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Uprising Caviteño rapper “Rookie” hits on environmental issues in a new music video

Through raw and blunt lyricism, a young hip-hop artist from the Cavite underground takes on a controversial message.

Aaron Alcoran a.k.a “Rookie” is an independent rap artist born and raised in Dasmarinas City, Cavite. He performs as part of the rap trio, Natural Lifestyle.

Having an affinity for rap and hip-hop since childhood, Rookie started his journey by creating original rhymes and beats during his teenage years. His exposure to musical poetry began when he first listened to local rap legends Loonie and Gloc-9 — a discovery that compelled him to explore the various styles and genres of rap at an early age. This exploration eventually led him to Ingay Likha, a huge community of independent artists and enthusiasts that sprung from the visceral underground scene of Cavite. He now releases solo tracks and collaborations with other homegrown artists, garnering a great deal of local attention and critical acclaim.

Rookie explains that rap is his catharsis. It allows him to express himself and air out his thoughts on social and political issues. To him, rap should be able to bend perceptions, question beliefs, and challenge what man thinks is right or wrong, a sentiment that he speaks loud and clear in his latest single, “Nila Lang”.

A play on the word “nilalang” (creature) and the phrase “nila lang” (only them), this song is an allegorical take on human nature, selfishness, supremacism, and the botched morality of animal consumption.

In March of 2021, the music video for “Nila Lang” was dropped under the Urban Ronin Youtube channel. Urban Ronin, a production laboratory for some of the most talented homegrown rap artists from Cavite, helmed the vision for Rookie’s very first music video — a trippy visual vignette depicting the madness behind consumerism and human greed, in the backdrop of a seemingly sentient natural landscape.

As an uprising artist, Rookie believes that every aspiring rapper should strive for greatness and never settle for mediocrity. He also believes that rap should not only be an avenue for self-expression, but a platform for advocacies and raising awareness on relevant issues. To him, an artist’s goal is not to gain money or fame, but to be exceptionally good in their craft and leave a legacy that people will remember for years to come.

Watch the full music video for “Nila Lang” here:

Ruminations on Growth and Identities: What We Are

As repertoires of elements clashing and thriving in a single space, each piece in this humble display is an impression of chaos and harmony, a depiction of the reality of human connections.

For their first joint exhibit, contemporary abstract artists August and Pauline give us a glimpse of their atypical process.

Photos by Mono8 Gallery

Ever since I started venturing in the world of art, one of the things I came to admire most about artists is their ability to capture diverse angles of life, and in a glimpse, establish a link with audiences whose lives are likewise mirrored by their craft. The same admiration echoes exceptionally true for abstractionist duo August Lyle Espino and Pauline Reynolds.

 My first encounter with the two happened during their very first back-to-back exhibits — “Sirkopath” and “Underfoot” at the Mono8 Gallery. Stepping into their displays of creativity was a dreamy experience in itself. August’s “Sirkopath” received onlookers with psychedelic splashes of color and bizarre illusions of humans, animals, and objects, reminiscent of the spectacle of a circus; funky, lively, yet unsettling. In utter contrast, Pauline’s “Underfoot”, situated at the innermost area of the gallery, was a place of solace, shrouding you with inner peace as you rest your eyes upon an intricate display of condemned, wasted, and decrepit materials, adorned with burns and tears, finding their place in the corners and crevices of a menial canvas. Both exhibits, albeit remarkably different, complimented each other as depictions of modern life — refined and sophisticated, yet manic and primitive.

Photos by Mono8 Gallery

Moving forward, they decided to merge their artistic voices, resulting in the concept and theme of their sophomore effort, What We Are.

Madness in Technicolor – August Lyle Espino

August’s approach in art is eclectic and multi-disciplinary. He employs facets of filmmaking, as well as the strategic use of color in conveying meaning into his works. He explains that his process in creating pieces is similar to that of writing a script. He stares at a blank canvas, maps its story in his head, and stamps it on; painting layers upon layers of visuals, each with its own unique course, and leading everything to a conclusion which remains a mystery until the final stroke of the brush.  When asked what marks the end of each piece, he explains that there is none. Each work completes itself, and he simply ends when he deems it done.

Deranged, non-linear, and ever-branching — his art mirrors the process of growth. He believes that every individual is a culmination of the humans, animals, and objects that crossed its path. All the beings it met and will meet, all the situations it adapted and will adapt from, will ultimately cause it to morph into an amalgamation of a greater scale. No matter how beautiful, no matter how hideous the outcome may be, the process will lead an individual to rise beyond itself, to outgrow its old shell, to recover and rediscover itself anew.

Beauty Inherent in Ruin: Pauline Reynolds

In her early days as an artist, Pauline primarily focused on painting and sketching, incorporating a greater deal of realism onto her works. Only recently did she start venturing off to mixed media, after realizing that this art form allowed her to be more raw, visceral, and free. She explains that her process involves deep introspection and grounding. In the studio, she surrounds herself with found objects, figures and details ripped from vintage magazines, and decrepit pieces of wood, tiles, and debris, all of which she personally sought and hand-picked. She then layers and positions each piece intricately, in a manner where the existence of one accentuates the other.

A union of discarded materials and mementos, of mere fragments of what once was — Pauline’s works mirror the process of change. She explains that she sees each of her pieces as an altar, an ode to the passage of time. She creates with a deep sentimentality that emanates through every detail of every unlikely sculpture she creates, and the way she sees beauty in even the most mundane of objects makes anyone re-think the worth of even the most ruined and broken of things, even of themselves.

What We Are

In their most recent feat, August and Pauline were challenged to rediscover the layers and dynamics of their own lives, and to visually present the identities they’ve formed at this point in time. WHAT WE ARE is an exploration of these identities. It illustrates how every person is an outcome of their circumstances, and how the perpetual cycle of events in our lives confine us in a state of constant growth and change.

Each piece in this exhibit is a reflection of the artists’ selves. Each of their adorned canvasses is a depiction of their inner psyche, as well as an embodiment of the nature of their relationship. Erratic and incongruous, yet intimate and sentimental — their works consist of fractions of their identities merging, clashing, and thriving in a single space — an outcome of their coexistence with other beings, things, and occurrences that impacted their lives. It is a culmination of the ideas, beliefs, and experiences that led the artists to become who they are today, which will soon be a memoir of who they once were.

What We Are will be up until the 8th of March, 2020. Catch this exhibit, along with many others, at Vinyl On Vinyl Gallery.

Business Name: Vinyl On Vinyl Gallery
Address: 2241 La Fuerza Chino Roces Avenue, 1231 Makati, Philippines
Contact Number: (082)260 0020
Operating Hours: 12:00pm – 5:00pm

Old Songs and December Evenings

Christmas starts as early as September in the Philippines. As a happy, ecstatic, and extravagant bunch of people — we Filipinos don’t only see Christmas as the eve of the 25th, but as the whole four months of September to December, a.k.a the “Ber” months. Usually, we welcome this season by partaking in annual traditions and festivities. Each family here has a tradition or festivity of their own — making parols, putting up holiday-themed decor, having reunions, spending nights of prayer in church, and enjoying warm wraps of bibingka or puto bumbong among many others.

Our family has a couple of special traditions as well, some of which are quite unique compared to our Filipino neighbors.

Photo taken 12/21/2017 in Baguio City

We spend most of our holidays at the chilly highlands of Baguio City. During then, we prefer to keep everything simple, cozy, and minimal. A well-adorned tree with presents underneath, sparkling blue and yellow lights, fuzzy red socks, poinsettia-printed curtains and pillowcases, and a few shiny mistletoes here and there were enough for us to feel the essence and warmth of the season. We also scatter wooden bowls of potpourri, scented candles, and fragrance oils all around — making the refreshing scents of coffee, cinnamon, chocolate, and peppermint envelop our humble home’s air, scents that take me back to the pure and joyful Christmases of my childhood.

Amongst all these, perhaps our most memorable tradition — one that truly makes me feel the spirit of the holidays — is our little Yuletide playlist.

A night of calm, a cup of brew, and soothing Nat King Cole classics.✨🎄

My mom and dad have always been fond of 50’s-60’s blues and jazz. They would always brighten up simple days by playing their beloved tunes on the radio, and they would devoutly play a short list of their favorite old classics from the first evening of December to the midnight of the 25th — songs that now serve as an endearing reminder of our happiest Christmases as a family. To this day, me and my siblings still think of the names Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald as synonymous to the sweet, mellow, and wistful spirit of the holidays.

Those days have passed, and the times are changing. A year ago, we merrily spent our holidays without a thought of what the coming year would bring, with no way of knowing that things would happen as they are happening today — but here we are. For a while now, we’ve been living life with a constant reminder of its futility and impermanence. It is as if we’re stuck in a dark tunnel without a twinkle of light in its end, and it is during times like these when we are in dire need of a certain gift — one given to everyone, both to the suffering and the prosperous, in the wake of Christ’s birth — hope.

Although our holidays this year will lack the merriment of family gatherings and festive celebrations, may we still continue to bask in its joy, essence, and spirit through the little things — the songs and carols, the dancing lights, the homemade delicacies, the cold evening air, and the hymns of praise.

A Merry Simple Christmas to everyone…

Here’s Why (and Where) You Should Finally Get Your Hair Dyed This GCQ

If there’s anything we’ve learned during our agonizing months in enhanced quarantine, it is that life is short and time is precious — and you should probably get that dream hair color before it’s too late.

As risky as it sounds, following that gut feeling can actually do you wonders. Experimenting with your looks can help you find your voice, see which style suits you best, and express your individuality in the most unique ways possible. If done right, the end result is huge boost in confidence, and the start of many fights against the urge to do it again.

So, whether you’re heartbroken, having an identity crisis, or simply feeling a bit creative — here are three reasons why dyeing your hair should be in your GCQ bucket list.

Stand out from the crowd

Growing up with pop culture — designer clothes, onstage flair and all — we’ve all had our fair share of wild hair goals from our idols. From Taylor Swift’s classy blond curls to Hayley Williams’ fierce red shaggy, to signature cuts and colors fabulized by K-Pop stars, such bold looks became what established these celebrities as some of the style icons of today.

We’re not saying that you could get famous by styling as they did, but you could get head turns for sure. If you’re not into too much attention, just a few understated splashes of nude colors here and there could definitely enhance the beautiful features you already have, for a fresh natural look that’s easy on the eyes. Point is, don’t be afraid of getting stares for doing something new and out-of-the-box. If it’s the change you want and deserve, step out there and rock it!

Have fun in the process

As exciting as it may seem, the coloring process is rigorous and can be quite intimidating, especially for first timers. Just the thought of dousing perfectly fine virgin hair in bleach can be terrifying for some of us. There will always be that lingering fear of ending up with a chemically-fried frizzy mess, or dealing massive damage without ever achieving desired results. Luckily, the online community is always up and ready to help. Do your research and do it well, follow the correct procedures down to the smallest details, and be as PATIENT as humanly possible. This way, you can enjoy your journey towards your wildest hair goals while having more fun than hassle!

If you’re feeling adventurous enough to take the DIY route, go check out Rainbow Head. Have fun browsing through their extensive collection of vegan and cruelty-free imported hair dyes, from Arctic Fox, Manic Panic, Lunar Tides, and more. Make sure to grab your first bleaching kit, purple shampoo, and treatment conditioner on your way out!

Business name: Rainbow Head
Contact e-mail:
Operating hours: 1:00pm – 5:00pm, 6:00pm – 9:00pm
FB page link:

You are too unique to be basic

If you feel your current style doesn’t express you well enough, why settle for it? Hair isn’t meant to be kept in a mould set by society’s standards. It is meant to flow freely — just as you are. You can use your own hair as a canvas, a statement, a way to show your individuality to the rest of the world.

 If you don’t trust your own hands enough yet, leave it to the crazier and more experienced members of the club. Be it ash gray or pastel pink, be as weird and extravagant as you want, and have it done by the quirky ones at I Wanna Dye. They will definitely understand.

Photos by I Wanna Dye MNL

Starting off as a “meme-savoring salon page”, a group of art and pop culture enthusiasts founded I Wanna Dye — not just as any typical business that uses viral marketing, but as a creative pursuit advocating diversity, inclusivity, and mental health awareness. Their witty and eccentric approach on delivering such topics made them appeal to a wide Millennial and Gen Z audience, while also garnering a fan following due to their one-of-a-kind salon service.  Along with chill vibes and an at-home ambiance, they’ll make sure you’re as comfortable as possible — with snacks and Netflix on the side – as they expertly work their magic on your hair, letting you walk out satisfied with an experience worth every penny!

Business name: I Wanna Dye
Katipunan Avenue corner Aurora Boulevard, 1108 Quezon City,
Contact e-mail:
FB page link:

When it comes to dyeing your hair, don’t think of what will go wrong. Think of all the things you’ll learn, all the memories you’ll make, and the priceless freedom and satisfaction you’ll get by figuring out which style suits you best. Don’t worry about what other people might think or say. If it ends up making you happy, liberated, and more confident than you’ve ever been, just do it!

Save the Date! Route 196 is Holding a Farewell Gig Online

It’s been one hell of a year, and though we’re deeply disheartened, we’re definitely not surprised.

Route 196 — a beloved home for homegrown bands and music lovers for almost 15 years — officially closed their doors to the public back in August 23, 2020, for reasons likely due to the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, this iconic pub greatly influenced and shaped the OPM scene as we know it, and it refuses to die off in silence.

Earlier today, the pub’s management announced through their Facebook page that they will be holding one last gig on a Saturday, 12th of September, 2020. And in true “new normal” fashion, their last hurrah will be held online, with the once wild and booze-fueled gig goers simply left to enjoy the live performances through their screens. Other details, such as the time and the line-up, are yet to be revealed.

We miss the sentimental feels and exhilarating mosh pits at our local hangouts, and we simply can’t wait for them to reopen — but for now, the best we can do is make sure that the spirit of Route 196 lives on, and hope that all will be better soon.

Up From the Underground: 4 Underrated Caviteño Tattoo Artists that Deserve More Recognition

Bustling cities, scenic beaches, old houses, and hidden talents — Cavite has it all.

From the vast cityscape of Metro Manila, Cavite is one of the closest getaways where you can still enjoy the sight of Capiz windows, baby buses, and carabao-pulled karitelas. It is a place where both local culture and urban flair combine – one that managed to steadily embrace progress without losing touch with its historical roots. In the same way, Cavitenos are a people of candour, perseverance, and humble resilience. They take pride in their ability to gain success while staying true to their origins — a reputation that rings true to the character of their emerging art scene.

Often raw, eccentric, and gritty — Cavite art appears to dwell more on expression than refinement. It is versatile and eclectic in nature, with artists taking inspiration from a plethora of emotions, influences, and life experiences in conceiving their pieces with unhinged creativity. The local scene thrives through the effort of underground communities, where wanderers, enthusiasts, and many underrated talents convene through artist villages and home-grown events.

Candour, perseverance, and resilience are traits that resonate well within the Caviteño way of life. And it is through the same traits that, in a culture that glorifies the mainstream, these acclaimed tattoo artists are thriving in obscurity.

Paying homage to the Cavite underground, tattoo masters Chitz Bernardino, Junel Bautista, Freden Potestas, and Serafin So share their best works and greatest influences, as well as their insights on art, life, and the primal world of tattoo culture.

Chitz Bernardino

Photo by Chitz Bernardino

A former skateborder, photographer, and musician — Chitz developed his artistry from what started as a hobby making henna tattoos. His love for the craft led him to officially pursue tattoo artistry as a career in 2016. His art style is heavily influenced by ­­­realists Jose Perez Jr., Steve Butcher, and Bob Tyrell. He also took inspiration from local co-artists Ronald Yet Yasis and Jason Jovellana.

Photo by Arvin Kadiboy

His signature works are of keenly detailed black-and-grays, as well as vivid colored pieces and photorealistic portraits. Despite having a distinct touch, he chooses not to let his works be defined by any particular style. As an artist, he says his job is to bring out the beauty and emotion of every piece, whether happy or sad or anything in between. He willingly bends to any of his client’s demands and adapts his style to whatever fits them best.

You can get in touch with Chitz via D&C Tattoo or e-mail him at for bookings and inquiries.

D&C Tattoo
Address: Blk 77 Lot 13-B San Esteban 4115 Dasmariñas, Cavite, Philippines
Business Hours:  8:00am – 12:00am
Contact Number: 09567788751

Junel Bautista

Junel is a connoisseur of geometric and bio-organic designs. Conquering the scene since 2005, his self-made success led him to establish Kampo Tattoo, a now iconic tattoo shop in Imus, Cavite.

An abstractist and surrealist in his own right, he takes heavy inspiration from the likes of Guy Aitchison, Paul Booth, Dominic Holmes, H.R. Geiger, and renowned father of surrealism Salvador Dali. His works also pay homage to his master, Onat Buenaventura, who honed the growth and direction of his craft.

When asked what his most challenging piece was, he mentioned how he still finds great difficulty in doing geometric designs, and how tough it is to fully master intricate line works even though lining the most basic part of tattoo artistry.

            “Sa ngayon, pinaka-challenging talaga ang mga line works. Kailangan stable ang kamay — bawal lumalim bawal bumabaw, bawal bumagal bawal bumilis. Lines ang pinaka-basic part ng tattooing, pero siya ang pinakamahirap gawin.”

He also works with dark images and portraits, so if his style is what you have in mind, feel free to drop by Kampo for a session or two.

Kampo Tattoo Pilipinas
IG: @junelbautista
Address: Brgy. Anabu I-A, Emilio Aguinaldo Highway, City of Imus, Cavite, Philippines
 (Infront of Shakeys and Sun City Plaza)
Business Hours: Mon-Sat, 11:00am – 9:00pm
Contact Number: 09151869399

Freden Potestas

Photo by Freden Potestas

A former Kampo Tattoo apprentice, Freden made the life-changing decision to leave his day job and become a tattoo artist in 2010. Six years later, he set out on his own creative journey and established Malagihay Tattoo where he now works in his own terms, with a career he believes he’s truly meant for.

Following the footsteps of his mentor, Junel Bautista — Freden’s early works consisted of bio-organic designs, which he explains are designs patterned from dead trees, sea corals and other unique textures on earth. Through the years, he has developed a fascination for mythical and occult imagery, which became a common theme in the “fun pieces” he made for tattoo competitions. Influenced by the likes of Paul Booth, Ty McEwen, and Jeff Gogue — Freden’s art style has grown to become a skillful amalgamation of bio-organic, oriental, and otherworldly elements, taking the form of a large, full-blown opus or a smaller, intricately-detailed art piece.

If you’re up for a sinister challenge and a good dose of pain, just look for Freden at Malagihay Tattoo. You can contact them via the details below.

Malagihay Tattoo Studio
Address: 10th St., Salinas 1, Bacoor, Cavite, Philippines
Contact Number: 09365719241
Business e-mail:
Business Hours: Tue-Sun, 1:00pm-9:00pm (Mondays are for appointments only)

Serafin So

Photo by Serafin So

Mr. Serafin is an uprising tattoo artist. Having gained exposure through local contests and exhibits, he has made a presence early on in the industry due to his versatility and broad range of art styles. At age 23, he proves that even with a lack of years — passion, dedication, hard work, and confidence in your craft can still put you on par with the greats.

Photos by Fin’s Tattoo and Piercing

While being a jack-of-all-trades who sharply executes any client’s request, So has a natural affinity for black and gray designs. Though he learned mostly on his own and by watching YouTube tutorials, he counts local artist Draz Palaming as his greatest influence. He says he owes it to tattooing for honing his skills and confidence, as well as for providing a main source of income for his family.

            Serafin’s own shop will be opening soon, but in the meantime, you can contact him via Fin’s Tattoo & Piercing or e-mail him at

Fin’s Tattoo & Piercing
Contact Number: 09161486057

Fresh takes on art, trends, scenes, and events — best paired with your daily dose of caffeine