Friday, November 09, 2007

Fed Up

Posturing -

Let the commentaries begin.

Money rules, losers drool.

I'm posting just as I have wrapped up another directing job, this time for the concert of friends who are part of the all-male a capella choir Saringhimig. I was happy with the result considering all the challenges we faced prior to the show. The dynamic in the choir is not altogether healthy and I foresee them making changes after the concert. On an objective level, they do need to address the talent quotient among their members plus they have to figure out how to handle the other aspects of the performance business than the actual singing itself.

I posted about these guys during the 2006 TFC Pop Star competitions and they have undergone a lot of flux since then. Well, at least, two of the winners of the Saudi nationals, Kim M and Jasmine A, made it as guests. While I may not agree personally with how their parents and mentors are managing their careers (as if I had the right, but still...) , I'm sure these young ladies will have a bright future. They have the talent to do it, certainly.

Anyhow, one wonders what relation does our link for the day have with this concert --- the scale of the events happening in the Philippines is incredibly disturbing, to say the least, notwithstanding the tragedy befalling the Saguisags, which is a situation I'd hardly wish for anyone. Maybe we need some human interest stories such as this to take our minds away from the rest of the political landscape. Otherwise, we will just turn numb.

It's money. Money and influence and all the influence- and leverage-peddling that goes on in our government and society --- they gnaw at the tatters of our moral fabric. We have a generation of young people who know no better, who have forgotten the cruelties of Martial Law and the struggle to regain our democracy --- they who only know Erap and how many betrayals have taken place since he was elected.

We have people wishing for the show of the iron fist to put back the country back on track. How foolish, how naive would it be for us to expect that the "savior" will slink back into obscurity once they have tasted power and all its trappings and perks. We asked for Erap to leave and we got Gloria, who proved to be little better.

Yes, do cheer up that our country's fundamentals have been healthier since she assumed power. Forget the involuntary disappearances, the "Hello Garci" incident, the Macapagal Boulevard scam, the fertilizer scam, the ZTE broadband scam, the endless allegations of jueteng, the shameful handling of the Subic rape case, among many other things. Forget that the continuum of President Arroyo's administration spans cases from the absurd to the downright galling. The economy is doing great, hurrah!

Meantime, family incomes are shrinking as prices rise. Having hope is a great exercise, at least to tell ourselves it would turn out all right.

The chain of events up to now is only leaven for more cynicism. Avoiding the news now is more of a given than a choice. I've had it - I'm officially fed up with the state of affairs in the Philippines. Making me care would be a stretch --= from now on, I'll try my best to talk about positive stuff.

This is where all current events begin to intersect --- obviously there is garden-variety corruption you can encounter in your own backyard. MalacaƱang sounds impressive, but guess what? Sneak-thieving is even more frustrating when it's not even supposed to happen. Then again, anyone with a modicum of power is likely to abuse it.

The concert was held at the Filipino community school in Al Khobar - a favored site because of its accessibility, sufficient size, adequate stage, affordability, and most of all, the positive vibe of conducting the activity without drawing too much attention from the local authorities. The organizers got a call from the school on Wednesday morning saying that they needed a permit from the government to conduct the concert.

My advice was for them to get one posthaste, so that there would be no static from the school. It was standard practice that the organizer of the event would secure the permit (the SH boys did not read the fine print, so sorry, and boy, were they sorry!), though this never came up as problem for us in SPA-TDG since our activities involved the school's students. After some messages were passed back-and-forth, I surmised everything would be okay by that afternoon.

Surprise! The school board met during the afternoon and then issued a directive that the show didn't have a permit, and therefore should not proceed. News of a raid at the Indian school was still fresh as there seems to be some initiative from the locals to kick expat butt and maintain law and order. Or so how these things normally go; after the raids either the passion ebbs or grease money flows, and it's back to business as usual.

I was elsewhere that evening to prepare the lights for the show and received word that there was a problem. So off I went to talk with the school authorities

What I feared was that they would throw SH out but at least they were reasonable enough to allow the preparations to proceed without any interference from the school provided a permit would be secured by 4:00pm the following day, thus begging for some legerdemain since government offices close on Wednesday evening. One of the choir members said that their company had a strong connection with the government, so we worked on the assurance that we would secure a permit. It was really rolling the dice at that point.

I almost lost my head listening to the Chairman of the School Board and the Principal defend their position that the school would have no liability arising from the cancellation of the show. It was a defense buttressed by denials, hand-wringing, and overall disavowal of any responsibility for the fiasco that was looming in front of them.

1.) The reservation was secured in September and though SH did not read the fine print, the school, having ownership of the premises and thus final responsibility, did not even follow-up on the permit which, as far as I'm concerned, should have been quid pro quo if they were really conscious of the regulations. SH, of course, should take full responsibility for the lack of the permit, but they redeemed themselves by doing what it took to get the show going.

2.) The school called the week before asking about the permit but did not press the issue. I don't know what's going on in the heads of these school authorities. You're taking the organizer's money, for crying out loud! Where's the "ownership" of the situation? As I was not in the loop when this conversation happened, I wasn't able to advise the group of what to expect.

3.) The school authorities were well-aware of the events surrounding the raid and took steps only when it was too late, i.e. on the last day. Even given that situation, they took the entire afternoon to discuss whether to grant approval, which is pretty much putting the cart before the horse.

4.) There is no fixed procedure from the school on how to secure the permit that will assist users should they want to get one. If there is one, they haven't educated their front-liners how to answer questions.

5.) What made it galling was that when I asked for their inputs on the matter, we were met with "that's your problem, not ours."

6.) The school had a Foundation Day event on the following day, Friday, with --- you guessed it --- musical performances and dance performances on the schedule. They couldn't have missed the schedule for the concert --- and could have taken safeguards earlier, if they were really concerned about local regulations.

Work on the venue proceeded as scheduled --- and it was only the guarantee of one of the show's sponsors that we were able to proceed.

Some things which disturbed me before and after the event:

1.) The school had scheduled a big chunk of activities for its Foundation Day without regard for the reservation schedule. There were practices, practices, practices in the venue until the kids were asked to leave and brought home by school buses.

2.) A parallel activity with one of the community organizations was scheduled at the same time as the concert - and one of the participants actually went to the school, even asking if the program had started.

3.) The primary equipment for the school's sound system was removed just right before we started preparations, and we found out later that the system was brought to this community organization's event.

4.) After his big show of concern over the permit of the show, the Chairman was rather dismissive when the "cavalry" arrived, conveniently passing on to the Principal the responsibility of resolving any untoward incident that could occur.

5.) The Chairman happens to be one of the prominent members of this other community organization.

It's easy to put two and two together, though for now I would give the Chairman, his cohorts, and the school authorities the benefit of the doubt over their actions. Still, this has not been my first experience with the arbitrariness of the school authorities as regards their venue. Nor has it been my first encounter, both first-hand and through trusted sources, of the Chairman's underhanded practices and his arrogance.

The Chairman is dependent on the votes of his fellow parents to stay in office. Recently, there have been signals from their Board that they want to forestall new elections and that the Chairmanship be rotated among the incumbents.

The school is a lucrative business --- understandably, to operate it the costs are passed onto the students and their families. The cost of educating a student at the school is similar to the cost of sending a student to a top private school in the Philippines. The control of financial transactions --- both for educational and non-educational purposes --- rests with the Board. That is a large cash flow managed through the hands of few individuals --- and there is no power to audit their actions except through election, though by that time damage would have been done.

Raise your hand if this reminds you of something.

Case closed.

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