Entertainment, Field Work, Geography, Music, Sociology, Travel, Urban Ethnomusicology

Friendly Tips for Urban Ethnomusicologists (Field Researchers)

Mabuhay! My apologies for not blogging lately for I have been focused on doing my undergraduate thesis on the Ethnography of Live Professional Musicians in Metro Manila. In my thesis, I have been doing immersion trips in various live music scenes in Metro Manila, such as bars, TV studios, campus concerts, and even private events. Nevertheless, I’m having fun in the process. 🙂

Without further ado, here are some of a few tips to rock (en-roll) your urban ethnomusicological research.

  1. Reserve for your slot early in the TV studio. Nowadays, ABS-CBN is offering studio tour packages in order to watch either It’s Showtime (Php 205) or ASAP (Php 250) as a studio audience, without the need to go to the ABS-CBN Audience Entrance during dawn. However, the reservation should be done around two months before your desired date. Always check the KTX (Kapamilya Tickets) website (https://ktx.abs-cbn.com/) for available slots. Tickets for ASAP get sold out easily though 😦 For special cases, a letter of request (which should state your principal purpose) may be forwarded to the producers.
  2. If you would desire to watch a concert which involves performers with wide fan bases, buy your ticket as soon as the selling period starts. During the Cosmos UP Fair, a lot of people were not able to enter the Sunken Garden for the tickets have already been sold out, hours before the show. Since I went to the UP Fair solely for my thesis, I bought the ticket once the selling period has already started. Some concerts easily sell out like pancakes, such as the recently-concluded concert of Moira dela Torre at the Kia Theater. Even bar concert tickets get sold out easily!
  3. The PUVs and TNVs are your besties! Some venues may not have enough parking space so it’s best to take either the public utility vehicles or transport network vehicles (e.g. Uber, Grab) to bring you to the venue. However, exercise extra caution when traveling late at night. Safety is still your top priority.
  4. Always bring a small notebook and a camera. Unless the venue restricts video and photo documentation of performances, it is best to do documentation of the event by yourself to be able to note more details which you weren’t able to note during documentation. Videos are  “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” field records. In case there are video and photo documentation restrictions, feel free to request for videos from the company’s archives.
  5. Think about your questions carefully before conducting an interview. It is best to observe the event first before inviting someone for an interview. Doing such process may enable you to discuss your observations with him/her in which he/she will be able to interpret your observations better, as well as to refer you to more appropriate sources.
  6. Don’t just focus on observing the performance itself. It is best to interview both casual audiences and regular audiences (more of fans) to get their opinion towards the performance, as well as audience demographics. If allowed to do so, feel free to interview some of the production staff, as well as the performers themselves. For the case of mediated musicians or showbiz personalities, focus more on their performance practice, rather than the staple showbiz talkshow topics. Ask permission from their manager, as well. (Making a separate appointment is more recommended for interviewing showbiz personalities.)
  7. Dress accordingly. Some bars would strictly enforce the “smart-casual” dress code, especially in bars located in hotels. As for weddings, it is best to ask your contact person for the event’s theme and dress code. Decent casual (top and jeans) attire is recommended in most bars (e.g. 19 East) and TV studios so as not to upstage the hosts and performers.
  8. Enjoy, but always keep a keen eye and ear on important details. This is the number one rule for field researchers in general.
Music, Sociology, Television


Last February, during the Radyo Bodabil Symposium held in UP Diliman, Dr. Maria Rhodora Ancheta  presented her paper on the Pinoy Bodabil, which focused on the repertoire of Katy de la Cruz. She mentioned the difference between the American vaudeville and the Filipino Bodabil. It was stated in her paper that while the American vaudevilles consisted of slapstick comedy antics, animal shows, and acrobatics, the Pinoy Bodabil, as a variety show, focused on joke narratives, which were mostly sexually suggestive. One of the most popular Bodabil artists was Katy de la Cruz. In this article, several questions, in line with previous explanations will be presented.

Since the Philippines was a consistently conservative culture, how did the listeners react to de la Cruz’s lyrical content? They may not be explicitly sung but most of her songs contained sexual innuendos. For instance, her song “Saging ni Pacing” may not just refer to simply a bunch of fruit. It may mean something else like infidelity or something more obscene. Hence, “Saging ni Pacing” may be translated to Pacing’s Banana. It was later retitled to “Pacing” for censorship. As for “Balut”, which is another de la Cruz hit song, it may not just refer to simply the duck egg itself. It may likewise mean that the balut is a good aphrodisiac, something that can increase sex drive.

Since it was mentioned that the Bodabil was the Filipinized version of the American vaudeville, how come it became a fusion of previous forms of entertainment from the United States? As mentioned by Dr. Ancheta in her paper, the Pinoy Bodabil often dealt with sexual naughtiness, which was rooted from the American Burlesque. Like the Pinoy Bodabil, the American Burlesque likewise showed sexually suggestive jokes.

Lyrically speaking, why was the Bodabil considered Filipinized, the fact that a huge chunk of de La Cruz’s songs were mashed up with previously released English songs? Some of these were “I Don’t Know Why” and “A Tear Fell”. If it was indeed Filipinized, why weren’t these songs fully translated in Tagalog? Could this be caused by the American censorship? It is possible. Because basing from written history, the Americans banned the Filipinos to use the Filipino language so to further pacify them, they sent a team of “Thomasites” or English teachers from the United States to teach the Filipinos in English.

These were just the few questions presented.  Probably, these questions may be answered in future research dissertations. These questions dealt more on how “Filipino” the Bodabil was, in the middle of American Imperialism influences.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I previously wrote this for my Special Topics in Musicology class during the Second Semester, A.Y. 2016-2017.

Globalization, Sociology


I originally wrote this for my Special Problems in Musicology (MuL 198) class. These are just some of my views on one of the most celebrated traditions during Christmas. Minor edits are done.


The Yuletide Season has come once again and some shopping malls have started holding pre-Christmas sale fairs to allow gift-givers to spend less without dampening their thoughtfulness. Some radio stations in the Philippines have already played some of the most popular Christmas originals, mostly by Jose Mari Chan. However, these manifestations during the “-ber” months only reflect the mercantilistic and capitalist side of preparation for Yuletide celebrations. It even reached the extent that people would forget the more spiritual context of celebrating Christmas. In relation to the issues of capitalism, this paper would discuss the problematic side of the people’s high obsession with exchanging gifts during Christmas.

The exchange of Christmas gifts, more known as the “Kris Kringle” or “Monito Monita,” is often done during Christmas parties held in schools, offices, and organizations. Preparations are often done, either weeks or days before by collecting all the names of the participants wherein each participant would randomly get a piece of paper which contained another participant’s name. He/she would not be allowed to reveal his/her recipient until the day of the party. As for the gifts, they may fall under a specific team (e.g., “Something shiny,” “something soft”). Sometimes, each participant would provide his/her “wish list” to guide the giver in shopping for the gift. Sometimes, there were no drawing of lots done so the gift exchange is sometimes done through Christmas stories with the words “LEFT” and “RIGHT,” which signify change of direction wherein the final recipients are revealed at the end of the story (del Rosario, n.d.).

The provision of these so-called “wish lists” is however problematic. The true spirit of Christmas has become more difficult, especially if theses lists contained expensive items, such as iPads, designer bags such as Louis Vuitton, DSLR cameras, laptops, etc. However, no matter how expensive or inexpensive the gift is, the thought is still more important. Price should not become a big deal in buying and giving gifts (Tenorio, 2015). But, not everyone is willing to give nor receive gifts, despite the presence of the person’s emotions (Tuazon, 2015). Some of the dangers in becoming too obsessed with exchanging gifts are the following: guilt for the part of the recipient and tendency to give back or the so-called “kaliwaan” (Tuazon,2015). The concept of “kaliwaan” deals with the notion that someone should give back whenever he/she receives something (Tuazon, 2015). In giving gifts, one should pay it forward, rather than pay someone back (Arada, 2015). Based from Marilyn Strathern’s analysis of Melanesian gift economies, she mentioned that gifts were objects which became an avenue in making relationships visible. In relation to the culture of “kaliwaan”, reciprocation used to be a divine concept but it later became materialistic, opportunistic, and consumerist, which slowly ingrained in Philippine culture that one is often pressured to give something (Tobias, 2015).

A person’s social status is likewise one of the things that rather made exchange of gifts, not limited to Christmas gifts a business. While the selection of godparents for weddings and baptism was initially meant for the child’s and/or couple’s spiritual growth, it has been based on social status and/or power (Tobias, 2015). Some would even go out of their way by choosing their bosses as one of the godparents for they knew that their bosses would either elevate their status symbol or help them financially over time (Tobias, 2015).

Since it has become unethical in the Philippine society not to give back, it has become a pressure to the Filipinos to give gifts which made gift-giving a business, rather than a social activity. The “utang na loob” culture has been exasperating this situation for the person is forced to give something best to the people they are grateful to, even if it meant spending beyond their means (Arada, 2015). It would be embarrassing for him/her not to do so for he/she would seem ungrateful in the eyes of the society. For instance,this was one of the reasons why giving gifts to any government official and/or employee. According to the R. A.  No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and Presidential Decree No. 46 (Giving of Gifts on any Occasion) of 1972, doing such practice for better favors and/or better treatment is punishable by law.

In the year 2007, security personnel of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) were warned by then-general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Alfonso Cusi on greeting passengers “Merry Christmas,” which could equate to requests for either money solicitation. Small talks which could indirectly mean a request for something were likewise not allowed (Punongbayan, 2007). However, in the year 2016, it was clearly allowed for the NAIA personnel to greet passengers a “Merry Christmas” but without facing their palms up, as per MIAA general manager Ed Monreal. Monreal also warned in jest that those personnel caught soliciting gifts ‘might not see Christmas because they’ll be sent to the freezer and thawed by New Year’. The same warning also applied to the Bureau of Immigration and Bureau of Customs employees based in NAIA (Andrade, 2016).

Both politics and capitalism have affected the culture of gift-giving, especially during Christmas. It likewise had both good and bad effects. One of the positive effects of gift-giving is that the person’s relationship would be remembered through an emblem. However, price should not dictate the person’s significance to his/her recipient.


Andrade, Jeanette. “Airport staff told: OK to say Merry Christmas, but… Philippine Daily Inquirer. 26 November 2016. http://globalnation.inquirer.net/150122/airport-staff-told-ok-say-merry-christmas

Punongbayan, Michael. “No more merry Christmas at NAIA”. philstar Global. 17 October 2007. http://www.philstar.com/news-feature/21649/no-more-merry-christmas-naia

Quimbo, Rodrigo. “Anti-Corruption in the Philippines”. Conventus Law. 9 September 2016. http://www.conventuslaw.com/report/anti-corruption-in-the-philippines/

See, Aie. “The grace behind Filipino gift-giving”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 25 December 2015. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/750039/the-grace-behind-filipino-gift-giving

Tenorio, Sherry. “Christmas Giving – Scrooge or Not?. illustradolife. 7 December 2015. http://www.illustradolife.com/christmas-giving-scrooge-not/