SONGWRITING competition PhilPop has announced the finalists from the Visayas and Mindanao clusters which will be included among the Top 15 contestants who will battle it out in the finals on Nov. 14.

Three finalists from each cluster were chosen from numerous entries and were handpicked by a selection committee headed by festival chair and National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab and included representatives from the competition’s regional partners and its partner music label, Warner Music.

The finalists are: Jerika Teodorico’s “Ayaw Na Lang” (Cebu City, Cebu); Noah Alejandre and Reanne Borela’s “Suyo” (Ormoc City, Leyte); Michael Catarina’s “Hinungdan” (Cebu City, Cebu); John Cadeliña’s “Akong Bililhon”(Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur); Christian Chiu’s “Kasadya” (Coranadal City, South Cotabato); and Sherwin Fugoso’s “Pahuway” (Jabonga, Agusan del Norte).

The chosen entries from Mindanao (“Akong Bililhon,” “Kasadya,” and “Pahuway”) were described by MinPop Music Festival director Jeremy Sarmiento as “truly Mindanaoan in terms of cultural context and identity.

“There’s no better way to achieve that than giving an opportunity to those in the regions to tell their own stories. Representation provides a reflection of each of their languages, ideals, feelings and that’s what we ultimately need to understand each other better, the uniqueness of the Filipinos, expressed through songs,” Mr. Sarmiento said about the importance of musical diversity and representation, in a statement.

MinPop or the Mindanao Popular Music Festival is a Mindanao-based songwriting festival established in 2019.

The songs chosen from the Visayan cluster (“Ayaw Na Lang,” “Suyo,” and “Hinungdan”) were described by having “diversity and universal appeal.”

“I think the songs chosen to represent the Visayas are a great representation of the region. We have an electronic-infused track, another one that’s soulful, and another that’s folksy. That pretty much shows how varied the musicality is in the Visayas. We are at the center of the country. We are a melting pot of cultures, influences, and ideas,” Jude Gitamondoc, Visayas cluster partner, said in the statement.

Next month, PhilPop is set to announce the finalists from the three remaining regions: Metro Manila, North Luzon, and South Luzon. Centered on a theme about “breaking borders,” this year’s PhilPop is all about “decentralizing the monopoly of support for Metro Manila [artists]” by “giving equal opportunity to the next generation of singer-songwriters based in other cities and provinces, regardless of their identity, language and cultural affiliation,” said Dinah Remolacio, PhilPop Music Fest Foundation executive director, during a media briefing in July.

Held every two years, the last winner of PhilPop Music Festival hailed from Davao — Chud Festejo and his song, “Nanay Tatay” in 2018.

The songwriting competition, fashioned after the defunct Metro Manila Popular Music Festival or Metropop which was held annually from 1978 to 1985, is now on its eighth year.

The top 15 finalists will be working with Warner Music to polish their songs and compete in the finals on Nov. 14, although no announcement has been made whether there will still be a live finals concert or will it be only a digital finals’ night because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winner of the PhilPop music festival will get P1 million (tax-free) while the first runner up will get P500,000 and the second runner-up P250,000. — Zsarlene B. Chua