What prompted the television host to make such a flattering proclamation? A couple of years before she wrote the tweet, a teenaged girl from the Philippines appeared on her television program The Ellen DeGeneres Show to sing two classic tunes - I Will Always Love You and And I Am Telling You. DeGeneres was blown away by the girl's rendition of the songs. That girl's name is Charice Pempengco who is now an accomplished artist both in the Philippines and abroad.
Since the appearance of Charice on her program, DeGeneres regularly invited amateur and unknown Filipino singers to sing on the show. Most of these talents were found online, often via YouTube, the video-sharing site where anyone can easily attract a lot of viewers and attention if you are any good. DeGeneres has invited a lot of these viral Filipino talents to her show that Filipinos often humor themselves that if you want to become famous, there's a formula for it - cover a popular song, cover it well, post it on YouTube or Facebook, and hope that it goes viral enough to merit a DeGeneres invite.
Another reason why Filipinos are often described as good singers is the fact that they are regular fixtures in singing talent shows all over the globe. Franchises of popular singing reality shows like American Idol and The Voice often have Filipino singers in them. Among the singers with Filipino roots who made waves in said shows include Jessica Sanchez, Brad Estrin, Jose Penala, Thia Megia, Camille Velasco, Jasmine Trias, Ramile Malubay, and Katriz Trinidad.
|Image credit: Battosai.|
So back to the question, why are Filipinos so good at singing? To state the obvious, this does not mean that all Filipinos are good singers. It's the same as saying that Cubans are good boxers because a lot of boxing champions come from Cuba. It's just that so many good singers tend to originate from this archipelago. So there's got to be something that explains why Filipinos tend to excel in this department. We are not saying that Filipinos are naturally better (i.e. born to be great singers) compared to other races. There are certain factors that help Filipinos achieve some sort of advantage over other races. Below are some of the reasons we believe have a part in creating good singers from this country.
1) Most celebrations and events in the Philippines often involve singing.
Whether it's a family event event like a birthday party or a national holiday like Independence Day, you'll see Filipinos singing. The karaoke machine is as ubiquitous as air. A get together is never complete without a round of belting it out with the karaoke machine.
Even gloomy and sad events like funerals can't escape the karaoke machine. To an outsider, singing Frank Sinatra's My Way at a funeral is weird and bizarre. But in the Philippines, it's slowly turning into a part of the culture. What does this have to do with the common belief that Filipinos are good singers? Simple - practice and exposure. The more you sing, the more you get better at it.
2) The proliferation of singing contests.
This is another phenomenon that exposes Filipinos to music and singing. When a barangay gathers for a fiesta, there's a singing contest. When a company celebrates its founding anniversary, there's a singing contest pitting the employees against each other. Festivals held all over the country also often feature singing contests - individual and band contests. This is not to mention the presence of several musical shows in Philippine television.
3) Singing in public is culturally acceptable in most parts of the Philippines.
What this does is instill confidence in people who love and enjoy singing. The more they do it, the more they hone their skills without having to worry about public backlash. Singing in public is even being encouraged. Many malls in the country have karaoke stands where people can just grab the mike, choose a tune, and sing in front of a crowd for free. In fact, a lot of these random mall performances have gone viral online with some of the performers getting enough attention that they've been offered recording contracts or stints on television.
4) Filipinos use singing as a form of escape from problems.
As was mentioned earlier, singing through karaoke machines during funerals is a widespread practice in the country. This is testament to the fact that whether they are doing well or they are going through some troubles, Filipinos don't lose their love for music one bit.
The tagayan culture in the country also often involve guitars and no holds barred singing. If you are having a rough time with life, your barkada will be there singing you Parokya Ni Edgar tunes over bottles of San Miguel gin or Red Horse beer. You will have no choice but join in on the fun. You do these sessions a lot and sooner or later you'll have pipes worthy of an audience. It's worth mentioning as well that these tagayan sessions often start early - mostly in high school.
5) Singing is the most accessible form of entertainment in the Philippines.
The Philippines is a third world country. You know what this means - a huge chunk of the population don't have much. Most can't avoid movie tickets. Most can't afford traveling at their free time. Music is cheap and singing is usually free. A karaoke song will only cost them 5 pesos. As always, this setup exposes Filipinos to music.
Can you think of other reasons why Filipinos are great singers? Any ideas you can add to what we already discussed above? Leave us your comments and ideas below.
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