After two days of uneventful diving at Panagsama Beach in Moalboal my young, fairly incompetent dive guide asked if I karaoked and if I wanted to join him and his friends for a session that evening.
Alan, mysteriously called Noel by everyone in town, claimed to be 23 years old, but I thought he acted and looked more like 18. His mother named him Alan; he couldn’t tell me why everyone called him Noel. No, he wasn’t born on Christmas Day and neither did he join the dive shop that day. I alternately called him Alan and Noel just to have a little bit of variety. He was extremely quiet and grunty, which I attributed it to his not-so-great English and the fact that he’s barely finished adolescence. (“Will we see bull sharks?” *grunt* “You saw the whaleshark but you didn’t tell me!!!!” *grunt*) I tried teasing him to get him to open up a bit more, but it didn’t work, making it even more boring than it already was. Hence my surprise at the karaoke invite.
I couldn’t figure out where Days Bar was, so I just headed out to the general vicinity of the dive shop and there he was, baseball cap perched just-so on his head, coolly tugging at my sling bag to get my attention. (He didn’t say much, remember?) He gestured across to a dimly lit room in a shack next to the bar. It had a karaoke machine that took5 pesos (about SGD 0.20) per song. Only his friend Boi, whom I’d met earlier lurking on the diveboat, was there. I felt like a cornered animal. Alan told me that the girls were working next door and would join us soon. Gulp.
Alan and Boi picked their favourite songs from the thick index listing songs from Pinoy favourites to English oldies to the latest-ish pop hits to even hymns and gospel songs (Great is Thy Faithfulness on karaoke anyone?). Alan then asked if I had change to feed the machine. I pulled out a handful of change feeling like their sugarmummy. Boi disappeared for a while and came back with a glass and a one litre bottle of Red Horse (extra strong!) beer. Apparently they needed a little help to start singing. Boi took a sip from the glass and then passed it round.
The first song Boi massacred halfway and then passed the mike over to Alan, who mumbled his way through the next verse and chorus. I started to feel a bit uncomfortable when the video screen showed lots of scantily clad bikini girls on a low budget shoot. Later, it turned out that there were only two videos that kept getting repeated. One involved the model dancing awkwardly on the beach with a fixed smile while doing the 70s double fist twirl. It then cut to another model on all fours lifting her leg in a porno-type pose and giving a suggestive smile. The second video was the entertaining one: first, a close up on a pair of warthogs, complete with tusks. A bikini-clad model posed nearby, inching away from the hoggy pair, smiling uneasily at the camera. I couldn’t help but smirk.
I was relieved that Alan and Boi don’t force me to sing. I kept telling them (quite truthfully!) that I didn’t know any of the songs! They then announced that they were going to sing one of their favourite songs. I had an exercise in keeping my face straight when I saw the title “Don’t touch my birdie”. The boys sang with such gusto I really couldn’t laugh. They also scored 96% on the machine. See lyrics I googled below:
Don’t Touch My Birdie (apparently a popular Pinoy song)
Up in the sky!
It’s a bird! Aaayyy!
Kapag ako’y nababato
Pinaglalaruan ko ang birdie ko
Ang cute cute naman kasi
Kaya ko siya binili
My birdie is my bestfriend
Ang dami naming maliligayang sandali
Madalas ko siyang pinapakain ng birdseed
Mahal kita o birdie ko, ‘wag kang lalayo
Don’t touch my birdie
Resist temptation please
You don’t have to grab my birdie
Just call it, and it will come
Ang birdie ko ay nakakatuwa
Parang cobra na mahilig manuka
Kapag nilabas na mula sa kulungan
Tuloy-ttuloy na ang aming kasiyahan
Di naman ako madamot talaga
Ayaw ko lang na hinahawakan s’ya ng iba
Ang birdie ko ay medyo masungit
Konting hawak lang siguradong magagalit
It will come
Huwag ka sanang magalit sa akin
Tuwing ang birdie ko ay aking hihimasin
Sana’y maunawaan mo
Mahal na mahal ko ang birdie ko
Pati mga itlog nito
Repeat Chorus: (2x)
It will come
It will come
Thankfully the girls appeared at this point. They worked at the bar next door and dressed accordingly though They were very nice, all friendly and curious where I was from and why I was travelling alone. They belted out the songs with great relish, leaving Alan and Boi only two more songs to massacre.
Another one of those keep-a-straight-face moments came when at the end of a Filippino song, Boi calmly told me that the song was “I swallowed it all.” Thank goodness I’d finished my own drink at that point! Boi elaborated to say that it meant the guy swallowed all his pride. Oh my.
The evening ended when we all ran out of change and I scampered back to my room. I survived Pinoy karaoke!