MANILA -- It was what Brooklyn-raised rap star Mike Swift came back to the Philippines for —to be able to leave a mark in the local hip-hop scene like the legends who inspired him. It was also supposed to be the result of what would happen if their community, often looked down upon before, stuck together.
Yes, 2013’s “Araneta Dreams,” then the largest hip-hop event to be held at the iconic venue in Cubao, was an epitome of their collective dreams. But it was a victory that did not come cheap.
In Saturday’s episode of “Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan,” Swift recalled how the crazy highs he felt after organizing the historic event quickly faded away, squeezed out by the debt-filled nightmare that followed.
“Ang nangyari sa akin pagkatapos ng ‘Araneta Dreams’ ay nagligpit, nagbayad, nag-ipon, at nagpaumanhin,” he said. “Walang tumulong sa akin …Nawala ako sa eksena, wala man lang tumulong.”
Swift shared that his debt nearly reached P2 million. “As a rapper, hindi mo basta-basta makukuha ang P2 million, hindi ka basta-basta makakabalik.”
Swift was part of the episode focusing on bouncing back from seemingly impossible circumstances, from a young man who went from homeless to being featured in Jo Koy’s Netflix special as a breakdancer, to how a physically disabled rapper overcame his limitations.
Swift’s story touched on the disappointing aftermath of “Araneta Dreams,” financially, and how he paid off his debts through his other passion: basketball.
He said that he attracted the attention of global sports brand Nike with what started as a simple social media project, Pinoy Hoops, with the aim of refurbishing basketball courts across the country and sharing pictures of them online. “Iyon ang naging daan kung paano ko nabayaran unti-unti iyong utang ko,” he said.
This new hobby-turned-work of his also led to him to a rundown tenement in Taguig.
The families living there were in danger of eviction, before Swift came in and not only raised funds through games and events to repair the building, but also helped turn the tenement’s court into a local basketball landmark, known all over the world for its murals.
Lebron James and Paul George are among the names to have visited the court, and it made international headlines when Swift and his team of artists painted a touching tribute to Kobe Bryant, just hours after the basketball legend died in an accident.
“I don’t look at it na ako iyong tumulong sa kanila. I looked at it na sila iyong tumulong sa akin,” said Swift, noting how working with the families in the tenement gave him purpose in life.
You can watch the parts of the “Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan” episode featuring Swift below. The full episode can be viewed on iWant.