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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, February 5, 2019
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with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia
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The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra visited Bacolod City last week, giving residents a healthy dose of much-needed culture when they performed at the SMX on Thursday night and at the New Government Center grounds Friday night.

This is not the first time I saw the PPO here in Negros. They held a free concert in Silay City a few years ago and I was also there to enjoy that night of music. But when I learned that they were going to Bacolod, I eagerly awaited the invitations because, despite all the advances in technology, a concert of a world class orchestra is still one of the best things in life that are free.

There were two things that I have to react to that had to do with how the concert began. First of all, the invitation said 6 p.m. but it started 7pm. It’s already 2019 and we are still on Filipino time. Improvements have been made when it comes to events and meetings, but it cannot be a good thing when a government-sponsored concert starts late. It is shameful to see Filipinos still being so nonchalant about being late. If the organizers knew the concert was going to start 7 p.m., they should’ve but 7 p.m. on the invitation because the people who went there on time were made to wait an entire hour and that is not cool.

I don’t know if everybody made the right assumptions regarding the late start of the concert, or if the organizers opted to wait for the hall to fill up before starting the program, but the long and short of it was that the concert started late. It must’ve been annoying for the foreigners and punctual Pinoys who were invited but for everyone else, it was good old Filipino time in action and business as usual.

The other thing that got my attention was the number of empty seats at the VIP area. The free concert at the SMX was by invitation only and those who read the invitations would’ve seen that a RSVP was requested. I know how hard it was to score tickets but apparently, the VIPs of Bacolod don’t know how to respond to a simple RSVP so without a reply, the organizers kept their seats which were ultimately wasted when they didn’t come.

I know a lot of people who genuinely wanted to see the PPO concert but weren’t able to get invitations. Many genuine music lovers would’ve paid or donated a token amount to a good cause to see it. But because the privileged guests of Bacolod who got invitations couldn’t be bothered to respond to a RSVP to a free concert, many of the seats were empty when the SMX could’ve been packed to the rafters. The talents of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra could’ve been maximized if the concert venue were jam-packed, but that didn’t happen because of selfish and entitled VIPs and guests who didn’t possess the common decency to inform the organizes they weren’t going so the seats could be given to those who wanted to see the concert more.

Free concerts are the best, but if Filipinos cannot even be counted on to have the decency to respond to a RSVP, then it might be better for organizers to charge a token fee, even just P50, to make sure that the time, effort and resources spent on getting an entire orchestra to Bacolod, or any other city in the country for that matter, is not wasted on people who aren’t even going to come. The half-empty VIP section of the PPO concert at the SMX showed me that VIPs may be regarded as very important, but a lot of them still have neither breeding nor appreciation of culture.

I started this article with the intention of writing about the sense of wonder that can come from listening to a world class orchestra perform. I was going to wax poetic over how a diverse group of exceptionally talented individuals can be brought together to play beautiful music, regardless of their personalities, interests, agenda and political leanings. Of course there was going to be a comparison between how an orchestra and its conductor work together to produce tangible results versus our government and its leaders that produce nothing but noise and corruption.

Instead I got sidetracked by the issues like the prevalence of Filipino time in 2019 and our inability to be considerate in even the smallest matters like a RSVP.

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s visit to our city was a beautiful opportunity to witness and marvel at the talent of a group of talented Filipinos who dedicated their lives to their craft that benefits our humanity as a people, know how to get their acts together, and follow the beat of a qualified and competent leader.

It’s too bad that our world is so currently messed up that something beautiful like a free concert by our very own world-class orchestra in our backyard only ended up exposing more of its flaws.*  

Follow on Twitter: @bindadu
Email:mail@carloleonardia.com

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