THE 8TH WONDER TROUPEALLEN GABORRO Reviews
8th Wonder Performance Troupe
[First published in Philippine News, Oct 20, 2004]
The verve of 8th Wonder
SAN FRANCISCO — If Filipino Americans are not yet familiar with the 8th Wonder performance poetry group, they are bound to be soon.
This talented troupe of FilAm poets has performed in numerous locales and has received glowing coverage in various periodicals and radio stations. 8th Wonder has toured in several cities around the U.S.in front of sold-out audiences, acting out their poetry on stage with all the verve and theatricality they can muster.
The group’s performers are simply brilliant in expressing the angst, hurt, internal struggle, and the waves of emotion that many experience as they struggle to navigate the treacherous waters of a modern society and the expectations that it places on them.
8th Wonder’s members range from 24 to 30 years of age. The group consists of Isagani “Starr” Pugao, Jason “Kreative Dwella” Mateo, Jocelyn Deona “Hi-Five” De Leon, Irene Faye “Shortyrocwell” Duller, Lillian “Dirty Dot” Prijoles, Golda “Supanova” Sargento, and Alan “Quest” Maramag. Since its incipient beginning in 2000 as a provisional gathering of poets, 8th Wonder has arguably become the finest fellowship of FilAm performance poetry artists in the Bay Area.
Their work is a dynamic blend of street vernacular, introspective and philosophical verses, mystical chanting and vocalizations, cultural and feminist themes, urban social commentary, existential concerns and aspirations, and passionate yearnings for love and hope that will never fail to conquer hate and capitulation.
Listeners will be reminded of the late Puerto Rican poet Miguel Piñero and the famous Nuyorican Poets Café in New York that he belonged to, when they hear the intensity and the freethinking energy of every syllable, every word, every timbre, and every passage that the poets of 8th Wonder utter.
They will also hear elements of the counter-culture values of the Beat poets in the group’s poems, which are attempts to seek real meaning in an exasperatingly incomprehensible world.
Deeply personal and yet universal in scope, 8th Wonder’s poetry is as enchanting as it is natural, conscience-awakening as it is original.
This is certainly the case from Alan Maramag’s fast-paced, rap-like lyrics on the difficult transformation of a child into adulthood, and Jason Mateo’s poetry on his dreams and ambitions for the future, to Jocelyn De Leon’s soulful song-and-poetry evocations of a call for life, and the group’s all-female bit on being tough but loving “gangstas”.
All of 8th Wonder’s pieces show that its poets are wise and contemplative beyond their years, and blessed with artistic talent and daring that would make the celebrated Piñero himself shudder with pride in his grave.
At moments during their performances, the group displays both a transcendental and earthy physicality that complements the carefully-crafted verses of its poets. Transcendental because 8th Wonder is always pursuing that higher ground of social and spiritual idealism that the material world has given up on.
Earthy because the group has tethered itself to the real world and its human concerns and complexities. In either case, the audience can be forgiven for closely watching the poets’ body language and cadences as they flow seamlessly with their entrancing words.
Named after the famous Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines (often regarded as the “eighth wonder of the world”), 8th Wonder’s members are seasoned, deeply perceptive representatives of the Filipino community in America.
As insightful FilAms acutely aware of their Pinoy heritage, the group’s poets touch upon subjects dear to their community, with subjects such as cultural identity, identity politics, cultural assimilation, colonial mentalities, as well as the socio-economic realities of a capitalist society and how they shape FilAm attitudes. 8th Wonder also never misses a chance to invoke the distant past as it raises in sharp relief the uproo ted memory of the native traditions and history of the Filipino people.
8th Wonder’s members, every one of them intimately engaged in the FilAm community, belong to a long line of contemporary artists who see themselves as iconoclasts endeavoring to break the stereotypical images given to Filipinos.
Hence, their poetry is one not only of Pinoy camaraderie and pride, but also of the crusade to rescue the FilAm from the threat of anonymity and misrepresentation. Even more, 8th Wonder’s poetry is an entreaty to revolution, not in the political sense, but in the realm of ideas and opinions.
Such a revolution would help invigorate the burgeoning Filipino cultural renaissance in the U.S.
8th Wonder is an esprit de corps in constant creative motion, its poets using the power of the imagination and the spoken word to inspire FilAm to conduct a soul-searching of where we came from, where we are, and where we could and should be going.
That alone ought to make what this vigorous, socially- and culturally-conscious enclave of poets has to say quite valuable and redeeming.
Allen Gaborro is an art and book reviewer for the Philippine News weekly. He is also a freelance writer who has written historical, political, and cultural articles. Allen is a member of the Philippine American Writers' Association (PAWA) of Northern California. He is based in San Francisco, California.