Monday, September 12, 2011


The Videoke Station
Two weeks before I left for the Philippines, I was at Le Drugstore, a lesbian bar in Montreal. It was Karaoke Night, an otherwise quiet Tuesday. About 5 people in our  group, the slightly drunk blond host of the night turned to the Asian guy at our table (a Belgian, nonetheless) and said in French You guys, Asians, in your country karaoke is a front for prostitution! Seemingly unaffected by this ignorant comment, our friend ignored her and she continued to sing one of the songs she picked. Sadly, she will probably never be the diva she always wanted to be. However, in the foggy haze of this lesbian bar, everyone in different stages of drunkenness, she can feel like the stage is hers.

In only my first few days of life in the Philippines, I experienced the videoke. Videoke is the Filipino version of karaoke. Even before starting my job here, I was attending a birthday party where the family had rented a videoke terminal. In the middle of rice paddies, outside the tin-roofed concrete house stood the golden podium: a television screen affixed to a tall base on wheels complete with large red buttons and speakers from which our sung ballads will project against the neighbour’s tin-roofs and rice fields.

This is where I first sung Ironic, by Alanis. Little did I know that this was the easiest song anyone can sing, and would soon become my signature song. There has been many (and I mean about several times a week at the peak) times where I sing at videoke, and not one time goes by where I do not sing Ironic. I am told, others have begun to sing it while I am not in attendance. And I’m told it’s sung in my honour.

The previous intern and I are singing to The Sign

Now, karaoke is popular all over East and Southeast Asia, this is a fact. However something about it here makes it more common than anywhere else. In Vietnam, I may have sung karaoke about 5 or so times in the two years I was there. So far, in the two months I have been here I have sung karaoke upwards of 20 times. Most of the bars have a terminal. All you have to do is pay 5 pesos (about 10 cents Canadian) and tell the bar person what number song you would like and it’s done. The microphone will circulate from table to table as patrons sing their favourite love ballads. Even the toughest-looking guys will shoot down glasses of rum or gin while singing Hero by Mariah Carey.

Well, I surely can’t sing Hero (though that didn’t stop me from trying) but as time goes by I am searching for my new signature song. The song needs to be identifiable, easy to sing along to, and ready for its trendy re-emergence.  Some how none of the Ace of Base songs actually work (I’ve ruined Lucky Love and Don’t Turn Around). Celine Dion is way too difficult despite the fact in allows me to insert the fact that I once lived behind her (damn, I did it again). 

As the search continues, I will no doubt make a fool of myself singing way out of my range (my range is beyond what human ears can hear, by the way). Meanwhile, if that drunk rock-bottom diva at Le Drugstore was right, where do I pick up my cheque?