Decoding With Arpee Ong, Scratching Thru the Codes

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There are those of us who are fortunate enough to have found a career that contains all of our passions, life purpose, personal essence, and expertise all wrapped up into one fun-filled 40-hour workweek.  

Others of us are fortunate to have a professional job in which our passions may not be infused into our work, but in which we can utilize our technical skills and expand our knowledge in areas outside of our current scope of experience and comfort… all while being able to pay our rent.  

As George Bernard Shaw wrote in Pygmalion: “Happy is the man who can make a living from his hobby.” This appears to be the case for Arpee Ong, our featured artist for this week’s UNDERSCORE as code developer and music connoisseur.

What does a typical day look like for you?   

I’m not really a guy who follows a schedule; some days I go to bed at 5 a.m., and other days I wake up at the same time as the previous day. This chaos suits me because my job requires me to be on call at all times, and I am always pumped up to solve problems, both familiar and unfamiliar. I am sort of always in a mess because I am always prepared to deal with the mess. Overall, I try to fit in 8 hours of work for my day job, 4 hours for other freelance/consultancy work, and another 4 hours for things that inspire me, such as coming up with a music performance (mostly dj-centric ones), working out, binge watching a few series, and spending time with my family in between. Whenever possible, I try to devote the remaining hours primarily to sleep and recovery.   

Do you have any favorite coding languages that you would recommend? Are you still learning new things?   

No particular coding languages stand out to me at the moment, as they are all equally important tools in my arsenal, and I enjoy using them all. I work with a number of different programming languages, including PHP, Python, backend JavaScript, shell/bash, and others. I am constantly learning new things in order to meet the demands of my job. In this industry, there is always something new to learn, whether it is a new technology, stack, or standard, and you must keep up with the latest developments.   

What previous projects have you worked on?   

I was a member of the core team that created, which later evolved into OLX, and finally, into Carousell. Currently, I am working on a real estate platform (, which I co-founded with a team that is primarily comprised of former Sulit and OLX colleagues.   

It would be interesting to hear about a few projects that you enjoy and why you like them. Tell us about it.   

The ad-hoc/freelance jobs I do on the side, which are low-commitment alternatives to my day job, would be my choice. The reason I enjoy them is that they are typically something I am very familiar with and that is very easy, or something new that allows me to learn something new, but in either case, I am able to earn money quickly without devoting too much time to them. Depending on the project, it could be anything from complicated infrastructure tasks to something as simple as automating an operations process or finding and fixing deep bugs within an undocumented application. 


What other activities would you like to participate in if you had more free time?   

Making music, joining a band, or learning new instruments would most likely be on my to-do list if I had more free time. Artificial Intelligence, IOT, and cryptocurrency technology are all things I’ve been interested in for a while but haven’t had the opportunity to pursue seriously yet. 

Was there anything you’d do if you and a client were completely at odds over a concept?   

In my line of work, the client must have complete faith in my abilities. Following that, I present them with options, which they may revise in order for me to evaluate them in terms of budget and execution feasibility; conflicts are usually resolved at that point. So far, I have not been required to perform any tasks with which I disagree. 

DJing is not something that many computer geniuses are interested in doing. What drew you to the idea of becoming a DJ? —-Which came first, DJing or coding?   

Coding came first, of course. Around 2011, I began to dabble in DJ-ing while at work. I purchased a DJ controller initially not for the purpose of DJ-ing, but rather so that I could perform the scratch part of Renegade (Hed PE) for a company Christmas presentation with the office band. After that was completed, I happened to have this controller lying around and had the idea to mix songs together, which is how it all began. 

What would be your first thought and invention if you were tasked with creating code for a DJing-related software or plugin, and how would you expect it to affect the overall performance?   

It would be something simple like an analyzation technology that will perfectly grid a song file in a quantized way, and it would regenerate the track as a new file that can be imported into, or exported to as meta data – in popular DJ software. Having that technology will make it very simple to manipulate tracks that were recorded without the use of a metronome (typically older tracks) and to integrate or mash them up with modern tracks that have a consistent beat. I’ve got something else in mind. Tools and technology like this allow us performers to concentrate more on the creative side of our work rather than the mundane aspects of our workflow. 

We see you created a lot of mashups. Which one was your favorite and why? And how do you come up with the selections for the songs?   

My favorite so far is “Roots Bloody Roots (Sepultura) vs Right Here, Right Now (Fatboy Slim) vs Alabang Girls (Andrew E.)”, because the songs represent a large portion of my musical taste – classic, loud, and occasionally cheesy. When it comes to creating music, there is no real thought process involved; most of the songs just pop into my head and nag me for days. If two or three songs that form actually click, jumping from genre to genre, and I happen to like it, I grab my dj controller and attempt to perform it. 

Work from home has been in the forefront since the pandemic began, and with the web skills you possess, I have no doubt that you are doing well for yourself. My question is, do you think there is possibility for musicians like yourself to perform from the comfort of their own homes, and how would this influence the nightlife industry?

I see many of my DJ friends thriving already on platforms such as Twitch and Kumu, but they are very different from what the nightlife industry has to offer; I do not believe they can replace or supersede one another; however, when things return to normal, streaming platforms may be able to complement live acts in terms of promotion. However, we all still yearn for live DJ performances, and, as far as we know, there is no substitute for that unique experience, which benefits both the DJ and the audience alike. 

How do you create a balance between programming and crate digging while simultaneously performing your other responsibilities, such as family obligations?

My preferred method of listening to music while coding is to move between several streaming services; if I come across something I like, I pause for a brief moment to take note of the track ID, allowing me to accomplish two tasks at once. My schedule is unpredictable, but working from home on a flexible schedule has made it simpler for me to squeeze in a couple hours of family time during my lunch breaks. I am not a fan of rigid time management, and instead prefer to simply let things fall into place during the day and balance themselves; thus far, neither my wife nor children have shown any dissatisfaction with my approach. Although I have learned to multitask throughout my years of juggling roles and jobs, I believe I have mastered the art of detaching myself from one task to deal with another when the situation calls for it. Not only does this allow for a fresh perspective later on, but it also allows you to take a step back and consider other issues that may be equally important.



Hey, I'm a music producer, DJ, and event curator for BASS N' BACON, and run a record label. I can speak English, Tagalog, and Bisaya, and I enjoy writing about music and culture. Whether it's through my music or writing, I bring a unique perspective and lots of experience to every project I do. Thanks for checking out my work!

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