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Classes cancelled (due to karaoke)

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 17, 2020 5:00 pm

Yet another casualty of COVID-19 during our seemingly endless lockdown is the education of our children. At least according to UK broadsheet The Telegraph, which reports that kids trying to study online in Metro Manila have lately been at the mercy of neighbors determined to get their daytime karaoke on.

It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that authorities are starting to threaten karaoke freaks with fines.

Says The Telegraph (as first reported by CNN Philippines), “Daytime karaoke has now been banned in Manila, to avoid disturbing schoolchildren who are learning from home.”

Yes, those howls you hear emanating from next door in the middle of the day are not helping kids focus on their math and science studies, which are being done virtually across Metro Manila as the ECQ lingers on.

It’s an environment in which Pink Floyd’s chorus of “We don’t need no education” starts to take on ominous overtones.

My own daughter has been largely hunkered down over her laptop since classes began in September, and I’m not sure what’s more of a distraction for her: the sound of five yelping Pomeranians next door who set up a high-pitched, asynchronous barrage whenever anyone approaches their gate — or the karaoke clowns we hear in the distance anywhere from 3 p.m. onward, pitch-shifting their way through Don’t Stop Believing.

We all know that many people are finding it hard to return to the 9-to-5 world. Working from home has become the norm. But some people — grown-ass adults — are not at all unhappy to find themselves with loads of free time, a situation that has now stretched into its eighth month.

So karaoke eruptions are becoming more common. But, come on! Our kids are trying to learn here! Do it for the children! Do it for the future of the planet! Put that microphone down, damn it!

Because of massive levels of complaints from neighbors, Manila City Mayor Francisco Domagoso signed the new daytime restrictions into effect last Oct. 9, banning would-be crooners from picking up the microphone between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Mondays to Saturdays. You know: those hours when kids are traditionally at school and adults should be getting some work done.

If the moral pitch doesn’t work, there is the added threat of penalties for karaoke violators: “Singers who belt out their greatest hits using karaoke machines or other loud devices during those times will face fines,” the report says. The first offense can cost you P1,000; second offense, P2,000; third and succeeding offenses carry a fine of P3,000.

Will such a ban work? In a country where even the threat of being shot or stabbed for singing My Way badly on a karaoke machine has not restrained some people from trying, it’s hard to say.

Mayor Domagoso said he enacted the rule “after receiving complaints from parents that karaoke sessions were disrupting their children’s home-schooled classes.”

Yes, it seems you can take the Filipino out of the workforce, but you can’t take the karaoke out of the Filipino. “Bouts of boredom due to a lack of work have led to a karaoke boom and the Manila ban is not the first,” The Telegraph adds.

Last September, Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla “urged the public to report noisy singers so that people would not have a weakened immune system due to a lack of sleep.” Remulla said he’d received frequent complaints about the “tireless abuse” from people singing karaoke. (Hey, sounds like he’s heard my neighbors!)

Remulla worried it would make people less strong if they don’t get “a good and sound sleep” because of constant interruptions from tuneless belting of Frank Sinatra at all hours. (And here I thought it was only the early-morning roosters who were robbing people of sleep in the provinces.)

This is a real thing. I have myself experienced the Karoake Flash Mobs at odd afternoon hours, and it’s just as annoying in the light of day as it is after midnight. This is what happens when alcohol is easily delivered via Grab and too many people are “working” from home.

But I worry more about the kids who are trying to learn away from regular classrooms. This is their first attempt at homeschooling during COVID, and for many, it’s no cakewalk. Grade school kids don’t love it much because they don’t get to interact with their classmates, pass notes and put thumbtacks on the teacher’s seats. Those in college are reporting heavier assignment loads as professors are seemingly trying to ensure there’s enough “homework” to get them through the semester. Many kids say they’re up for classes by 7 or 8 a.m., and though they don’t have to travel far to get to online “campus,” they’re pretty much held hostage there until 9 or 10 p.m. My own daughter has taken to stockpiling ramen noodle packets next to her laptop, which for me is a sure sign that she’s starting to actually adjust to college life, even if it’s at home. Ramen noodles, after all, are a basic nutrient for dorm existence, much like Tang was for astronauts.

Far be it from me to suggest that maybe, if online students can’t get their learning on because of all the warbling going on out there, they should consider fighting fire with fire. I mean, it would never do to advise kids who find it distracting to hear Memories tunelessly wafting through their windows at 3 p.m. to consider maybe taking a break between English and P.E., grabbing a microphone of their own, aiming those Bluetooth speakers out the windows and start blasting back some Travis Scott, Billie Eilish and Cardi B. featuring Megan Thee Stallion in retaliation.

I mean, that would be wrong. Right?

Then again, it might eventually make those neighbors shut the hell up.

Visit and follow @scottgarceau on Instagram.

Banner image by Scott Garceau