There’s rarely silence on any island in the Republic of the Philippines. It’s not Mother Nature that’s causing the sounds or even the endless traffic horns: it’s the constant strains of pop music. For visitors to these South Pacific islands, there’s a steady stream of pop and rock playing in every café, fruit stand and corner store.
For locals, singing a pop song and busting out dance moves to match is a welcome skill – and there’s no need for karaoke and several cocktails to encourage the behaviour.
School kids are taught music, song and dance, and their teachers are just as happy to perform, as I witnessed at a small elementary school on Mactan Island. The students assembled in their school courtyard, happy to demonstrate their singing and dancing skills, whether it was pop classics, like Michael Jackson’s Beat It, or traditional folk songs.
No matter the lack of high-tech equipment, these kids were happy to dance and sing on the grass and dirt, performing as if they were on a stadium stage in front of thousands. And for a place where a basic electrical connection wasn’t common even a decade ago, the access to music culture hasn’t prevented Filipino kids from knowing North American pop hits and contemporary dance by heart.
These kids had the moves! They were clearly ready to perform on The Voice, American Idol or America’s Got Talent, if given the opportunity. Even shy kids seemed to blossom when the sound system started blasting, swaying in unison with their classmates as they watched from the perimeter. As I left the school, I was cemented in my belief that Filipinos loved music as much as most people love chocolate – a sweet and fun daily indulgence.
As I spent the next few days visiting markets or spending time at the beach, I was constantly reminded that music is integral to Filipino life. They happily celebrate their fave local celebs, shown singing and dancing their way through life, on giant billboards and numerous entertainment TV programs.
But it was my last moments on the island that confirmed all I had seen and heard – from the endless catchy tunes creating a soundtrack for every location to the numerous posters of pop celebrities proudly displayed at every marketplace, on bicycles, motorcycles and by teens on T-shirts and tote bags.
As I was boarding my plane to leave this tropical isle, I could hear music as I came down the jetway to the airplane doorway. Right there at the exit was a four piece band with singer, serenading passengers as they left the island. Now that’s the way to leave a lasting impression.