Last week, I had the time of my life once again at Bahura Resort in Dumaguete where the 5th Elements Songwriting Camp was held.
Anyone who has ever been a part of the Elements Songwriting Camp would surely tell you what an inspiring and life-changing experience it is each time. Each year, 60 very lucky campers selected from all over the country through online and live auditions get to spend 5 days in Dumaguete listening to talks and lectures, networking with fellow-musicians, and simply bonding and hanging out with the likes of South Border’s Jay Durias, Gloc-9, Joey Ayala, Jim Paredes, Gerard Salonga, and many more industry greats.
Jun Sy of TAO Corporation, Twinky Lagdameo and Maestro Ryan Cayabyab are the 3 people behind this project. Words are not enough to express my gratitude to these three people for giving us songwriters such a big gift. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to mentor thrice so far, and each year has been memorable and special for different reasons.
Year 1 was special to me because of a more active role I played. During its inception, Mr.C met with me to discuss the project and I pulled in my colleagues Jungee Marcelo and Jonathan Manalo to help us audition and select the 60 lucky campers. We got to travel around the country for the live auditions and made our selection. At camp, I shared emceeing duties with Jungee, and it was a joy to see him shine as a host. His humor, quick wit and ability to provide icebreakers whenever things were getting monotonous, has made Jungee an invaluable part of the annual camp as its main emcee.
I also did a short talk on lyric-writing as sort of a “front act” for that module’s main speaker, Gary Granada, whom I was happy to introduce to a generation of young songwriters who were not quite familiar with this genius. His “Saranggola Sa Ulan” was a favorite of mine, so I used it as an example of a song with all the elements of a good lyric – and everyone was of course blown away listening to the song – right before he walked in to a crowd that gave him a standing ovation. Gary whispered to me “parang binayaran kita para gawin ito ah!” He, Joey Ayala, Noel Cabangon, and many other mentors started a tradition of jamming during the camp’s last dinner. Everything was spontaneous and organic. Nowhere else would anyone ever see Gary V dancing with Jungee and Rico Blanco! That first year was certainly magical.
I was invited back in 2012, and this time I was there as part of a panel of speakers during one of the modules. Much less work for me compared to Year 1, but I encountered a couple of problems that year: I got sick (there were a few of us that got major tummy troubles due to perhaps something we ate) and that limited my participation in the physical games. And then there were personality clashes within the team assigned to me for mentoring. One of my campers apparently had just come out of drug rehab and was a bit of a challenge to handle, even for other mentors who tried to reach out to him. It was probably the only time in the camp's history that a team actually split up into separate factions! They were, of course, ultimately told they had to work together for their group presentation, which they did manage to do in the end.
The upside of this experience was getting to know the other mentors a little better, particularly the band lead singers like Chito Miranda, Gabby Alipe and Ebe Dancel. I had not known these guys prior to camp, as I had little exposure to the band scene. Whatever preconceived notions I may have had about rock stars being indifferent disappeared when I saw how they reached out to this difficult camper and sort of rallied behind me when they heard about how our breakout sessions had gone. Such sweet and caring guys! They were what made that year’s camp special for me.
Third time’s a charm, they say, and it certainly was for me. I was back at camp last week and this time, my mentoring experience was the most enjoyable. Aside from having been able to mingle with a lot more campers this time through the various activities, the team I co-mentored with Gabby Alipe was such a joy to work with. One of the highlights of camp each year is the group presentations. Each group has to come up with a song according to the topic or genre assigned to them. This time, mentors were allowed to intervene or contribute to a group’s work.
We picked “musical theater” and the campers decided they wanted to do a musical based on something everyone could relate to, which was camp itself. It took the group 4 hours to complete the song, another hour to arrange it plus some extra time to choreograph and rehearse. The result was this number, which brought the house down and deemed best presentation for this year.
This year's group presentations were emceed by Jungee and Quest, with the special participation of Ogie Alcasid, who had us all in stitches, as you can see here.
Touching base with fellow mentors is also always one of the best things about camp for me.
Gerard Salonga joined us for the first time this year and gave an inspirational talk during the campers' graduation ceremonies at Siliman University. I thought he hit the nail on the head when he said he wasn't sure who was benefiting from the camp more, the campers or the mentors. We feel this way every year. While we are always happy to share what we've learned from our own experience, we draw so much inspiration from the campers.
When I got home, I re-read a thank you note given to me by Jerome Cleofas, a camper in my team (who was voted Mr. Congeniality). Being someone who has played my song in church, he believed it was no coincidence that he landed in my team, got to interact with me and found validation and inspiration to continue writing songs. I teared up (and it still tears me up writing about this!)... hard to explain why. I guess it's many things, one of which is just sheer gratitude that the Elements Camp gives me this kind of a gift. It really is a gift when you are able to give someone hope and inspiration. It's also a little scary, too, I guess... because you want the best for them and hope they succeed. And it has made me grateful for my own journey that has brought me to this wonderful position of having access to so many awesome new songwriters, of being part of their community as well.
Thank you, campers. Thank you, fellow-mentors. Thank you Jun Sy, Twinky Lagdameo and Ryan Cayabyab. Thank you, Elements Songwriting Camp!
My name is Trina Belamide and I'm a songwriter and record producer.
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