My Way killings

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The "My Way" killings were a social phenomenon in the Philippines, referring to a number of fatal disputes which arose from the singing of the song "My Way", popularized by Frank Sinatra,[1] in karaoke bars (more commonly known as "videoke" in the Philippines). A New York Times article estimated the number of killings to be at least six as of 2010. Between 2002 and 2012, numerous people were killed for singing this song.[2]

Explanations for these incidents differ from the song being simply frequently sung among the nation's karaoke bars where violence is common or to perceived aggressive lyrics of the song.[3]

Background and history[edit]

Karaoke singing is a widespread, popular pastime in the Philippines, including among those with a low income. Many were earning about $2 a day in 2007 and could purchase time on a "videoke" machine for ₱5 (about 10¢ in US currency).[4] Filipinos who can afford to do so often get private rooms at karaoke bars.

Since January 16, 1998,[5] about a dozen incidents occurred in connection with strenuous complaints over the singing of the song "My Way", prompting Filipino newspapers to name the phenomenon the "'My Way' killings".[3]

Attention to these killings peaked on May 29, 2007, when 29-year-old Romy Baligula was shot dead by bouncer guard, Robilito Ortega, at a bar in San Mateo, Rizal.[6] The bouncer had stated that he was prompted to kill Romy using his service weapon, a .38 caliber pistol, when Romy accidentally got off rhythm while singing "My Way" and struggled to get back on track.[7]

The phenomenon continued in the 2010s and gained much more attention when a chairman of a Tondo village (barangay) was shot alongside his aide/driver by motorcycle-riding gunmen, while singing the song during a Christmas party; the chairman died on the spot while the aide survived in critical condition. In leads to the case, authorities suspect the motive to be allegations of the chairman being a protector of drug peddlers and small-time kingpins, which residents of the village as well as the chairman's friends, acquaintances, and relatives vehemently deny, believing the crime to be politically motivated.


Some Filipinos—even those who love the song—will not sing it in public, in order to avoid trouble or out of superstitious fear.[2]

As of 2007, the song reportedly had been taken off the playlists of karaoke machines in many bars in Manila, after complaints about out-of-tune renditions of the song, resulting in violent fights and murders.[7]

As a reference to the phenomenon, Japanese rock band Kishidan released an uptempo rock cover of "My Way" as their 10th anniversary single, with a promotional music video featured lead singer (Ayonocozey Show) being shot numerous times while singing the song. Ayonocozey is then shot once more in the back while walking away after the song is concluded, collapsing in a heap on the stairs with a wry grin. A shortened version was used as a commercial.[8]


New York Times writer Norimitsu Onishi argued that the killings might be "the natural byproduct of the country's culture of violence, drinking and machismo".[2] Violent attacks occur frequently in Philippine karaoke bars, with fights often sparked over breaches of karaoke etiquette – such as laughing at other performers, performing the same song twice, or hogging the microphone.[9]

According to Roland B. Tolentino, an expert for pop culture at the University of the Philippines Diliman, the killings connected to singing the song in karaoke may simply reflect its popularity in a violent environment. He also noted that the song's "triumphalist" theme might have an aggravating effect on singers and listeners alike.[2] Other tunes, just as popular in the Philippines, have not resulted in murder.

Butch Albarracin, the owner of "Center for Pop", a Manila-based singing school, also believes the lyrics of "My Way" increase the violence. The lyrics, as he explained, "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."[2]

"Karaoke rage" in other countries[edit]

Cases of karaoke rage, where singers are being harassed, assaulted or killed mid-performance have been reported all over East and Southeast Asia. Incidents of "karaoke rage" outside of Asia have also been documented.

  • In March 2008, a man was arrested in Thailand for shooting eight people to death, including his brother-in-law, in a dispute stemming from several karaoke offerings, including repeated renditions of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads".[11]
  • In December 2008, a man at a Malaysian coffee shop hogged the karaoke microphone so long he was stabbed to death by other patrons.[12]
  • In August 2012, a fight over the microphone broke out in a Chinese karaoke parlor, with a man killing two relatives with a meat cleaver.[13]
  • In July 2013, an American was stabbed to death for refusing to stop singing in a karaoke bar in Krabi, Thailand.[14]


  1. ^ "Frank Sinatra Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  2. ^ a b c d e Onishi, Norimitsu (7 February 2010). "Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord". The New York Times. p. A6. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  3. ^ a b Ichimura, Anri (17 October 2019). "How Frank Sinatra's Song 'My Way' Triggered Filipino Karaoke Killings". Esquire Philippines. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  4. ^ Article, no byline, "Karaoke the great escape in Philippine slums", April 7, 2007, Reuters website, retrieved February 7, 2010
  5. ^ Rujjeric Z. Palaganas v. People of the Philippines (September 12, 2006), Text.
  6. ^ Web page titled "Man shot for bad karaoke", dated May 31, 2007, website, apparently based on an Agence France Press report (the news agency is mentioned at the bottom of the page but not explicitly cited as the source of all the information on the page), retrieved February 7, 2010
  7. ^ a b David S. Morgan (2 June 2007). "Karaoke Fan Killed For Singing Out Of Tune". CBS News. Archived from the original on 6 January 2010.
  8. ^ "氣志團 / MY WAY(30sec CM Ver.)". YouTube.
  9. ^ Martin, M G (1 February 2017). "My Way killings: The life and death choice of what to sing in the Philippines". Philippines Lifestyle News. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  10. ^ Castro, Hector (10 August 2007). "Karaoke singer attacked after starting song". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Seattle Media, LLC. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  11. ^ Drummond, Andrew (8 March 2008). "John Denver karaoke sparks Thai killing spree". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  12. ^ MacKinnon, Ian (7 February 2010). "Malaysian man killed for hogging karaoke microphone". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  13. ^ Moore, Malcolm (30 August 2012). "Chinese toddler's karaoke tantrum ends in bloodbath". The Telegraph. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  14. ^ Williams, Rob (1 August 2013). "American tourist stabbed to death after refusing to stop singing with band in Thailand bar". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 27 December 2014.