Why Filipino Musicians And Artists Should Clamor For A Systemic Change

I work in the arts and education field. Much like an OFW, I have had to look into opportunities outside of my native Philippines to get decent work that would support myself and my family. Because of the Internet, I was able to do that from the comfort of where home might be. Otherwise, my son and I would starve had I only kept looking for opportunities locally.

Sometimes I ask myself why are there only very limited opportunities for musicians and artists such as myself here in the Philippines? Why has it been such an uphill battle? Isn’t there a way to level off the playing field?

Because of the 1987 Constitution, the Philippines has a very broken system of governance that keeps the competent people out of leadership in favor of popular ones. We simply don’t have a meritocracy here. Couple that with too much freedom, too much checks and balances in every aspect of government transactions, patronage politics, and a highly protectionist economic policy, and you have a recipe for keeping competition out in favor of the Philippine oligarchy. For decades, this has resulted in them being able to control wages and prices. They keep salaries low despite rising inflation. Lesser purchasing power, higher prices for everything. It’s a sad reality here in the Philippines.

Such facts are very much evident with the Philippines having expensive electricity, ridiculously slow internet (when compared to the rest of Asia), and rising prices for basic commodities. Couple that with a dearth of opportunities and low wages, it’s no wonder why we’re still in the Third World.

Now, what does have to do with anything in the arts? Anything in the field of arts appeals to a higher need, in accordance to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The arts mostly appeal to self-esteem and self-actualization needs. Therefore, in a country like the Philippines where many people will only have enough for biological needs (food, shelter), arts become low in the list of priorities. I’m in the music performance and music education field. This means that in my country, I won’t have the same opportunities as I would have in developed nations where they definitely have more funding for the arts. Would someone living below the poverty line who can only afford to eat Pagpag have enough money to spend on piano lessons? Of course not! They need to eat first!

Some people would say, “Why not give lessons or play for free.” Well, I have done just that all my life, but I need paying patrons too. I need to eat and I need to keep my bills paid.

Such limitations in the Philippine economy only means less patrons, and less music students. Therefore, less opportunities for musicians like me.

It’s no surprise why working musicians and artists like myself look for opportunities to get paid work in class B to A markets, which is just about maybe 5% to 10% of the Philippine population.

Why not enable the rest of society to get to that level? Why not turn the Philippines into something like Australia or Singapore? No wonder why most of my relatives are in Australia. It’s a matter of economics. The kinds of work they do in Australia (which pays them really well) only amounts to chump change here in the Philippines.

It’s old news to me that every artist in the world is experiencing such an uphill battle, even in developed economies. Being in a third-world nation only means that the struggle is harder.

The way I see how things would change is if the Philippines adopt a new system. I’m very much in favor of scrapping the 1987 Constitution to make way for a federal-parliamentary government that is practiced in more developed nations like Switzerland and Australia in order for changes to happen and an economic policy that allows for foreign investments to come in smoothly, a strategy that Singapore employed to transform their nation from a destitute land to one of the most influential economies in Southeast Asia. Such a change is long overdue.

There are people who would argue that it’s the people that need to change despite the system. For as long as I have lived on this earth, that has not happened simply because the 1987 Constitution has created an environment where the incompetent can flourish and the rich 1% can take advantage of the situation, limiting opportunities only to themselves while handing out enough scraps for the 99% to survive and keep them rich.

Should a more open economic policy open up, local businesses would have to compete against foreign investors. They would have to be able to match the quality of service at a lower price point. Wages would go up as more investors compete for skilled labor resulting in higher overall wages and purchasing power. The economy would improve, giving enough purchasing power to the masses to go for higher needs such as music and the arts. At least in this scenario, even my colleagues in the independent music scene won’t have to play music for free anymore.

Folks like Orion Dumdum from the CoRRECT Movement can explain how this works better than I am. If you want to know more, I recommend that you check out the CoRRECT Movements argument for a systemic change.

I hope I have stated enough reasons why a Filipino musician and artist like myself should keep on clamoring for a systemic change in the Philippines.


A Choral Arranger’s Experience at Musikapella 2017

It’s always a pleasure to hear musical ideas come to life. It’s something that gives me great joy as a composer and arranger.

Last October 2017, I got a call from the UP Economics Society (from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City) asking me to arrange “Simbang Gabi” for unaccompanied SATB, SSAA, and TTBB choirs. The arrangement was slated to become the contest piece for Musikapella 2017, one of the hottest annual choir competitions in Metro Manila.

I said to myself that three arrangements of the same song for those ensembles shouldn’t be a problem but then UP Eco Soc said that they needed the arrangements within 3 to 5 days. After thinking about how great an opportunity this was, I told them I could do it.

Once UP Eco Soc knew I could work with a tight deadline, they took me in. I think they were already out of options, hahaha!

Remembering Symphony X’s “Candlelight Fantasia”, I went into making the score, and through God’s help I was able to complete the scores.

Fast forward to November 25, 2017, I hear my score come to life for the first time. It was astonishing! Here’s one of the Musikapella 2017 contestants, the UST Senior High School Chorale (Selah), performing my arrangement of Lucio D. San Pedro’s “Simbang Gabi”:

Lucio D. San Pedro’s “Simbang Gabi”, arrangement by Mark A. Galang for unaccompanied SATB choir:

This performance floored me! That’s all I can say.

I’d like to congratulate and thank Mark Agpasa (choirmaster) and the rest of the UST Senior High School Chorale for doing such an amazing job. I also would like to thank the UP Economics Society for entrusting me with such an important task. Perhaps this is a good start to really becoming involved with the Filipino chorale scene. Who knows, right?

There’s also an all-female choir version during Musikapella 2017. I thought St. Scholastica’s Academy Choir did a great job with my arrangement:

Lucio D. San Pedro’s “Simbang Gabi”, arrangement by Mark A. Galang for unaccompanied SSAA choir:

All of the 9 choirs that participated in Musikapella 2017 as well as family and friends made me feel like the biggest winner of the night. To them I send my thanks and my gratitude.

I also have to thank my vocal arranging mentor, Christopher Borela, for training me well back in PWU.

Now, time for me to go back to practicing my instruments, writing composition ideas, and all that stuff, a day before I go back to work on all things Freejazzlessons.com.

A Glimpse of Life as a Full-Time Music Educator


About nine months have passed since I accepted a full-time post as a music teacher. I currently teach mostly group piano/keyboard classes ranging from the 2nd to the 12th grade in varying skill levels ranging from beginners to advanced, some of them are at a virtuoso level. As the school where I’m currently assigned gives a rather considerable amount of workload, I barely have enough time for what is my primary musical medium and discipline: composition. Other than rare occasions where I can record little musical ideas here and there or film a piano improv every now and then, I have lost time for it to the point that I have no idea where to find time to finish the musical that I have been working on for the past two years. I do think, however, that having done this so far has been a blessing for me. I am very grateful to the Lord for having led me to the place where I am at for many reasons.

It is no accident that I am at this place. It is all part of God’s grand scheme of things, an opportunity for me to become a tool for young people to gain skill and knowledge in music. This in itself, I believe, will pave the way for the next generation to serve Him through music and lead others to Him through praise and worship. I pray that those who have received my instruction would eventually convince others of their need for a savior, given man’s wretched and sinful nature, and that it is only through the Lord Jesus Christ’s completed work at the cross that they will come into fellowship with God.

The process of teaching is intellectually and emotionally taxing. Each day at school, I have to pull out every intellectual and emotional resource available. Every real teacher gives out eveything in an effort to properly equip his or her students as much as he or she would do for her own children. No wonder teachers act kind of surrogate parents for their students in the classroom or in the teaching studio, the sort of effort that cannot be matched by any amount of financial remuneration. It all boils down to the love of serving and imprting knowledge that keeps us teachers going.

Having been holed up in my home studio prior to teaching full time, it has been a refreshing experience. Meeting and dealing with all sorts of personalities is a given. It can be so frustrating at times to the extent that sometimes I just want to run away and hole myself up again in my studio, writing and recording music by myself. However, doing so will only make me to revert to what I once was: a human analog of the Dead Sea. The bigger picture of things as an educator shows much more promise. Effecting changes in the lives of students through music is worth all the effort.


Working with the particular department I am in is not without its perks. I can say that a teacher is the ultimate perpetual student. We have to learn more to be able to teach more. Each challenge we face allows us to learn new things. In a span of months, I have acquired skills that I only dreamt of having once. You can’t help but absorb some degree of knowledge, skill, and insights from colleagues who plan, work, and perform with you. As far as performing is concerned, the team I work with is a blessing from God: they are among the best musicians I have performed on stage with, bringing to life some of my arrangements of wonderful Christian songs in four school concerts. In the process, I even picked up learning how to play some woodwinds and brass instruments as well.

This point in time, I would say, is the eye of a storm that I would call student recitals. It’s a bit relaxed now compared to the preparations we had done for our students. In about two days, all of that is about to change as we start setting up the stage for the recital on the weekend, with the hope tht our students do well and give glory to God through music. Perhaps I would write more about my experiences as an educator in the days to come if time permits, but this is all what I can say for now.

Jose at Musika “Luma” Album Tour Live @ 12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub (05/16/2016)

It’s been a while since my last post so here goes nothing. I’ll just go ahead and go say that this is probably one of the most significant gigs in the history of Jose at Musika. This is the second leg of the “Luma” album tour which happened last May 16, 2016 at 12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub. Enjoy: