Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Singing and drinking always go together

Had a drinking spree with three of my best friends last Friday. Well, sometimes, I do have to go out just to unwind. Well, not knowing where to go, we settled in one of those watering holes that carry videoke along the Rizal Sports Complex. I was just amazed we could carry on a conversation amid the songs (sometimes noise) people sang (or made).

Anyway, we, too, sang a few rounds and it was pretty decent. Afterall, one of us is really a singer. But there was this guy who really really knew how to sing. The power in his voice is just awesome. He was so good I figured he ought to be singing professionally. He sang from the most recent songs to standards. Even sang one of my mother's favorite songs. Then, he also sang a man and woman duet which he carried all alone by himself. He shifted from the male version to the female version using a very high falsetto.

What separates a singer from a mere hobbyist like me? Well, almost everyone can carry a tune. There are those who are really tone deaf and I just could not understand how they manage to even think about singing - and in public, at that. Well, the thing is you're all out to have a good time. But please, not at the expense of another person's ears hahaha.

So, okay, one can carry a tune, sing in the right key, knows when to start and when to end, knows and understand the lyrics of the song -understanding the lyrics helps because that gives you the right mood and emotion you put out in a song. But what really tells a neophyte from a real singer is tone. Tone is the quality of the voice. This is what we refer to as talent. When someone says you've got the talent for singing, that means you have a very good voice and, most importantly, you have a good tone. FYI, my friend, Batjay has a good singing voice. You can listen to his voice in songs he recorded in his blog. And he plays the guitar, too. What's even more interesting is we share the same kind of music. Do you have a good singing voice? Tell me about it.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Driving" us crazy?

Driving in the Philippines is no easy task. During college, I had an American classmate and friend, Roy Neely, who said the first thing he learned when he came over is to drive like a Filipino. I would not have known what this truly meant until I have learned how to drive myself, and most importantly, experienced driving in a foreign land. Of course, I have always heard about the notoriety of Filipino drivers but experiencing it first hand and noting the differences, still comes like a shock. I have even heard we are one of the worst drivers, second only to the Italians (but I have not confirmed that).

The first thing I noticed is the discipline on the road. This is paramount! When I first drove in Canada, I was confused about the three and four-way corners. I knew each car in an intersection is supposed to take turns in going. However, what I could not understand is who has the right to go first when two or three cars came to the intersection at the same time. remember I always had to ask Arlene, "Is it my turn yet?" You know how it is in intersections without a stoplight here in the country. Whoever has the guts to go first goes. We usually create a big pile-up in intersections on busy days, do we not?

Passing lanes - another ignored rule. Just a few days ago, I almost hit another van who suddenly stopped while we were about to overtake another car. Why? He noticed something wrong with his engine. No forwarning signs, no hassle lights no anything. I heard the car behind me shout, "take it to the service lane instead of suddenly stopping on the fast lane!"

Public utility vehicle drivers stop at will anywhere at anytime. I took a bus going to Alabang one time and I got pissed at the bus driver who stop right at the foot of the bridge in Makati going to Magallanes waiting for passengers. This looks like a common practice with these drivers plying the Alabang route. The pink barricades instituted by Fernando do not work. These buses would stay there for a long time, inching forward and stopping again just to make it appear that they are about to leave so that passengers would be lured to ride. Very annoying. The thing is commuters condone this practice. Everybody is so keen on getting to their destination and take these buses rather than walk to the designed stations.

Second is the rule on pedestrians. Anywhere else in the world, pedestrians have the right of way. Once a pedestrian steps on the street pavement, drivers have to stop to let them cross the street. Not so here. Pedestrians have to wait until the side of the street is clear. Well, we have been taght to look left and right before crossing the street, right? A very prudent advice should I say.

They also have buttons on lamp posts which the pedestrian presses when he/she wants to cross the street. Now, if you have walked along Taft Avenue, you'll see the same device but will figure out that these do not work.

Street signs! There you go. Should I delve deeper on these ? There was once a tv show that made a report on drivers, who were supposed to be professionals, who did not know what most of the signs were. Scary!

Speed limits are practically non-existent. However, with the traffic situation, this may not pose too much of a problem. Hmm, so traffic jams come in handy, eh?
What could be the reasons behind the differences? I figure this can be due to several things. First and foremost is cultural.

We as a people have been programmed to think that the other person would understand. Take a jeepney driver for instance. When a passenger is going to alight from his vehicle, he would not bother going to the sides as it would only take several seconds for the passenger to get off his vehicle. As if there is an unwritten code that drivers who encounter this situation should understand for after all, its just for a few seconds. The thing is, there might be more than one and not to mention, another group of people who is going in.

Another reason may be lack of education. Let us face it. Most of these drivers were taught not by true professionals who know and observe road courtesy but bad drivers themselves. There is a rather nasty term for these drivers - bastos (rude) This brings to mind the time I took my driver's license. I perfected the written exams but I was sure I should have failed the practical exam. The engine died on me several times. I almost hit someone when the vehicle jerked. (It was not my own vehicle) To my surprise, I saw my grade and it was 96!
This brings me to my next point - corruption! Drivers do not fear traffic enforcers because they get away with their offenses through bribery. If only one hundred percent of the traffic enforcers were honest, imagine what hassles a driver have to face retrieving his/her license. That ought to make him/her follow the rules, right? This extends to LTO offices. Fixers and whathaveyou are always there to "provide" assistance for your convenience.

The other reason that I can think of is practicality.

The four-way corners, pedestrian stop lights, etc., could not work in Manila where thousands upon thousands of commuters, pedestrians and vehicles abound. Imagine if every pedestrian used those buttons ion Manila, traffic would have been more congested if not chaotic The same thing with pedestrians crossing the street. If every car stopped when people crossed the street, traffic would not have moved anymore. That is why our stoplights are either controlled by traffic enforcer or goes on automatically.

Are Filipinos the worst drivers? I guess not. Filipinos in other countries know how to follow rules to the letter. They are law abiding. My conclusion, it is the system that is flawed.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I'm back!

I have not been active since my mother died. No bloghopping, no internet, no new posts. This is because our home computer died on us and it was only yesterday that the repairman came to fix it. Well, not too much of a loss for me, actually. When my friend Arlene died, a big part of my computer activities died with her. We communicated practically everyday via this mode.

2006 was not a good year for me. I have lost four people I love. First to go was my aunt, the older and only sister of my mom; my friend Joji who finally succumbed to cancer while I was in Canada; my closest friend, Arlene and the final blow and most painful of all, just two days before Christmas, my mother passed away. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank those who reached out to console me during these trying times. I had failed to respond to readers' comments simply because I did not have a computer. Rest assured that your beautiful thoughts are very much appreciated.

Anwyay, no matter how cruel the past year has been, life has to move on and that is what I am going to do. I have my hands full. It was submission of grades the past week, I have accepted teaching several Korean students for advanced lessons in painting every Saturdays, had been reading several books, two of which are gifts from a German friend, Herr Karl Wioncek, who wrote/edited two books about the presence of German ships in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War fought in Manila Bay and a story about Magellan's circumnavigation of the world; and just now, a jamming with my two boys!

Yup, I was surprised, too. My two boys and a cousin discovered this music studio just a stone's throw away from the house (that is if you are a discuss thrower). They decided that they wanted to try it out. Hmmm, what harm will it do, huh? So, I went with them. To my surprise, Coby, the youngest, can hit those drums! (HOw did he learn to do that? Well, the beating those pillows got did some good!) And Mickey can play the guitar. I also wrote about the anxiety attack I had when he first performed in school. Read about it here I played bass for them and we did a few tunes here and there. Great! I am looking forward to the next session. We may suck today but who knows what is in store for tomorrow, eh?