Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lips Unzipped

8:10 PM

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Humans are an ever-evolving species, and (although we haven’t developed X-men-esque mutant powers just yet) we are always looking for new ways of doing things. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, we’re a bit obsessed with perspective—books like Wonder and Room are lauded for looking at the world differently. Likewise, though the art of spoken word poetry has been around for ages, artists have evolved it into a more modern form of storytelling. What has not changed over the years is the power of a good story. Using words, facial expressions, theatrical gestures, poets are able to convey the emotions behind their pieces.

It’s quite interesting to hear a poem as opposed to reading one. Everything the poet says and does in a performance is deliberate—like the way Dumbledore candidly mentions his midnight escapades—everything contributes to the experience of the story. Hearing spoken word poetry is certainly not like a classroom lecture—you don’t dissect lines or count syllables. When you hear a poem, you’re meant to feel it in your bones and at your fingertips. And perhaps that’s what makes these poems so unforgettable—the animation and vigor of the story taking form inside your head. As far as evolution is concerned, spoken word has become quite the tool we use to express ourselves.

In a modern twist of the Romans and their Amphitheaters, UP ARKAIRA hosted a spoken word poetry event at the UP College of Architecture Amphitheater entitled Lips Unzipped: The Unsaid and The Unforgotten. Spoken word poetry, after all, is meant to be heard; and I’ve been told that the worst kinds of poems are those we never get to hear in the first place.

A slew of mostly college-aged kids made their way into the amphitheater, some still fresh out of class (hello to hell week), some settling down onto mats with the free tea provided, or making their way up the steps for a more panoramic view of the ongoing scene. As dusk fell and the stage lights were turned on, the first performer John Ilagan, hailing from California, began his first piece about a first date that went just so-so. "I've got 99 problems and bitches are... all of them," and cue the crowd going ooh. Taken out of context, it might sound shallow, but don't be fooled - it's only a small sound bite from one of many poems performed both in English and Filipino that night touching on topics ranging from love (or the lack thereof) to body image to the relationship we have with our parents.

We were a reactive crowd, helpless to the provocation of words, some lines striking laughter from us, others cuing the hands-up emoji in our hearts because it hit us right where it hurts, while undeniably there were the special ones that had us turning to our friends and just saying "Shit," no further explanation needed, it was just that good. Other reactions heard from the audience include "BOOM!" and all intonations of Awws ranging from the melancholy to the "that line was so disgustingly sweet."

Live art by The Bluedoor Collective
A short, but sweet musical intermission
One of the two featured spoken word performers of the night: Trisha O'Bannon 
The last featured spoken word performer: Ninno Rodriguez

After all the performers were done with their pieces, the audience got a chance to go under the spotlight themselves for the open mic segment! At this point, my friend and I were playfully prodding each other to go up and perform something a-la-Jonah Hill's character in the slam poetry scene in 22 Jump Street (Yelling! Angry! Specific point of view on things!) In the end, we were too chicken to do so, unlike the four individuals who took the impromptu chance to present their work.

Whether one was new to spoken word, or a long-time appreciator of the art, Lips Unzipped was a great event to showcase the overwhelming amount of local talent in poetry. Keep supporting the arts and local talents - who knows, maybe you'll be the next brave soul stepping up for open mic night. 

Check out more photos from the event on UP Arkaira's official Facebook page.

Intro by Dani
Photos and article by Sammi
Dani Pua is a storyteller and a Daughter of Eve. She is a curious creature, studying biochemistry until further notice, and considers herself a ‘citizen of the world.’ (Whatever that’s supposed to mean.) Oh, and she’s also very much fond of lemon squares. She shares some of her stories on

Sammi is a walking Studio Ghibli character in her imagination, in search of a hidden kingdom of cats and/or the next greatest panini sandwich to enter her life. Her fantasies may include being a can’t-touch-this hot tamale hip-hop dancer or the lead in a magical girl anime. But then again - why not be both?


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