Breaking in: Urban + Indigenous

DANCE, in its own way, can be an agent of change and bring people together. That’s what hip hop artists in Davao want to highlight in an upcoming summer event that will gather dance communities in the city and collectively instill a mindset of unity and peace.

Urban + Indigenous, will meld hip hop and traditional sensibilities, sending out a message to empower the marginalized. This will be made possible by hip hop groups in the city. The event is part of the arts and culture component of the Visit Davao Fun Sale 2016.

Local artists will bring this event to life.  One of them is Anthony Navarro, a Davaoeno hip hop artist who leads a group called Salugpongan International, a solidarity network inspired by the aspirations of the Manobo Talaingod who defended their ancestral land and rainforest from being destroyed by corporate loggers decades ago.


ANTHONY Navarro in a hiphop event.

“Salugpongan International was founded a year ago by Lumad advocates in the U.S.  who wanted to help support the plight of the Lumad.  SI hopes to help serve the basic needs of the indigenous communities in Mindanao,” he said.

Navarro uses hip hop as a medium to bring social causes to the fore.

“Hip hop reflects our lives, both our struggles and our joys,” he said. “Hip hop has always given a voice to those who are voiceless, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.  That’s why hip hop is thriving in every ghetto around the world today, from New York to Bombay to Manila and everywhere in between.

He added that hip hop artists around the world are addressing relevant social issues from police brutality, war, climate change, corruption, indigenous rights among others.

“I had the opportunity to help produce a song with BLKD and Gloc-9 along with other prominent Philippine artists entitled “Mindanaw”.  The song raised the awareness on the current plight of the Lumad,” he said.


Navarro has long been involved in the hip hop culture—for 25 years now. Here, he shares his story and why he’s deeply rooted to hip hop as a way of life.

“Growing up as a youth, the culture was vibrant and alive in my neighborhood and city.  Hip hop was everyday life.  Graffiti art pieces and murals were flourishing on the walls and freeways, freestyle sessions sparked any and everywhere there was a beat for someone to rap over, breakdancing battles were found at the park, local house party and school dance, and DJs were still mixing and cutting up real hip hop on the local late night show on the mainstream radio or at the local hip hop jam,” he described.


MACKOY Salinas during a hiphop dance competition

Navarro identifies Davao as his hometown , but he has also lived in the US in San Diego and San Francisco, further exposing him to various forms of hip hop.

“Hip hop was part of my life, from my family to my friends to my entire community,” he said. “The earliest memory of really getting involved with the culture though and expressing myself was 25 years ago. It was the first time I hit up my graffiti name all over my neighborhood.  It gave me a sense of identity and discovered an entire new language and culture that would forever change my life.”

Navarro, like most hip hop artists, found love in hip hop as it gave him freedom to tell his story to the world.

“I fell in love with Hip Hop because it gave me a sense of freedom to create, express myself and gave voice to my life’s experiences.  Hip hop also introduced me to so many other like-minded creative people and gave us a collective home and community united on the culture that crossed so many boundaries,” he said.

Hip hop’s unique nature that transcends cultures also empowered him.

“As a youth growing up facing a lot of struggle like gang violence, drugs, racism, colonial mentality, migration, etc., hip hop provided an alternative positive outlet for myself and so many other youths who often found themselves stuck in the systemic cycle of oppression,” he said.

“I love hip hop because as a youth, the culture honestly helped save my life,”

He hopes that hip hop can do the same to the oppressed.

He said, “around the world indigenous peoples have historically been exploited and taken advantage of.  Today, their cultures and ancestral lands are at the brink of extinction faced with ecological destruction by those who only see profits in their pockets.  I believe the public needs to know what’s going on with indigenous communities because ultimately they are the last keepers of genuine knowledge on preserving our planet.”