Sunday, August 01, 2010

Project 365 (225/365): August Is Filipino Magic Month

.:225/365: August Is Filipino Magic Month:.

Because this month is known locally as “Buwan Ng Wika”, which roughly translates to “Month Of The (Vernacular) Language,” I figured it would be nice to dedicate an entire month to mostly personalities and organizations that are found locally. As a guy who wants to write about magic online, I think it would be nice to be able to give a few tidbits here and there about the pillars of magic in the Philippines, although as they are certainly going to be among my biggest influences, I must admit that the space I will devote to each personality I write about would probably not be enough, given how much I respect and appreciate everything they have brought to the table for the advancement of the art form.

Whether it be my mentor, Bing Lim-It, or the great Lou Hilario (Whose video I used to start things off this month.), or perhaps the basic details about the origins of the IMC, Magfi, or The Story Circle, my work is cut out for me this month, as I resolved to do an extra bit of legwork and research so I could at least deliver stuff worthy of this blog, especially since I’ve been a tad delinquent with most of my last few entries. This month will unfortunately feature less videos or pictures, as there aren’t as many of them to come along as other acts.

As a country, the Philippines is certainly a bit young when it comes to their understanding of magic. Admittedly, magic is generally derided, but in the Philippines, there isn’t nearly as much professional courtesy extended to magicians as you would find among Vegas headliners or top acts in Japan. With a fairly superstitious population most of the time, you will find a lot of people who will either react to magic with fanatical denunciation of your “demonic allegiance,” or get the typical old, jaded man who tells you “I’ve seen that before.”

Mentalism as an art form is given even less respect here, when contrasted to the kind of impact mentalism has had in other countries. In my most recent TV guesting (Let’s not mention which station this is.), I had the displeasure of being tasked to perform my best mentalism act as though it were a whizz-bang magic trick. Now, I have no problem with magic tricks performed in a flash, but when you are doing something that is, for all intents and purposes, hypnosis, I don’t believe ten seconds is sufficient time for you to perform. That the researchers and people guesting myself and my contemporaries have next to no clue how magic and mentalism are not necessarily the same thing (Especially when you do what my partner, Jay Mata, did, and try to turn someone color blind.) seemed like a massive show of disrespect and ignorance that we would have taken in stride had it not been damaging to our credibility as performers.

Magic in the Philippines has a long way to go. At the very least, in terms of monetary expectations, I think it’s fair to say that magicians abroad command prices in the hundreds of dollars, and even the sum of $100 for your run-of-the-mill magician is certainly a low rate, but it (hopefully) doesn’t get any lower than that. Here, you have people express shock and disappointment when you tell them you charge even higher than $50, expecting to pay the same amount of money they paid for their by-the-numbers “magician”, who charged a paltry $18, since all they really wanted was fare money and the free food.

I’m speaking less of the skill level required, because in reality, I personally believe our local magicians can keep up with other magicians in that department. What I feel necessary to rail against, though is the sheer lack of appreciation there is for the skills of a magician, monetarily, and professionally. Magicians are still regarded as little more than carnival fare, and while there is nothing wrong with being a “carney”, so to speak, it does hurt one’s marketing value if they are forced to conform to that stereotype. The entitlement complex people have towards exposing magic secrets in general doesn’t really help move things along much, either.

Despite that, I see that the Philippines is slowly evolving to be a country much friendlier to magicians than it has been in the past two decades. Although there is still a lot of ridicule involved, magicians are encouraged by the likes of Erik Mana and Jeffrey Tam making it big and becoming very successful with their careers. We’ve had several TV shows and specials locally produced that highlighted magic and did not limit itself to exposing secrets, or making these magicians dance around like trained monkeys. Slowly, the corporate world is also catching on that magicians aren’t always your typical children’s party entertainers, and that they can be so much more versatile than just that.

In fact, that yours truly has been asked to do lectures on elements of NLP and mentalism for corporations and the academe despite only having been an active professional practitioner for four years should be a sign that magic (and by extension, mentalism) is getting some measure of recognition at this point. It can only be hoped that as time goes by, more and more people realize the value of the magic industry and recognize its power as entertainers in the local scene.

This month is dedicated to all the men, women, and organizations who have made that dream a possibility in the Philippines. If none of these people have blazed a trail in their own way, magic in this country would have stagnated and would not show the kind of promise that it shows today.

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