(Courtesy of boracay-condos.com)
That is, if you believe the online conspiracy theorists now coming out of the woodwork over the perceived "attacks" on the Philippines. After the very recent brouhaha over Dan Brown's Inferno, his latest work of fiction, which describes Manila in less-than-flattering terms (and the ensuing "butthurt" comments, to use online lingo) we now have a review that exudes a similar tone in the Los Angeles Times for that paradise we lovingly claim as the best beach in the world, Boracay.
Enter our next so-called "attacker," Catharine Hamm.
Her May 26, 2013 article in the LA Times differs from the Inferno fiasco in one important respect: Catharine made a review out of her personal, actual stay in Boracay. Her not-so-positive experience begins with the boat ride after landing at the Caticlan airport; she notices the "water standing in the streets after recent rains," as well as the establishments that line the roads, charmingly described as "pot-holed obstacle courses." She found the flurry of activities and amount of people "all a bit overwhelming" and was saddened by the sight of children begging, with "the occasional mom with a baby and another child with hand outstretched."
And while she found the people "quite wonderful," she concludes that Boracay is "a place for partyers or rich people, of which I am neither."
Question: is there going to be a second round of whining from Boracay offcials or from another religious organization, the way MMDA Chairman Tolentino and the CBCP did over a work of fiction?
What is it about us that we seem to take negative comments - whether from a real or imagined place - on such an intensely personal level that we hand out persona non grata credentials as if they were going out of style, to parties who do not know nor care that they are already banned from entering our shores?
Viewing the comments under the Hamm article, one observation struck me, calling the Filipino community in Los Angeles obviously slighted. Even when we cross borders, there seems to be this need to prop ourselves up, however superficially, as a tall member of the world community, that any tinge of (perceived) negativity is viewed as a hostile act, needing our anger and large capital letters on social boards?
When Desperate Housewives hinted that medical degrees from our country were questionable, how did we react? When Jessica Sanchez came is second in last year's American Idol, why was the general consensus "it was rigged because they're racist?" When Joan Rivers proclaimed that people here ate dog meat, why did we get so infuriated, as if we have never heard of such a thing?
Quite a contrast (one can say logically) when the case is reversed: that when an achievement is accomplished by someone even just suspected of being partially Pinoy, our news organizations jump at it and we laud it as a product of Pinoy pride/talent.
The sterling thread that binds these two opposite sides of the same coin is that we depend - deeply, irrationally, unhealthily - on what others think and say of us, whether they speak of us in glowing or scathing terms. And we act accordingly, for show, in a shallow manner, because all that matters is how we appear.
When will we stop depending on what they say?
We have cried mightily, day in and out, for our officials to clean up our streets, to get rid of prostitution, to manage the hellish traffic jams. They have responded as if they have heard nothing. Is it because it came from us, your own kababayans? But when a fictional book calls Manila the "gates of hell," only then will officials move to do something about our "image?"
Why is it that our hotel doormen eye their kababyans as if to say "what are you doing here?" but subserviently bow down when another hotel guest with a different nationality comes in next, offering to carry their bags and whatnot all the way to their hotel rooms?
Hamm's article is non-fiction, albeit an account of her personal experience. As I gleaned from the comments online, the Pinoy Pride crowd is already making a predictable response: that Hamm's account is her own and can't be given weight, that she and other writers (cough, cough) have an agenda to destroy our trajectory towards economic ascendancy, etc.
Until we can learn to face criticisms in the eye, weigh them and see the merit and substance behind, we will always fall victim into more posturing, more temporal makeovers, and nothing of actual substance being implemented.
How long are we going to be tragically, terminally insecure?