Friday 2 February 2018


It is not usually the place of chiefly electronic and experimental music collectives to put on charity events; that is usually the realm of internationally renowned artists, with these smaller groups often being concerned only with music—sometimes with how it is consumed. However, it is the tight-knit support-network-type makeup of grassroots and underground musician and producer collectives that arguably puts them in a better position to understand bringing their communities up with them, not being too far removed from it themselves.

It is this personal connection with the local community that helped Manila-based collective BuwanBuwan nurture the idea for Human Toy Machines. The event, being held at Makati city's shiny new resto-cafe and eventspace Dulo MNL, is "A Fundraising Gig for the Benefit of the Children of San Diego Elementary School," with the specific goal of raising money to buy science-oriented toys and reading materials for the children of the school. It comes from the mind of collective member Luis Montales, aka producer AHJU$$I, who first encountered San Diego Elementary in his last year of senior high when tasked with thinking of a sustainable community project as an act of service.

"Upon research, we discovered Philippine Toy Library, an agency here in the country that provide underprivileged children with toys and reading materials, but more importantly a safe place to play and be creative," Montales tells YES/NO over Facebook messenger. Though all they had to do was donate to the agency themselves, he explained, there was a feeling of wanting to do more within his group, and soon San Diego Elementary School – "one of the oldest toy libraries that the agency has established" – came to light. "That’s how I got connected to the school," he says.

San Diego Elementary School. Photo by Luis Montales

San Diego Elementary School. Photo by Luis Montales

Later on, and more recently in the timeline of things, Montales approached BuwanBuwan Collective head Jorge Juan Bautista Wieneke V aka Similarobjects, in hopes of putting on a fundraising gig. The specific mission was to buy science-oriented toys and reading materials for the children because, as Montales tells us, "there's a stigma against taking up science-related careers in the Philippines."

A stigma?

"To be more specific, science research careers," he explains. "Parents would often tell their children to be a doctor rather than a researcher because the former makes a lot more money. Even my teachers in school who are researchers say that if you want to be a scientist, it’s like pretending you’re unemployed. Scientists here in the country admittedly lack funding and support from our government. Because of this, they look outward and go abroad to pursue their careers. This is definitely alarming because science and technology is important and even necessary to a developing country like the Philippines."

"By instilling in the children the value of science and technology at a young age, we hope that this gets them to pursue science-related courses and ultimately increase the number of scientists in the country!"

d It's a big community-driven dream which has a good partner in BuwanBuwan, itself the dream of producer Jorge Wieneke. Its history doesn't just go back a few years, but rather hundreds, based on the Philippine myth of the Bakunawa, a huge serpent said to be the cause of eclipses. In more detail, "buwan buwan" is the name of a children's game: one plays as the Bakunawa, and the rest in a circle on the ground (buwan — the moon), who must touch one of the players inside the circle without going inside the circle; a successful touch means swapping places.

In more relative terms, Wieneke explains that pre-colonial tribesfolk would try to scare away the Bakunawa by gathering outside their homes and banging on pots and pans, making a lot of noise, hoping to scare the creature away; others would take a different approach, playing gentle songs with bamboo instruments in an effort to soothe the monster to sleep so that a brave warrior could close in for the kill.

"With monthly 'Bakunawa' events," he writes in an email, "Pinoy beatmakers and live electronic musicians of the BuwanBuwan Collective give a modern nod to these ancient lunar gatherings. With selections of both original and carefully curated electronic music, they aim to awaken, to mesmerize, and to bring people together." It is both this monthly sense of togetherness and the childhood origins of the name itself that ring true with the Human Toy Machines event. And further strengthening that bond of support and equity, he concludes: "In the playground that is music, everyone deserves a chance to be at the center."

The two agree wholeheartedly with each other, with Montales telling us on messenger, "I also wanted to host a charity gig because I believe that good music for an equally good cause is lacking here in the Philippines." After the event itself, and once the toys and books are collected, Montales and his group will be at the San Diego Elementary School every day for 2 weeks "to teach and play with the children and to turn over the new toy library to the teachers of the school!"

Dulo's eventspace. Photo by Nicollo Santos/Neil Patrick Valero

Even Dulo MNL fits the bill. A fusion of coffee and Taiwanese-Filipino cuisine on ground floor, upstairs is a wide space for the purpose of, well, anything. "The idea was to become a safe haven for dialogue and creative pursuits, for artists under all forms and genres of art, from one end or dulo of the arts spectrum to the other," writes Alyosha J. Robillos in a piece for NOLISOLI. In the same article, one of Dulo's founders Alexa Arabejo explains that they are a creative community platform, uncensored, unfiltered, and are driven not only by art but by a desire to contribute to the community, "as well as help artists and art enthusiasts by providing a space where they can gather."

Ultimately this act of gathering, synonymous both with BuwanBuwan's Bakunawa events and the ethos of the eventspace where Human Toy Machines will take place, is the rumblings of building a community. And when people are not helped and encouraged from the top down – by leaders, by parents, or whomever they may be – that help and encouragement must come from the bottom up, from the community, from the people.


Human Toy Machines: A Fundraising Gig for the Benefit of the Children of San Diego Elementary School

Chinese Plastic Toys
Teenage Granny
Jason Dhakal

Find details of the event on Facebook


  • 🔔 The vivid flyer for the event was created by Gilbert Redona.
  • 🔔 Last year Jorge Wieneke put together a guest mix for YES/NO as Similarobjects, looking at the history of Filipino music by taking in both in urban psychedelic flavours as well as indigenous music. You can listen to that over here.

BuwanBuwan Internet Presence ☟

Dulo MNL Internet Presence ☟

Similarobjects Internet Presence ☟
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AHJU$$I Internet Presence ☟

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