PGTW: Magma cum laude

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 9 October 2014, Thursday

Magma cum laude

As traffic woes plague the metro, and news of overpriced government buildings and underpriced government officials’ estates fill the mass media, the brave people of Albay are facing what could be the province’s biggest catastrophe in 400 years.

Following disturbing activity observed in Mayon Volcano’s perfect cone, Albay was placed under Alert Level 2 by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs) last Aug. 15.

In the evening of Sep. 15, a fiery glare was seen in the crater while lava seeped down the slopes. Philvolcs immediately raised the alert to Level 3. The agency says “a vulcanian eruption” – a strong eruption – is imminent if Mayon “sustains its gas emission of 1,000 tons a day.”

Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, who is also chairman of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (RDRRMC), immediately ordered the local government units and barangays to prepare for “dire eventualities.”

Albay has evacuated 10,610 families or 100 percent of vulnerable households and the province is placed under a State of Continuing Disaster. The overall guiding policy in this instance is “zero casualty,” hence the evacuation of residents within six kilometers of the volcano – the “permanent danger zone” (PDZ). The “extended danger zone” (EDZ) is eight kilometers around Mayon. The zones were based on observations made of lava flow during previous eruptions.

According to Abdon Balde Jr., the Provincial Government of Albay’s consultant for cultural affairs, “Included in the danger zones are the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco, and Ligao, and the municipalities of Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga, Santo Domingo, and Malilipot.”

Livestock was evacuated as well, because it was observed that people return to danger zones to feed and care for their animals that were left behind. The animal population, said Salceda, consists of “3,744 carabaos, 2,035 cattle, 5,576 swine, 19,304 poultry, and 4.640 dogs in the 40 barangays within the PDZ.”

These were evacuated by the Mayon Evacuation Animal Team (MEAT) to eight centers in Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga, and Malinao.

Balde recounts an incident of a couple attempting to re-enter the PDZ, to “feed their pig”, they said. One of the couple’s children “confessed that their family does not own a pig.” Salceda figured that the couple wanted some privacy time, so he “sought the assistance of some motel and lodging house owners,” said Balde, “for free passes or at least discounted room rates” for couples seeking intimacy. No other public official, to my knowledge, has displayed this degree of sensitivity and understanding of human needs.

Salceda discourages “disaster tourism”. He said “The dignity of persons and the integrity of families will be undermined by…tourism on the backs of the sacrifices of our internally displaced persons who are already vulnerable, thus disadvantaged.”

The speedy and efficient response of Salceda and his team to the threat posed by Mayon is admirable and an example for LGUs and the national government to emulate.

But the Albay provincial government needs additional resources to sustain the programs they are implementing – food for humans and animals; relief goods; financial assistance; and other necessities for the evacuees.

Among the government agencies pitching in to help is the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. When the news about Mayon first broke, PCSO sent to their Albay branch in Legazpi City 10,000 Family Emergency Medicine kits and 500 survival kits even before any request for assistance was received from the province. These have already been distributed in various areas of Albay.

FEM kits contain paracetamol tablets and syrup, loperamide and mefenamic acid. The survival kits consist of a sleeping mat, mosquito net, and blanket.

PCSO is also coordinating with the National Food Authority for 5,000 sacks of rice, in response to Salceda’s request for this staple, for the consumption of the evacuees.

For updates on the ongoing situation in Albay, visit Salceda’s Facebook page: Joey Sarte Salceda. It’s the most informative social media account of any government official that I’ve seen.

* * * * *

A baker’s dozen of blues bands will be competing in the 3rd Philippine Blues Competition on Oct. 12 for the chance to go up against international blues artists in Memphis in January 2015.

According to lawyer Roy Allan Magturo, secretary of the Philippine Blues Society, thirteen bands will be facing off on Sunday at The Roadhouse Manila Bay across Mall of Asia.

In order of appearance, the bands are: Hunting Lilac, Mean Jay, Lagtikan Trio, Brewed, Spaceman, Glass Cherry Breakers, The Big Beer Dippers, Ian Lofamia Band, Jalan Jive, Stringman’s Blues Project, Mighty Gunjoes, Blue Way, and Cygnet.

The winning band will represent the Philippines in the 31st International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, from Jan. 20-24, 2015.

Last year’s entry, Brat Pack, made it to the finals, the only Asian act in the history of the IBC to do so. Visit for more information.


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PGTW: “Get out of jail free” cards

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 2 October 2014, Thursday

“Get out of jail free” cards

Whatever gets on the Internet, stays on the Internet.

By now this should be the “lesson learned” of Alyzza Agustin, a men’s magazine model who a few days ago posted on her Instagram and Facebook accounts a photo of the business card allegedly of Philippine National Police Director of Plans Alexander C. Ignacio.

There was a signed handwritten note on the back in black sign pen ink: “Please assist my EA, Alyzza Agustin.”

Agustin captioned the photo thus: “Nahuli nanaman ako dahil coding but because of you Boss Alex wala ng huli huli [sic]. Thank you so much sa napaka useful mong card with matching dedication pa #happykid”.

A screenshot was taken of the post, and this went viral after being posted on prominent motoring-related Facebook account and blogs. The photo was taken down after backlash from netizens.

Most commenters saw Agustin’s use of the card to avoid a penalty, and Ignacio’s issuance of it, as an abuse of authority.

Media outlets later reported that Ignacio denied that he personally knows Agustin; he pointed out mistakes on the calling card, saying he is only a one-star officer whereas the calling card has a flag with two stars on it (implying the card is not his). He also said that Agustin is not his employee.

Agustin subsequently posted an apology on her Facebook account, which was also taken down soon after, but again, not before screenshots were taken.

In it she apologized to “everyone who was affected and offended by my post, fellow motorists, Director Alexander C. Ignacio and family, and the PNP institution as a whole.” She also denied knowing Ignacio personally.

She added, “Just like any Filipino motorist, [I] would like a little convenience on the road.”

Ignacio did not deny he gives out business cards, but says these go “with the implied condition that [they] will not be used to violate laws, to shorten prescribed procedures, and for illegal gain.”

It’s been called the “calling card culture” by local politicians and police officers giving their business cards to friends and acquaintances with similar notes on the back, usually for accommodation for traffic violations.

Some people obtain identification cards from government agencies and hang these prominently from their rear-view mirrors; these perform the same function as the business cards when seen by traffic enforcers on the road.

Others don’t even use a calling card to get out of traffic penalties: all they do is name-drop, and if done with enough bluster and conviction, they get away with it.

Some government officials and employees and those using red-plate vehicles, insist that their status as civil servants allow them to beat the red light, make U-turns and wrong turns, use their cars on coding days, and commit other minor violations.

This calling card incident is a manifestation of a practice that has sprung from the Filipino’s predilection for a heavy-handed exercise of authority that leads to abuse and corruption, special treatment, and “convenience”, as Agustin called it.

Agustin’s posting of the photo and bragging about her “get out of jail free” card shows poor judgment, and her excoriation by netizens should teach her a lesson in humility, and everyone else a lesson on how the Internet never forgets. Agustin may have deleted her posts, but these will be on the Internet in some form, if not forever, then for a mighty long time.

What happened to Ignacio will also be a learning experience for officials who issue accommodation calling cards – they will never know who’ll be stupid enough to share these on social media, to the detriment of their reputations.

While this particular instance was not a good experience for Agustin and Ignacio, it exposed to the public a practice that favors the privileged few, promotes unfairness, and reinforces corruption and abuse. No matter how hellish the state of Metro Manila traffic, there is no excuse for breaking the law.

For the public, it’s a positive incident, because now society can be vigilant and do what it can to uproot this practice. ***

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PGTW: The culture of rape in Philippine fashion

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 25 September 2014, Thursday

The culture of rape in Philippine fashion

Writer Karen Kunawicz’s Facebook post a few days ago of a t-shirt she found at the SM Megamall Department Store’s boys’ section went viral almost immediately.

It had nothing to do with the garment as an item of fashion, but with the message silk-screened on its front: “It’s not rape: it’s a snuggle with a struggle.”

Kunawicz’s post adds, “SM – the same mall that has a daily angelus and refused to show Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd” in the cinemas? Boys, listen to Tita Karen – if a girl says NO and pushes you away, just err on the side of caution, she likely means NO. And go watch Sweeney Todd. WTF, SM.”

The post was shared 4,241 times as of this writing, and was the subject of a piece on GMA News Online, prompting SM to come out with a statement.

The SM Group of Companies said on Tuesday that it finds the message on the shirt “unacceptable” and that they are pulling from their racks the shirt and all items from the consignor that distributed the shirt.

They are also investigating why this shirt was included in their “delivery of assorted t-shirts. The statement also said, “SM does not support such irresponsible and malicious acts that mock important and sensitive social issues…Appropriate action will be taken to ensure this does not happen again.”

The issue was taken up by the international press, one of them The Independent, a UK-based news organization, and Australia’s

In 2013 there were 7,409 cases of rape in the Philippines; 4,234 of those cases were against children, an increase of 26 percent over the 2012 figure of 3,355 children.

To whoever made that shirt: Rape is not funny. Trivializing crime is not funny. Putting this message on a garment for children is not funny.

The kind of mindset that produced such a message stems from the “rape culture,” wherein rape is normalized due to societal attitudes about gender, sex, and sexuality. Behaviors associated with rape culture include sexual objectification, victim blaming (“It’s her fault for wearing a miniskirt!”), and trivializing rape (“It’s a snuggle with a struggle”).

How prevalent is this mindset? One latest display of the rape culture was at the Bench “Naked Truth” show, touted as a denim and underwear fashion show and held last Sep. 19 at the MoA Arena.

At the show, actor Coco Martin dragged around a scantily-clad acrobatic woman on a rope like a pet. Female models performed antics bordering on soft-porn. Mens’ bulges were fetishized. The models, both female and male, were hypersexualized.

Does local fashion need to sink to these depths to sell clothes? It’s impossible that Bench and the show organizers didn’t realize what they were doing. It wasn’t until after netizens (read blogger Plump Pinay’s piece on the matter), and Senator Pia Cayetano and former Gabriela partylist representative Liza Maza erupted in outrage that Bench issued an apology for the “offensive elements of the show.”

In their statement posted on their Facebook page, Bench also said: “We will take all these concerns seriously and will serve (sic) as a lesson learned when we plan our next show. We at Bench shall continue to uphold the dignity of women and our commitment will remain so.”

Why do men rape? A 1985 study by sociologists Diana Scully and Joseph Marolla linked the crime to dominance (“to put women in their place”), punishment (for instance, revenge rape, which has the element of collective liability, as in the Elliott Rodger case), male entitlement (“seizing what isn’t volunteered”), control, and power.

In their conclusions, the researchers said, “The pleasure these men derived from raping reveals the extreme to which they objectified women. Women were seen as sexual commodities to be used and conquered rather than as human beings with rights and feelings.”

This sort of commodification of women is what happened in the Bench show with Martin pulling the female model around on a rope. Maza called it “dehumanizing.” Such displays reinforce already prevailing anti-women attitudes in society.

Scully and Marolla added, “We find that men who rape have something to teach us about the cultural roots of sexual aggression…rape can be viewed as the end point in a continuum of sexually aggressive behaviors that reward men and victimize women.”

This mindset can also be perceived in something as simple as the posting of sexist jokes. Such jokes “reward men and victimize women” because the butt of these jokes are usually females; the same goes for “dumb blonde”, “mother-in-law,” “shrewish wife,” and similar jokes at the expense of women.

Anything that contributes to normalizing rape, sexual aggression, commodification, and objectification in society, and to reinforcing such existing attitudes, is downright wrong and inexcusable. There can be no reasonable justification for it.


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PGTW: Literary – and literacy – month

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 18 September 2014, Thursday

Literary – and literacy – month

September is literary month in the Philippines; it’s when the two major literary awards nights are held, events that draw writers from all over the country, and sometimes from different parts of the world.

Sept. 1 is reserved for the Carlos Palanca Memorials Awards, a glittering night of festivities that I had the honor of attending as an awardee a few years ago. Medalists are dressed to the hilt, according to their aesthetic sensibilities and temperament; as a fellow writer told me, “We don’t know when we’ll win again, so make the most of it! Isuot ang pinaka-bonggang outfit!”

Mid-September is when the Philippines Graphic magazine’s Nick Joaquin Literary Awards for short fiction are held at the Ramon Magsaysay Center.

There’s usually a costume theme. This year, the event was held Sep. 11 with a “Speakeasy” mood (think “The Great Gatsby”). This year’s first prize winner was Michelle Cheidjew; Ma. Amparo Warren placed third. I was grateful to receive second prize, a step up from the third I won last year, from Graphic editor-in-chief Joel Pablo Salud and literary editor Alma Anonas-Carpio, and judges Alfred “Krip” Yuson, Susan Lara, and Sarge Lacuesta.

Also honored at the 2014 NJLA as Poet of the Year was Dr. Cesar Ruiz Aquino, while Charlson Ong, Rachel Salud, and Nikki Alfar received honorable mentions for their stories.

September is also National Literacy Month in the United States. We don’t seem to have a literacy month, only a literacy day – Sept. 8 – as per Proclamation No. 1886, s. 1979, in line with a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) recommendation in 1965.

The day passed by with barely a whimper, though it was marked with a notice over at the government’s Official Gazette website (

According to the National Statistics Office’s 2010 Census of Population and Housing, 97.5 percent or 69.8 million Filipinos are considered literate or “can read and write in any language or dialect in the Philippines.” Given this, why are we still are not a reading society?

One reason could be the cost of ink-and-paper books. With the availability online of some texts for free, such as the Wattpad stories and novels, reading is gaining ground with young people. One such story became so popular that it was recently made into a movie (“She’s Dating the Gangster”).

Most Filipinos would rather watch television and films. More people have heard of Willie Revillame than of F. Sionil Jose, Anne Curtis than of Merlinda Bobis.

This is a gap that lawmakers should address. Instead of those stupid bills some of them filed, like the “anti-selfie law” (reminds me of that “anti-planking” law of 2011), why not a bill for a national literacy month, or year? Or maybe the president can issue another proclamation to this effect.

Private sponsors can back spelling bees; there used to be more of those back in the day, nowadays they are unheard of. How about essay, poetry, and short fiction contests, especially for children and teenagers? How about staging a World Book Night, like that in the US, Ireland, and UK, when free books are given away?

And when will big corporations fund writing workshops, give grants for works-in-progress, or sponsor writers-in-residence or poets laureate? The advocacies of education and literacy are worthy causes for any company’s corporate social responsibility program.

September may be literary and literacy month, but just how many people care? This apathy is society’s loss, because literature weaves together a people’s past, present, and future in narrative with insight, lyricism, and passion, in a way that journalism cannot.

The person who brought about the deepest and most profound change in this country was a writer – Jose Rizal. His two novels changed the course of Philippine history. Think about it.

* * * * *

To mark the 150th birth anniversaries of Apolinario Mabini and Isabelo de los Reyes, the University of the Philippines will hold an interdisciplinary conference titled “Intellectuals, the Public Arena, and the Nation,” on Sept. 22 to 24 at the College of Arts and Letters Auditorium, UP Diliman.

Mabini was the “Brains of the Philippine Revolution” while De Los Reyes, “The Father of Filipino Socialism,” was a folklorist, journalist, and labor activist; both were numbered among the intellectuals of their time.

To be presented are about 60 papers on various subjects such as media and society; artists, writers, and musicians as intellectuals; performance and public spaces; and narratology and authorship.

The conference is organized by the College of Mass Communication in partnership with other UP colleges. For details, email, visit 150, or call 920-6864. ***

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PGTW: Taking the #MRTChallenge

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 4 September 2014, Thursday

Taking the #MRTChallenge

If the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge involves ice water and videotape, the MRT Challenge is to take a ride on the train during rush hour.

The ALS Challenge started in the US as a public awareness stunt to raise funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis research. It involves dumping a bucket on ice water on yourself, contributing an amount to the ALS fund, and nominating someone else to do the same.

Some local officials such as Senator Franklin Drilon and Cong. Neil Tupas Jr. have taken this frigid dare.

However, what Filipinos would rather see the country’s leaders take is the MRT Challenge.

The MRT line has suffered severe deterioration over the past several years, coming to a head this year with inordinate schedule delays, broken-down cars, long queues for a ride, even an accident recently when a car overshot a concrete barrier at the end of the line on Edsa, Pasay City, injuring more than 30 people.

Almost daily, netizens post photographs of block-long lines of passengers. Their time in the queue is usually longer than the actual ride itself. The cars are often crammed full, giving rise to higher risks of wallet snatching, butt groping, and other safety scares.

To show responsiveness to public complaints, Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya took the MRT a couple weeks ago.

But instead of earning pogi points with the populace, he reaped their ire and ridicule by riding during an off-peak time up front with the train driver, accompanied by MRT’s general manager, and having an umbrella held over him by an aide in Imeldific fashion.

The following week, Sen. Grace Poe took the challenge to prepare for the Senate’s inquiry into the metro’s transport troubles.

In contrast with Abaya’s, her experience was closer to that of the average MRT rider. She waited in line to buy a ticket for over an hour in the sun sans parasol. Her entourage was not in evidence. She rode as a strap-hanger with regular folks during rush hour.

Poe’s reaction after the ride? “Ang swerte ng gobyerno! Napakahaba ng pasensiya ng mga Pilipino.”

Perhaps in reaction to public clamor for the President to take the MRT Challenge, his spokespersons Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte rode the MRT to work last Monday.

Following the example set by Poe, Valte waited in line during rush hour for a ride from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue, Pasay City. The line to buy tickets she said, was “about 10 people deep.” She also took the LRT line.

It’s naïve to assume that public officials take the MRT Challenge solely to feel what the average rider goes through. This being “one with the masses” also allows them to gain favor with voters for the future.

However, Grace Poe’s sincerity puts her on top. The movement urging her to run for president in 2016 is growing stronger and noisier after this outing. Her latest influential supporter is auditing firm mogul Washington Sycip, who asked her last Tuesday at a forum in Makati City about running for President.

Poe said she has “no plans” in that direction, despite public polls on presidentiables placing her second behind Vice-President Jejomar Binay.

The takeaway from all this is that social media exerts a strong influence on public opinion.

Second, the tone-deaf behavior of the elite or “feeling elite” – getting perks, having someone else hold an umbrella over you, especially if you are a man – offends the guy on the street who is underpaid and heavily taxed, because it rubs in with salt the yawning gulf between haves and have-nots in this country.

Third, humility is always the best policy.

Poe scored when she said in the Senate last Monday, “Gusto ko lamang makita ng taumbayan na may malasakit ang gobyerno natin…”

That’s the reasons for the agitation – people want to know their government is actually trying to find immediate solutions to this problem, and not just fobbing them off with exhortations to be patient and wait for the new trains that have been ordered.

What if another MRT accident happens again? Poe: “Hindi matutumbasan ng kahit ano pa man ang buhay ng ating mga kababayan.”

And that is the real MRT Challenge – to make the mass transport system effective and safe, as soon as possible.  Patience be damned.


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PGTW: UP honors La Aunor

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 28 August 2014, Thursday

UP honors La Aunor

Though she may not have received the National Artist award from a government that chose to focus on her personal life rather than her body of work, Nora Aunor continues to harvest accolades from the community of artists and academics.

I do not use the word ‘harvest’ unthinkingly; she only reaps what she has sown over five decades of impressive work in film, stage, and television.

Aunor’s latest recognition is the Gawad Plaridel, the highest award given by the University of the Philippines to “outstanding Filipino media practitioners who have performed with the highest level of professional integrity in the interest of public service,” according to an information release.

She received the honor yesterday in a ceremony at the UP Film Institute Film Center’s Cine Adarna.

Aunor has been bestowed with 52 Philippine film and TV industry awards from 1968 to 2012 for her work as a film, TV, and stage actor, recording artist, producer, and director.

She is the first Filipino to win the Bisato d’Oro Best Actress Award from the Premio della Critica Independiente during the 69th Venice International Film Festival Main Competition Section for her work in “Thy Womb” (2012).

As the tenth recipient of the Gawad Plaridel, which was established by the UP College of Mass Communication, Aunor was given a trophy designed by National Artist Napoleon Abueva.

The past recipients of the Gawad Plaridel are Eugenia Duran-Apostol (2004, print), Vilma Santos (2005, film), Fidela “Tiya Dely” Magpayo (2006, radio), Cecilia “Cheche” L. Lazaro (2007, television), Pachico A. Seares (2008, community print), Kidlat Tahimik (2009, independent filmmaking), Eloisa “Lola Sela” Canlas (2011, radio), Florence “Rosa Rosal” Danon-Gayda (2012, television) and Jose “Pete” Lacaba (2013, print).

The award, and CMC’s main hall, are named after the College’s “patron saint,” Marcelo H. del Pilar. A lawyer and a writer, he used the pen name “Plaridel” as the editor of the reformist newspaper La Solidaridad during the 1890s.

Each Gawad Plaridel awardee must, according to CMC, “believe in a vision of a Philippine society that is egalitarian, participative, and progressive, and in media that is socially responsible, critical and vigilant, liberative and transformative, and free and independent.”

Aunor embodies these values in her career. She was among the few performers of her time not in the usual mold of the Spanish or American mestizo beauty; her dark skin, average Malay features, and short stature made her relatable to the majority of their audiences, who saw themselves in the simple water-seller from the province who soared to showbiz stardom based on her formidable talent and not her looks.

While the best that other non-mestizo actors could hope for were roles as sidekicks, comic foils, or contravidas, after she came along, she turned the game around and shifted the attention on quality of work rather than outward appearance.

While she has received her share of brickbats, mostly for her personal life and political leanings, hardly any are flung in the direction of Aunor’s work, which is considered iconic, even legendary.

It is difficult to imagine anyone else portraying with as much passion and sincerity the role of the visionary Elsa in “Himala” (1982), considered by many critics to be the finest performance of her career so far.

To be sure, like anyone else starting out in Philippine films, as a teenager she sang and danced in bubblegum movies and was partnered with another young star in the obligatory love tandem of ‘60s showbiz. But unlike many other young stars of the era, her singing voice was the genuine article.

As she matured as a person and as an actress, Aunor brought a multi-layered complexity to her performances in the dramatic films of the ‘70s and ‘80s. As the years passed, her skill and sensitivity only increased. One merely has to look at her filmography of nearly 200 movies to realize the high degree of her talent and versatility that few possess. Her achievements are nearly impossible to surpass.

Many were outraged by her rebuff in the National Artist award tilts this year over reasons not related to her work. The decision, made by those currently in political power, was viewed as unjust and short-sighted, coming from a moralistic viewpoint that has no bearing in the diverse and all-embracing field of the arts.

Until a more discerning leadership comes along, Aunor may display the Gawad Plaridel on her mantel secure in the knowledge that there are Filipinos who appreciate and recognize her valuable contributions to Philippine cinema and culture. ***

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PGTW: Persona non crustacea

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 21 August 2014, Thursday

Persona non crustacea

When a comedian called the residents of Davao “hipon” – shrimp – was it a big enough offense to warrant his being declared persona non grata by the leaders of the city?

Ramon Bautista was trying to be funny, as per his job description, when he used a street slang term to poke fun at the people of Davao City in his stand-up act last Aug. 16 during the Kadayawan Festival.

“Hipon” refers to people with great-looking bodies but ugly faces.

According to the resolution passed by the local government of the City of Davao, Bautista “shouted his greetings to the crowd by saying, ‘Tama! Ang daming hipon dito sa Davao! Alright!’” He then “goaded the crowd to chant Hipon” twice.

Davao City Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte asked Bautista to apologize, which he did on stage, “belatedly.”

Also in the resolution is a claim that Bautista subsequently “posted in his Instagram account a picture of himself with his arms draped over three young women attending the event and wrote the caption ‘Ito ang kabataan ngayon hihi #Kadayawan #PasisikatinKitaIhaFoundation’.”

Davao City officials found his attitude “arrogant” and “sexist”, and deemed it a form of sexual harassment that promotes male chauvinism.

“Whereas,” the resolution goes, “there is a need to make Mr. Bautista understand that as a visitor of a place he should be mindful of decency and propriety… and a need to let the world know and those that employ Mr. Bautista, that he is an extremely corrupting influence to the youth and his abusive behavior should not be tolerated.”

Bautista took to Twitter to air his reaction. On Aug. 18, he posted an apology, acknowledging that what he said was offensive to the people of Davao and that he was ready to accept the consequences.

The next day, after learning that he was declared persona non grata, he Tweeted, “I respect the decision of the Davao officials and I will abide by it.”

Now, what’s funny and what’s offensive in comedy?

Much of stand-up in the Philippines is either slapstick or derogatory against the audience. Comedians show off their ad-libbing skills by picking a random spectator and reeling off jokes about their appearance and personality.

Some performers are downright cruel, so much that I have friends who swear that they’ll never watch another local stand-up show again lest they be the butt of the evening’s gags – an unwanted experience, especially if you paid hard-earned money to watch the show and expected to have a good laugh.

In contrast, successful comedians like the late Robin Williams are self-deprecating. This is not to say that there haven’t been comedians who poke fun at others who weren’t able to pull it off, but they do it in small doses, because in general, audiences want to have a good time, and not to get hurt.

Bautista showed poor judgment indeed. To echo the Davao resolution, his hashtag ‘pasisikatin kita, iha’, is sexist and arrogant, as if the three women fans were “lusting for popularity.” If this is genuinely how Bautista perceives himself and his fans, then he has a mighty big opinion of himself and a very low one of his fans.

However, he made a humble apology and so far has not spoken further on the incident. That’s classy.

Did the Davao officials overreact? To declare persona non grata a comedian who made a bad joke is rather extreme. In diplomatic usage, such a person is forbidden from entering the country that issued the declaration. Does this mean that Bautista is banned from visiting Davao until this is lifted? While the incident occurred in their city and such matters are left to their discretion, shouldn’t such a punishment be reserved for more heinous acts or behaviors?

On the other hand, Davao’s over-the-top reaction is a lesson to Bautista and other performers that banter about personal appearance are below the belt. Jokes that demean other people are arrogant and self-serving. Gags that perpetuate the patriarchy and male privilege and legitimize such attitudes as the norm do not serve society’s best interest.

A truly funny man finds his punchlines elsewhere, and has no need to stoop to offensive remarks to entertain his audience.


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PGTW: Burning an eternal flame

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 14 August 2014, Thursday

Burning an eternal flame

For the first time in two years, the University of the Philippines men’s basketball team – the UP Fighting Maroons – scored a win, sending the UP community into ecstatic celebratory mode.

That same night of the victory against a rookie-laden Adamson University team, a bonfire party was held in the Sunken Garden at the Diliman campus.

UP faculty, students, and alumni like myself gathered in front of the fire, if not physically, then in spirit, warmed by the outpouring of joy over the breaking of the 27-game losing streak in the UAAP tournament and pride over the achievement of the long-suffering Maroons.

Netizens erupted with comments for and against, the latter deflected by a UP alumnus with an old joke delivered with the typical UP attitude – “Other schools are wondering why we made a bonfire although it’s not a championship win. Well, that’s why they are the ‘other’ schools.”

The bonfire as a symbol of celebration was a spontaneous gesture. A photo of the event show UP Chancellor Michael Tan at the Sunken Garden, grinning broadly as the bonfire is set up. Students, faculty, and other folks mill around. When the fire is lit, its light shines on what seems like hundreds of proud and happy faces.

The bonfire scene was even immortalized by UP instructor Ervin Bino Santos as a Lego tableau, complete with a Lego minifigure wearing a tiny UP sablay.

The UP bonfire was used again, just a few days after the UAAP win – this time to mark the capture of General Jovito Palparan Jr., who was in hiding for three years; he is allegedly behind the abduction of UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.

Although the UP administration did not give their permission for this, the organizers went ahead with the bonfire anyway, burning tree branches and an effigy of Palparan.

Some points: in response to those who wonder why we had a bonfire even if this wasn’t a championship win, where does it say in the rules that you can’t? Traditions and rituals are socially constructed; we make them up as we go along, with the consensus of the group. If enough people go along with an idea, it comes to life.

This was how People Power happened – an idea caught enough imaginations, it was the sort of response that people were looking for to convey their disgust with and anger against the dictator’s regime, and enthusiasm for the idea reached the tipping point, taking it from the abstract into physical manifestation.

UP has cultivated a culture of nonconformity, one that constantly questions and reforms and acts. It goes against the trend if the trend does not make sense nor serves a purpose. It is flexible. It can adjust and bend if need be, but remain firm and unyielding when a stand needs to be taken.

The bonfire is a symbol – in UP’s case, it was used as a symbol of victory and celebration, and as a symbol of indignation. It is a symbol of players overcoming their fears and defeats to forge a much-awaited win. It is a symbol of the thirst for justice and the need for closure.

It is what we make it to be.


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PGTW: Anywhere else than here

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 7 August 2014, Thursday

Anywhere else than here

“Better in Libya than in PH” was the banner headline of another major daily the other day, as it proclaimed that Filipinos would rather risk rape or death in war-churned Libya than return to the Philippines and be unemployed.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says that of around 13,000 Filipinos in Libya, only 1,700 have accepted the government’s offer of repatriation. The rest are said to prefer to stay where they have jobs.

Some Filipinos working in Libya, especially in the healthcare profession, have been offered higher wages just to stay.

That headline spoke volumes about how deeply the average Filipino has been let down by government, not just this administration but also by those in past, because the phenomenon of the diaspora built up over decades, not overnight.

The Philippines is now known all over the world for being a source of cheap but quality labor. It is estimated that of Sept. 2013, Filipino OFWs worldwide number 2.3 million.

DFA has issued numerous warnings to Filipinos in Libya and arranged for their transport back to the Philippines.


Better dead than unfed, is what our kababayan are saying.


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PGTW: Our fashionation with the SONA

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 31 July 2014, Thursday

Our fashionation with the SONA

The SONA (State of the Nation Address) – President’s report to the people, or fashion show?

The President’s fifth SONA, following the tradition set over the years, seemed a showbiz event, complete with a red carpet marked by the well-shod heels of fabulously-dressed women flaunting their couture gowns of luxurious materials.

As a fashion showcase, it elicited admiration for the creativity and talent of Filipino designers and tailors and seamstresses. The use of local fabrics, the adaptation of indigenous patterns (seen, for instance, in Senator Loren Legarda’s Mandaya-inspired outfit and Tootsy Angara’s Cordillera-flavored terno), and the beauty of embroidery, beading, and other adornments showed the maturity and high standards of the Philippine fashion industry.

Through the initiatives of intrepid designers – Monique Lhuiller and Oliver Tolentino, to name a couple – who have impressed even the jaded and discerning clientele of Hollywood, Filipinos are gaining a foothold in the discriminating world of international fashion.

Media coverage of the SONA, which is likely to be carried on some global platforms at least, and that covered a wide array of designs, will also provide the world with a further look into the artistry of Filipino fashion.

In fact, what the women wore (the lady lawmakers and the wives or partners of male lawmakers) was so important to the media that they gave prominent attention to those who walked the red carpet.

Even netizens got caught up in the fashion frenzy, passing their yea or nay on each gown. Some ladies were praised for their taste or that of their designer. Others – specifically Senator Nancy Binay – drew violent negative reactions for her unflattering cream and green Randy Ortiz outfit that was compared to a hot-air balloon and a Pokemon character.

The question we should be asking ourselves is, should there even have been any attention at all given to the dresses worn to the SONA? Should clothes even assume such significance during a public event?

The SONA is a legal requirement of the 1987 Constitution, that provides that the President deliver before Congress a Talumpati sa Kalagayan ng Bansa on every fourth Monday of July.

This is a chance for the President to report on his and his administration’s accomplishments for the past year. This is an opportunity for the public to learn the disposition of the country’s leader. This is not a fashion show.

The fashion aspect of the SONA may even have backfired on the dolled-up lawmakers, some of whom, like Binay, wore two gowns, perceived as an extravagance on their part.

A recent Social Weather Station survey notes that 12.1 million families self-rate themselves as poor, a two percent increase from the 11.5 million families that considered themselves so last March, a difference of 600,000 more families.

For the elite and powerful of this country to flaunt their wealth in the face of rising poverty among the masses is another example of their tone-deafness to what is appropriate and what is not in terms of public display.

Some lawmakers seem to disregard public sentiment or otherwise misread the situation, similar to the former First Lady and present congresswoman Imelda Marcos’s justification of her lavish ternos in the 1970s, saying that her “little people” expected her to look beautiful.

Senator Miriam Santiago, whose illness prevented her from attending last Monday’s SONA, is more sensitive to public perception. Last year, she proposed that the Senate pass a resolution providing for an official uniforms for senators to wear to national events. The proposal is still pending.

Some lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc used the SONA as an opportunity to make a political statement by wearing peach outfits, a symbol of their call to impeach the president. Among them were partylist representatives Luz Ilagan and Terry Ridon; the latter wore a peach guayabera shirt from Kamuning Market that cost him less than P1,500.

Ordinary folk dressed up too. An elderly man among the protesters ringing the Batasan area wore a shirt that said, on the front, “Mahirap kami, kasi magnanakaw sina Senador, Congressman, Governor, Mayor, Barangay Captain…” On the back it said, “God save our country.” Meaning, that the perception of leaders as corrupt is widespread, and any appeal to earthly leaders to rectify this is useless and futile.

This is not a condemnation of those who chose to dress up at the SONA. In fact, it is to the advantage of the public to see them so, in order for voters to make their assessments of these leaders and choose accordingly at the next election.

Our fascination with the SONA – both lawmakers and citizens – should not focus on fashion. What is more important is whether or not the president has anything of substance to report to the people in his speech.

And if government accomplishments fall short of promises made, not even the finest lace nor most gorgeous embellishments can cover up that failure.


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