The notoriety of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ is apparently known, not just in karaoke bars in the Philippines, but elsewhere.
The lowdown is that the enduring classic of Ol’ Blue Eyes has gained a reputation for sparking drunken brawls and gun-toting in many a singing joint in the Philippines, sometimes, even leading to deaths.
A New York Times piece by Norimitsu Onishi entitled “Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord” notes “… the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims (of killings) in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime called the ‘My Way Killings.’”
The article further asks, “Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?”
I think it’s because of a number of factors that, when put together, make a fatal combination.
One, the heady mix of booze and cocktails in karaoke bars easily gives way to violent tendencies.
Two, admit it, many of us are hypercritical (pintasero or, in current jargon, ma-okray). We often have very narrow views on how others should look, dress up, speak, pronounce words, sound, laugh and, yes, sing. When someone or something doesn’t fit certain “standards,” we are often quick to judge, criticize, laugh or exchange snarky looks or whispers.
Three, while many Filipinos are naturally gifted when it comes to singing (and many around the world will acknowledge this), there are also a lot who sadly aren’t. How many nights could you not sleep a wink because your next door neighbor was belting an Aegis song like a mad dog?
Despite the auditory torture, we will exercise maximum tolerance because we’re usually non-confrontational as a people… until we snap and all hell breaks loose.
The New York Times piece offers another theory. The article says “My Way” is an “arrogant” song. Take a look at the lyrics: There were times, I’m sure you knew/ When I bit off more than I can chew/ And through it all, when there was doubt/ I ate it up and spit it out.
Quoting Butch Albarracin of the Center for Pop, the article says, “The lyrics evoke feelings of pride and arrogance in the singer, as if you’re somebody when you’re really nobody. It covers up your failures. That’s why it leads to fights.”
For now, at least, ‘My Way’ takes on a new significance as it was the winning song that cinched the ‘X-Factor Israel’ title for Filipino caregiver Rose Fostanes.
Fostanes, who cares for an ailing woman in Tel Aviv, has been working in the Middle East for twenty years: four years in Egypt, ten years in Lebanon and the last six years in Israel, according to her girlfriend Mel Adel (yes, Fostanes is out and proud).
With 2.2 million Filipinos working overseas, their stories of struggle and hardship, and abuse for some, are sad realities for many Filipino families.
A Reuters report notes, Fostanes’ victory could help break the stereotype of Filipino as being synonymous with caregiver. Fostanes says, “Everybody in the world will know that Filipinos, even working as a cleaner … can also share their talents.”
I take another look at the lyrics of ‘My Way’ and I can see why it resonates so much: I’ve lived a life that’s full/ I traveled each and every highway…/ I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried/ I’ve had my fill, my share of losing/ And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing…”
And so, yes, a rendition of ‘My Way’ can also lead to a happy and triumphant finish.
(Photo: screen grab from Youtube-X-Factor Israel finals)