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Why we should not underestimate social media youth

Last week I was overwhelmed by the volume of hatred that reeked from status updates, comments, and various memes, on my Facebook newsfeed.

The barrage of foul remarks and insulting photographs, mostly coming from my fellow teenagers, were aimed at reality show contestant Cess Visitacion.

Cess reacts to the online vilification during her guesting at the Aquino and Abunda Tonight. Photo from scoopboy.com

Cess reacts to the online vilification during her guesting at the Aquino and Abunda Tonight. Photo from scoopboy.com

Cess was given the axe at the local franchise of Big Brother after accumulating a serious number of house rule violations. Her eviction culminated a long week of name-calling and bashing on Facebook and Twitter, where she has been accused by rabid fans of being “double-faced” to her competitors and “whorish” in her dealings with a certain male housemate.

As mind-boggling as it was, it did not, however, surprise me. It has been the norm for quite some time now. The names of Paola Jamie “Amalayer” Salvosa and Deniece Cornejo also set the whole social media on fire not too long ago.

An example of the memes created during the height of the Vhong Navarro hullabaloo. Photo from irumorster.com

An example of the memes created during the height of the Vhong Navarro hullabaloo. Photo from irumorster.com

As much as it tells us something about how our culture perceives women, it also strikes a chord on the priorities and interests of many young people on the internet.

This is the social media as defined by the selfie-loving, slut-shaming Filipino youth—a virtual landfill of statements, memes, and photographs inspired by our profit-oriented media—suggesting a growing apathy among young people in the internet towards more important social issues.

Situations like this only magnify the lingering question that has been brought up by several people for a long time now—are the youth really the hope of our nation?

But it is also during these times when a certain hope flickers in me.

We may remember Padre Florentino, the virtuous secular priest who aided the dying Simoun until his last breath in El Filibusterismo. During the end of the novel, he yearned for a Filipino youth brimming with fiery enthusiasm and idealism that they will use for their country. Many scholars interpreted the popular monologue as the longing of the author, our national hero, for the same idealistic and untainted young Filipinos who will quash the oppressive system.

Social media presents numerous edges for us to transform from a gang of pop culture slaves and internet nuisances into the kind of youth that our national hero once called for—one of which is our large number.

According to the 2013 statistics released by Get Hooked 360, the number of Facebook users in the Philippines has risen to a staggering 30 million—55% of which belong to the 13-24 age bracket—signifying a relatively young netizenry.

Infographics from gethooked360.com

Infographics from gethooked360.com

On the other hand our country ranked tenth in terms of Twitter users in a list released by research company Semiocast last 2012, revealing that 9.5 million out of the total 517 million Twitter users were from the Philippines.

It did not also come as a surprise when two Philippine cities—Makati and Pasig—reigned supreme in Time Magazine’s ranking of world cities with the most number of selfie-takers.

Former Philippine Senate President Jovito Salonga in a 2005 article that he wrote for Living News and Good Education entitled “A Letter to the Filipino Youth of Today” cited examples in Philippine history where young people played pivotal roles to defend our country during some of its darkest days.

Few of the people that he mentioned were Jose Rizal who wrote the seminal novel Noli me Tangere and Andres Bonifacio who led the Katipunan both at the age of 26.

When the country was under martial law—a time when Facebook and Twitter were nonexistent—thousands of students actively joined protests and went into hiding in their struggle for democracy.

Maria Lorena Barros was one of the most fervent student activists during the Martial Law. She was killed during a military ambush at 28 years old. Photo from kiwizzo.tumblr.com

Maria Lorena Barros was one of the most fervent student activists during the Martial Law. She was killed during a military ambush at 28 years old. Photo from kiwizzo.tumblr.com

They fought even when it meant jeopardizing their safety as many of them were arrested, tortured, and killed while others just permanently disappeared.

Their sacrifices and love for country were part of the reason why we have the freedom to click and post whatever we want in our social media accounts today. These are just some of the things that most of them were not able to experience, while here we are today taking them for granted.

But with the advent of a technology that continues to break barriers and shrivel distances, we have a bigger advantage to turn things around.

A plethora of youth organizations have started to utilize social media to expand their respective projects. One Million Lights Philippines, the local arm of the California-based organization that aims to provide solar-powered lights to poor communities, has also used Facebook and Twitter to connect to a wider audience. Both of its spearheads, Mark Lozano and Tricia Peralta are teenagers—the former a student at De La Salle University and the latter at University of Pennsylvania. It is one of the many groups and organizations led by young people most of us may not have even heard of, but is keen on extending their presence to social media.

In the forthcoming 2016 elections, many of us will be eligible to exercise the right to suffrage and are thus expected to choose the next set of leaders with utmost judiciousness.

We must start realizing how big a power a status, a tweet, a selfie, or social media in general can have in affecting how we as a people elect our leaders, and in the process, changing the course of things in this country.

Yes we can launch hashtags at the top of the daily trending list to express our frustration over not having money to buy tickets for a boy band concert or anger against people on television who defy social conventions.

But we can also harness the same aversion for our crooked public officials, use those hashtags to demand justice, and convince people not to support or elect anyone of their kind in public offices anew.

Yes we can almost effortlessly flood others’ newsfeeds with tons of our selfies, and statuses about the food we eat, places we visit, and people we hang out with.

But we can also make these photos and statements even more personalized by utilizing them as means to voice out our personal convictions on various national and social issues.

Yes we can zealously support the endeavors of our favorite celebrities, petition for them to hold concerts in our country, and unflinchingly defend them from their critics online.

But we can also do the same to further meaningful advocacies, online petitions, and social movements initiated by unsung heroes which include people our age. We can even use our social media accounts to host our own advocacies.

We must envision social media as a vehicle that will transform us into the empowered and critically-thinking young men and women who will be in the forefront of eliminating the ills that have long plagued our country.

That it is a way to let people know that we may have slowed down but we haven’t forgotten. That we may love Daniel Padilla, One Direction, and fads that rarely last, but our ingrained love for our country, its long list of heroes and struggling people, will always be greater. That we may love selfies, but in our hearts there will always be a picture of us all united as one.

When we have reached this point, we would not anymore find the need to waste time on bullying people we barely know, or contribute to the thriving nonsense in the internet.

Not only would we get rid of those, but we would also emerge as the driving force behind a smarter and stronger society—both online and offline.

Photo from itsmegracee.blogspot.com

Photo from itsmegracee.blogspot.com

 

Congratulations Megan Young! Philippines’ First Ever Miss World

Let’s take a breather from all the ignominious political scandals that our country is embroiled in right now as we celebrate another kababayan’s triumph in the world.

Filipino-American Megan Young may have already established herself as a well-known actress, product endorser and reality show contestant in the Philippines, but she’s now also a world-famous beauty queen after winning the coveted Miss World crown in the pageant held in Bali, Indonesia.

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Megan Young fights back her tears shortly after being crowned by outgoing titleholder, Wenxia Yu from People’s Republic of China.

 

 “Salamat sa mga kababayan ko. Mahal na mahal ko kayo. Thank you so much to everyone for choosing me to be the next Miss World and I promise to be the best Miss World ever.”

Here is you new queen, speaking to her compatriots in a language that goes to their hearts. These words of humility came out from Young’s mouth after being asked by the host, Myleene Klass (who is also half-Filipino) on how she feels about being the new Miss World.  In fact Myleene Klass was equally ecstatic even exclaiming that her Filipina mom was probably going crazy back home too!

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Two proud Filipinas- Myleene Klass and Megan Young

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Asked why she should be the next Miss World, the 23-year old Film student confidently orated, “I treasure a core value of humanity and that guides people why they act the way they do. I will use this to show other people how they can understand each other. … as one, we can help society.”

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French beauty Marine Lorphelin placed as the first runner up while Naa Okailey Shooter from Ghana came in third place. Completing the rest of the top 6 were Brazil’s Sancler Frantz, Spain’s Elena Ibarbia and the People’s Choice Awardee- Maroua Kharbouch of Gibraltar.

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Megan in the Top Model competition of the pageant.

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Megan Young’s mother seated in the audience who of course, was the proudest mother in the world at that moment.

Young was one of the fan favorites since the beginning of the competition. Aside from winning the Top Model challenge in the competition and placing fifth in the Beach Beauty challenge earlier in the competition, she was also handpicked to perform traditional Maranao dance “singkil” during the live telecast.

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But Young, who joined reality shows Starstruck and Pinoy Big Brother, wasn't the only reality show contestant in the pageant. Indonesia's Vania Larissa, who also won the Miss Talent award is the winner of Indonesia's Got Talent.

But Young, who joined reality shows Starstruck and Pinoy Big Brother, wasn’t the only reality show contestant in the pageant. Indonesia’s Vania Larissa, who also won the Miss Talent award is the winner of Indonesia’s Got Talent.

Local celebrities take pride in Megan’s victory.

She currently holds the distinction of being the sole Filipina to ever win in the pageant’s 63 years of history. Popular Filipino actress Ruffa Gutierrez was the 2nd princess in 1993 while French-Filipina Gwendoline Ruais placed first runner up in 2011.

At the end of the day, we got something positive to talk about other than our corrupt politicians.

And in case you wanna follow Megan on twitter…

*Note: I’m not used to writing news articles as my forte is really editorial writing so I apologize in advance for the way I wrote this one. Thank you Megan Young for making us smile and feel proud as Filipinos especially in  the current situation of our country.

Vice Ganda, Jessica Soho and the Contemporary Filipino Humor

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Vice Ganda, who is undoubtedly one of today’s most bankable and influential celebrities, recently earned the ire of vigilant netizens because of his distasteful jokes on a supposedly gang rape involving TV journalist Jessica Soho during his concert last May 17 in Araneta Coliseum.

Watch this video to decide for yourself. Apparently, GMA reporters including Jiggy Manicad, Makki Pulido and Arnold Clavio didn’t take the joke lightly. Manicad and Pulido expressed their displeasure in Twitter stressing that rape should never be made as a subject of a joke.

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Meanwhile, Arnold Clavio lashed out against the comedian on his daily morning show on DZBB this morning.

“Bakit mo binibiktima ang mga taong seryoso sa trabaho nila? Huwag mo silang kasangkapanin para lang makapagpagpatawa. Bakit hindi taga-diyan sa inyo ang gawin mong subject ng jokes mo? Bakit hindi taga-ABS?”   

So what can I say about this issue? 

I always have polarizing opinions when it comes to Vice Ganda. Sometimes I buy his jokes and punchlines which most of the time really leave us in stitches. The first time I watched one of his movies, I can’t help chuckling while thinking to myself that this guy’s a real genius in his craft. C’mon guys don’t be hypocrites. As if Vice Ganda didn’t make you laugh at one point in your lives.

Yes his gang rape joke was really crude, insolent and politically incorrect just like most of his regular jokes in Showtime or Gandang Gabi Vice. Yes he makes fun of people’s physical appearance (or the lack thereof), peculiarities and imperfections just to entertain people as if he is perfect and has no flaws himself.

You don’t need to have a college degree to discern that those things are just downright wrong.

But those are the things that made Vice Ganda successful. Those are what catapulted him into being a household name.

He starred in three of the five highest grossing Filipino films of all time. He has three sold-out and record-breaking concerts the latest of which recently became the highest-earning concert staged by a Filipino. He is the most popular among his cohosts in their daily variety show. He has multi-million peso endorsements.

And the reason is that many people patronize him. Whether you like it or not, Filipinos laugh with Vice Ganda every time he berates an obese contestant or an unattractive participant in his daily variety show. Many people are willing to spend part of their money just to see him perform onstage or victimize yet another unlucky audience member whose physical flaws like a humongous nose, a diminutive height or a bad-looking hair will be made the topic of ridicule and mockery just to desperately satiate the audience’s hunger for entertainment and pleasure.  It’s no wonder why comedians like Jon Santos who practice “less-cruel” techniques are less successful than Vice Ganda.  It’s a perfect example of the saying “The ends justify the means.” No one cares how gory or cruel Vice’s way of scorning a person is, as long as the result is people laughing and forgetting their stress, the same process how blood diamonds get into markets.

Lack of political correctness? The Philippines is one of the least politically correct nations in the world. It is a country where corrupt former Presidents are offered retirement packages including sure positions as either a congresswoman at her home province or as a mayor in the country’s capital. It is a country that brags itself as the only Catholic nation in Asia despite being one of the most corrupt and being home to some of the most ignominious criminals and rapists in the world. People can get away with deriding an Indian as “smelly” because majority of us also think the same way. Stand-up comedians can get away with calling an overweight person a pig because majority of the people also do the same in everyday conversations.

Vice Ganda used to be a stand-up comedian at comedy bars himself before becoming the superstar that he is today. The job of being a stand-up comedian is not for the faint-hearted though. In order to be one, you need to master the art of insulting and being insulted which kind of explains why Vice Ganda loves to tease and ridicule people just to derive fun and laughter.

Okay, so let’s now go to the gang rape joke issue.

For me, it was really an offending and upsetting “joke”. Well any joke that is made at somebody else’s expense should not be funny after all. If that’s the case then Vice Ganda and all the other stand-up comedians will now have to find another job, eh? What upsets me the most is the presence of respected and esteemed people in the concert such as Charos Santos-Concio who is the President of ABS-CBN and even Kris Aquino (sadly I still consider her as respected). There were also families including their children who still had no idea what rape is. They didn’t even realize that some of the jokes, especially the gang rape one, are downright disrespectful, abhorrent and distasteful? To think that his concert happened last May 17 and this news only made rounds in social media this day? Are the audience blind, insensitive or just plain ignorant?

Is Vice Ganda’s tactlessness caused by his friendship with equally tactless Kris Aquino?

Like the Gabriela party list, I also believe that rape just like racial and gender discrimination should never be made as a butt of jokes. Men and gays are also susceptible to rape by the way and not just women. Being raped is one of the most horrifying and violent things that one may experience and it leaves a scar in the victim that may last for a lifetime. Well how much more is gang rape? Have you heard of the woman who died a few days after being gang raped in a bus in India?

This is not an issue about being narrow-minded or open-minded. Everything has its limitations, just like being broad-minded. There are certain lines in the world that you just do not cross because when you do, there’s no assurance of being able to go back. I bet if this happened in the United States, where society is extremely obsessed in being politically correct, I wouldn’t even be surprised if Vice Ganda ends up in jail. Baka sa kangkungan na siya pulutin.

Take for example Seth McFarlane’s seemingly harmless “boob song” in Oscars to which feminists, including Oscar winner Geena Davis cried foul over for being “sexist”.

In 2001, David Letterman joked about Miss Colombia swallowing a bag of heroine to impress the judges in the Miss Universe competition. The beauty queen threatened to sue Letterman forcing the letter to issue a public apology.

This whole hullabaloo even reminds me of the Spongebob episode entitled “Squirrel Jokes” where Spongebob acts as a stand-up comedian and out of desperation, jokes about his friend Sandy’s physical appearance in front of a crowd, resulting to thunderous laughter and merriment. It was not long after that Spongebob realized that what he did offended his friend so he instead makes fun of himself.

I must admit that Vice Ganda’s influence especially on the youth is really tremendous. Many young kids have adapted his sarcastic way of conversing with people as well as his sardonic jokes on lack of common sense. I, for one caught myself being sarcastic in talking to my friends or even my mother just to find out that it’s utterly unpleasant and impolite. When I watch American comedy shows, I get frustrated because I don’t find their jokes funny. I still find that impact that Vice Ganda’s jokes have.

Vice Ganda’s humor or the verbal slapstick type, which appears to be the “Filipino kind of humor” now, may affect children negatively making them think that judging other people based on their looks is fine as long as it is made in a comedic way. This may just elevate the cases of bullying in schools, so to speak. Like what a meme in Facebook says, “Simula nung sumikat si Vice Ganda, nawalan na ng mga taong matinong kausap.”

I don’t want to be a hypocrite by saying that I never liked Vice Ganda. In fact I did, and I still like him in one way or the other. It’s perfectly fine to be entertained by his jokes as long as we still remain vigilant and sensitive in real life situations.

You just can’t joke about everything.

There’s still a fine line between reality and comedy. Pwede ka rin namang magpasaya ng hindi nakasasakit ng damdamin ng tao.

But as long as we still laugh at somebody else’s expense or we still make fun of other’s physical appearance, then we don’t have the right to complain.

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” -Erma Bombeck

Update: Vice Ganda issues a public apology on his daily noontime show, “It’s Showtime” this Wednesday, May 29, 2013.

Atheists Can Be Redeemed- Pope Francis

The first Argentinian Pope is surely breaking the stereotype.

Pope Francis, during his homily at Wednesday Mass in Rome declared that atheists, just like Catholics can also be saved through Jesus Christ.

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Here is an excerpt of the news from Huffington Post.

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Well, what can I say? I am happy that the new Pope is trying his best to be more flexible and broad-minded when it comes to these sensitive topics especially right now that the Catholic Church is facing tough times as more and more people question the people behind the institution following the growing numbers of Catholic sex abuse cases.

It seems that the new Pope is working on regaining the trust of people who turned their back on the Catholic Church. His remarkable retort on the issue of atheism is quite a dissimilitude to the perspective of his predecessor, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who occasionally raised eyebrows because of his strict views on secularism and homosexuality.

Actually, it is not a secret that a lot of famous people in history from the fields of the sciences to show business are in fact, atheists themselves. Popular names such as Thomas Edison, Woody Allen, Helen Keller, Billy Joe Armstrong, Keira Knightley and Kim Jong Il (Surprise! 🙂 ) are included in the long list. To me, being atheist doesn’t make you a bad person, contrary to the majority’s perception, unless of course they cheat, steal or adulterate which are things that would make anyone a bad person regardless of one’s religious beliefs. Atheists are also humans who deserve respect and understanding just like any other regular person we know. Saying that atheists are immoral people is the same as saying all Catholics are holy people and will all go to heaven which is definitely not true.

I know a lot of people who are ultra-religious and by that word I mean they go to church on a regular basis, they go to confessions as frequently as possible and they pray the rosary a lot but ironically most of these people only care about themselves, rarely giving a hand to others when in need and worse, gossiping with rumormongers. I am a Catholic and I admit that I frequently sin, just like anybody else. It’s natural as every person is born with concupiscence which is one’s inclination to sin. I make it a point that I go to confession whenever possible which is not always a problem since we have a chapel complete with hardworking priests in our school.

I always strive to be accepting and open-minded in dealing with other people’s beliefs even when they differ from mine or from my religion.

What bugs me are the people who think that they are better than everyone else just because they always go to confession or they always go to mass even though their attitudes are far from their religious fervor which is only activated once they’re inside the church.

I think the Philippine society today is not that different from the one Rizal described in his anticlerical novel “Noli Me Tangere” where Filipinos’ illiteracy and ignorance, mixed with their colonial mentality, religious hypocrisy and blind faith didn’t do any them any favor, thus only impeding their progress as a people.

Abortifacients being sold near the Quiapo church.

Abortifacients being sold near the Quiapo church.

Nothing really tremendous has changed since the publication date of his novel some 126 years ago. We still have those social climbers who would do anything just to sound and look like a Western to fit in the majority’s skewed perception of beauty. The only difference is that most of them are now in show business and politics, some even considered as role models of this generation because of their physical appearance. *Sigh.

We are still that same overtly religious, holier than thou country (although the Philippines wasn’t yet a country back then) where corruption and inequality still manages to thrive in the government, schools and even in the smallest political units.

The elites and the rich are the ones who control much of the country.

Wouldn’t you agree if I say that obnoxious and hypocritical people like Padre Damaso and Padre Salvi still manage to exist until this day? The major difference is that most of them are not just priests; they are also the people we meet every Sunday in the church or we rub elbows with in the market or we see strolling in the malls. Hypocrisy has managed to impair everyone, from the people you thought will never sin to the people you regularly meet in the streets.

Oh yes, we are a country who boasts itself as the only Catholic country Asia. (Doesn’t Timor Leste exist? 🙂 ) But we are also a country of world-renowned brothels, beer houses, sex-themed movies and heinous crimes. We are a country where people regard religion as a fad, a mask to cover our decaying souls or a tool to make one believe that he or she will go to heaven no matter how sinful he or she is.

I would just like to say that I am a proud Catholic myself but I know that my beliefs don’t make me a better person than anyone else in the world. Like what our priest said in his homily last week, my attendance in mass is not synonymous to me being holy. Yes, attending mass is important (It’s a must for us Catholics!) but what we do after the mass is more important. What we do after praying and confessing is what matters the most. We can’t just be good to God himself; we need to be good to everyone else. Sure, one may have memorized all the verses in the bible or the Koran or any other religious text but that will remain useless if one does not translate good words into good deeds.

Like Pope Francis, I also believe that “doing good” as a principle unites all humanity.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more atheists than Catholics in Heaven.

Manila as the Gates of Hell: Fiction or Non Fiction?

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I saw this viral photo yesterday as I was lazily scrolling down my Facebook news feed.  As expected, it caught the ire of a battalion of netizens who criticized Brown’s imageries as too unrealistic while also questioning his credibility in giving such vivid descriptions of our country’s capital when in fact he has never visited the Philippines.

According to a news article in abscbnnews.com, Inferno, the third novel of controversial author Dan Brown, centers around the protagonist Dr. Sienna Brooks who is described to be working with humanitarian groups. She went to the Philippines on a mission to feed fishermen and farmers. After roaming around the country’s capital, she could only “gape in horror” as “she had never seen poverty on this scale”. Brooks also described the muddled city as having “six-hour traffic jams, suffocating pollution and horrifying sex trade.”

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Just to set the record straight, Dan Brown is a fiction writer. Inferno is a work of fiction just like the far more vilified and controversial “The Da Vinci Code” and its sequel “Angels and Demons” both of which disprove the truths set by the Catholic Church and undermine it as an institution as well as its founder, Jesus Christ.

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Just a little bit of history. Back in 1998, a Hollywood film entitled “Brokedown Palace” starring Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale was filmed here in Manila. The film, whose plot revolves around two American friends who were imprisoned in Thailand for drug smuggling, was originally scheduled to be shot in Thailand. Apparently, the Thai government didn’t allow them to shoot the movie in their country since the film tackles a sensitive topic about the Thai legal system so the crew ended up shooting the film in their second choice which was the Philippines.

Not long after the film wrapped up, Danes was quoted in Vogue as saying, “ghastly and weird city” when asked to describe Manila. In Premier Magazine, she described the city as “smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over, and that there is no sewerage system, and the people do not have anything- no arms, no legs, no eyes.” As usual, the onion-skinned Filipinos didn’t take the remarks gracefully. Kim Atienza, who was then a councilor of the city of Manila retaliated by saying, “those are irresponsible, sweeping and bigoted statements that we cannot accept.” The overreaction eventually continued when Danes was proclaimed “persona non grata” by no less than Joseph Estrada who was the Philippine president back then and currently the city’s mayor.

Yesterday, when I watched the news about the whole hubbub about Dan Brown’s novel’s allusion to Manila as the “gates of hell”, I could not care any less. I mean even if the book was fiction, the descriptions were on point, in fact almost close to reality. It’s not surprising though that most of the locals who were interviewed also echoed Brown’s sentiments. But unlike most people who acknowledged the “partial truth” that the fiction book represents, MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino is singing a different tune.

In a radio interview in DZMM, he revealed that his office sent a letter to Brown via fax as a reply to his descriptions of Manila to which Tolentino took offence at.

Tolentino said in the letter, “More than your portrayal of it, Metro Manila is the center of Filipino spirit, faith and hope. Our faith in God binds us as a nation and we believe that Manila citizens are more than capable of exemplifying good character and compassion towards each other, something that your novel has failed to acknowledge. Truly, our place is an entry to heaven.”

Ironically, I took more offence at Tolentino’s statements.

“Truly, our place is an entry to heaven.”

Uhmm, sir have you been living under a rock to not at least acknowledge that there are indeed traffic jams, rampant prostitution and  large-scale poverty in Manila? What kind of “heaven” are you referring to sir? Is it the “heaven” that beerhouses and nightclubs in Manila offer to tourists and customers?

Sir, why do you have to be blind to all the ugliness and destitution in Metro Manila?

Does being the MMDA chairman give you the privilege of not suffering the long traffic jams in EDSA every day? I’m sure you are well-aware of undisciplined drivers who love to over speed or disobey traffic rules.  Did the Mall of Asia block the view of the slums of Manila that’s why you failed to acknowledge their existence? Have you tried watching sunset in Manila Bay and not be appalled by the large amounts of garbage floating on the surface? Is Pasig River really that clean and crystal clear today that you have failed to admit the blight and pollution that this once pristine and famous body of water is now suffering? (Are they in fact metaphors of what the people of Metro Manila have become through the years?)

Is Manila “the entry to heaven” just because it is home to some of the country’s grandest and oldest churches? So what will happen to those who live in Cebu, Davao or Laguna? Will they not enter heaven since you’re claiming that Manila is “the entry to heaven?”

Oh yes, I forgot that some scenes of the Bourne Legacy were shot in Manila last year and you were so ecstatic with Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz doing stunts in jam-packed slums and dirty streets. Didn’t those scenes justify the “fictitious” descriptions that Dan Brown make?

Or are you just trying to conceal your failures of beautifying and organizing Metro Manila as the chairman of MMDA?

At the end of the day, Dan Brown’s novel is just a work of fiction although it bears a resemblance to the naked truth. It’s fiction just like the sex stories in tabloids that are being sold in front of Quiapo church together with hundreds of abortifacients in different forms.

Thank God for JV Ejercito. Now this is a man who clearly sees the issue in a different perspective.

“Napag-iwanan na talaga ang Maynila…Massive rehabilitation is needed, tanggalin ang red tape,” said Ejercito, who is now a senator-elect.

I’m still surprised at how we deal with criticisms that come from foreigners. As if their opinions are the only ones that matter. Like my blog post the other day about “Nancy Binay and the Idiosyncratic Filipino Culture,” I really find it ironic how we easily get affected when people from other countries comment something negative about our country or criticize something that they don’t like when in fact we also do the same in everyday conversations.

Instead of being onion-skinned, why not take it as a challenge to improve ourselves and to work harder to make our country a more beautiful and desirable place to live. In my opinion, the slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is only affirmed by the rich people in our country who can afford to travel around different tourist spots in the archipelago and check-in at five-star hotels in the metropolis. I mean how can poverty be fun? To the government officials out there who are taking offense at the misrepresentation (or so they say) of our country in the Western world, why not use the kaban ng bayan for building infrastructures, helping the poor (this is becoming a cliché!) and beautifying our nation instead of using it for your own sake?

“Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ‘wag magalit.”

“A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.”Benjamin Disraeli

Nancy Binay and the Idiosyncratic Filipino Culture

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Did you laugh after seeing the well-edited photos and memes above courtesy of our own Filipino photoshop geeks? Well don’t blame yourself though because a congregation of online lurkers and users also did.  I for one caught myself chuckling upon these pictures many days ago.

I abhorred Nancy Binay for the reason that she ran for Senate without even having prior political experience. I live in Makati and the Binays have been ruling this city way before I was born: forcing everyone to believe that everyone who lives in Makati live a comfortable life because of the free uniforms, workbooks and notebooks for students, free cakes and movie passes for senior citizens and all other freebies that they use to spoil us. The skyscrapers and first class shopping malls and five star hotels may also testify their claim but few blocks away from those landmarks will make you think twice. Makati, just like any other city, is also a home to illegal settlers, homeless children who can’t go to school and poor people who don’t eat three times a day.

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The slums of Makati just behind the central business district.

Sa hinaba-haba ng panahong ipinamukha sa’yo na ang mga Binay ang namumuno sa Makati sa pamamagitan ng paglalagay ng mukha ni mayor sa mga notebooks at workbooks ko nung elementary at paglalagay ng mga malalaking picture frames ni Binay sa taas ng black board sa classroom namin, ay hindi ko talaga kilala si Nancy Binay. Nakilala ko lamang siya nung siya ay tumakbo bilang Senador.

binayfam

Top from L-R: Elenita Binay- Makati mayor from 1998-2001 and wife of VP Binay.
Jejomar Binay- PH’s current VP and was Makati mayor from 1986-1998 and 2001-2010.
Bottom L-R: Abby Binay: Makati 2nd district representative
Junjun Binay: Current mayor of Makati

junjun

Junjun Binay’s photo behind my brother’s workbook from last year. During my time, it used to be the photos of both Mayor Binay Sr. and his Vice but it seems that the current mayor is not in good terms with his our vice mayor. (Hindi sila magkapartido.)

I even felt ecstatic and delighted that a lot of netizens vilified and virtually crucified this controversial senatorial candidate because I was convinced that she deserved all the hatred in the world.

But now I regret it.

po1

The top 6 senators (albeit without Nancy Binay) are proclaimed by the COMELEC.

po2

The last three elected and reelected senators (this time with Nancy Binay and Koko Pimentel) as they are proclaimed by the COMELEC.

The 2013 mid-term elections recently culminated with the proclamation of the last three senators who made it to the Magic 12. Majority of the senators who were granted a six-year term at the senate is either relatives of former politicians and movie stars or former senators themselves who were successfully reelected.

However, the unexpected top vote-getter Grace Poe-Llamanzares or reelected senator Loren Legarda could not even topple the controversial Nancy Binay in setting the social media world on fire. Legarda’s New York condominium issues or even Cynthia Villar’s notorious statement about nurses were quickly immobilized by the smoke that was created by the fire of Nancy Binay.

Poor little Nancy stirred up the hornet’s nest by running away from every televised debate and forum and instead focusing on campaign sorties in remote provinces of the country. Yes, the girl only has her surname as her biggest asset since she had no previous experience in public service or politics aside from serving a twenty-year OJT and being her dad’s, the Vice President, personal assistant.

Yet the unflinching girl played the Russian roulette by escaping every chance to engage in a debate with her fellow candidates about the current political and socio-economic issues plaguing the country today. This, together with the vocal defiance of famous comedian and movie star Vice Ganda were enough to alert every single person who has a television and internet connection that something was wrong with the girl who doesn’t like to attend television debates.

But in an anti-climactic plot twist, the poor girl won. Yes, she won! She was even ahead of seasoned politicians Villar, Angara, Honasan and Gordon. But this blog post will not be about sourgraping over her victory.

This is rather a reflection and analysis of the people that we are today and why insulting Nancy Binay based on her skin color and physical appearance is both politically and morally wrong.

bel;a

In March 2012, Bela Padilla’s FHM cover was quickly replaced after receiving backlash from netizens accusing the shoot as “racist” and “discriminatory”.

The first thing I realized after all these childish and irresponsible hurling of insults and slurs on Nancy Binay is that our country is still racist.

The Philippines is definitely racist.

nN

Just another Nancy Binay meme, this time portraying her a the Star Wars antagonist.

belo-nutraceuticals

An advertisement for a skin clinic for the stars. This is just one in a sea of countless skin whitening advertisements convincing people that white is beautiful.

The reason is not that hard to guess either. Majority of Filipinos still find time to spend their money on various whitening products from toners, facial washes and lotions. The elites in our society including our A-list celebrities make sure that they get to visit their dermatologists regularly to ensure that their skin remains white and “artistahin”.

luna

From L-R: Luna Blanca, Nita Negrita

In this country, your chances of being a famous movie star or celebrity are slimmer if your skin color is very Filipino. From heavy drama thespians to steamy starlets, all are conspicuously fair-skinned which seems completely hypocritical considering that almost ninety percent of Filipinos are brown or dark skinned . If you want to enter show business, you need to dramatically lighten your skin to fit in the injudicious standards of televiewers. Ninety percent of the time, poor people in teleseryes are dark-skinned. Ugly people that should be pitied are dark skinned.  Take Luna in Luna Blanca or Nita Negrita for example. When the bida undergoes transformation from ugly duckling to a swan, his/her skin color should dramatically lighten.

There’s a reason why most of the famous celebrities we watch on television are light-skinned. There’s a reason why the Younghusband brothers receive more cheers and screams than Chieffy Caligdong. There’s a reason why the careers of Whitney Tyson or Wilma Doesnt never really took off. There’s a reason why Dra. Vicky Belo has to be mentioned by every celebrity in each of their tv shows or guesting. There’s a reason why every dark-skinned child in school or in the neighborhood has to be teased as “negro/negra” by his/her classmates and playmates. There’s a reason why majority of our commercial models are of mixed race. There’s a reason why we regard white people with blonde hair, blue eyes and pointy noses as the epitomes of beauty.

chieffy

Chieffy Caligdong is just one of the few pure Filipinos playing in the halfie-dominated Philippine soccer team or more famously known as “Azkals”.

The reason is that our country is racist.

I find it very ironic that a racist country like ours got very mad when Lee Da Hae’s viral video mimicking Filipino accent surfaced on Youtube or when Claire Danes called Manila a “ghastly and weird city full of cockroaches” or when Taylor Kitsch mistakenly regarded a dilapidated airport in Indonesia as located in the Philippines. I find it very ironic because we get angry when we are being made fun of by foreigners when in the first place, we as Filipinos love to insult and judge our fellow countrymen based on their looks or even accents.

How could anyone forget all those jokes and kitsch about the Bisaya accents of “kasambahays” or yayas? Why do every Inday in radio jokes and commercials have to speak in a funny Bisaya accent? Yet we get angry when a foreigner makes fun of our Filipino accent while speaking English. Why do we always mimic the Chinese people’s way of speaking Filipino? At least they are trying to learn our own language.

Nakakatuliro lamang isipin na naiinis tayo kapag pinagtatawanan tayo ng mga ibang lahi samantalang gayon na lamang kung tawagin natin ang mga Arabo at Bumbay na mababaho at may putok samantalang nakikinabang naman ang mga mahihirap nating kababayan sa 5’6.

Gayon na lamang kung laitin natin ang balat ni Nancy Binay. Kapag naka-orange ay Ovaltine tapos kapag naka-blue Oreo?

nancytwitter

Twitter pages also join the Nancy Binay insult fever.

The Philippines is a country which discriminates Filipinos but doesn’t want other countries to discriminate Filipinos. But that topic deserves another blog post.

Para sa akin, ang panglalait kay Nancy Binay ay hindi lamang pagiging “racist” kundi pagiging impokrito dahil kung nilait mo si Nancy Binay dahil siya ay maitim eh parang nilait mo na rin lahat ng mga Pilipinong kasing-kulay niya. Ang iba nga eh mas maitim pa sa kanya. Parang sinabi mo na ring pangit ang mga maiitim na Pilipino.

Pero bakit nga ba kasi nanalo si Nancy Binay? Simple lang ang sagot.

Dahil isa siyang Binay.

dinastiya

Kahit hindi siya dumalo sa mga debate sa tv, alagang-alaga naman ng kanyang tatay ang kanyang kampanya. Sinigurado ni Nancy na makakamayan niya ang mga botante ng mga probinsyang malalaki ang populasyon. Habang nakikipagdebate si Risa Hontiveros, Greco Belgica o Ramon Magsaysay Jr. sa tv ay nakikipagkamay at namimigay naman ng mga t-shirts at candies si Nancy sa mga masusugid na tagasuporta ng kanyang ama. Nakakalungkot man isipin ngunit isa sa mga narealize ko sa Nancy Binay story ay karamihan pa rin sa mga Pilipino ay bumoboto dahil lamang sa pangalan.

binaycandy

A+ for innovation? The Binays’ campaign strategists surely wanted voters to have a taste of the powerful political family.

Wait. Why is it that only Nancy Binay was the one who received mucho criticismo from netizens knowing that majority of the newly elected politicians in local or national posts are also from political dynasties and in fact, more inexperienced if not as inexperienced as Nancy Binay?

Why was Migz Villafuerte spared of any pugnacity when he recently won as the Camarines Sur governor making him the youngest Governor in Philippine history? For the record, he finished his elementary and high school in Manila, got his college degree in the United States and did not hold any government position prior to his bittersweet win as a Governor against his own grandfather. For another record, the Villafuertes have been ruling Camarines Sur for more than 100 years. Surprisingly, it remains as one of the poorest provinces in the country.

migzvillafurte

The 23 year old stud should thank his father for giving him his surname.

Is Jolo Revilla really skilled enough to handle the task of being a Cavite Vice governor? Does his mother Lani Mercado really had that big of a track record when she won as a congresswoman in 2010 and just recently won another three year term? Or did they just enjoy the perks of being a Revilla?

jolo

From an actor to a baranggay captain and now the vice governor of Cavite, Jolo has a lot of reasons to thank his dad.

jinkee

Now that she’s a vice governor, will Jinkee be able to help her bereft constituents with her millions of dollars or will she just devour her money for new Hermes bags?

Jinkee Pacquiao as a vice governor anyone? Or Manny Pacquiao as a congressman twice? Singer Dingdong Avanzado as Siquijor vice governor? Lucy Torres Gomez as congresswoman for the second time? Que Horror.

Pinoys love teleserye; no one can contest to that.

Pero minsan pati teleserye nadadala sa eleksyon.

Philippine elections wouldn’t be complete without teleserye-ish scenes gone to life such as family members fighting with each other because they’re running for the same position. Unexpected secrets are revealed. Stoic politicians cry in front of the cameras of the press when their anomalies are revealed. And just like the customary, bidas and kontrabidas come to life.

Nancy Binay became the reincarnation of Mara David and Celyn Buenaventura sans the looks. Meanwhile, her bullies were the kontrabidas in most of the voters’ eyes. Since the Pinoys love underdogs, they sympathized with the poor Nancy. To them, Nancy isn’t that different from Mara who amidst the poverty, physical assaults and verbal abuses she sustained still ends up glorious and triumphant in the teleserye’s finale.

Pinoys love underdogs. Nancy is definitely one of them.

nancyrisa

Does a track record really have that much of an impact to Filipino voters?

I think that one of the reasons that Hontiveros, Gordon, Magsaysay, Zubiri or even Casino lost even though they have more familiar faces and far superior track record than that of Nancy is that they lacked something that Nancy had. Drama. That’s why they were denied a ticket to the country’s grandest, most talked-about and longest-running soap opera of all time entitled, “The Philippine Senate”. It is sad that our teleserye-ish culture makes it hard for the majority of us to discern what is right from wrong.

The last idiosyncrasy in our Filipino culture that really stood out during the Nancy Binay episode is our religious hypocrisy.

nazareno

It is estimated that 9 million people gather in the annual Black Nazarene procession in Quiapo.

We are a country that boasts itself as the only Catholic country in Asia. We are one of the only two countries in the world which doesn’t legalize divorce. It took a long time before the RH Bill was passed.

But we are also a country of sins, vices and dirty politics.

We are a country who loves to judge, criticize and condemn. We are a country that doesn’t want to be judged, criticized and condemned.

Our faith says that everyone is made according to the likeness and image of God pero kung manlait tayo ay wagas.

Kung nilait mo si Nancy Binay ay parang nilait mo na rin si God diba? Kahit rin naman nanlait ka ng normal na tao ay parang nilait mo na rin ang Diyos. Bakit ganun na lamang tayo ka-judgmental at racist gayong mga Katoliko pa naman tayo?

estrada

Left: Erap is ousted as president in the People Power 2. Right: Erap is proclaimed as the mayor of the country’s capital some twelve years later.

Eh bakit si Erap na pinatalsik noong People Power 2 eh nahalal na namang alkalde ng Manila?

And Erap is still loved by everyone although he had slept with a lot of women and sired a lot of children from different women, not to mention his past case of plunder and perjury.

One of the most wicked Philippine leaders of all time, Ferdinand Marcos, who together with his wife embezzled billions of pesos from the “kaban ng bayan”, used force to remain in power for another 27 years, sent all those people who went against his rule to jail or death through torture, and removed every basic freedom that a person should have still be regarded by some as the greatest Philippine leader of all time?

marcos

Affecting or condescending? A circulating photo in Facebook emphasizing the achievements of the Marcos administration.

And to add insult to the injury, his son is now a senator while his daughter recently won another term as a Governor. Both recently went under public scrutinty when it was revealed that they are tied in a secret offshore trust in British Virgin Islands.

Meanwhile, his partner in crime when he was still the most powerful man in the country, his wife Imelda, won her second term as a congresswoman in Ilocos.

Who could forget the small but definitely a lot terrible Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who after all the allegations of corruption, fraud and scandals she went through, still won as a congresswoman in Pampanga?

It is no surprise though because every time Kris Aquino is in a middle of a crisis which most of the time is caused by her own carelessness, she would just cry her heart out in a TV Patrol interview and alas, the public will accept her again like a troubled daughter who returns back home. The girl will then rake millions of pesos from high-class endorsements, overhyped teleseryes (ironically, she can’t even cry that well in teleseryes) and blockbuster movies. And when she faces another dilemma of her life, she will just repeat her thing again and again.

How can we, as a nation grow if we still pick the same people with the same bad records all over and over again to rule us?

How can a religious, sanctimonious and holier than thou country like ours practice the culture of impunity?

To be frank, I was never a fan of Nancy Binay. Right now, I’m still a non-believer. But there’s something that tells me that we should give credit to where it’s due. Nancy deserves mad props for handling all the public scrutiny, hurl of insults and below the belt remarks with grace and poise. So far, we haven’t seen her cry like a baby to gain sympathy in television. I tell you, Nancy is a mother. She has children who are more affected, if not equally affected with all the ignominy and vituperations that their mother received. I really feel that Nancy cries at night, and as a child who saw her mother cry when he was young, I will tell you that it’s one of the most painful scenes to watch.

All these memes are result of netizens getting angry over the people who voted for Nancy Binay even labeling them as “uneducated”.

But does insulting someone in the grounds of his/her physical appearance make one more intelligent?

Although Nancy has yet to prove herself as a politician, she still deserves respect as a human being: a human being who has a heart capable of feeling emotions and being torn apart. She has tons of workload to do; I swear. Let’s just see what’ll happen in 2019. By that time, I’m already 22 so she still has lots of chances to convince not just me but the entire Filipino voting population to reinstate her as a senator.

I sincerely hope by that time, people will judge Nancy Binay in the grounds of her capabilities and the laws that she passed and not based on her skin color anymore.

I do hope that in time, Filipinos will choose their leaders based on their track record, achievements and platforms and not on their mere surnames alone.

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” -John 8:7

Thanks for reading my very long article. 🙂