A Week in Metro Manila: Terno Recordings & the Manila Music Scene

Tony Rago, Up Dharma Down, & Terno Recordings Head Toti Dalmacion

By Tony Rago
Two years ago I had no idea such a vibrant indie music scene existed in the Philippines, at least until I first heard Up Dharma Down. Then everything changed…

The more I listened to the music, the more it sucked me in, the more it took me to some place else, some place different, someplace unique. There truly is an indescribable energy that exists in the music, and I soon discovered that it was not just Dharma who was harnessing this energy. There was an entire record record label, Toti Dalmacion’s Terno Recordings, which is founded on the belief that listeners around the world should challenge their pop sensibility. As I dug deeper I fell in love with other artists that Terno hosted, such as Sleepwalk Circus, Musical O, Encounters With A Yeti, and Pasta Groove.

Over the past year I listened more and more, and began gradually reaching out to these talented artists, building friendships based on a pure love for music (no matter where the source). I began to work with the record label more and more, trying to promote bands such as Up Dharma Down here in the U.S.A. My passion to prove to the world that the Philippines is an overlooked source of awesome and original indie music came to a head recently, as I purchased a ticket to Manila to find out if what I believed in my heart was actually true. So, I traveled by myself to the Philippines, to a country I have never been, to fully entrench myself in the scene and to finally meet these people in person. It was literally like a universal pull brought me there. Me, an American, and non-Pinoy traveling across the world on pure faith that this was in some way my destiny, to share this music with the world!

The trip ended up being the best trip of my life. In the 7 short days I had in the Philippines, I only saw a small part of the country, but I learned so much more. All of the people I met were genuinely nice, and the friendships I forged will last a lifetime. I’ve never felt so welcomed, so appreciated, and so comfortable in my own skin than I did that week. Who would have thought that this american non-Pinoy who became immediately obsessed after hearing the first brilliant note off of Up Dharma Down’s Fragmented, would suddenly be in his idols band practice filming their new hit “Tadhana” (http://vimeo.com/14453494), or taking shots with the bands at Terno Inferno in the Cafe SaGuijo parking lot.

From the moment I landed, it was obvious that I was a part of something special. Band Practices, Photo Shoots, Interviews, Concerts! But it was in the simple moments where I realized my heart was right all along and I became totally content, be it hanging out for a late night bite at The Whistle Stop (a Terno band late night favorite), playing basketball, rockin’ some karaoke, or getting uncomfortably stuffed eating all you can eat Japanese food. These people were amazing, they were real, and they were my friends. Now more than ever, I’m determined to make their story known, and to share their brilliant music with the world.

I’ll never forget my trip, and a piece of me remains in the Philippines, but I will be back at some point soon to continue the story. Terno Recordings, Up Dharma Down…Sleepwalk Circus…Musical O…Encounters With A Yeti…Radioactive Sago Project…Hidden Nikki…Populardays…Not Another Boy Band…Daydream Cycle…The Charmes…the world is not such a big place when music unites it. “Challenge Your Pop Sensibility”

Terno Recordings:

Terno Recordings USA Vimeo Page:


  • Pennylane

    October 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks for the recognition sir. I’m from the Philippines, too, and I so love Terno bands.

  • mayeeware

    October 8, 2010 at 11:51 am