This table shows all the fora that candidates for the presidency in the 2016 elections attended or not attended. I will update this table when new fora are held. See the description for the symbols below the table.
Philippine Business Conference and Expo
Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry
October 27, 2015, SMX Convention Center, SM Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City
Mega Cebu and Caucus of Development (CODE-NGO)
November 13, 2015, Center for the Performing Arts, University of San Jose - Recoletos, Cebu City
Meet Your Candidates
November 25, 2015, Manila Polo Club, Makati City
☟ Declined but attended at last minute
▬ Not yet a candidate at the time of forum
By this afternoon, the last head of state has left the Philippines, and President Aquino will be on his way to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to attend this year’s ASEAN Summit. The National Capital Region will go back to normal – heavy traffic; air, Internet, and noise pollution; the usual stuff. We gave a positive impression to the APEC delegates, but I am sure they know all the negative reactions online, which is normal to these heads of state/government (who have their own share of detractors and get negative comments daily).
Right now, the question we all have is: now what? What did we gain from five days of hardship, inconvenience, and sacrifice?
The economic benefits will not be immediate, it will take time. We can hope that we have impressed businessmen with our potential for growth, and hopefully this good impression will lead to more investments that will bring inclusive growth. That’s why it was important we put our best foot forward (so to speak).
Image from The Philippine Star (http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/11/19/1523689/5-main-points-2015-apec-declaration-manila)
We have also proven that given the circumstances, we can host an international event. The choice of Metro Manila as host had been questioned throughout the week, and even the Php 10B budget was debated. In the end, it was obvious that only Metro Manila has the resources and venues and – yes – infrastructure (even inadequate, but adequate as compared to other cities) to host more than 10,000 heads of state/governement, delegates, businessmen, and visitors.
I am also glad to see that some people finally see the importance of giving more resources and making investments in growing other cities and municipalities. It is high time we end the concept of Imperial Manila (unlike Grace Poe), and give other cities the chance to improve and make themselves equal if not better than the capital region. Let us hope our local leaders will invest time and resources in urban planning so that they won’t repeat the mistakes of the capital region: lack of open spaces, emphasis on car ownership over public transport, priority on relocating the urban poor somewhere else instead of in-city relocation, among others.
Speaking of public transport: using those viral photos of EDSA wherein one side was full of vehicles while the APEC lane was empty, some people realized that a bus rapid transit might be a good solution to our transport problems. I like the idea, but like what Mar Roxas said, first our bus franchising system has to go. Let’s have all ideas put on the table and propose solutions, not shoot them down without even studying the proposals, which is what Chiz Escudero did.
Photo from Top Gear (https://www.facebook.com/topgearphilippines/photos/a.147830941930649.28745.110345575679186/993110967402638/?type=3&permPage=1)<
Finally, someone at Facebook said that we need to change our mindset, and I agree. I am glad that many people have reflected on the events of the past few days, analyzing what’s wrong, making suggestions, and acting instead of just whining. I am heartened to see social media posts of appreciation and gratitude towards those who had sacrificed and done their jobs so that this APEC hosting is more than just successful.
What surprised me, though, is the manifestation in change of mindset: people realizing the implications of this APEC hosting and APEC in general. Sure, we whined and whined but I am glad that energy was later channeled towards an understanding of what’s at stake, that sacrifices had to be made, and hoping that life will improve in the process.
The Philippine social media is full of rants about laws being violated and rules not being followed; that there is a general breakdown in discipline and we need a leader who’d whip us into shape. I’ve “theorized” that we Filipinos are like Jews waiting for a messiah, that we Filipinos have serious daddy issues; these are the only explanations that I can think of regarding this “clamor” for a tough leader.
Change in mindset. What is there to change?
As I’ve said, I believe discipline is a mindset, and it is personal. Self-discipline is the key, but as every retreat master, psychotherapist, educator, and correction officer will tell you, it is hard. Ask someone who, through hard work and self-discipline lost a significant amount of body weight. Ask someone who, through diligent studies passed the board exams. Ask someone who, through tremendous self-control has stopped smoking.
So, it is hard. It is tough. We know at one point in our life we tried changing something in ourselves, but failed. And failed. And failed. And because we failed, we stopped. We become lazy.
We become lazy. We cross the street even if there is a pedestrian overpass. We throw our cigarette butts everywhere just because. And heaven knows in what multitude of ways we manifest our laziness.
So we can’t discipline ourselves. We become lazy in the end. And some of us want a leader to whip us into discipline?
Yes, because we are too lazy, we are willing to abdicate from our own personal responsibility and let others discipline us. We are longing for a mystical and forceful leader that will force us magically to become disciplined citizens.
The problem with such a leadership is that it is only effective because of fear. You will only comply with the laws and follow the rules because you are afraid of jail time. Or worse, be made food for the fishes.
Has anyone thought of complying with the laws and following the rules because doing so will benefit ourselves, our fellow Filipinos, and our country?
Again, we go back to change of mindset. It is time we begin to follow rules because doing so is for our own benefit, and our country’s. We need to start instilling discipline unto ourselves, for our common good. We need to unshackle ourselves from the chains of laziness and start working on our self-discipline.
No one can save us from laziness and lack of discipline but ourselves. And that starts with a change of mindset.
“Matiisin tayo. Inaabuso na, tanggap pa rin. Ilang oras sa pila. Araw-araw sa traffic. Wala pa sa trabaho o eskwela, pagod ka na. Bakit pag serbisyo-publiko, pahirapan? Dapat maayos,at maaasahang transportasyon para sa lahat. Wag tayong mag-iwanan. Opo, tayo mismo. Ayusin natin ang Pilipinas.”
So goes the latest ad of Grace Poe, who is gunning for the post of the president of the Republic. This is just a short note to highlight some things.
One, it is very disingenuous and timing is perfect. Hello, didn’t she just have a Senate hearing on the MRT3 a week ago? And now everyone is#APECtado ng #trAPEC? Poe, through her ad, is adding incendiary barbs to the raging farts to not only antagonize the Aquino administration but to tell the raging netizens “I told you so.”
So, she’s like, a prophet now? Kudos to her PR team, such timing is impeccable.
Yet we have to ask: after all those hearings, has Senator Poe produced any report, any findings, any concrete solutions at all? When all she could crow about are elevators, escalators, and bathrooms – Houston, we have a problem.
Yes, the real problem that we all can see is that the MRT3 is operating way beyond capacity, brought about by wrong design assumptions, and Joseph Estrada’s populist idea of lowering the fare, thus making more people take the trains, way more than what was the designed capacity. And if you operate beyond capacity, the trains suffer, they carry more than what they were designed to do, so they conk out later on, rails break because the trains passing through are heavier than expected. That’s where we are now. We’ll talk about trains in a bit.
Two, it is not honest at all. Infrastructure projects take time. They are not straight-from-the-shelf things that you can take out, put somewhere, and voila! What the ad won’t tell you is that projects that are designed precisely to alleviate problems that her ad has stated are already either underway or to be started.
The Skyway Stage 3 connecting SLEX to NLEX is being built, so trucks from Batangas ports and Laguna industrial parks no longer have to take EDSA, C-5, and South Superhighway to deliver goods to the north. Another component, once started, will go directly towards the North Harbor.
LRT1 is to be extended up to Bacoor in Cavite, and new trains will be procured from Japanese companies (because the new train acquisition is to be funded through Japan overseas development assistance or ODA loans, only Japanese companies can bid). LRT2 is being extended up to Masinag so that people of Antipolo have another alternative mode of transportation. LRT7 is just waiting for some financing closing before they begin construction.
And the much maligned MRT3 will get new trains (to be honest, not enough but will alleviate current overloaded situation). Yes, we need more trains. But why only now? From the first time I blogged about it to now, it is a seven year span. Why did it take so long? While this was discussed in the Senate hearings, no emphasis was given on the complicated build-lease-transfer agreement between the owners of the MRT3 and the Philippine government. Yes, we don’t “own” the MRT3 – we are leasing it from the private owners, we pay them GUARANTEED payments regardless if the MRT3 earns or not (hence the yearly government subsidies running into tens of billions of pesos), and government maintains the system at government’s expense. So, where do trains come in the picture? The private owners are the ones who are supposed to provide new trains! What happened? They didn’t. They only expressed their willingness to do so when Poe had her first hearing. There was even a legal issue if the government can buy new trains, all because the government doesn’t own the MRT3. The government decided to get new trains, and we can expect new ones next year.
That’s just 2 major projects. They will take time, they are not instant-noodle solutions. They take time because the government wants to do it right: projects untainted with corruption; projects that are not ad hoc, not piecemeal, but part of a holistic solution. Projects that are carefully planned. Don’t we want that?
The next administration will have to make sure these are continued, especially projects that are in the pipeline. But if we elect someone who is averse or will tend to scrap everything, we are not back to zero, we are back to the Stone Age.
Aside: Mar Roxas intends to reform our bus system so that drivers are paid per day and make routes more profitable. I hope he’d take on the taxi system as well, since it is similar to how buses are operated.
Another aside: for this local problem, only one candidate has proposed solutions – only Roxas. Others we got I-promise-you statements.
Lastly, as someone who is aspiring for a national post, she keeps on harping on a rather local issue, specifically Metro Manila. Well, this is not surprising, given this:
It’s all for votes, obviously, but kind of pandering as well. Parang bahala na kayo, people outside of Metro Manila.
I have been a resident of Metro Manila my entire life; I’ve been taking the MRT for more than 8 years now; I’d seen how horrible the traffic was when Skyway phase 1 was started and the Libis Flyover-Katipunan Underpass was started. I’ve been through that hell that everyone is raging about. I want solutions that are sound, better planned, and untainted with corruption. I look forward to a time when government plans can be executed without ten million cases and more controversies.
We keep on hearing complaints about Imperial Manila and yet we have a candidate who props it more! Enough of that! Now we have five years where everyone is getting their fair share of resources. I have to wait for more than 10 years for a better MRT. In so many places they have had to wait 30 to 50 years for a bridge and a road and improvement. They got it now. That’s fair to me. And thats what we should expect from a good government that does not pander for votes: a country that grows together and not have one part spoiled in an irresponsible way. That’s the real cause of the hell that is being fixed. And we won’t get that, apparently, from Grace Poe.
To reiterate: the ad was made to make her appear prophetic and to raise antagonism against the Aquino administration; to allege, through omission of facts, that nothing’s being done about infrastructure problems; and to pander more to her core constituency – the angry netizens of Metro Manila, disregarding the rest of the country.
At one point, we complained that his answer to the traffic question during the live interview was too long. He quipped: “But otherwise I’m just giving you two-second sound bites. What’s the point?”
Rappler published an assessment of Mar Roxas before the official start of the campaign for the 2016 elections (see Mar Roxas: His own enemy). This part of the article struck me:
But campaigns are basically passionate, emotional endeavors. Brave and admirable is the man who decides not to dumb down and merely entertain his audience. But woe to the man who will defy the wisdom of the crowd: it’s all about connection – in words and in gestures. To put it simply, Roxas has yet to connect.
I find it odd that Glenda Gloria made that conclusion – that Roxas has yet to connect. Odd because the same article said before July Roxas was only getting like 3% in surveys, and jumped to 20% in very recent surveys. How do you explain the jump? A connection must have been made somewhere, right?
Second, we keep on hearing complaints that campaigns are just entertainment gigs, that we should elevate the quality of our political campaigns. Yet here we have a journalist who thinks what Roxas is doing won’t win him elections. Is Gloria basically telling Mar to dumb his thoughts down? Here is a candidate who is willing to elevate the quality of campaigning by explaining what he thinks needs to be done, that he has a plan, and he’s being told to dial down things? I think it’s time that things change. It is ok to be emotional, but we should be more rational, now.
Third, is there an implicit claim that the general public does not and will not understand what Mar Roxas is saying? Is it a reinforcement of the common theme being shared in social media, that the general public are basically “bobotantes?” I refuse to believe that. The public will understand, if they want and choose to understand. No amount of song-and-dance nor policy speeches would convince a voter who has already decided.
I am for candidates explaining their plans. Enough of platitudes. Enough of pandering. Time to decide on what’s the best for the country, not what’s best for our pockets. Or, enough with That’s Entertainment of Politics.
It’s election season again. It is a colorful, enervating, annoying, tiring, and confusing time for every Filipino. Everyday, the news is all about candidates and campaigns and scandals and intrigues, with substantial news like campaign platforms buried or lamentably unreported.
Social media is an interesting addition to the quagmire that is election season. Its simplicity, ubiquity, and pervasiveness can add more to the noise. Every news organization utilize social media to spread the news and gather feedback. Every campaign team use social media for propaganda. And the netizen is left to his wits to sort through the mess.
Social media is best suited for propaganda. All it takes is a catchy post, a funny image, and a believable story for a propaganda item to be liked and shared. Propaganda expressed through memes are mabenta to the masa. All propagandists need is basic knowledge of social engineering to make a propaganda viral.
Unfortunately, black and negative propaganda are almost as indistinguishable as news. Yes, sometimes news are written as propaganda. That’s how hoaxes are usually written – as news. I am sure you have relatives who had unwittingly shared something that turned out to be false. Expect a lot of those during election season.
First, it is best to know that black propaganda is not as we know it. There is a difference with black propaganda with negative propaganda ( which is sometimes known as mudslinging). When one side claims that the other side said something false and attributes it to someone, that is black propaganda. Or when a political party puts out information and ascribes it to the opposing party, with the end goal of humiliating or putting the opposite party in bad light, that’s black propaganda. For example:
There’s gray propaganda: source is unknown and accuracy is questionable. White propaganda is clearly sourced, clearly attributable to someone, and purpose is clear. This tweet is an example of gray propaganda:
Once passed, the new salary standardization law will not benefit the incumbent elected officials. So to say that Aquino’s getting a Php280000 increase is just plain wrong. The goal of this tweet is to either make you click the link so that you’d read the article (therefore increasing page view and hopefully will lead to earnings) or make you angry and retweet. This is what I call meme-ification of news (see The meme-ification of news). It can also be negative propaganda, but it’s up to you to decide.
So, you saw something on Facebook. It’s too good to be true. So how do you check if it’s true or not?
Check who shared it. If it is shared by a news organization, it might be true. Might, because what was shared can be false, too. A social media manager is human, after all. And apparently you can manipulate the title of a news post when you share it on Facebook, like this one:
The PDI report is titled ‘Wrong to fault Mar for Yolanda housing’. When you click on that link, the title is way different. So if the post purports to be from a news org but shared by someone not connected to that news org, check and read. The above example is an obvious negative propaganda.
If it is shared by an organization, and the post makes a claim, you might have to search online for verification. For example, this one:
You can check the Senate web site to see all the bills filed by Senator Marcos. If you don’t find any bill pertaining to contractualization, then the Akbayan claim must be true.
If it is posted by a relative or friend, check if they really posted it. Did they take the photo themselves? Did they really experience what they described? Even here you have to be careful. Take this one, for example.
Mag ingat po sa vigil taxi na nasa pic ang plate no. Kagabi lng oct.29 muntik ng madali ang kasamahan kung seaman…
The problem here is that we can never verify this experience. First, he said he reported the taxi and taxi driver to LTFRB, but the LTFRB has just absolved the taxi driver and cited the Facebook user cited above in contempt (see Seaman in hot water over ‘tanim-bala’ claim on Facebook). Second, he claimed he reported the matter to the police, but he failed to state if he did by calling the hotline or going to a police station. Whether it really happened or not, we cannot tell.
So you saw one infographic/meme being shared. How to check if black propaganda or not? Check the source. Check if quote is attributed. Check if you can find the source and verify the claim yourself. If the source is dubious, or source not stated, beware.
If the source is a politician, beware. Period.
I subscribe to a simple code of ethics when I am online: THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK. I suggest all netizens to do the same. So if you found something that you want to share, think first before clicking that Share/Retweet button.
Earlier today, Rappler issued the tweet above. There was some minor issues yesterday when Rappler tweeted an image with a quote from Mar Roxas, which, according to supporters, were taken out of context. It is not my intent to argue about whether the quote as shown and understood was taken out of context. What was surprising was the poisonous and toxic reaction AGAINST the Rappler apology. It is very rare for a news outfit to apologize for an editorial decision. For decent broadsheets, they usually publish errata but those are almost always never published on the front page; they usually place errata on the inner pages, and sometimes, in small font. Some broadsheets even have internal ombudsmen where readers can complain about news reports. But never has any organization apologized in such an upfront manner, and for that Rappler should be commended.
It’s very rare for a news outfit to apologize for an error. They usually just publish an erratum deep inside pages. Kudos to @rapplerdotcom — Arbet Bernardo (@ArbetBernardo) November 6, 2015
The detractors of Roxas, as expected, zeroed in on the apology, alleging that Roxas and/or the Aquino III administration twisted arms so that Rappler would apologize. In an election season, that would be tantamount to suicide. No news organization with respectable reputation would allow itself to be censored, and such actions would only cement the resolve of the target news outfit to continue reporting. Nothing ignites the imagination of a David fighting a Goliath. Also, Rappler said it was an editorial decision to apologize, and I take it as it is.
The problem stems from the tendency of netizens to pay attention to memes instead of reading. Nothing attracts the attention of people with short attention span than a spiffy graphic with pithy text. And with Twitter and its character limitation and again the tendency of people with short attention spans to not click, you need to express in 140 characters what you need readers to understand. To somehow overcome the character limit, social media managers use graphics to show more information, and hopefully entice readers to click on the link.
It’s plain social engineering. You want page views and impressions, so you design your social media post so that people will click on your link and hopefully read your long post/news report. With shrinking bottomlines, news orgs now have social media teams to design their social media posts to earn page views and clicks, which will hopefully lead to ad clicks.
Here is a good example: P3.8-B MRT deal awarded without public bidding. By reading that title alone, you might cry “ANOMALY!” But if you read the content it states that there were previous failed biddings, and the procurement law allows the government to negotiate a contract without bidding due to emergency and failure of bidding. You have to read the news otherwise you will be misled.
With the limits of social media, news orgs have to adapt. In the process, something has to give. And that is context.
The problem is simple. Netizens do not really like to click links. If they agree with what they had seen (graphics) or read (tweet), they’d automatically share without reading the news. If they are rankled by what they had read/seen, they’d automatically share with rage-filled texts of their own. Things can be taken out of context – what was quoted can be incendiary but might actually be benign if the story is read.
It’s the nature of the Internet beast, and the adage “Think before you click” is relevant more than ever. But based on what’s happening, we’re quite trigger happy. Or should I say button click happy?
And with a loooooong election season, expect more #MeltdownCity moments, all because someone made a rather controversial tweet without context, and netizens react with such fury that even barbarians would stay away. Brace yourselves.
It’s been (insert adjective here) Halloween for Filipinos.
The ghost that haunted the country is known as “tanim-bala.” Basically, it’s a way for extortionist to forcibly take money from travelers by planting bullets into their bags/luggages to make it appear that the bullet has been there before inspection. The governing law regarding unauthorized carry of live ammunition is Republic Act 10591 (full text), and the punishment is rather severe. Scammers take advantage of the law and the fact that the victim might miss his or her flight.
In a press conference, Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Jun Abaya, Office for Transportation Security Administrator Roland Recomono, Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Angel Honrado, and PNP Aviation Security Group Chief Francisco Balagtas presented relevant data on number of incidents of ammunition detected and cases filed. (Read the full transcript here.)
The data shows that, relative to the number of passengers who flew out of NAIA, the total number of cases is only 0.008%, making Abaya state that “it appears that cases have been blown out of proportion.” Abaya took pains to state that despite the small number, “a single case of any passenger wrongly charged, extorted upon, victimized by planting, unjustly charged in court, is unjust.”
Most of the netizens reacted negatively to the presented data. The presentation, netizens said, is just a way of belittling and downplaying the issue. Some strident netizens even asserted that contextualizing through data just shows that the government is callous and insensitive.
All that without even taking a minute to analyze the data.
So. Because data isn’t sexy and “irrelavant” to most people, the goal post has been moved.
Now the netizens are crying “Callous!” “Insensitive!” Like the people when Pontius Pilate presented persons to be let go.
Has the government not done anything at all? OTS says they’ve changed procedure. Screeners won’t touch your bags. They will take pictures/snap shot of the x-ray. Bag will only be opened by passenger in the presence of lawyer/third party or OTS supervisor.
For those cases of extortion, screeners involved were relieved (as due process dictates) and are being investigated. NBI is already involved in the investigation.
Netizens are not impressed. They were calling for heads to roll, like people chose Bar… OK never mind. Bongbong Marcos told the Palace by the Pasig to sack the NAIA GM (Marcos: NAIA chief accountable on Tanim Bala). The senator and the people betray gross ignorance of the organizational structure and airport operations. All the cases involved x-ray screeners, who are all under OTS. MIAA is only involved in management of the airport and is no way involved in security screening.
While Senators Grace Poe, Bongbong Marcos, and Ralph Recto called for investigations, Senator Bam Aquino and Representative Leni Robredo filed bills to decrimininalize carrying limited amount of bullets (see Leni Robredo Files Measure vs ‘Tanim Bala’ Gang, Robredo wants to decriminalize possession of bullet). While no one called the calls made by the 3 senators as grandstanding, the Aquino and Robredo bills are not yet even available online as of this writing yet the idea is already being criticized. People did not get the brilliance of the filing of bills.
Poe, Marcos, and Recto called for an investigation “in aid of legislation,” hopefully with the end goal of amending or drafting a new law. The cynical me says ASA KA PA. Aquino and Robredo filed bills. And if you know the legislative process, you know that committees will conduct hearings about the proposed bills. You already have the end goal, and you only need to refine it by conducting hearings and investigation. But that brilliance is lost on many.
Again, I refer you to Kuya Bodjie’s tweet.
So in the end, we Filipinos created a fire out of farts started by friction from all that orgiastic rage, and then the world noticed, and we wept that the world noticed. We shot ourselves in the foot but we pretend there’s no wound.
What should Abaya and others do? Aside from what they had said, to build trust and establish accountability they should:
Give a timeline for each action.
Identify persons who will complete such task.
State the expected results and how to determine success or failure.
Specify how to hold government people accountable.
Citizens, for their part, should:
Report all violators of the law immediately, specially if victimized by unscrupulous people at the airport. Nope, making a Facebook post is not reporting.
Stop adding to the problem by posting unverified social media posts and sharing incendiary memes. Humor is OK but if memes make untrue assertions in guise of humor, they are not helping.
Know your rights. Know the process during screening at the airport. Arrive way ahead of your scheduled departure time.
It’s time for rationality to return and decency to govern our discussion of the topic. Let us let the government do its job, bring justice for the victims and jail the guilty. Netizens should be more circumspect of what they post and share, but should also remain vigilant and call the government to task if it fails to clean up its act.
SickSky Launcher (Google Play Store link) is a very simple Android launcher/home screen, with no widget support. If you love your widgets, this launcher is not for you. But if you just want access to your apps, calendar, and weather, you might want to check this out.
When launched, the homescreen is divided into three panels. The top panel shows the current temperature for your location, and the date and time. The middle panel is mostly empty unless you do some actions. The bottom panel has two buttons.
But where are your apps? Click on the button on the right of the bottom panel, and you get to see all your apps at the middle panel. You swipe to the left or right to access apps in another page (16 icons are shown per page).
To show more information about the weather, just click on the temperature at the top panel, and more information is shown in the middle panel. But I have found one quirk with this panel. See screenshot below.
As you can see, the locations shown in the top panel and middle panel are different. Anyway, you are shown temperatures, 5-day forecast, and current condition.
To access your calendar entries, you need to access the settings by clicking the button at the left of the bottom panel (see topmost screenshot).
There isn’t much customization options. This is a simple, minimalistic, no-frills launcher that works fine if you are not fond of customizing your home screen. I like this launcher, but I do like having a panel showing my frequently used apps – it can be tedious swiping around if you have tons of apps installed.
Power users will not be fond of this launcher, but for those who like their home screens simple, this app is worth their time.
Sungha Jung played his greatest hits and some popular tunes last night, and oh boy it was a glorious night of guitar music.
I was so excited when I found out months ago that Sungha Jung would be performing here in Manila. When the official dates were announced, I was even more excited. When the tickets became available I was disheartened when I logged on to Ticketworld only to find that the cheapest tickets were sold out. Good thing I checked back 3 weeks ago. When I saw that tickets were still available I immediately booked one. I will not miss it, definitely.
And so last night, I found myself at the lobby of the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila, lining up to buy a CD. If you buy a CD you could line up to have it signed after the show, but I find the time to be a wee bit late, and as I live up north I might have problems going home. Besides, there were 300 CD buyers who’d line up. I consoled myself that at least I get to hear him perform live.
The doors opened at 7PM. After finally getting Paint It Acoustic, I went to the doors, had my bag checked (cameras were allowed to be brought in but not allowed to be used during the performance), and wondered at the place. It’s like a large cinema with carpeted floors and red upholstered stadium seats (lesson learned – don’t wear red when watching at Newport Theater – see image below). The stage is so wide you could probably put in an IMAX screen in there. (Look at the image above.)
I was actually afraid that not a lot would come and watch, but I was glad that only a few seats were empty by the time the opening act started. I was a bit amused and annoyed, though, that Filipino time reared its ugly head. Halfway through the first set, you could see people still streaming in.
As I have said, Sungha played some of his original pieces plus covers of popular songs, including songs by Bruno Mars and Maroon 5 and a KPop singer/group whose name I wasn’t able to understand (Sungha speaks English, but his pronunciation is heavily Korean accented). His ukulele rendition of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme and music from Super Mario Brothers (see live performance video of the two here) got cheers from the audience (I admit I was looking forward to him playing the Super Mario music using ukulele, and I was quite happy when he did). He started the second set by playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D using an electric guitar.
The audience appreciated the technicality of finger style guitar playing by clapping on very technical parts of the music. As a non-player, I could see the difficulty in playing, but Sungha is a prodigy and played with ease.
Probably the highlight of the night was the last piece of the second set. In the middle of the “brief” intermission (the only slight I could cite for the night – really, how long is brief?), I thought maybe he should have planned on playing a Filipino song. When he announced that he was about to play The Eraserheads’ classic Ang Huling El Bimbo, the audience roared! (I am having goosebumps right now as I remember that part). Some of the audience sang while Sungha played. You could just appreciate that he took time to learn the piece, and I am sure the transcription alone took time. He did not play it perfectly, but for me it was a fitting climax to the set. UPDATE: Youtube video!!!!
He did two encore pieces together with opening act Alyza Barro, which I found to be anti-climactic after El Bimbo. The two pieces were technical in nature, and the audience knew those pieces were hard to play.
Two screens were set up at both ends of the stage. It was a good thing since I was seated the second to the last row and so I couldn’t see much. The stage was almost bare, with a chair over a carpet, plus guitar stands, amplifiers, and lights. I found the addition of the carpet to be tacky. The backdrop of star lights was glorious, though they must have forgotten they had it installed, since they only turned them on on several songs, then on throughout the last parts of the second set.
But then again, it’s all about the music, and Sungha Jung did not disappoint, most especially this fan. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and I know he’ll get better with his guitar playing. I look forward to see him play again here.