The Philippines: Still Poor After 26 Years Post-EDSA Revolution

I was nearing 6 years of age when strongman Ferdinand Marcos was forced to fly in exile after only somewhere around 2% to 3% of the Filipino population went to the streets for the so-called EDSA Revolution. Though young, I was already aware that such an event had big promises of change and social upheaval, the start of a society where every Filipino was equal in rights and privileges. After 27 years since that fated day, that promise remains to be fulfilled.

I remember all those years growing up how my parents were able to work hard and see the fruits of their labor blossoming to provide me and my sister the kind of middle class living that majority of Filipinos could only dream of having. One has to understand that while middle class style of living is pretty much standard in developed nations like Australia (where a number of my relatives live), in the Philippines it is rather exceptional. It is worth noting that despite the levels of success my parents were able to reach, as the years after the EDSA Revolution continued to progress, it became more and more difficult for my folks to be able to earn money from their garments manufacturing business. With changing economic forces around the world and antiquated local economic policies, my father’s employers suddenly closed shop, leaving him deprived of his retirement benefits. This also brought about the loss of my mother’s subcontracting business. Coupled with conniving and dishonest people that surrounded my parents like vultures, the years post-EDSA did not provide the kind of environment that would have allowed middle class people like themselves to prosper. I could imagine how much worse it would be for people who didn’t have much.

What does that story about my parents have to do with EDSA? A lot. Apparently, the greater freedom that EDSA was able to deliver provided a recipe for disaster to Filipino society. It only made means for the rich to get richer, the poor to get poorer, and the middle class to be strained close to poverty. Honest small business owners like my parents had to deal with red tape and inefficiency of government services as the BIR continued on their efforts to bleed them dry. All of this was happening while we keep hearing of corruption by post EDSA Revolution leaders, doing nothing with all their power and wealth to delude the ignorant masses to further enrich themselves. Now, I don’t really have to specify details about this. It’s pretty obvious how the Philippines is performing nowadays despite all that EDSA history.

It’s easy to blame the country’s leaders for the government’s shortcomings and failure to provide an environment that stimulates growth and creativity. However, are only the leaders to blame? The matter of fact is that Filipino culture is the culprit. Filipino culture is mired with impunity, mediocrity, and anti-intellectualism¬† brought about by the “pwede-na” (that’ll do) and “bahala-na” (come what may) philosophy that is so pervasive in society. It appears that every neighbor of the Philippines continues to grow leaps and bounds while Filipinos keep on holding to unsubstantiated “Pinoy Pride” whenever individuals like Manny Pacquiao or Jessica Sanchez garner accolades for their INDIVIDUAL achievements that have NOTHING to do with being Filipino. While competence in other countries lead to success, patronage politics and other underhanded tactics remain key determinants for success in the Philippines. Such cultural traits continue to be present despite the 27 years that Filipinos have been celebrating EDSA, hardly the mark of an advanced society.

I’m not at all surprised that some discerning individuals think of the EDSA Revolution as a joke because it was unable to deliver it’s promises of a society where everybody had equal access to opportunities. It has become such a joke that emotionally-driven Pinoys tend to hit the streets every time they feel angst about something (EDSA 2, 3, etc.). I was gullible enough to be dragged to EDSA part 2 (2001) only to realize that upon arrival it was nothing more than a stupid street party pretending to promote a just cause.

No matter how many times the Philippines changes its leaders, it will always be the same until culture changes. It is only until Filipino culture embraces competence as the standard will we see people with track records of excellence hold important seats in government. When Filipinos start thinking critically will we see the kind of changes we long for.

Surely we Filipinos now enjoy the freedom it had delivered, but that undisciplined freedom is what keeps the Philippines in its current sorry state. This freedom we now enjoy has led to chaos that had deprived many Filipinos of a decent standard of living. Ask the people in the slums eating “pagpag” if they can feel the benefits of EDSA. While they might give trivial and safe answers because of how they have been misled, they will always feel that misery for their sorry state. Such widespread misery is enough to convince me that there is no change after EDSA.

Manuel L. Quezon once duped the Filipinos into believing that they are ready to rule by arrogantly saying, “I would rather have a country run like hell by Filipinos than a country run like heaven by the Americans, because however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it.” Bad (the absence of good) will always be bad, Mr. Quezon! I’d rather have heaven any time rather than your hell! Labeling “hell” as Filipino doesn’t make it any better. The absence of good can NEVER be delightful in any way. Making changes without any progress is useless effort. You can also add to that the fact that change can be for the worse. Look at EDSA. It’s legacy is still keeping the Philippines poor 26 years onwards.

The Kurzweil PC88: My Present-Day Gig Instrument

Today I’d like to talk about my present band practice and gig instrument, the Kurzweil PC88 Performance Controller Keyboard. Why would I do so? Because I like this instrument very much, plain and simple. For any of you out there looking for a review of this fine instrument, read on.

Before I discuss the ins and outs of this instrument, I’d like to tell a brief history about how I stumbled across this “portable” stage piano and eventually became its owner. I was looking for a portable 88-key replacement for a Yamaha SY-77 I had sold a few years back. In July 2012, I browsed through the Philmusic classifieds and found a seller who was selling a PC88. The price seemed reasonable, and then I thought to myself I could use something a bit similar to Jordan Rudess’s Kurzweil K2600. To cut the long story short, I bought it and have been using it since then.

The Kurzweil PC88 was exactly what I was looking for, a keyboard with a pianistic range and some very good sounds. My favorite patches in it are “Classical Piano”, “Suitcase E. Piano”, a number of organ sounds and the “Slow Digital Pad”. In my mind, these sounds should serve as my bread and butter presets. My particular unit is the “MX” variety so it also has a general MIDI bank and a generous 64-note polyphony. Because it’s not a synth, its selection of sounds is limited but it has powerful layering capabilities via the “MIDI Setup” mode where you can layer four sounds, each of which has its individual volume slider. In a limited way, you can create some fantastic patches with real-time control over each sound. Whether I’m playing progressive rock, praise and worship music, or jazz, I can pretty much cover good ground.

I’m not really doing multitrack orchestral stuff with it so 64 notes is pretty generous for my purpose. The feel or touch of its key bed is definitely weighted, similar to the feel of a Yamaha grand I had used about 4 years ago in a company Christmas party, but has a bit of a springy bounce that you will never find in an acoustic piano. How would I know? It’s because it feels very different from the acoustic upright piano I use at home. The rugged metal casing provides me with confidence that it would withstand the rigors of playing out.

As much as I love this instrument, it is not without its faults. I bought this particular PC88 used, and so some of the lead weights were loose. I had to hire a technician to have all the weights of the key bed fixed with a stronger adhesive. My technician said that the original adhesive used doesn’t hold up well to tropical weather, and that’s why they would become loose as the instrument ages. Given the fact that it’s not a synth, I could not use the sort of analog-ish lead sounds I enjoyed in my former Yamaha SY-77, and so I have to stick to organ or piano sounds for my leads.¬† Lastly, the PC88 is heavy! You will not enjoy climbing up stairs lugging this keyboard on your own. When I set this up in the church (UCCP-MCCD) where I occasionally play, I usually have to ask for assistance from friend and bandmate Pastor Chaz to carry it inside the church. Yes, Kurzweil didn’t lie when it said that the PC88 was portable. They forgot to write down a caveat that it’s only portable if you have a car, if a buddy to help you carry it, or strength comparable to a well-trained athlete. If you plan on carrying it around while commuting, I’d probably laugh at you.

So, in summary, other than the initial key bed lead weight issue, the lack of decent synth lead sounds, and the weight of the instrument, the Kurzweil PC88 is a great piano analog and an impressive MIDI controller.

The UCCP-MCCD 93rd Anniversary Worship Service and Concert

I should say that last Sunday’s musical activity was one of the most fulfilling I’ve experienced in my entire life. I’ve never felt so blessed and useful. I have to thank all the people at UCCP-MCCD for giving me their trust as I handled quite a number of musical duties for both the worship service and the “acoustic” concert.

I like playing such venues where the small number of people bring about a certain level of intimacy. It is unlike places like nighttime watering holes where people are drunk and have no ability to care at all for the music you are playing (that is unless you are playing some popular cover songs or you are a popular artist yourself). In such venues like UCCP-MCCD, the people are generally level-headed and attentive. I’m quite sure that people who are listening to the music in such places have your full attention with the influence of nothing else but the Holy Spirit.

It’s really an amazing experience when the Holy Spirit leads you to work. Such a higher power could never be attributed to any human being. For me, it seems like the years of toiling away at the piano and music books is indeed part of God’s grand design. I can never take credit for anything that has happened during that entire day. It’s all God’s handiwork. I would never be that strong or useful on my own.

I suppose that I should continue along this path where The Lord is leading me to. No, it is imperative that I do so. Yesterday’s event was truly a humbling experience that would be one of the most memorable for me. I feel more than blessed and I pray that whomever is reading this would feel the same way. As for the concert highlights, I’ll have to wait for Ariel to post those online (that is if he would).

How I Almost Got Scammed

About two weeks ago, in my thirst for higher education, knowledge, and credentials, I almost got scammed by an organization miles away from where I am. It’s a good thing that I had the presence of mine to have become alerted by what you would call “red flags” that would indicate a diploma mill. I thank God for having given me enough wisdom not to be ensnared by the Atlantic International University.

For those who know me, I only had private lessons as my formal training in music (piano and guitar), and everything else I know I have learned on my own through stacks of music textbooks, the times I sneaked into a music conservatory library, stacks of sheet music, numerous recordings, concert attendances, band experience, and experimentation. Such effort has led me to become the freelancing professional that I am now. However, I wanted to take this to a more advanced level, and so for years I had searched for ways where I can manage to get a conservatory-equivalent education while keeping up with the demands of daily life. Unfortunately for me, I stumbled across Atlantic International University. It was a regrettable experience to have crossed paths with them.

I made an inquiry about their online degree program in music via email. I never expected to get such a fast reply. I even received a phone call regarding getting admitted into their university. The admissions department of AIU called me up late night for an interview. What happened next made me suspicious about the organization. They said they were a university based in Hawaii.

I shot straight to the point and asked about fees, scholarships, and financial assistance. Ms. Meyers positively responded that they had a partial scholarship. What shocked me was the fact that they wanted me to either pay the program fee in full or go under a financing plan that required me to pay an enrollment/reservation fee within 24 hours to make sure that I can avail a scholarship of $1,500. They seem to be very hungry for money if they wanted me to pay immediately without any sort of competence testing for a scholarship or a more rigorous interview process.

I looked at their website and they are not accredited. I tried to see if they had a curriculum structure similar to what I see in reputable schools like Berklee; they had none. I did some more digging and I found out the sad truth: Atlantic International University is a diploma mill according to a variety of sources I have read. Its astonishing to see how easily I have been approved for a scholarship. Add to that the fact that the “university” is nudging me to pay them $150 within 24 hours sounds fishy.

To cut the long story short, I sent AIU an email stating that I wasn’t interested anymore.

If you stumble across Atlantic International University, FLEE IMMEDIATELY! You’ve been warned.

There are many times when we can get caught up in many things that we want along with the excitement that various prospects bring. Such elation can lead to rash decisions that we more than likely to regret some time later. It pays well to pause, step back, and then make a logical evaluation of things before making a decision. Most important of all is a prayer to God before making a decision. Proverbs 14:15 (KJV) says, “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” On a later chapter, Proverbs 21:5 (Again KJV) states that “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.” We ought not to be hasty or be swayed by emotion; otherwise, we fall, and falling hurts really bad.