Superskillz 2008 @ The El Mo

On Saturday night (Feb 2, 2008 to be exact), I'm going to take my yearly trek to Superskillz -- the annual talent showcase put on by the Filipino Associations at Ryerson and York. ss08_websmall1.jpg

Why, at the age of 32, do you ask that I go to something like this, when on a normal night, I'd have grown-folk shit to do (like rest)?

The answer is simple: I was one of the founders of Superskillz back in the day and I always said that as long as they keep putting it on, I'll always go. After 12 years, neither me or Superskillz has broken our promise.

I'm excited to meet the young people who are a part of the Filipino Student clubs today. I wonder how it is for them to juggle studies, extra-curricular stuff and their social lives. That was tough for me and my friends back then; how much more so now that they've got more distractions: cellphones, ipods, the internet, xbox... whatever. Truth is, they shouldn't have time to be in a Filipino Student club or do something like Superskillz.

But, they do. And that's enough. It's the same reason we're all at KPC putting in time -- because we like being part of a community; we like being together.

Maybe by showing up and paying my $15 admission, I can show them that supporting a growing community is a lifetime commitment. I hope they get the message that stuff like this is bigger than they think... if they are lucky, it will become a part of who they are.

Don't know about Superskillz? Well first off, it's happening on Saturday Feb 2, at the El Mocambo on Spadina at 8pm. $15 at the door. Now that we have the 411 out of the way... the history (you sit down while Tito Len tells you a story.)

Back in the day...

Superskillz was born 12 years ago in the original FCAR room, L374 in Ryerson's Jorgenson Hall. It began as a small idea between friends, to do something BIG.

Maureen Par, FCAR's VP External and Darren Ng, the president of YUOSA that year wanted to do something major to raise spirit in their respective councils and the idea was to have a Talent Showcase that would unite all points of the GTA. Between them, they had a venue (York's Underground was THE party spot back then) and tons of talented contacts and DJs to rock the party, but they didn't have a name. Settha Thongphanith (FCAR's VP Internal of that year) came up with the name: Super.... Skills! It sounded real corny at first, but we went with it and replaced the 's' with a 'z' to make it sound cooler and voila -- the biggest idea to hit the scene in a while.

The first Superskillz packed The Underground with over 600 in attendance, an attendance number unheard of in those days. Despite the massive numbers, Superskillz inaugural year included such acts as a juggler, a musical number from Miss Saigon and more acapella groups singing Shai's "If I Ever Fall in Love" than I care to mention. What made Superskillz special wasn't the acts who performed, it was the unification of students from all the University and College campuses across the GTA under one roof, at one event.

That was a special time frame when it came to Filipino Student Organizations. There seemed to be an air of invincibility then, and our big ideas all seemed to be within reach. We had the Annual Christmas Gala, the Date Auction, FSAY's Halloween Jam and FCAR's Barrio Fiesta. Back then, we brainstormed together, we planned together, worked together and partied together. We shot for the moon, and more often times than not, we hit our mark. Superskillz was our biggest success to date, and it was the jumping off point for more successful collaborations between FCAR and FSAY, who stepped in to carry the Superskillz torch when YUOSA ceased to exist. Superskillz made our other events even bigger and the ball of momentum just kept growing.

Over the years, it seems like so many of us performed there. I hosted it for a while, Romeo performed there. 360 performed there back then and they were still in high school. In later years, the Minerva guys ruled the stage.

Years later, the traditions that my school friends and I have mostly faded away, Superskillz remains and is now 12 years old. FCAR and FSAY, sister organizations since both were started almost 20 years ago, have kept Superskillz going and growing each year. After spending almost 10 years at The Opera House, Superskillz has just begun a new chapter by moving to the El Mocambo, another historic Toronto music venue. The crowds aren't 600 strong anymore, but the way we consume our music has also changed. Today's Superskillz reflects the homegrown and independent music scene.

I am still amazed when I return every year to witness the legacy that my friends and I started. The talent present at Superskillz rivals that of any event in the GTA and it is evidenced in the never-waning attendance numbers and the entertainment industry representatives it attracts.

For me, Superskillz has become more than the talent, more than the numbers or the big venue. It represents my memories of when I was in school, when I saw my friends all the time, when we had less to worry about because we weren't out there in the world yet. It represents the spirit of cooperation and community and it reminds me of the inherent power that lies in the councils of FCAR and FSAY. It is the power not only to reach the masses, but to do something important and crucial when we have that power. It is a power not to be wasted because when we leave the hallowed halls of our alma maters, it is a power that we, the fortunate ones who are a part of these councils, forsake for the real world before having to start over... from scratch.

This year, as the crowd roars in applause, I will be content to sit back and I wonder if this audience, or even the 12 years of packed crowds that came before them realizes that, for all it's pomp and pageantry, Superskillz was simply a result of a few friends with a small idea - working together, helping each other... and just thinking BIG.

12 years later, I'm the only one of my college-mates left still going to Superskillz. Maybe its because my friends have better things to do or being there makes them feel old. For me, it's just cool to be there and look around the room and think, "that was me".

It puts everything in perspective and gives me hope that someone is going to be there to pick up the baton when our turn in the race is over.