A "Rap Rap" Jeepney zooms through Taft Ave/Vito Cruz as LRT train looms above.
We are back in Manila! From CA to Manila Bay, Fil Am Funk reports live from the motherland. Here are some initial thoughts on music and culture:
1. Filipinos enjoy good music!
Sa stores, restaurants, laundry shop, jeeps, tricycles...Pinoys always got to have music blaring! Laging! Even just a broke down boombox by the store entrance, got to have music! And good music at that. My impression had always been that Pinoys only love rock and slow jams. I'm surprised to observe that hip hop/rap (U.S. mainstream, of course) is heard just as much as the traditionally popular music.
Even the kids' headphones set on blast, I can hear the boom+snap of today's hip hop taga States.
What I love most about Pinoys' music taste is that they play QUALITY American R&B music on the radio that will never make it to U.S. radiowaves because of the stranglehold the U.S. industry has for short playlists. Aside from the racist-tinged skin commercials (see below) and shallow tsismis, I could listen to the R&B radio stations in Manila all day!!
Usher is currently setting it off in concert tonight!! Lucky whoever is going!
2. Basketball is everywhere!
Currently, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is having its Playoffs. Even though the NBA is ironically more popular than the PBA, Pinoys own the game in their own way. A random basketball hoop in the middle of a road median, on a dirt lot, wherever! A love affair with the game!
3. The Philippine consumer market is saturated with unabashed pro-whiteness products!
Ok. I always knew about skin-whitening creams and ingestible chemicals. But the shamelessness and boldness has taken me aback on another level. I got this free Pond's "White Beauty: Pinkish White Glow Lightening Cream" when I bought a notebook at National Bookstore. WTF. Radyo commercials on loop talking about "having white skin requires constant work!" And TV shows are not afraid to put on blackface and poke fun at dark skin. (The comedy/drama TV show "Diva" is off the chain with the blackface). Blackness has its own register here, not just with Black Americans but with racially-marked indigenous Filipino groups like Aetas.
This is why hip hop/rap/R&B could play an important role in re-imagining racial valuing (especially in skin color). From White Beauty to Black+Brown Beauty! Let's have it!
4. Filipinos love to play with language on a daily basis!
I talked about this last year, but language-play seems central in Filipino livelihood. The Spanish-Indigenous Filipino-English mix of language makes sign switching easy and achievable. Did you know even with money-counting, certain denominations switch immediately from Tagalog, to Spanish, to English? All that can happen from 1 to 20. Confusing, but it's everyday life here.
Michael V. is brilliant, word-for-word, in irreverently parodying Lady Gaga's iconic "Bad Romance" video. For Tagalog-speakers, how can you not help but roll of the damn floor laughing at this one? He tweeks every word and syllable, but stays faithful to the "sound" of "Bad Romance." "Humihilab (bowel pains). Lab-lab-lab!"
"Gagang Lady"! Nakakatawa! Astig naman!