VISPOP seems to have taken the attention of Cebu media, not because of the music it has produced, but because of the controversy in the staging of the 2019 edition, where one of the founding members, Jude Gitamondoc, has opted out, while a group of outsiders has taken over the direction of what once was an artists’ movement as an alternative to the long-standing Cebu Pop Music Festival. Even with their well-intentioned desire to improve the annual competition by dangling bigger prizes. The outsiders’ move has taken away the idealism that Vispop stood for. All the legalese and commercial mumbo jumbo turn off artists whose passion is simply to make good music.
If you search “Vispop” in Wikipedia, you will be surprised that it is described as “a music genre, which originated from and became popular in the Scandinavian countries in the mid-1960s.” I had long pointed this out from the very start of the competition; but nobody listened. The details are actually under the title, Visayan Pop Songwriting Campaign, and whoever wrote the entry has little knowledge of the history of modern Cebuano music.
Before Vispop, there were artists and groups who wrote, performed, recorded and promoted original materials that were neither traditional nor bakya. To mention some: Odds & Ends that pre-dated Pinoy Rock and OPM, Image & Rhymes, Tony & Cacal Blanco and this writer that made it to the Top Ten of the First Jingle Magazine Songwriting Contest just before martial law was declared, Namsu’s Pasakalye tour and Kamsu’s Konsiyerto series, Local Ground and Johnny Kawa’s New Cebu Music, the annual Yukbo, Ang Konsiyerto and NU107’s “In the Raw.” And let’s not forget Leon Kilat, Manny Lapingcao, Paul Melendez, Jimmy Borja, Etu, 40-The Band, BTU, Yo Emperado, Ledger Line, Abyss, Eva de los Santos, Salome Oro and Cattski, who made remarkable songs despite the lack of professional studio technicians in their time.
Why am I revisiting these names and artists? They are the ones who paved the way for Bisdak Orig, Bisrock, Vispop, or OBM, and did so without much help from outsiders. If indeed these Vispop outsiders want to help; they can be the benefactors of the Vispop movement in the way that Eduardo Gullas, whose hands-off approach, has nurtured and supported Cebu Pop for decades. Let the artists take the reign–for who knows better about artistry and creativity than the songwriters and the performers?
But whatever happens, with or without Vispop, modern music from Bisaya artists will continue to evolve and should become global. Let’s take it from Karencitta with her “Cebuana,” who has opened that door.