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No crab mentality here: In the PH, creatives help each other out

by Gaby Agbulos

WHEN you hear about the music industry, one thing that may come to mind is the constant feuding that goes on within it. John Lennon versus Paul McCartney, Biggie versus Tupac, the list goes on and on. 

Even the Philippine music scene has seen its fair share of feuds, whether it be in terms of similar lyrics, relationships, or plain old pride.

One may think that, just because you’re an artist, it means you’ll do anything to get to the top, even if it means pulling others down just to do it. Crab mentality and all that. 

The truth, however, is that the music industry is far from what others assume it to be. If anything, it’s a place to build connections with like-minded individuals – people who share the same values as you, and the same vision as you.

Sure, not everyone may get along, but there are many in the industry who have managed to form lifelong friendships through their craft. 

If anything, creatives in the Philippines are dedicated to pulling each other up and helping each other out, not bringing each other down. One such example of this is Hillside Activity, a production house formed by a group of friends dedicated to honing each other’s craft.

Hillside Activity working on “Better Off” Visualizer

About the prod house

The production house Hillside Activity, which takes on projects like filming videos, taking photos, and the like, was created by friends Serro, Denzel Reyes, Gian Gahisan, and Ice Mercader. 

“I met Ice and Gian through a mutual friend who I used to do music with, and Denzel was my classmate during college,” Serro shared.

After a quick chat with one another, he quickly realized that he had a lot in common with them in terms of their creative ambitions. Immediately, he could tell that they were all on the same page.

The team started with just Mercader and Serro, but eventually, Gahisan and Reyes joined as well, working on one another’s projects whenever they had the time to do so. 

“Everything really came in organically, and that’s why it’s such a fun, authentic environment to be in. We were just a bunch of friends who wanted to do something – a group of creatives who wanted to be seen and heard.” 

Reyes added: “When I started, I didn’t really have friends in the industry; I met my friends back in college, and to this day, I consider them my brothers.”

He sees having friends who are creatives as a gift, as they don’t think how regular people do, finding ways to do things outside the box and seemingly never running out of ideas. 

Since starting out in the music industry back in 2018, Reyes has been able to step out of his comfort zone and explore his craft, confident in experimenting thanks to the support he gets from his friends.

Gahisan, one of the members who joined the team a little later than the others, needed time to insert himself into the team since he saw himself to be more of an outsider. Quickly enough, though, he became comfortable with everyone. 

“We all work together, [and] I’m really grateful to be in their presence,” he said.

“[I] never saw rivalry between any of us, as we want to approach things in unison. Of course, there will be indifferences, [but] it’s just a matter of meeting in the middle to resolve things.” 

Mercader, who also felt like an outsider in the industry, struggled due to a lack of friends and connections. Through Hillside Activity, a team that started of as friends with similar goals and visions, he’s managed to foster both a unique connection and working dynamic with each of them.

While others may think that it would be harder for them to work together given that they’re friends, Mercader explains that it’s only strengthened their work, and that it’s through their shared struggle that they’re able to bring their visions into fruition. 

Gahisan added: “Having creative friends is basically a big network of opportunity, which is great [because] you get to do more, meet more, expand more, and learn more. I really don’t see any downside. Just make sure you’re not being taken advantage of.”

Since they first started, Serro and his friends have shared the idea of “Malayo pa, pero malayo na.

“Whenever we feel like we’re hitting a dead end, or napapagod kami, or [are] at the verge of wanting to quit, we always try to remind ourselves how far we’ve gotten, but at the same time, we still have such a long way to go,” he explained.

Kumbaga: it’s too late to quit now.” 

Hillside Activity on the set of the “Summer Flame” MV

Helping each other out

Just like in any other industry, Mercader admits that there have been times wherein tensions have risen within their group. 

He explains, however, that it’s the healthy kind – the kind that helps them push one another, to catch up with one another, keeping them all sharp, focused, and on their toes – and Mercader would gladly take that over a group of yes men any day. 

There’s also still a sense of competition with other creatives in the industry, though Gahisan explains that that’s something that’s never gonna disappear.

“At the end of the day, it’s still about putting food on the table, as we want to keep things afloat for ourselves,” he explained.

“I don’t mind the mindset if that’s how you see fit; just makes sure everybody still gets to eat.”

Mercader and Reyes also explain that the feeling of competition may vary depending on your circle or corner in the industry, hence the importance of having a group of people who support you and share the same vision as you. 

In many ways, instead of competing with one another, they’ve helped each other to grow immensely, whether it be in their own field or in exploring new ventures. 

One example Reyes notes is scouting locations for shoots; here, they’re able to discover new places, with Reyes always taking photos of areas he finds interesting, then showing them to his friends so they can think of how to use that location later on. 

“These are the people I wanna keep in my life ‘til the end; [there’s] no rivalry between us since we just wanna help each other be the best version of ourselves,” he said.

There may be others who will still try to compete with you in the industry, even trying to bring you down just to get ahead, but this production group’s learned to simply accept and live with it. 

After all, why be worried when you have your friends supporting you through every step of the way?

Hillside Activity working on “Paghanap” Visualizer

Do it scared

Perhaps the biggest mantra this group has continued to hold on to is the idea that if you’re going to do something, do it scared. 

This means that even if you’re scared of doing something, that shouldn’t stop you. Basically: so what if you’re scared? Do it anyway!

During their brainstorming sessions, there are times wherein someone may say the craziest, most outlandish idea, with the expectation that everyone else will just laugh it off. Instead, they start trying to figure out how they can bring said idea to life. 

That is exactly why this production house is the perfect example of needing the right group of people behind you when it comes to achieving your dreams.

For example, the group worked collectively on Serro’s most recent album, “Summer Flame,” with 90% of the visuals being shot by Gahisan and Mercader, and the other 10 by Reyes and Serro.

He explains that Gahisan handles the lighting and direction, while Mercader handles the execution.

“This album was purely the brainchild of us four,” he added.

“Ice, Gian, Denzel, and I came together and worked hard to come up with the one year’s worth of visuals for Serro’s campaign.”

At present, Serro looks at his circle now as his ride or die, a group of friends whom he never feels threatened by. He feels that he couldn’t have wished for a better team, and all he wants is to make it through this journey with them by his side. 

If you’re an aspiring musician or are just hoping to make a name for yourself in the creative industry, remember to keep going no matter what. Eventually, you’ll meet the people who’ll support your vision and help you bring it to life, all while staying true to yourself. 

For Serro, the more authentic you are to your craft, the more you’ll attract the right people for you.

Tapangan mo lang,” Mercader added.

“Stay true to yourself and your vision, and I promise you, mahahanap at mahahanap mo ang tribu mo.

Hillside Activity working on “Lihim” Visualizer


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