The Best of Both Worlds – On internationalism, OPM & my life

I’m taking Jim Paredes’ class “Issues in presentation and performance” right now and our topic is world music and OPM. During our last class he was discussing the Philippine music industry over the years until present and what it takes for OPM to truly make it big outside of the Philippines.

Like all of his lectures it was really interesting and insightful. His point in a nutshell was that although Filpinos are obviously brimming in talent (hello college band scene!), the reason why we haven’t struck a chord in the international music scene is that the music that truly represents who the filipino is never gets the opportunity to be heard which ironically is the edge we need to ever get there. The industry is too concerned being marketeers than musicians.

According to him “Anak” by Freddie Aguilar was one of the very few Filipino songs to have ever gained international acclaim and translated in different languages. And… it was in tagalog.

I’m not going to get into the whole profit oriented bullcrap that drives much of society but he did leave us with this statement to ponder on: “To be international you have to be local.” We had to write a 2 page reflection paper on it. Although I kind of crammed mine the words flowed pretty easily. So, I decided to post it here. Voila, instant blog post!

The Best of Both Worlds – On internationalism, OPM and my life

Have you ever felt like a foreigner in your own country? I have.

I may look like a Filipina on the outside, with my morena skin and brown eyes, but my twang and outspoken nature immediately gives me away. Up close I sound and act like a Westerner.

So the statement “To be international you have to be local” puts me in a difficult yet interesting position. I am Filipino by blood but I was born and grew up in Indonesia up until I was seven years old. Although I came back to the Philippines afterwards I went to two international schools – Reedley and ISManila, both of which gave my upbringing a relatively more Western touch. Studying in Ateneo for college is the closest experience I’ve had to discovering my own roots which is one of the primary reasons why I chose to take my undergraduate degree in the Philippines in the first place.

Because of my background I always felt like I was stuck in between two worlds, that of the international arena and the Philippines. My middle ground meant that I was never completely the identity of the other which I felt was both an edge and disadvantage. Admittedly, I don’t think I’ll ever completely relate with my Filipino friends who have been immersed in the culture their whole lives.  But with my international school community where a tolerance and respect for multiculturalism is abundant it is precisely because I am a Filpino that I can.

What makes studying in an international school unique and interesting is your cultural identity. Although we are all different nationalities it is actually in this diversity where we find unity. Our mindset is trained to engage in an open exchange where each barters their own cultural values, ideas and experiences to learn from the other. This open mindedness is essentially what binds all international kids regardless of where they came from. At the end of the day that’s what makes us proud.

So, in response to the statement “To be international you have to be local” I completely agree. Although I may have started on the opposite end of the question where I was born into an international world first rather than starting out as a local, the question surprisingly still works both ways. Rather than looking at my situation as being stuck in between two worlds, I find that I can get the best of both instead.

Internationalism is the coming together of different nationalities who have their own cultural identity. In this light being local presupposes being international which in relation to what we discussed in class is lacking in the Philippine music industry. There’s an abundance of OPM in the country that never gets recognized because the top dogs think that marketing imitators is what will make our mark in the international arena. Perhaps our talent will be recognized worldwide, like what happened to Charice Pempengco, but our identity won’t and it’s rare that it has. In the long run that is what will make the difference.

Similar to my own experience, if the music industry in the Philippines can truly play to the tune of “To be international you have to be local”, then maybe OPM can finally have the best of both worlds too.

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One thought on “The Best of Both Worlds – On internationalism, OPM & my life

  1. Interesting thoughts, especially applying the idea of “being local” to the TCKs I work with in Beijing. It’s pretty difficult to be local when your skin/hair/eyes are the wrong colour, but if you live here your whole childhood, you’re not really local anywhere in your “home” country, either.

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