Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Charice is one of them

Thank you for choosing to read this. I hope you will read on up to the last punctuation mark of this article.

I have been meaning to write about my thoughts and ideas on issues that I perceive as crucial to our lives as a people. For some reason, I could not let myself sit down and tinker with the keys of my typewriter. Yes, you read it right. Typewriter. That’s how long it has been. Although many years have passed, and I now use a computer, the issues have remained the same:

Number of school years before college. Pasig River. Bills and coins. Movies. The Filipino language and alphabet. The English language. TV programs. Road signs. Traffic. Littering. Great Filipinos. Children’s games. Trees. Values. And more.

I thought I would never get interested in writing again until I learned about Charice late last year. It started with myself appreciating her singing prowess. Then, I got exposed to information and comments, both positive and negative, about her. The more exposure I had, the more I became encouraged to write. The circumstances surrounding her singing career triggered the conception of this article.

The following paragraph is the guiding principle where my thoughts and ideas begin and are led back to.

I strongly believe that education can make or break a nation. When I say education, I am not referring only to the one we get from schools. I am referring to everything that each of us experiences and is exposed to.

Filling in the Gap

I remember the story about a Dutch boy who inserted his hand into a hole in the dike because he knew that the inflow of water could drown his entire community.

A Filipino named Efren Penaflorida is a representation of individuals and organizations that have been trying to fill in the gap in providing guided education to street children who, for whatever reasons, are not in schools where they should belong. He brings the school to these children through his pushcart filled with teaching materials, carrying with him the passion to present an option for them to become productive members of the community. In 2009, news network CNN named him Hero of the Year for his extraordinary contributions to help others. The title came with a $100,000 cash reward which he said he would put into his programs for the youth. After that international recognition, the Philippine government conferred him the Order of Lakandula, one of the highest honors given to a person who has an exemplary political or civic contribution to the society.

Antonio Calipjo Go is another Filipino who tried to fill in the gap in the education sector through his effort to expose the alleged errors in textbooks used in Philippine classrooms. However, unlike Penaflorida, he did not get any awards. Instead, he received the ire of some textbook publishers and authors and of some officials of the Education Department. According to him, his exposes have cost him lawsuits and one million pesos for newspaper ads which, to my thinking, he used to reach a wider audience.

Last year, Go decided to finally end his crusade. In the Philippine Daily Inquirer dated October 26, 2010, he talked about his efforts’ going nowhere and his mother’s health as part of the reasons why he was giving up his crusade of more than ten years. But what struck me most was the one thing that his detractors used to discredit him with—his lack of any scholastic degree. Go was not able to finish his schooling due to his family’s financial difficulty.

I feel sad about his giving up his crusade. I hope that our present government can look, if it hasn’t, into what Go was trying to point out and exert effort to verify if there is truth to his claims. Anyway, at the end of the day, it is not the title of a person that really matters. It is the quality of his views which are influenced by his own experiences and exposures.


Whether we admit it or not, exposure to what television brings has a big influence on our daily lives. Whether that exposure has to do with information or programming, its effect is far from being insignificant. Because of this, the TV workforce has a big responsibility on its shoulders.

Many of our people rely on TV news to get information on current events and I am happy to know that there is a growing awareness of responsible journalism among broadcasters—and the viewers. I am looking forward to the time when all entertainment news is handled with equal care and when all artists are treated with due respect.

With regard to programming, I find there is still room for improvement. I miss the variety of programs aired on primetime during the 1970’s and the early 1980’s. The viewers then were treated to soap, comedy, musical, talk, and game shows within the primetime hours of the entire week. Nowadays, a big chunk, if not all, of the primetime slots are allocated to soaps.

With the expansion of the TV networks to cinema and music recording came the exclusive contracting of artists. I believe that there is a downside to this if the exclusivity is very rigid. If I am a viewer of Network A and an actor of Network B has an upcoming movie, I may not be aware of it because the network I usually tune in to will not carry its promotions. Gone are the days when artists jump from one TV network to another to plug their movies or concerts.

I think the current strategies of the networks are limiting the choices of the audience. I believe that TV is a very influential form of mass media so that we need to maximize its potential to become a good source of inspiration for a better quality of life.

Crab Mentality

The sad thing is, television is used by some as a medium for crab mentality.

Crabs are people who pull down those who are rising to the top or who are already at the top. Crabs could be anybody. They come from all walks of life. They come in all shapes and sizes. Their aim is to crash the person in the hope of preventing him to achieve success. Many personalities have been the targets of these crabs. Charice is one of them.

A lot of artists, public officials, and ordinary Filipinos have been the targets of crabs and if I am citing Charice here it is because she is a timely example; crabs have given negative statements about her. Of course, constructive criticisms are welcome, but that is not the style of the crabs.

The three subjects most commonly feasted on by the crabs are Charice’s looks, singing ability, and lapses in English fluency.

To talk about looks could put one in an uneasy situation because there will always be unending arguments that can follow. May I instead recommend two movies because they have great messages about looks. One is Mirror Has Two Faces with Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges. It shows how a person’s physical appearance can be changed by a mere revealing statement. The other is the first Shrek, which I watched at a movie theater. Its unexpected ending countered the standard of beauty that the viewers’ reaction gave away.

May I also recommend The Voice of Holland format for singing talent search. It is a relatively new TV show where the singers are not seen by the judges and therefore, are not assessed on their appearance.

Now, let’s go to singing ability. When it comes to the arts, be it visual or performing, I would like to consider it a sin to make comparisons. Each output of an artist has a special impact to a particular patron. We should respect each artist, we should respect each output, and we should respect each patron’s preference.

We also need to respect each artist’s individuality. We cannot have clones. I do not think anyone can duplicate somebody else’s abilities in all their facets and forms. Let us encourage everyone to discover his own abilities to create the kind of art that will appeal to his own patrons.

A good example of having one’s self-discovery is Lea Salonga. In her concert titled “My Life on Stage,” a part showed how she struggled to fit into the pop music industry and how it was only when she decided to try out for the new show (Miss Saigon) in London that Lea finally realized that she belonged to Broadway music.  And as they say, the rest is history.

The third subject being thrown at Charice is her lapses in English fluency. We Filipinos have an attitude when it comes to the use of the English language, especially its correct grammar and pronunciation. It is not even our native language!

Charice positions herself on the positive side of things. She does not hold grudges for the crabs. The irony is she is thankful to them. She has said in some interviews that the negative comments thrown at her give her strength and serve as a driving force for her to work harder to improve her craft. Her smart attitude is paying off.

Charice has made an impact in the international scene. Important music charts in different countries list her album and singles. She is the first Asian to break into the top ten of the prestigious US Billboard Chart. And yes, she is now not only from the Philippines. She is currently referred to as Asian. Other Asian countries like Korea, Thailand, and Japan--where she is soaring high--are delighted that Charice is making it big in the US mainstream music industry. One reason is that it is beneficial for them as well. Charice has kicked the door open for Asian singers. Do we want to shut that door?

Big Neglect

We have once neglected the extraordinarily talented artist that is Charice. We have once neglected the passionately service-oriented citizen that is Efren Penaflorida. It took the outside world to recognize them before we did. Although I believe that a growing number of Filipinos are little by little realizing how we have overlooked some of our gems, I hope that the likes of Antonio Calipjo Go would not forever be in the list of “sayang.”

Let us not wait for other people to discover our treasures before we give them the rightful recognition. Let us not neglect our own talents like our directors who make great Indie films, our writers who come up with unique stories, our animators who create artistic presentations, our scientists who have incredible findings, and our teachers who help instill in our children the values our country badly needs.

National Pride

One value, I believe, that we, as a people, are short of is national pride. I think the lack of knowledge and acceptance of the uniqueness of our culture, of the beauty of our natural environment, of the ingenuity of our craftsmen, of the resiliency of our people in times of difficulty is one reason for this. It doesn’t help when we are not aware of why certain Filipinos could be the source of our pride.

I will not be talking about Lea Salonga or Manny Pacquiao because we have long accepted them as having given pride to our country. Please do not get me wrong if I have been citing Charice in this article. My music player has songs by different Filipino artists. But without a doubt, I admire Charice not only as a singer but also as a person and as a Filipino.

I hope you continue reading because the following will tell us why we should prevent ourselves from being crabs.

Since Charice’s first appearances on both US shows Ellen and Oprah, the term pride of the Philippines has been attached to her name when she is featured on Philippine TV shows. Aside from her extraordinary achievements in the music world in a very short time, what else could we say about this young lady? I would like to recognize and emphasize one important thing about her.

I hope we can be proud of Charice not only because of her achievements but also because she is proud to be a Filipino. My virtual encounters with her showed me a proud Filipino personified.

Before going onto a big or small stage, or starting a radio or TV interview, she is introduced with this line—“From the Philippines, Charice!” I have no way of confirming it with her directly but I would like to think that this is a request she makes with regard to her introduction. One video I watched made me conclude that “Philippines” has to be part of her introduction. It was at the Leeza Gibbons Oscars Event in the US. Part of the introduction by David Foster, her mentor and producer, went “…this girl is going to be one of the biggest stars on the planet, guaranteed 100%. Please give it up for (he paused) from the Philippines, Charice!” One could infer that Foster almost forgot that important line so he had to pause. The number of performances and interviews Charice has done since 2007 is the minimum number of times the name of our country has been mentioned because of her.

Let us not discount the fact that Charice’s role in the globally popular TV show Glee boosts the international interest in the country she proudly represents. In that show, she plays the role of Sunshine Corazon who is not just an exchange student but a Filipino exchange student.

There are other remarkable deeds that Charice has done. Learning from past mistakes, she knew when not to use the talent of being creative in song interpretations as evidenced by her singing of the National Anthem at the inauguration of President Noynoy Aquino. She was praised by the National Historical Institue for respecting the musical notes penned by Julian Felipe. Charice also composed the rap with Tagalog-English words for the song Reset, which is part of her first international album. And because she wants to send the message that she is not the only talented Filipino singer, she has shown videos of our other singers to Foster.

Charice has expressed her gratitude to the key players in her career. Although she has been mentioning names like Oprah Winfrey, David Foster, and Ellen DeGeneres, she has made sure that credits are given to two others. One is Dave Duenas a.k.a. False Voice who was the first to upload her videos on YouTube. Charice has emphasized that Dave is from the Philippines and is a Filipino in interviews. The other is her mother. I have seen a number of videos where Charice would reiterate that although Foster is her mentor, it is her mother who has been her vocal coach and trainer. Even if it is the US that has given her the big break, Charice never fails to tell the world that her talent was first discovered and honed by her mother and that it was broadcast to the international viewers by False Voice. And both are Filipinos.

It is difficult for me to understand a Filipino who would have the guts to pull down another Filipino like Charice.

And there are others

If the likes of Lea Salonga, Manny Pacquiao and Charice are not enough to make us proud as a people, there are other names in the fields of entertainment and sports that we can easily recognize like Arnel Pineda, Lani Misalucha and Efren “Bata” Reyes. They also have made impact in the international arena. Now, let me also name a few of our inventors who have significant contributions to the world.

When you are under the moonlit sky, remember Eduardo San Juan. He did the conceptual design of the Moon Buggy which was used by the astronauts in exploring the moon.

If you think the moon is thousands of miles away to be given a fuss, go to a nearby hospital. Find a doctor who is holding an x-ray film. Follow him to his clinic to see how he slides it up on the film viewer on the wall. Look, no clips! When he is done studying the x-ray, look at how he just pulls the film down. How convenient! And no scratches are made on the film. Doctors and patients in the world have Geronimo A. Dango to thank for the magiclip that holds the x-ray film.

When you talk to someone on the phone and see his face, too, you have Gregorio Zara to thank for. He invented the first videophone.

How about this? We are all frustrated when our computers are very slow. Thanks to Diosdado Banatao for coming up with a solution to this slowness. He was responsible for the single-chip graphical user interface accelerator and the First Windows accelerator chip. Whatever they are, they make computers work much faster. There is one more we need to thank him for. How could we not be proud of him? He helped develop the Ethernet controller chip which makes Internet possible.

I hope our schools and our mass media will emphasize the contributions and achievements of Filipinos in different fields. Let us not neglect them. Each is a source of national pride.

Source of Inspiration

And who would not be proud of the late President Corazon Aquino? When she died, we mourned and grieved as a nation. International figures were saddened by her passing away. She was and is a source of pride and inspiration.

I was on the road that rainy day in August 2009 waiting for the hearse to pass by when I heard a man tell a group that Tita Cory would not like a disorganized and unruly crowd. Upon hearing this, the group right away became aware of and followed the demarcation lines so traffic could flow smoothly. We can really learn from every experience, from every encounter. That unexpected incident that happened on the road during the funeral procession of a great icon taught me a lot about inspiration.

After witnessing that incident, I thought of this: If each and every Filipino would choose at least one person to serve as an inspiration so he could bring out the best in him, the Philippines would be a better place to live in. There are many to choose from. Charice is one of them.


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