Envy, Integrity and Missing the Mark

poison-envy-POSTER-SMMy wife watches “Voice of the Philippines” every Saturday and Sunday evening. I stop by if I can watch the singers singing, rather than watch the judges rationalizing or commercials selling. The singing contest is an interesting set-up, with competition at two levels. (1) The singers compete with each other, and (2) the four coaches select the singers on their team, and eventually will pit their singers against those of the other coaches. The program showcases the amazing singing talent in a nation that has song as an integral part of “who we are”.

It is one of the cultural qualities I like about the Philippines, and I blame it on the Japanese who popularized the karaoke machine.

The Philippines is artistically rich in other ways, too. Writers and poets and actors and painters and cooks. It’s a quality place, artistically speaking. It took me a few years to learn that. On some subjects, JoeAm is a slow learner.

But I digress.

I happened to catch the Voice of the Philippines competition between singers a couple of weekends ago that pitted a gentleman by the name of Dan Billano against a lady by the name of Lee Grane Maranan. The stage is an artsy boxing ring, with the singers on stage together dueling by singing parts of the same song.

It was a wonderful competition, the mellow-voiced soul singer and the hyper-cool pop singer voicing it out in the center ring. I remarked to my wife that it was a shame either had to lose. Then I opted for Lee because her rich soul-singing connected with me. The team coach made the final selection, and also picked Lee.

A fan of Dan wrote a letter defending his singer and it popped up on Rappler under “An Open Letter to Coach Bamboo”. My takeaway from the fan’s letter was that the writer believed the coach had manipulated the choice of songs so that his favorite, Lee, would perform strongly. The comment letters generally sided with the article writer, and went further to say that Lee would probably lose in the future because people would see her as a coach favorite rather than a singing talent.

I objected to that line of thinking.

It suggests that Dan’s fans are poor losers and would vote against Lee out of spite. And other viewers would judge the talent on some basis other than talent.

Well, that is so traditionally Filipino, you know? A place that seems to insist on missing the mark. A place that is deep with envy toward another person’s success. A place that hires for friendship rather than capability. A place where government workers believe they rule rather than serve.

  • Wictionary: To miss the mark”  To fail to hit the target

missing the mark


  • If others are successful, we are all successful
  • A place that hires for capability generates more wealth
  • A government that serves takes care of its people better
  • If we set aside envy we can enjoy ALL the talent

Believing this to be true, I argued in the comment section of the Rapper article that integrity is found in judging competitors on talent, not for extraneous reasons.

Ask most highly competitive professional athletes about losing and they will say it is a part of the game.

If you say, “well, you lost because the referee blew a call”, most athletes will say, “we had the opportunity to win the game; we did not lose it on that one call”. Well, maybe not “most” would say that, because there certainly are a lot of protests about lousy referee work. But those athletes of maturity and perspective would recognize that a game is filled with action, many choices, many successes, many failures, and an outcome that is the sum of all of that.

Good sports gives the winning team credit for winning.

Poor sports try to take something away from the winner, to justify their loss.

Far be it from me to say the Philippines is a nation of poor sports. But I would make reference to an interesting news article that popped up in the Science Section of Google News the other day:

Well, Boy Howdy, it behooves Filipinos to get rid of any envy lust that may exist and work hard to appreciate – and respect – the opposing team, when they win.

  • Maybe we’d have fewer election-cycle murders.
  • And less venom in blog discussion threads.
  • And more fun watching talent perform to the very best of their ability.

Win or lose.

Photo Source: Karan Salmansohn

16 Responses to “Envy, Integrity and Missing the Mark”
  1. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    The Rappler Letter Writer got his idea from the alleged accusation by Filipinos against judges of American Idol on American singer Jessica Sanchez which was claimed by Filipinos as a Filipina despite Jessica saying she’s a proud Latina-American.
    The accusations hurled by Filipino-Americans against the judges that they give Jessica a difficult choice of song to sing that is why Jessica lost.
    Fortunately the brouhaha died down when Jessica said she’s a “Proud Latina” and going to cut a “Spanish album”. The Filipinos were furious!
    2ndly, Jessica did not sing for Manny Pacquiao instead sang the Star Spangled Banner in front of the Filipinos at MGM. Manny then picked an American traitor, naturally-born American with Filipino parent, to sing the Lupang Hiniram (borrowed country).
    Filipinos were very quiet when Jessica sang the Star Spangled Banner. Did they clap their hands?

    • Joe America says:

      Very good example of envy in action. If everyone would just be happy for Jessica Sanchez’s success, then we’d smile at anything she did. And clap. But envy turns whatever she does into a commentary about US. It is really unhealthy. It doesn’t allow her to be her, but tries to force her into the mold that we want.

      Perfect example. Thanks.

  2. The Mouse says:

    Too many singing contests, it’s getting boring. I’d rather celebrate a rare fiba world cup qualifier than saturated singing contest shows. Lol

  3. Man, it has been a while since i last posted here. I was aware about that “Open Letter to Bamboo”, but I didn’t read it because I was more interested in ogling Hollywood hotties like Amber Heard, Emma Stone and Amanda Seyfried. HEHEHE, This Pinoy loves hot, white women!

    On topic:
    “My takeaway from the fan’s letter was that the writer believed the coach had manipulated the choice of songs so that his favorite, Lee, would perform strongly. ”

    I think this is another manifestation of a Pinoy’s sore loser mentality. Just like the stereotypical Filipino election loser who claimed he was cheated, Filipinos find it hard to accept defeat. I experienced job rejections but I moved on, avoided making public complaints and look for another job opportunity, in which I have stronger connections hehehe; you know the drill in the Philippines, Joe. Even in sports, both teams could benefit and suffer from bad calls. Just deal with it, I say.

    I don’t know why this subtle manifestation of envy persists in the country. Maybe, it’s because of the lack of opportunities. Another fact is that Filipinos don’t respect judge discretion even in superficial, entertainment contests. This country houses a bunch of populists who have an immature version of democracy.

    BTW, This is colonial-mental bavariano, who decides to assume the identity of a rouge, handsome, fictional, American spy days ago.

    • Joe America says:

      Well, David it was good of you to tear yourself away from your hotties to drop off a comment here. That is a very perceptive insight about the sore loser mentality deriving from lack of opportunity. If one is not able to develop oneself, it hurts to see others finding a path to growth or enrichment. So we twist the hurt into attack. I also see the “populist” mentality everywhere from elections to TV shows.

  4. Tristanism says:

    Saw that episode, thought Billano did a better job, but didn’t really think any more of it.

    But I think you were a bit hasty on this one. There’s griping and there’s disagreeing. I don’t think this is about envy. This is about people ‘rallying’ behind someone who they think got a raw deal.

    The rule of the battle is that the better interpreter goes to the next round. Clearly Bamboo thought Billano did a better job at that round.

    “Lee lost that ‘battle’ but she deserves to move on … be heard … i could have easily changed the key for Lee to make it easier on her but I didn’t” — Bamboo, Facebook status

    He chose Lee because he thought she had a story to tell, he saw Lee’s potential.

    I believe Bamboo, being the judge, has the final say on this, but I just find it weird that his decision was based on potential and not actual performance.

    • Joe America says:

      Some good points here. Yes, perhaps I overstate that particular letter, which was a disagreement, not a harsh shout-down. Thanks for the course correction.

      Your last comment is interesting, that Bamboo picked Lee for potential rather than actual performance. That was the foundation of my judgment (for Lee) as well. I saw Dan as singing as he will always sing, top class and professional. I don’t know how he does more. But in Lee, I imagined sultry dynamite in the right song, which the song they competed on did not sufficiently showcase.

      Given that this is a competition, I believe looking at potential is important, because the mentors will be working with the singers to teach and coach and raise their level of showmanship. The key is both the performance today, and how a singer can be shaped to compete better against tougher and tougher competition. Perhaps Bamboo thought of Dan, “I just can’t get much more from him. But Lee I can.”

      I’m looking forward to the competition between teams. I might even sit through the commercials to watch my favorites . . .

  5. ricelander says:

    We probably have one of the most number of singers per square kilometer in the world but originality in style is not so much our strong suit.

    Filipinos love the “birit” type of singing.

    The karaoke is copied from a Filipino innovation, the SingAlongSystem.

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