IT HAS been 19 years since the rock band Datu's Tribe last performed in Davao City. Their return to Davao on November 28 at the Metro Station for The Kapit-Bisig Benefit Concert for the Lumad evacuees showed they still have their rage and roll.

Their gig stirred the young audience to frenzy right from their opening song "Feelings" to their 90s hits "And I See", "Nakakalitong mga Tao" and "Sarsa Platoon". They did moshpit on stage, flashed cellphones and sang along to the lyrics, to think that most songs came out when they were still in their diapers. At times frontman Eric 'Cabring' Cabrera would pass the mic to them to finish a line and a yell.

"Galing! Pwede na akong mo-retiro!" he jokingly growled after hearing the boys belt out their songs.

But retiring is far from what this band has in mind. Returning in 2005 after a hiatus, Datu's Tribe reformed with new bandmates - guitarist Moel Diaz, bassist Andre Umali and drummer Paolo Manuel -and with new causes to champion, while finding old and new followers along the way.

"There's a big crossover mystique for this band," said Cabring in an interview. "On one hand we're very close to progressive groups. On the other hand we had links to rock bands and the young ones who want to learn more. We found that our reputation was intact, and slowly we regained that status."

Datu's Tribe is lending their presence to cause-oriented events, such as in the campaign to save OFW Mary Jane Veloso from execution in Indonesia. This Davao concert was organized by the All Workers' Union to support the Lumad evacuees in Haran.

The band took time to visit the Lumads in Haran before and after their concert. On Sunday, Cabring spent a reading session with Lumad students, reliving his other profession as a teacher. While guitarist Dr. Moel Diaz, was joined by his wife who happens to be a nurse in a medical mission.

"To finally meet the Lumads, the real Datus, who were the inspiration of our band's name, to hear them talk of their plight in their own words, I think it is us who should be grateful to meet them," said Cabring.

The band's name is an interesting trivia. After arguing what they should name their band, they settled to put their suggestions in an ash-tray. "My choice was picked. Were they pissed," Cabring smiled. He said he thought of the name because of the mysticism and history of Datus in the country.

Hearing the Lumads' stories deepened the band's concern for them. "I am incensed especially to hear the abuses against children, being a teacher and a father. It's a burden to seem their being marginalized. Who benefits from mining their lands, from exploiting them?" he added.

That Datu's Tribe became a politically-charged band was not by design. "It wasn't intentional. I wasn't even an activist. But a large part of that was the experience growing up and studying in UP Los Banos and UP Diliman. Then as a teacher in UP Integrated, I hear stories from my students, about their problems and about their parents. And I couldn't pen love songs, so I write about these things."

He said the still marvelled how they were part of the 1990s wave of Pinoy rock bands that studio labels dug into. "The 90s was a gold mine in music. You have E-heads, and even Yano, and (the studios) milked us. They didn't care what your songs are about. (Our studio) Universal wanted an alternative act to compete with other studios, so thank you," Cabring laughs remembering this.

As grizzled as he has been to see the music industry squeeze talents for profits, Cabring still believes artists old and new can still be instruments of change.

"No one's gonna laugh. It's the solidarity that counts. We don't have to discriminate. Not everybody can be like us or be like The Jerks. But In your own way as an artist, much more can be done if you are aware the problems, aware of the roots of this, and you're willing to join in this struggle to change the system. You will be effective to spread your message to your mass base. They see you working on this on the side, then that can serve to inspire. It's that spark that makes people think. You encourage them to think."

Cabring promised that their support for the Lumads will continue. He said a video documentary is in the works. "We want to show we're not just these rockstars. But we can be people who can express our support and inspire people to do something."


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