LET ME BEGIN by saying that I love my neighbors and I love singing.
I love my neighbors not only because the bible mandates it but because I really have fantastic kapitbahayan. At age five, I, with little help from my childhood buddy Dondon, burned our house by playing with fire (literally, I assure you). Our neighbors were quick to help, and our house still stands to this day.
I love singing. Being Filipino—kin to great singers like Lea Salonga, Charisse Pempengco, and, uh-oh, Manny Pacquiao—this needs no explanation. My favorites are Tayong Dalawa and Pangako by Rey Valera, songs by APO, and, when I am sober no more, Lead Me Lord.
No celebration is complete without a videoke machine. In a party where there are friends, food, and alcohol, the revelry is sparked by the magic of a microphone. Well, it’s a bonus that there’s a bit of sexiness, too. (You know, those bikini-clad videoke models who give you a sinful stare.)
A blogger-friend blurts out, however, “Whoever invented the videoke machine must be crucified”, complaining of losing sleep because of the unbearably annoying noise the monster creates. “It has made the world a less peaceful place,” he adds, and I can’t help but agree.
Of course we already know that more than sound sleep, human lives have been sacrificed at the Altar of Bidyoke. Not a few murders have occurred because the poor singer was either hopelessly off-key or was just singing with more gusto than one could bear. Last year, it was even reported that local videoke bars had stricken Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” off their song catalogues because this often led to rumbles, if not outright manslaughter attempts.
But what is it in videoke machines that draw people to it, anyway? More than the bonding that it facilitates among family and friends, videoke singing affirms the self. When you take the microphone, your otherwise-ignored voice is amplified. Instantly, you become a star. With big help from the powerful speakers, you affirm to the world, or to the extent sound vibrations reach, that you exist. When doing videoke, it does not matter if you are a tambay, a kubrador, a professor, or a doctor. For so long as your voice is loud, your scores are high. A videoke machine, like death, is a great leveler.
We may be experiencing a global economic crunch, and people are decisively working on ways to tighten their belts, but the videoke will not be missed. Filipinos hunger for food, but they hunger for attention even more. In this time of crisis, singing is a most effective, although not necessarily the safest, way to look past difficulty and survive. (At first I was afraid, I was petrified…)
Make no mistake, I am not against this ingenious Filipino invention. In fact, during my birthday, I rented our barangay’s videoke machine. (Yes, our barangay owns a unit which it rents out to constituents, at just 250 pesos—half the standard price.) But we made sure to unplug it at around 10 pm. I did not want to open a new chapter in my life by inflicting auditory torture on my fellowmen.
You see, it is both awkward and scary to ask drunken people to show some kind amount of consideration. Awkward I said because it’s not exactly flattering to be a “killjoy” to folks who just want to have fun. It is scary because heaven knows what harm may come your way in messing up with San Miguel’s disciples. And so, while sober we still were, unplug the monster we did, and did right.
But, of course, not all people share my position. Some fellows believe that by being drunk, they have earned a license to do things thoughtless. They expect everyone to understand them, unconditionally. All of a sudden they assert that the world is theirs, and that everybody should give way to their hedonistic quest. That is why they love the videoke machine, which knows no limits of merriment. In every song during the interlude, it asks with no fail: “Are you having fun?”.
This accounts for some people’s temerity to belt out songs until sunrise and in full volume. Of course, you already know that a human being’s singing prowess is inversely proportional to his/her blood’s alcohol content.
Oh, have I told you that the singing goes on even after the sun is up and bright? Machine rentals are usually on a twenty-four hour basis, and families always make sure they enjoy every centavo’s worth. When father is too intoxicated to sing and takes a nap, it’s mother’s turn, or sister’s, or brother’s, or neighbor’s. The singing does not stop until the delivery van hauls the monster away… until the next party… until the next madness.
This Christmas, I pray that those who insist on singing loudly at any time of day and night would be blessed with enough money to construct sound-proof rooms in their homes.
As I write this, videoke rent shops are now preparing for the holiday rush. Machines are now being refurbished and their song files are being updated. Boy, I’m so scared.
As a teacher and writer, I work at home as much as I toil outside of it. I cannot afford to lose whatever is left of my sleep on weekdays. And please, nobody rob me of my well-deserved peace on weekends. Listening to a badly-executed “Laklak”, “Bawal na Gamot”, or even “Arak” several times over in a day is certainly not my idea of rest.
Public officials, please help! What about some friendly regulations on the use of these monstrosities, eh?
Yes, even happiness must be regulated.
This way, ebribadi hapi.