These musicians and artists are making their own way in their industries.
Since the 1960s, the youth has been touted as the purveyor of culture and instigators of change. As Gen Z, the world’s first digital natives, enter the workforce, this thought has never rung more true. Pushing forward Manila’s music and arts scene are these very individuals, who bring with them a wealth of worldly knowledge and diverse ideologies.
Social media has allowed budding creatives to build their own career opportunities, and market their own work outside of traditional constraints. Sites like TikTok or SoundCloud have kickstarted the careers of innumerable fresh global stars.
The May issue of Vogue Philippines explores a slice of this creative scene and meets with 32 creatives set to redefine the local zeitgeist. Zild Benitez, Hideki Ito, Jason Dhakal, and Elijah Canlas are some of the talents that make up this roster.
Mentioning a wellspring of influences from his big sister’s obsession with the noughties-era Meteor Garden to his dad, Franklin Benitez (a key figure of ’90s OPM), Zild makes songs that are both visceral and charged with the intricacies of Filipino young adulthood. With his longtime friends and fellow musicians, One Click Straight and ena mori, and Elijah Pareño of independent music publication The Flying Lugaw, they’ve helped shape a burgeoning subculture called “Paniki”—populated by the kids who’d frequent the gigs of said shows. He asks Vogue to imagine a person in eyeliner and all-black clothing walking back to a cave in the middle of the city, “Ayun! Paniki! [There! A bat!]” he describes.
Model, Artist, DJ
The Filipino-Japanese creative grew up in Pampanga, in a home across from a basketball court. Every year, from behind their fence, he would watch townsfolk gather and dance away at fiestas. “I guess I unconsciously adapted to that kind of lifestyle,” he says, tracing the genesis of his career as a DJ. “That’s where it’s all deeply rooted from. I really like seeing people dancing.” Then, he shares, modeling fell into his lap after a friend asked him to participate in their graduation fashion show. While completing a degree in multimedia arts, Hideki makes time to drift from city to city to immerse in unfamiliar cultures, and explore fashion as escapism, music as therapy, and art as release.
The Oman-born R&B artist was 16 when he moved back to the Philippines. Without knowing anyone, Dhakal frequented the now-defunct club XX:XX where he met his manager, Anna Ong. He’s since become a much-loved face in Manila’s music circuit, with his EPs Night In and pandemic-baby Lovesound, on which he collaborates with dot.jaime, LUSTBASS, and CRWN. The elusive Dhakal made waves with hits “Can’t Get Enough,” “Ur Man,” and his version of “Manila.” Dhakal cites Mariah Carey, Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse as early influences: “I started falling in love with neo-soul and jazz as a teenager, and they inspired me to write and create music.”
Elijah recalls that in his earlier years in UP Manila, he used to leave his bag outside the classroom so he could easily pick it up when he feigned a trip to the washroom, half an hour before he had to leave for tapings. “But that was the dream,” the actor says with a smile. “I had to juggle chasing that dream with my studies.” The Philippine Arts major observes that everything moves quickly in this age of media, but he’s proud to be an active participant in the visual arts at a time where anything is possible. Now in his early 20s, the award-winning actor is steadily building his oeuvre with empathy-driven stories, from this summer’s MMFF Best Picture winner About Us But Not About Us to critically-acclaimed Kalel, 15, and even the short film How to Die Young in Manila.
Concept & Photographs by Sharif Hamza, Styling by Daryl Chng & MJ Benitez, Fashion Director Pam Quiñones, Makeup: Angeline Dela Cruz, Bryan Cuizon, Gery Penaso, Japeth Purog, Rochelle Lacuna, Twinkle Bernardo, Vince Leendon of Estée Lauder. Hair: Christian Bojo, Dale Mallari, Jocelyn So, Mark Ibarrola, Misty Gabriel, MJ Rone, Patrick Cristobal of Estée Lauder, Gerelyn Valentino of Toni&Guy (Gabbie Sarenas). Talents: Agatha Wong, Alisha Del Campo, Antonina Abad Amoncio, Brisa Amir, Bon Hansen, Cheska Cortez, Christian Tantoco, Daphne Chao, Dinesh Mohnani, Elijah Canlas, ena mori, Enzo Razon, Gab Mejia, Gabbie Sarenas, Gianne Encarnacion, Gio Panlilio, Hali Long, Hideki Ito, Inna Palacios, Jason Dhakal, Juliana Gomez, Mariton Villanueva, Martika Ramirez Escobar, Matt San Pedro, Max Gutierrez, Pat Cortez, Rio Cuervo, Rod Malanao, Sai Versailles, Sean Bautista, Siobhan Moylan, Zild Benitez. Art Director: Jann Pascua. Producer: Anz Hizon. Casting: Andrea Ang, Marga Magalong, Raymond Ang. Multimedia Artist: Gabbi Constantino, Tinkerbell Poblete. Production Design: Constance Events Styling, Justine Arcega-Bumanlag. Production Assistants: Adam Pereyra, Bianca Zaragoza, Patricia Co. Photographer’s Assistants: Artu Nepomuceno, Choi Narciso, Sela Gonzales. Stylist’s Assistants: Marga Magalong, Renee de Guzman, Ticia Almazan, Zofia Agama. Production Design Assistants: Gabrielle Mantala, Junior Bondoc, Rodel Bondoc. Photo Retoucher: Grace Sioson