The Current State of Philippine Music Criticism

I originally wrote this for my Music Criticism class. This article told about the state of Music Journalism in the Philippines.


Thousands of concerts have already been featured in various blogs, magazines, and newspapers.  While some of them were mostly advertorials (editorials-cum-advertisements) and press releases, some were write-ups on recently concluded performances.

The popular music scene in the Philippines is always associated with the television and movie industries. This is evident when major local newspapers would feature a recently concluded concert series of a pop musician, whether local or foreign. Most writers dwelled too much on the artists’s biography, rather than just on the concert itself since they thought that the artists’ fans would rather read trivial content. Writers likewise spent too much time on mentioning notable celebrities present in every concert. For instance, if a major newspaper would feature a concert of a famous local singer such as Sarah Geronimo, writers would not really discuss Geronimo’s performance in such a way that the song, vocal attack, and audience reception would be noted and critique. Showbiz writers would merely mention the showbiz personalities who watched the concert, as well as the other personalities who became guest performers.

As for the art music scene in the Philippines, there were only a handful of writers who publish about ballet, orchestra, choral, and opera concerts. While some writers were able to note details of a ballet concert in their most detailed way, most classical concert reviews lacked important details, even the simplest details like the repertoire performed. Most writers would even demand special favors (i.e., free transportation, complimentary ticket, free meal)  whenever an art music artist would request to have his/her performance critiqued on paper. Granted with these special favors, the concerned writer would not anymore discuss and critique the featured concert in detail.

Another problem in featuring operas in Philippine newspapers was that writers often forget to give a brief synopsis of a particular opera as well as the cast members who stood out in the performance. Not to mention, they do not really dwell on how well these cast members performed and how much they should work on their craft.

On the side of the writers,  it was apparent that most of them write about mixed art media. For instance, a feature article on a recently concluded concert of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra is often mixed with the articles not pertinent to music. At this point, nobody really focused on solely discussing the concert with attention to non-Schenkerian music details.

As for the popular music scene, most showbiz writers spent too much on discussing the artists’ personal lives (often heavy on discussing their current relationship status with their respective significant halves), rather than on how they performed in a particular concert. They likewise forget to discuss about the audiences’ reactions which are quite crucial in explaining how a particular concert became either a “hit” or a “flop”.

It is quite saddening that most writers here in the Philippines, especially in the Entertainment division, do not really “review” the concert they are writing about. They often forget to closely note even the smallest details like the repertoire and performance attacks.

Travel, Uncategorized

The Filipino Malling Culture

Shopping malls here in the Philippines are not just limited for buying all the things you want and need. Most of them already provide entertainment (either via cinemas, video game centers or even live shows) and even government services for almost all the legal documents you need.

I have already been to almost all of the shopping malls found in Metro Manila due to ease of parking space and commuters’ convenience. They have also been my “waiting areas” before every event I need to attend.

Without further ado, here are some of the most-visited malls in Metro Manila.

  1. SM North EDSA and TriNoma– These malls never get empty, even during weekdays, due to the influx of people from almost all walks of life: CAMANAVA (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) residents, Northern Quezon City residents, Bulacan residents and students from nearby schools (mostly from Quezon City Science, Philippine Science and even UP Diliman which is a jeepney ride away). They have got almost everything you need, all in one go.
  2.  SM Megamall – Another SM mall that almost had everything under the sun. Like SM North, this is also one of the most-visited malls due influx of people from nearby areas like Mandaluyong, Pasig, San Juan and even Rizal (Taytay, Angono, Binangonan), as well as employees from nearby Ortigas Center. This mall attracts more people during Three-Day Sales and weeks before Christmas.
  3. SM Mall of Asia – Colloquiallly known as SM MOA (read as “MO-wah”), this is the only mall by the bayside.  Most people who visit this mall do not just enjoy the vast selections of merchandise sold inside the mall, but also the view of Manila Bay. Not to mention, most restaurants here are facing the bayside. Don’t forget to catch the fireworks display every Friday and Saturday nights!
  4. Glorietta – My dad told me that this used to be known as the “Quad”, since it had four cinemas placed in “quadrants”, and it used to have a branch of Makati Supermart (which has a lone branch in Alabang). The present activity center used to be a park with aviary. Now, this mall is quite similar to SM Megamall, in terms of boutique repertoire. Most of the shoppers here are Makati and Eastern Manila (Sta. Ana) residents, as well as employess from the nearby business district. This mall is likewise visited by Makati expats nearby.The first branch of TGI Fridays is located here. International record chain Tower Records used to have a branch here.
  5. Robinsons Galleria – Another hub for EDSA commuters, as well as students from nearby schools (Poveda, La Salle Greenhills).
  6. Robinsons Place Manila – This area used to be the Ateneo De Manila campus before it transferred to its present site in Loyola Heights. This mall serves mostly Manila residents and students from nearby schools (mostly from UP Manila, St. Paul University, Philippine Christian University and Philippine Women’s University; some from farther Taft schools like De La Salle University, De La Salle-College of St. Benilde and St. Scholastica’s College). It is also visited by local and foreign tourists staying in the nearby hotels.
  7. The Araneta Trio: Gateway, Ali Mall and Farmers Plaza – These are also some of the most-visited malls due to the influx of LRT, MRT, bus and jeepney commuters. While Gateway contains mostly international brands (i.e. H&M, Mango, Promod, Marks & Spencer), Ali Mall and Farmers Plaza offer merchandise which are easy on the budget. These malls also provide dining options for audiences waiting for the events held at the nearby Araneta Coliseum and Kia Theater. Don’t forget to see the giant Christmas tree installed annually!
  8. The Divisoria Complex: 168, 999, Tutuban, New Divisoria Mall– The ultimate stop for cheapskates. They sell almost everything here, at ROCK BOTTOM prices. The 168 mall now has more dining options. The nearby Lucky Chinatown Mall used to be upscale but it already has a mini-tiangge for shoppers on a budget.
  9. Greenhills Shopping Center – If Manila has Divisoria, San Juan has Greenhills. Almost similar to Divisoria, it offers tiangge merchandise, only sold in a little higher price. It also houses Unimart, a supermarket that offers grocery items at equally lower prices.
  10. SM City Manila – Similar to Robinsons Place Manila, only a tad smaller and more influx of customers. This mall transforms into a secondary student canteen during lunchtime (including Sundays since it is the NSTP day for most of the schools nearby), due to the large number of schools nearby (Adamson University, Santa Isabel College, Philippine Normal University, Technological University of the Philippines, Technological Institute of the Philippines, San Sebastian College; also Intramuros schools like Lyceum, PLM and Letran). It also provides needs for people transacting business at the nearby government offices (This mall has a DFA Passport Center, as well as an LTO License Renewal Center.).

Chinese New Year in Manila

My family has been receiving and eating tikoy (or Nian gao ,  a sticky rice cake of the Chinese) every Chinese New Year (aka Lunar New Year) but it was only a few years ago when classes and work are off during the actual day. In contrast to the “Solar” New Year which is always held on the first day of January, the Lunar New Year is held either towards the end of January or towards the beginning of February.

I am no Chinese but here are some of the usual things people do during Chinese New Year.

  1. Eat tikoy (and more tikoy). Most of the people I know (even myself) prepare tikoy in Guangdong (and Fujian) style, which is usually battered with egg and deep fried. It is traditionally a rice cake made with, yes, rice, and either white or brown sugar. However, some hopia companies like Eng Bee Tin already sell their tikoy in other flavors like Pandan, Strawberry and Matcha. They even sell tikoy rolls for those who opt to go solo.
  2. Watch dragon dances. There used to be a time when dragon dance performances are only seen in Binondo, a Filipino-Chinese district in Manila. However, due to economic reasons, some malls have already started to showcase dragon dances within their corridors. I have even seen a dragon dance in the Salcedo Community Market in Makati.
  3. Explore more Chinese food. Binondo is the usual one-stop shop for those who want to crave for Chinese food. There are actually more Fil-Chi restaurant rows outside Binondo like Banawe (western side of Quezon Avenue) and Little Baguio in San Juan. Sincerity Cafe has even opened a branch in Robinson’s Magnolia and even serves dishes which are at par with the ones served in their Binondo branch. I also saw a Wai Ying branch along Taft Avenue, near De La Salle University.
  4. Wear red. For the Chinese, the color red is significant for them since it symbolized prosperity and celebration. If it happens that a Chinese friend invited you for a Lunar New Year feast, always wear red.
  5. Cook dishes. Especially those that are said to bring luck. Fried noodles (or pansit) for longer life and Steamed Lapu-Lapu (a type of fish) for prosperity.
  6. Decorate with red lanterns. Ayt. ‘Nuff said.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Enjoy your tikoy! 😀