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» » » » » » » » » » » » Checking out Iligan City’s Rap Battle League: "Hinampakay Og Letra"

JR Lopez Gonzales 9:48 AM 2

Iligan City’s own rap battle league, “Hinampakay Og Letra” never failed to amuse the Iliganon crowd for three years now since 2010.

About five days before the event proper, I received an invitation from Iliganon rapper buddy Zeff Wayne to be one of the judges for “Hinampakay Og Letra” (which transliterated, means "hitting each other with letters"). was available and I felt it’s a good turn. It was also much like a bit of a reunion with Zeff Wayne, whom I’ve done a YouTube rap video with (together with Spyx), three years ago.

The event was widely participated from various localities. In fact, a delegation from Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur and Valencia City, Bukidnon were present; rappers from Marawi City also showed up. A total of 16 battlers engaged in the word wars hosted by the recognized Iliganon rapper Zeff Wayne while A-kill a.k.a. Michael Bangga was the master of ceremonies.

Me, my college pal Jovel Layasan, and my boardmates Peracier Arellano, Jun-Jun Tubio, Dante Villaruel, Jr., headed off to Emon’s KTV Bar in Barangay Poblacion. And to our surprise, the venue was jam-packed. Zeff then welcomed me in time for the commencement of the rap battle competition. It was sponsored by Genx Records, Rapnophobia, DJ Mark Magusara, South Piru Bloods, South Spring Crips, and BBB Familia.
H.O.L. promotional poster for the event.
The battles started at about a quarter to nine in the evening. The event was split to two categories: One-on-one and ‘dos-por-dos’ (“two-on-two” battle clearly inspired from the highly successful FlipTop Battles). The mtaches went on as follows: Amaga versus Marshall Bonifacio; MCPro versus Lil Jay, Rito Monero versus Kenno, and Calix versus Butch.

The combo of Trex Tha’ Don and Dax engaged with BeztMike and Mhanung while the Valencia-based rappers Snyp/Doodz fought with LilBuddha and Don Ramon. Intense battles waged each representing their various places and cliques to the delight of more than a hundred adoring spectators. While occasional slip-ups occur, the ability to think on their feet is highly laudable.
A snapshot of the Hinampakay Og Letra crowd.
After the rigorous eliminations, the veterans proved to reign in the rap battling scene on this part of the Philippines. Everyone was awed by the smooth flow of the Pagadian-based Iliganon Butch Ocsio’s freestyle rhymes both in Visayan and comically in Tagalog against Kenno. All the judges (me, Zeff, Charlie Checa a.k.a. “Emzee”, Alnorodden Pasandalan a.k.a. “Ill Mac” and Genx) gave Butch the unanimous approval.
The equally-awaited dos-por-dos final match between Team Iligan (Trex Tha’ Don & Dax) and Team Bukidnon (Snyp & Doodz) did not disappoint the audience, either. It was a classic see-saw match of witty lines and delivery. An ‘unlimited’ promotional overtime was even done by both teams to showcase their lyrical prowess. The venue was ecstatic and was well-received by both fans and guests. Came the verdict, Team Iligan edged Bukidnon, 3-2. Winners received prize money and clearly, bragging rights in the local hip-hop scene.

Aside from the rap battles, presentations of their own compositions actually made everyone’s head nod in approval. The rappers from Bukidnon performed two tracks all in emphatic Visayan. The Pagadianons and the Iliganons also did the same.
Bangsamoro Family performing their compositions.
Another performance that caught my eyes (and ears) was the performance of the Marawi City-based rap group, “Bangsamoro Family” composed of Cardawi Hadjiamer, Hassan Dita, Mohammad Yasser Gambao a.k.a. “Bugz'T”, and Christine Grace Niegas a.k.a. Yuri). Formed in 2011, the group performed the melodic track “Muntiya saMindanao” in full Maranao vernacular plus the vocals of their lady singer sure ‘rocked’ the house. Who says cultural differences would not make one appreciate hip-hop culture?

On a personal note, ‘Hinampakay Og Letra’ nonetheless surpassed my expectations. As one of the five judges, it was truly a great experience which made me appreciate more this element of hip-hop, being a fan of rap battles for quite sometime. The audience turn-out was also surprising. “Hindi namin inexpect na hahanap-hanapin rin pala ang event” said Zeff Wayne. “I was expecting about 50 people but based on the list last night’s count reached about 150”, he added.
Pioneers Zeff and Spyx. Back in "Hinampakay Og Letra 2010".
In a correspondence, Yuseff Bin Kareem B. Pasandalan (a.k.a. Zeff Wayne) professed that it was his and famed rapper Richard Tutanes’ (a.k.a. Spyx) idea three years back. These members of the Rapnophobia Clan decided to form a rap battle league in Iligan as another way of showcasing the lyricism and rap battling skills of the local rappers (It can be remembered that Iligan City is the hometown of the revered 90’s rapper Michael “Syke” Dolero).
16 Rhymes with their performance.
Hinampakay Og Letra simply affirmed the fact that Mindanao is replete with talented poets and rappers. In the end, the event was a success. Spectators sure got their money’s worth in a night of fun, music, and poetry. While hip-hop as a whole is marred with self-aggrandizement and discord, what I witnessed that night in Iligan City is the exact opposite (Pagadian’s Butch Ocsio and one of the Iligan league’s founder Spyx was in fact, enemies-turned-friends). What I witnessed was a clique of rappers who just love the art of rap battling and hip-hop music.

Despite the raw and explicit lines, amazing enough, rappers remained friends after the matches. It was indeed, a great night for Mindanao hip-hop. Break it down, yo.

Photo Credits:
Yuseff Bin Kareem B. Pasandalan

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