a UP fair to remember: attack of the mutant jologs

over the weekend, my mom asked me if i was in UP when the riot at the UP fair took place. i was, in fact, at the UP fair this year. in fact, i went there twice: first on monday, and dropped by again on wednesday. i was about to say that, yes, i witnessed a riot the first time i went, but apparently, she was referring to the violence which broke out on friday, where cops actually got hurt.

rico blanco looks stunned -- notice that the stage is protected by a net to shield bands from raucous fans who throw everything from empty water bottles to molotov cocktails

my first UP fair experience didn't take place during my first year at the UP. i was still a little out-of-place at the time, and my friends were wide-eyed teenagers who weren't interested in late night affairs, and who obediently went home immediately after class. i only managed to "taste" the UP fair when i was already a sophomore, and even moreso when i joined an organization which had its own booth (i think we offered palm reading and graphology for a minimal fee). on my fourth year (and the year following that, during the interregnum between undergrad and UP law), while i was with the philippine collegian, i was at the UP fair practically every night. our purpose there was two-fold: for fun, and for coverage. the UP fair is notorious for mêlées that have left students and security personnel hurt, and sold-out concerts cancelled. at one point, someone was shot.

while in law school, since the sunken garden was just across from malcolm hall where i stayed till late in the evening burning the midnight oil at the library, i dropped by all the UP fairs, even if to just eat dinner. after graduation, my visits have become increasingly rare, because i know few people who might want to go.

no, i haven't suddenly made new friends -- these kids asked to have their picture taken... and then what?

but the UP fair has always been an interesting experience. the grandstand has hosted several virtually-unknown bands playing to passive, apathetic crowds who only later realize their failure to spot genius because the groups they once booed have gone on to claim some measure of fame in the local music industry.

lately though, judging from my visits this year, the UP fair has been claimed by forces outside of UP. with ticket prices at less than P100, and a slew of rock bands singing at least 4 songs each, the event attracts not just students of the university, but also these young scoundrels who have strange ideas about punk fashion, whose main purpose, it seems, is to dive into a mosh pit and body slam everyone around. i remember rather vividly that the mosh pit used to be a small circle where no more than 20 people jumped around like crazed addicts. i once saw francis magallona body slam complete strangers while karl roy disrobed to reveal his bony, tattooed frame.

80% of the booths at the fair were food concessionaires

but times have changed and now we have deranged teenagers holding on to their slippers and cheap stuffed toys, punching the sky like demented baboons, jumping out of sync to the music. i do not like to use the word, but there isn't a more appropriate description: there were hordes of ugly, smelly, maleducated jologs. on the monday that i visited, when the first chords of slapshock's songs were played, a small riot between these groups broke out and someone got the beating of his life. he lost his shirt and his cellphone in the process. while all this was taking place, i was documenting the event with my sanyo xacti CA8. finally, when the situation got out of hand, people began running and pushing and bumping each other, and i tucked my video camera into my pocket, protected my nikon D300 from the ruckus, and tried to walk away. it was hard and i pressed myself against a thick crowd, and before long, i realized that my sanyo xacti was no longer in my pocket. goodness these kids are fast.

i was only a little agitated that evening and i had trouble sleeping and thinking about what i had just lost, but i rationalized: you know, i have a job, i earn honest money, and i will be able to replace what i had just lost. whereas these kids will graduate from filching cellphones and digital cameras to stealing bigger things, which will ultimately land them in jail, or worse, an early grave. so to appease my troubled mind, immediately the following day, i bought another video camera. rather quickly, i felt better (who says you can't buy peace of mind?), notwithstanding the money that i had lost in the process. things can get stolen, and a lot more things can be lost. but all these are just things. the UP fair may have gone to these rabid dogs from the gutters of manila, who prey on unguarded and overly trusting folks like me, but i have learned a lesson from being a victim of a petty theft. so on wednesday, with my new full HD video camera, i went back to the UP fair. serendipitously, slapshock was there again (i first heard them at the UP fair about 12 years ago, in fact: their lead singer was then a thin, tattooed screaming punk -- today, he looks like a dad whose voice has deteriorated from all that shouting), and so were the slameros. one of those kids has my video camera. so what? i've upgraded. and this time, i got the videos that i wanted.