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01 May 2011

How Should Filipinos Respond to Biased Criticisms Against Us? Answer: With Integrity and Dignity

You probably noticed it.  It would seem that many people including foreign journalists and bloggers are very interested in what is going on in the Philippines and its citizens.  I usually run across articles and blog entries about the supposed lunacy that Filipinos are doing. Sometimes the story is a legitimate item; for example the hostage-taking in Manila in 2010. Other times, some articles border on racism and they were written simply for the sole purpose of agitating us. First, we have to remember that the web is littered with countless bloggers in need of readers. I should know. Why do you think I have a blog? People earn money from blogs.  Second, we Filipinos sometimes tend to react too quickly to commentaries about us, even if the supposed attack or boorish joke came from a nobody.  It is also apparent that the number of Filipinos going on line is increasing every year. What does this all mean? Frankly, I am not an expert on this matter but I have a theory. If you would indulge me, here it is.

First, if you want more visitors to your blog, what better way to attract more readers than to attack a group of people that are always on line and tend to overreact?  Of course, bloggers won’t dare attack Muslims or Jewish people or people with European descent.  The repercussion is too dangerous.  These groups have economic and political power and you need them as regular readers.  Attacking or making fun of them will be like biting the hands that feed you. Filipinos, on the other hand, may be easy targets considering we live in a Third World country and we do not have political and economic clout in the international scene. We also speak and understand English quite well and since English is the de facto language of the internet, most Filipino readers do not need the aid of translation.  A blogger can simply post something in English and wait for a reaction.  Of all the countries where English is used as the primary or second language, the Philippines (sadly) is the least economically powerful country.  The Philippines is still in the Top 10 English-speaking countries. (Whether that is good or bad, that is another topic of discussion. )

Considering all the factors that I have mentioned, attacking Filipinos on the web may be a cheap and effective marketing strategy.  Let us face it, crazy stuff happens in the Philippines. Sometimes, it seem like we all come from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel with some infusion of Hollywood. If you ask me, that isn’t so bad, in fact, it makes our lives more exciting, although we could live without the corruption.  However, the corruption and hypocrisy occurring in the Philippines are not exclusive to the Philippines.  These things also happen in every corner of the globe.  The unique thing about the Philippines is that our mass media used English and so news stories about us are very accessible to many people worldwide.  I doubt if a reporter from Huntington Post or The New York Times would bother translating a news story about a man eating his dog in a country that has a bigger population than the Philippines but the article was written in a non European-based language.  

If you make fun or attack Filipinos, then you get a surge of hits from angry Filipinos and that would generate you more income.  Secondly, you wouldn’t mind losing Filipinos as your readers because they are not very useful to you but the hoopla surrounding your post may attract other non-Filipinos to your blog, and bang, you got your target market.  They may just briefly visit your site for curiosity, but all you need is a surge of new one-day visitors, and that would jack up your hit counter.

To put it bluntly, we Filipinos are perhaps being used as the world's circus clowns just to attract business and for entertainment value.  We all heard about Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s comments about Manny Pacquiao, Alec Baldwin’s comments on Filipino mail-order brides, and Teri Hatcher’s character’s remarks on Filipino doctors (which was actually the creation of the writers of “Desperate Housewives,” not Teri). These are a few that I can remember. What should we do about it?  First, stop reacting too much.  It is not what was said that is important, but who said it.  If third-rate journalists or mediocre comedians criticize Filipinos, the best response is no response. Who cares what they say?  If you remember our history, Mark Twain was on the side of the Filipinos during the Philippine-American War even though he was an American. He chose the side of the right and risked the ire of the American government.  Now if Mark Twain were still alive and he wrote something highly critical about the Philippines, I would listen because Mister Twain had integrity.  I think that is what we Filipinos should look for, integrity and dignity.  The world can say many bad things about Filipinos but we have to really check if the person speaking has integrity. Even more important is how we react? Do we react like uneducated animals and retaliate with post after post filled with profanities at our attackers, or do we respond with dignity and integrity? I have to admit that some of the comments about Filipinos have some semblance of truth in them, but the bigger question is how do we respond?  I also admit that our country has enough hypocrites in government, business and all areas of life, but I have also seen enough people, some of which living in destitute conditions, but they live with dignity and integrity.  Thus, we should honor those silent dignified Filipino majority by choosing not to react to malicious attacks on us.  If we have to, then we must respond with reasons based on logic, biting humor and wrapped in dignity and integrity.  

Butt of Skin-color and Insulting Gay Jokes:
Myka Flores and Diego of "Bubble Gang" (Above).
No one makes fun of the likes of the
fair-skinned half-British Bea Alonzo, 
and the half-American Gerald Anderson (Below)
Most crucial of all, do we also practice what our detractors do?  Go watch a Filipino comedy or variety show and see how comedians make fun of people with dark skin, disabilities or people who are simply  different from our standard concept of beauty, which is “close to Caucasian” as possible.  We laugh at jokes about people with African descent; we laugh at people with dark skin unless they win a beauty contest; we laugh at people with disabilities; we laugh at gay men and women; we laugh at foreigners.  If we want to be treated with respect, we have to respect other people different from us. 

I remember my professor once told me, “if someone says a funny but offensive joke, don’t look at the comedian, look at the people who laugh.” If Michael V, Joey De Leon and Ogie Alcasid or other comedians make fun of the female Black cast in their shows, check yourself if you laugh. Then imagine yourself watching the same skit seated next to many African Americans, would you be comfortable laughing at the racist joke?” 

Once upon a time, a good friend told me that he hated “South Park” because it was offensive.  So, I believed him and refused to watch it as well.  Then, another friend lent me a video of “South Park.”  I watched one episode and I loved it. Yes, the cartoon made fun of people, but they made fun of everyone.  They were offending everybody, even themselves. It was classic sardonicism.  It was intelligent and democratic comedy because they did not spare anyone.  After that, I never react unless I saw or read it with my own eyes or I experienced it for myself.  I always check who’s talking as much as I pay attention to the words.

Gulp, I hope to be deserving of my own essay some day.

First published in "The Chair"

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