Ryan Cayabyab Clears Air On Philpop Controversies

MANILA, Philippines - Master musician Ryan Cayabyab, one of the key persons behind the first Philippine Popular Music Festival (Philpop), has opened up on the issues surrounding the competition, maintaining that it was conducted "in the most professional manner."

His may well be the voice that netizens have been waiting to hear, what with the influx of negative reactions online since the release of the Top 14 finalists last May 28. These ranged from the qualification of songs published on YouTube prior to the competition (notably, the songs "3:00" by Keiko Necesario and "Slowdancing" by John Kennard Faraon), to the inclusion of a number of established composers among the finalists, and even the process through which the nearly 3,000 entries were screened.

The Process

Adjudicators "with diverse backgrounds from various sectors of the music industry," such as "composers, arrangers, performing artists, publishers, media, recording artists, executives, A&R (artists and repertoire) managers, producers and engineers" took part in the screening process, as Mr. C related in his exclusive email interview with Bulletin Entertainment. These adjudicators were classified in five categories: composers, performers, executives, professionals, and media.

"They are then assigned to different teams with each team comprising adjudicators representative of the five categories, and assigned a batch of songs. Each song was only identifiable through its title and a system-generated tag number; rating sheets, tally sheets, audio files and lyrics sheets were devoid of the names of the songwriters," the Maestro detailed, also noting that prior to the actual screening, these teams were briefed.

There were four stages in the process overall, according to Cayabyab. Numerical grading systems were also assigned to each of these stages, with the respective median scores as the determinant for which entries would proceed to the next stage.

Cayabyab said that for stage one, adjudicators were tasked to listen to each entry "at least until the chorus part or at least one minute into the song." They were also free to listen to the full song or even repeat it. A 1 to 5 grading system was employed here, the highest being 5.

"The median score of 3 was assigned to an entry if it passed the minimum standards of an adjudicator for him/her to consider it a 'good song.' Less than 10% made it to the median score. To ensure that more songs are given a chance in the next stage, the bar was lowered to 2.50 and this yielded a little over 30% entries," Cayabyab added.

Come stage two, which determined the Top 100, the grading system 1 to 8 was used (8 being the highest). Here, the teams were instructed "to listen completely to all songs."

"The teams also swapped batches to give each entry more 'ear-time.' The median yielded 109 entries and all these moved to the third level," said Cayabyab.

For selecting the Top 30 songs (third stage), the adjudicators-still grouped in teams-listened completely to the 109 entries, and rated them "from 1 to 6 with 6 being the highest." At that point, 27 entries got through, Cayabyab pointed out, so "the bar was again brought down to accommodate additional entries and the average score below the median was a 5-way tie."

The result: 32 entries made it to the fourth and final stage, from which the screening committee determined the 14 finalists. They used a 1 to 4 scoring system, with 4 being the highest.

Cayabyab likewise noted that, "In each stage, a portion of the adjudicators are retained from the immediate previous session. This ranged from 15-44% only; there are more new adjudicators than those who were present in a preceding session."

As for requests that the Top 100 entries be revealed, Cayabyab maintained that, "It is not in Philpop's policy to divulge results other than the top 14."

Setting Standards

In response to objections on the qualification of "3:00 A.M." and "Slowdancing," Cayabyab referred to the statement which Philpop issued last June 1 via its official Facebook page. The organizers maintained that these two entries did not violate the grounds for disqualification, as "Nowhere is it indicated in the rules that the entry should not have been published."

Philpop has likewise apologized over its "mistake" of "including 'publication' as among the grounds for disqualification" in response to earlier queries.

Cayabyab's vision for Philpop was that of a "free competition," for it to serve as "a showcase of premium Filipino songwriting"-whether done by a promising amateur or a respected professional.

"For the industry to level up, standards should be set... We wanted the Filipino songwriters to give it their best shot regardless of their standing while engaging in friendly competition. Contrary to what some netizens may believe, the competition was never anticipated to become a platform for a professional songwriter to prove himself or herself. Music history has proven that songwriting competitions are not the exclusive domain of professionals," said he.

While he understands the disappointment of those who didn't make it to the Top 14, Cayabyab urged hopefuls to continue striving to do their best in their music.

"PhilPop is a challenge for both the amateur and the professional. Knowing that your work will be measured up with those of industry veterans is one of the most effective motivations in turning in exceptional work. Competing with the best is the ultimate challenge.

"From among the thousands who submitted their entries, it is interesting to note that young songwriters stood up very well to the competition's challenge: only four of the 14 finalists are established songwriters. We are very happy, therefore, that the works of emerging and unknown songsmiths have come to the fore in this competition. We are infusing new blood to the Philippine music industry," he said at length.

In parting, Cayabyab imparted this wish: "...for all Filipino songwriters to achieve our collective dream of making Filipino music known worldwide commercially; for the Filipino listeners to embrace totally our own music, and for Philpop to be a catalyst in pushing Filipino songwriting to unparalleled heights!"

The other Top 14 Philpop finalist songs are: "Bigtime" (Trina Belamide), "Minsa'y Isang Bansa (Gary Granada), "Negastar" (Michael Joseph Villegas ), "Takusa" (Byron Ricamara), "Tayo Tayo Lang" (Ronald Sorioso), "Piso" (Kristofferson Melecio), "Kontrabida" (Soc Villanueva), "Brown" (James Leyte/Jezreel De Oca), "Dulo Ng Dila" (Noel Zuniga Cabalquinto), "Bawat Hakbang" (Karl Vincent Villuga), "Himig Ng Panahon" (Timothy Alfaro), and "Kesa" (Edwin Marollano).