I was humming the Michael Jackson-led song of We Are the World that we use in our Oral English class in China and one of the chosen songs played officially somewhere in the London Olympics 2012. We are on the road on barely double-lane paved road that undulates like the grassland foothills, which happily influenced our female bus driver to be sensitive to passenger comfort. Our lazy laid-back humming did not bother anyone except the young kids who, I suspect, noticed the tune from school.
In our next potty stop, I pulled out the old China Mobile wi-fi to check if I can access the Internet, and whoa-la, I was staring at the news of the Manta Ray Band receiving a silver award at Central Hall Westminster Abbey after a musical rendition featuring five groups.
(Oh, the Ray-Ban in the title comes from the fact that I was lamenting the loss of a screw on my fake $2 Ray-Ban so I was not shielded from the fierce sun. So the news came as a cheer-me-up.)
Anyway, our Manta Ray Band has been racking awards right and left, making teacher DeWitt worth his $250,000 weight in dokdok. The use of the word "competition," however, shades the quality of the band’s accomplishments as it has developed a meaning other than its original intent to get manufacturers to produce something qualitatively different from someone else’s to capture market share, and of necessity, increase profit as one can command a higher price when demand goes up on a preferred item. Now, competition has come to mean creating a product at lowest cost in shorter time with a built-in short period of obsolescence enough to entice return customers. In sports performances, it has come to mean, creaming the competition!
The Olympic spirit has retained the "one moment in time" spirit of doing one’s best, improving one’s last performance, and developing pride in the doing. For instance, in the badminton event in London, four teams were disqualified for playing for advantage to win, with the Chinese team, expected to be a major contender for the gold, caught playing lackadaisically in order to get weaker opponents in the Finals. The IOC declared that as a grievous NO-NO, and the Chinese coach duly apologized, taking full responsibility for the misdemeanor.
Bandmaster DeWitt was reported to have said: “Although they had hoped for the gold award, the band members knew that they had played at their absolute peak level during the 20 minutes they were given to perform.” Members of the band performed well, were pleased with themselves, and I silently doffed my cap to vicariously partake in the group’s spirit.
As a sixth grade teacher for five years at San Vicente, there was not a year when parents did not "fight" over the Commissioner’s award, with parents even requesting an audience with the principal and a hearing on whether Filipino teachers heavily favored their kind against the indigenes!
Competition has come to mean, not doing one’s best but for besting others, not in the great celebration of an up-per, but in the determined effort to put-down. It is thus with quiet pride that we shared the Manta Ray Band’s delight in receiving their recognition in the London Olympics Celebration (note that it was not called a competition).
There was one time in our own youth when we showed up at a PRISAA extemporaneous speaking event in Davao City. I represented Northern Luzon, and was surprised to see Central Visayas and Metropolitan Manila represented by colleagues we knew elsewhere. Because this country boy walked off with the bronze, we got all kinds of recognition especially from our school. Two speakers from Jesuit schools bagged the gold and silver, but my friends walked away with none.
I grew up in a Methodist pastor’s home where speaking at church and its assemblies came frequently. We were experientially predisposed not to hesitate speaking our mind before an audience. Measuring each of us with one set of standard was like comparing mangoes to star apples. There was no comparison. We all spoke differently but well.
Thus, when I read that the Manta Ray Band was "bested by a group of Chinese traditional musicians (not a concert band) from Beijing that included professional instrumentalists, dancers, and music educators," we were sad to see that the comparison between dokdok and mein chow, definitely misplaced, is still made inconsistently to the celebrative nature of the event.
But this has more to do with story rather than reality. Not unlike Serena Williams' tennis award event in the Olympics. We choose to remember her performance, not the raised flag that got unhinged and was blown away.
We finally located a pair of sunglass that serves our need. An equally priced popular but less comfortable Ray-Ban was offered, but I went for the reality rather than the brand’s glorified story. I trust the Manta Ray Band will relish the experience of London and be proud of their performance, and leave the gloating to the Rotary Club!