Karen Carpenter is reincarnated in Navotas, Manila


Yes the phenomenon / curse (delete as appropriate) of the big brother of Karaoke – Videoke.  It doesn’t matter how poor the family or how desperate matters are in Manila – there is always a videoke machine nearby.  Another testament to the joy and resilience of the people here .  But there are certain things a foreigner should always bear in mind – this is taken very seriously. Everyone seems unfazed about bashing out a tune, often without even a hint of irony. Coupled with the Asian principle of not losing face, criticising or laughing at someones performance is seen as very rude and may even provoke a violent reaction.

This phenomenon is Asia Wide – in 2002 the dictatorial ‘prime minister’ of Cambodia, Mr Hun Sen, closed down all the countries karaoke bars in order to stimulate production and the economy.  Japanese newspapers, very sensitive to the Obama administrations demands,  talk of  ‘karoake diplomacy’  i.e. singing to someone else’s tune. Back here in the Phillipines videoke is ubiquitous. In my family in Navotas the father is very accomplished and could hold a tune very well. He takes it so seriously that he wouldn’t drink or eat anything cold – in case it affected his vocal chords!  Fr Agus from Indonesia, stayed with a neighbouring family,  whose taciturn father didn’t say anything to him, the only way he communicated was through videoke!!  So why this craze? Surely this is the power of escaping, briefly, to another place.  Ballads are by far the most popular tracks – and everyone seems to have a dream and a microphone to share it with you.

For me, in Navotas, I was hooked after a reluctant start – I have a new love of singing (not sure it is shared universally).  I instantly bonded with my family when they found out I was from Liverpool – ah the home of the Beatles – they said admiringly! It may have given them a false expectations of my singing abilities, but it meant for a long night in front of the videoke – going through the Lennon-McCartney back catalogue! I ended up pleading exhaustion …. at 11.30pm!

Getting ready for the celestial karaoke night

Anyway as St Augustine is alleged to have said ‘ He who sings well prays twice’.  I couldn’t find where he said that directly but this i did find in CCL (93) –  For he who sings praise, does not only praise, but also praises joyfully; he who sings praise, not only sings, but also loves Him whom he is singing about/to/for…..What do you think Augustine would chose to sing in a Karaoke night in heaven?