the Dawn and was a DJ for NU107. In short, he is legendary. Like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and check out his Tumblr.

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