A few months ago, #TagaAsaKa? Challenge invaded the Philippines online community as a surreal dance craze. Roughly translated as “From where are you?” (“Taga-asa Ka?”), a person ought to respond with the address – at least the town or city where he/she came from. The trend goes beyond that. Instead of giving a direct geographical answer, the person-in-question says his/her place of origin with a sexually suggestive dance step, twerking – Miley Cyrus style – under the Budots beat.
At first, I thought the trend was a senseless virtual entity out of stupidity. As I investigated further, I realize that this social media challenge is more of a social construct evolved from different cultural influences. #TagaAsaKa Challenge would be impossible without the following pop culture elements: (1) Discoral, (2) Budots, and (3) Smartphones.
Discoral is a Cebuano pun for “Disco” and “koral” (fence), thus, “disco within the fence”. The practice is popular in the Philippines especially during fiestas. When a town church or barangay chapel celebrates the feast day of their patron saint, the secular component of their society organizes fun events – variety shows and improvised dance floors. Mobile sound system operators usually hold disco parties at the basketball court. Sometimes, on a yard under coconut trees, farmland, or any open area. During these events, people from other towns and provinces flock to the discoral in pursuit of fun, casually hitting on someone. Asking someone where they come from opens a conversation like how the English initiates small talks i.e. “How’s the weather?”. Then, after receiving an appropriate reply, discoral party-goers continue talking with their bodies. Traditionally, not everyone grinds in the discoral though. The dialectics of Filipino dance and music traces back from the under-explored prehistoric Sayaw, to the Spanish derived Bayle, to the American boogie, to the Latin Cha Cha, until the contemporary Rave festivals. Max Surban, the king of Visayan novelty songs, showcases a beautiful retrospect of the discoral in his record.
Budots is coined by the Davaoeño slang term for “tambay“, unemployed people “standing by” for a job. Their collective unemployed status allowed them to congregate until they establish a community that develop Filipino techno music. According blogger Henny Pepper, Budots originates from Camus St., Davao City. This music is a combination of modern EDM and the drum beat of the Bajao tribe – technically called “Sama” or “Samah“, an Austronesian nomadic ethnic group who lives on marine environments, sea gypsies floating with their boathouses. When Budots blares on the stereos, people dance in abrupt rhythms, hands playfully swaying, hips down, knees bending, legs opening and closing. Like millennial American music, anyone can be a Budots artist under the magic of auto-tune. Imagine politicians, celebrities, and meme personalities mishmash their speeches with this remix, repeating their catchiest taglines. For instance, Ms. Banwa or the Bahog Bilat Meme is a victim of Budots humor.
Budots signifies the character of the Filipino masses; “pang-masa” they say. That’s why many politicians compose their campaign jingles with this beat. President Duterte showed his human side while dancing Budots in public.
If the discoral practice pops the “Taga-asa ka?” question and Budots provides the music and dance moves, smartphones capsulized these cultural treasures in social media. Nowadays, mobile phones record any performing art instantly and conveniently. Uploading to the internet like an online block-chain network of surveillance cameras. Millennials, the digital natives, are a mysterious bunch of people. They challenge their peers with quirky trends. The #TagaAsaKa challenge in particular nominate friends who dances well, hot, and damn-right-funny — or a combination of the three. Sometimes, this outlandish trend give prominence to inspirational people like the dancing kid Goygoy, taking the spotlight on ABS-CBN’s Rated K.
Needless to say, #TagaAsaKa? Challenge got the attention of mainstream media. It’s Showtime noontime hosts randomly ask celebrity and studio guests “Taga saan ka?” to join the craze with the DJ playing the Budots beat. However, as an anthropologist, I am not comfortable with the idea of translating the “#TagaAsaKa?” to “TagaSaanKa?” in order to appeal the Tagalog market. How I wish they have retained the original language.
From my reference point, I have explained in this humble blog the origins of the #TagaAsaKa challenge despite limited references. #TagaAsaKa is genuinely Filipino, a mosaic of foreign and local dance practices – of modern and indigenous musical traditions – a product of our antiquated, colonial, and modern histories. As I said, a social construct, perpetually evolving in the world of increasing blurring boundaries. Who knows in the future? From this trend, a new meme will emerge.