Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life's a Bitch

Mercury in retrograde. Murphy's Law. These are some of the excuses given these days for things that go wrong. In reality, some of these unfortunate happenstances that occur in our lives can be prevented. But of course, it is easier to blame the Universe for a streak of bad luck.

Life's a bitch, and i agree. But to bitch about it is counterproductive. When something bad happens, move on, shake it off, and learn from the experience. This was a realization that came to me when i woke up to a really bad day. I was late for an appointment, and it so happened that the Metro Manila traffic was more than bad, it was a parking lot along the expressway. And when i finally got to my destination, all sweaty and hot, it was a WTF moment when i realized that all the rushing about was for nothing because the media coverage was also mistakenly assigned to someone else who got there ahead of me. I bowed out gracefully and learned many lessons from it -- wake up early, anticipate the traffic, and check my assignment details at least a day before.
Oh, and did i mention, "wake up early"???
Of course, that is still not a fool-proof plan of action, but it helps to have one. Much as even the most well-planned parts of our lives can still get screwed up, the Universe is not averse to throwing a few curve balls too. On hindsight, I was even lucky on that fateful day, because there happened to be a pending appointment nearby that i could keep, and instead of heading back home, i chose to go there instead. I found out from colleagues that i had a better time at my coverage than they did at my previous one.

So heck yeah, stop bitching. Life will love you better for it. Then you will find that you will enjoy life even more. When you find that things are going wrong, take a moment to pray, keep your cool, and think of what you can do next. The answer will come to you.  


Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Karaoke Menace

Filipinos are now getting worldwide recognition for their vocal prowess. Charice Pempengco got her start after being a guest at Ellen de Generes' show. Jessica Sanchez wowed the audience and got raves for her performance with Jennifer Holliday in American Idol. And now a girl named Zendee Rose, who got noticed for her jaw-dropping performances at a mall, was also a recent guest at Ellen's show where she belted out a Whitney Houston song with no effort at all.

It is true. A lot of Filipinos have great pipes. Proof of this is the number of talent shows that have proliferated on local TV, from noontime variety shows to prime time contests in search of the next big thing. The contestants come from all over, from the smallest barangay in the slum areas, to the remotest barrio of the archipelago. The shows never fail to find someone who blow the audience away with their renditions of pop tunes and standard classics. They don't just warble Bieber either. The song choices include the hard-core stuff from Whitney, Adele, or Aretha, and they nail all the notes.  

Since a lot of these things get posted on Youtube, now other nationalities are getting the impression that every Filipino can sing. But, of course, this is statistically impossible. For every Charice, Jessica, or Aretha, there are dozens of people who think they can sing -- but cannot. What does not get posted on Youtube are amateur videos of people singing off-key on their videoke machines and Magic Sing microphones.

If you are not familiar with what these are, you can count yourself lucky. They are gadgets that enable "the performer" to see the lyrics of hundreds of songs against the background of images, usually of a bikini-clad Caucasian girl. The microphone is connected to a speaker, so everyone at the party -- and beyond -- can hear drunken revelers sing Frank Sinatra's My Way or Bon Jovi's Bed of Roses. But since Filipinos love to party, there's almost always someone in the neighborhood who is unsuccessfully channeling his inner rockstar or her inner diva, up to the wee hours of the night.  And they are coming to you live from their living room or garage.

The karaoke/videoke machine is a good entertainment tool, actually. It is fun to sing with friends and family --if you are in a soundproof room, such as those found in upscale KTV bars such as Red Box videoke in Makati. But, of course, in the bigger part of the Metro, where the houses are all crowded together, chances are the people down the street can hear somebody's attempts to be the next Singing Sensation.

Woe to you if you are trying to get a good night's sleep, or studying for exams. What's worse is that there is no law against noise pollution in this country, so you just have to grin and bear it -- or search the internet for a rocket launcher on sale.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Candy for the Street Children

Since the Christmas season starts in the Philippines as soon as the -ber months set in, Halloween is not really a big thing celebration in the country. While in the US and Europe, kids are busy deciding what to wear as this year's ghoulish costume, Filipino children and their parents are usually on their way to the cemeteries to honor their dead.

Well, there are a few efforts to make this Western tradition a popular one, with malls holding back on the Christmas decor and putting up fake cobwebs and Jack-o'-lantern displays for a week or two. But probably the most tangible campaign for this holiday would be the trick-or-treat events held at some of the posh villages in the Metro. Here, spirited kids of all ages, even pets, get to romp around in their Halloween garb, and hold out their goodie bags for homeowners to fill with candies, cookies, or small toys.

While a lot of spectators remark at the cute costumed toddlers walking down the well-paved streets of the exclusive enclaves, more noticeable for me are the street children, who are given passage to these villages, even for a day.

They come in droves, with no costumes, just big smiles of anticipation on their faces. For these kids who sleep in shanties, a natural reaction for them would be to gawk at the mansions fronted by well-manicured lawns, or pedigreed dogs that are better-dressed and groomed than they are. But on that day, there is only one thing on their minds. candy.

They push and prod each other towards the proffered treats, some not even waiting long enough to leave the lawns before unwrapping and gobbling down the sweets. For the young residents of the villages, the candies are literally a dime a dozen. For the street children, free candy is something that they look forward to once every year.

Aside from the saccharine stuff, for many of them, it is also a day for them to simply enjoy being kids. For, a lot of them have to eke out a living to help their parents with the everyday struggle of finding something decent to eat. The one peso that might have bought them a piece of candy from a sidewalk vendor will be put to better use as an addition to the family budget. The afternoon which they would usually spend taking care of numerous younger siblings, begging, or hawking cigarettes on the streets was spent playing with their friends. It is not hard to miss the sparkle in their eyes and the spring in their step as they jaunt through the neighborhoods, as just regular kids on a fun day out.   

A lot of people wish that every day is Christmas. Maybe every day could be Halloween too?



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stranded In The Streets

There are times when I actually enjoy commuting to my press coverages. Commuting offers me a few liberties: Instead of having to concentrate on the road, which one definitely has to do when he or she is driving, I could sit back and relax, and let the bus or jeepney driver get me to my destination.

I could observe the people I am sharing a ride with, often making up stories in my head about where they came from or where they are going, based on what they are wearing or something as basic as the expression on their faces.

The thing that I hate the most about commuting in the Philippines, though, is that once in a while it gets so unbelievably hard to catch a ride. You see, unlike in most of the Western world, where buses run on schedule, it is really a matter of running after the transport of your choice when rush hour descends on Metro Manila.

The result is a mad rush, a tangled melee of arms and legs as everybody tries to jostle through the crowd to board the bus, jeepney, or train. What's worse is that men rarely give up their seats for the ladies anymore. They reason that they are shelling out their fare, just like we ladies do, so why would they have to stand up? So, I am often left standing in the aisles of the bus or train, holding on to my parcels while I hang on for dear life.

"Is chivalry dead?" I often wonder. There are so many times when I offer my own seat to pregnant women or the elderly, while my male counterparts try their darndest best to look as if they have dozed off.

 It's almost shopping season again, and as Christmas nears, I'm sure it will get even harder to catch a ride. The traffic will get worse too, because everyone with money to spare is already bargain hunting at the malls. There are times when it will be quicker to just walk to where I am going instead of catching a ride -- Good thing I am usually in flats, right?

For those who are bound to get stranded like me, just remember to keep your cool, leave the house a little bit earlier, expect to come home a little bit later -- get those knees and elbows ready for boarding!