To you who was not ‘informed’

It was a rainy morning when you found yourself at the corner of two normally busy streets. Thinking it was your lucky day because of the unusual absence of heavy traffic, save for a body of water that separated you from the other side of the street, unsuspectingly, you maneuvered your car and crossed the divide that separated you and the other end of the street. And lo! Your car, like a flimsy paper boat, got carried by the raging flood which for you at first appeared nothing but an over-sized puddle, or at least a more forgiving flood. Floods, you realized, although very late, are never forgiving. So you had to have yourself subjected to such shame, thin little boys pushing your car to the salvation afforded by dry concrete.

A nearby team of an overeager TV reporter and his crew ran to you and asked you some perfunctory questions. Thinking rudeness will save you face, you responded to his every question with as much ire you could muster, forgetting that you were being taped by his equally overeager cameraman.

The following evening, you saw yourself on TV, not looking very intelligent, shouting “I was not informed!”. The next morning, portion of that newscast was uploaded on Youtube by some unscrupulous netizen. An hour after the upload, the whole world mercilessly called you names from something as riling as ‘stupid,’ ‘in want of simple commonsense,’ to something as inane as ‘in dire need of bra’. Your friends came to your rescue, giving you encouraging words, supporting you, retorting sarcastically that all of a sudden ‘everyone is informed‘.

From this writer’s point of view, you and your friends are missing the point. It is not your supposed stupidity (or not being informed) that led to the lambasting of your person on Youtube by anonymous individuals. People who have viewed your videos would have, in most cases, felt more pity than derision, would have even ignored that senseless video had you not unleashed your crassness on TV. It’s plain and simple. You were base.

And shouting ‘I was not informed’ in a city as pitiless as Manila, that you were not told it was a raging flood rather than an innocent-looking, little ephemeral stream you thought it was, is, in my humblest of opinions, rather juvenile.


On the lack of sense of the ridiculous and the absurd of artista searches in the Philipines

Starstruck 5

Our sense of the ridiculous and the absurd keeps us from embarrassing ourselves. These, along with the presence of conscience and the ability to make use of language to facilitate communication, differentiate us from other members of the animal kingdom and other organisms. Something that elevates us a few notches above lichens, sea cucumbers, house cats, penguins, Portuguese man o’ war, and baboons*.

I seemed to have suffered from short-term lock jaw (thank god the show lasted for only an hour) after watching in television the Mindanao leg of the artista search Starstruck of GMA7 held in the big cities of Cagayan de Oro and Davao. My jaw literally dropped. The shame these people have to undergo or to subject themselves to just to get the attention of the judges and the pathetic crowd was perplexing, dumbfounding, and need I say, bewildering.

The show is a potpourri of the hopefuls, the frustrated, the untalented, or simply the lunatics There was this guy in a coiffured metallic colored mane who spoke in the most heavily Visayan accented Tagalog I’ve heard but whose level of confidence is as stiff and as towering as his gelled hair do. I wondered what happened to him.

Most of these young people who auditioned for the show have a common narrative. Poverty. A woman forced by her parents to marry a 40-year old American, a poor transsexual from Misamis, a poor teenager whose both parents have to leave the country to work and send money back home. These stories, although real, have been repeatedly exploited by shows like Starstruck for ratings and profit. The truths in these stories sound hypocritical (I do not say that they are hypocritical). People will eventually cease to believe and start to mock these stories.

These shows patterned after the already dull, neuron deadening, and numbing American originals, are made even more absurd and ridiculous by the local color. This is after the addition of the all Filipino drama of poverty, family discord, personal search to prove one’s worth in this vast universe, and the supernatural enough to inspire Gabriel Garcia Marquez to write something that will rival his novels already written in the tradition of magic realism.

Somebody will cry foul after reading this article, and his argument, I believe, will run in the line of respecting man’s right to determine his fate and his inalienable right to pursue his happiness. But this is exactly the reason why I wrote this, to preserve our humanity, to keep that line that separates us from ticks, pubic crabs, sea gulls, and airborne microscopic organism intact. Please, let’s hold on to our sense of the absurd and the ridiculous.

*My apologies to those creatures mentioned.

Decentering the TV program Maynila (Larawan ng Bansa)

In a continuum where several entities are in a constant conflict trying to establish themselves as the center, individual traits are scrutinized and placed behind a peephole of unabashed peering and merciless critique. Although the concept of devolution has been the menu for the day in the Philippines, until this time it has remained a mere lip-service because the center remains in Manila and will remain so in this lifetime or the next.


Maynila (Larawan Ng Bansa), formerly Maynila, is a program hosted by then Manila mayor Lito Atienza who is now the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. It aims to teach life’s lessons, mostly trivial and bromidic, through badly acted and sloppily produced skit-like melodramas whose settings are places of interest in the country’s capital. The program airs every Saturday, from 10:30 to 11:30 am at GMA-7.

The program proudly tags Manila as the representation of the country, the larawan ng bansa. Something almost as close to buffoonery and artlessness may do it sarcastically, as in a parody, but not in a tone of innocence and great consequence. It is so serious in its object to teach righteousness and morality that it has become humorless and insipid, aggravating the lack of any aesthetic redemption.

The casts, mostly novices, seem like acting for a public high school production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. They believe that their quiddity as actors is to look cute on screen, nothing more, nothing less. The plots of the stories were taken from recycled, boring stories that have been buried in the 80s but were hopelessly resurrected by the program’s writers.

I wonder why Lito Atienza still hosts the program when the city’s current mayor is the former senator and presidential aspirant Alfredo Lim. Although I have nothing against Atienza being the face of the program complete with his all-too-hard-sell hosting methodology and distracting floral shirt, politicians, especially if they are not good-looking enough to be on television, should be better off doing what they are supposed to be doing – governance – not grandstanding.


But what makes this program an utter mistake is its claim to be the larawan ng bansa, a claim almost arrogant in tone and shameless in its arrogance. It fails to consider the experience of those outside the center, creating further, bigger rift that is already existing between Manila and the rest of the archipelago. The Filipino experience will never be that of a Manileno alone inasmuch as this rubbish of a program claiming to be the larawan ng bansa does not in any way represent the artistic sensibility of the people in the rest of the country nor the issues confronting the people living outside the national capital.