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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Trivial National Pursuits

As expected, all Monday long my social news feed was cluttered with posts, news items and blow-by-blow accounts of how our candidate to the annual contest known as Miss Universe was faring. Even the "serious" news organizations of this country were giving up-to-the-minute updates.

It is now Tuesday, and apparently, the buzz has shifted to - strangely, of all places - Miss Jamaica. I knew (from my feed) that while our contestant entered the top 10 of the pageant, she did not fare any higher, and news stories were sprouting up saying Filipinos were now behind Miss Jamaica because she "supposedly" has Filipino blood. (Which she has denied.)

No, she doesn't have Filipino blood. Stop asking her.
(Courtesy of

Several of our men in uniform died (it seems needlessly), a city mayor is possibly going to be arrested by the Senate, but what makes us pulse online is if a beauty pageant contestant has Filipino blood? Talk about priorities - or the lack thereof. (I read a report that "Jamaica" suddenly trended online for the Philippines during the Miss Universe pageant.)

As a country, we are "supposed" to be obsessed with two things in the international arena: how congressman Manny Pacquiao fares in his next boxing bout, and how our candidate will do in this year's slew of beauty pageants. If this is what it means to be Filipino, then I most definitely will be on the other side of the fence, what some have labeled as anti-Filipino/un-Filipino.

I don't care much for boxing matches - I find them as having no difference with the gladiator fights of yore (one can die in either scenario from the strikes sustained). I actually wonder if Manny has some cognitive dissonance with what he does in the ring and what he preaches whenever he is asked his religious views - one that pretty clearly states violence as a no-no.

I don't care much for beauty pageants, also. It is an insult to women to be judged on how they look in a bikini and to be assigned some kind of numerical worth on that basis. The very notion of pageants is no doubt related to what is already an epic obsession of young girls to look a certain way, along with the powerful messages transmitted in mass media about whitening lotions, laser therapies and underarm treatments.

What is it about our national DNA that takes pride in the arenas of violence (boxing) and sex (beauty contests)? How do we reconcile that with the fact that we are supposed to be a "deeply Catholic" nation - one that eschews divorce but where illegitimate children are rampant?

And, in Miss Jamaica's case, we seem to ride on the coattails of anyone who is remotely suspected of having a single drop of Filipino blood. Kahit nga wala, basta masuspetsahan lang. (Even if there is no evidence, just suspicion.)

Last year, a bunch of kids from Philippine schools placed well in an international mathematics competition. I didn't hear anyone clamoring for these kids to be paraded on floats when they arrived back home, the way we do when Manny or a beauty contestant comes home. You may think little of this, but it is the bits and pieces that make up our cultural landscape - and we have arrived at a (sad) point where one can be called a "traitor" for not being supportive of either of them.

One argument says "they bring honor to the country!"

We certainly are famous - even our cab driver in Vietnam knows who Manny Pacquiao is - but I'm having a hard time equating it with honor. Unless we are now putting fame and honor on the same footing, the only ones I see gaining from these competitions are Manny or the beauty titlists themselves. (And the companies that sponsor their respective contests, of course.)

Maybe I have un-Filipino views. But that doesn't make me less of a Filipino, the same way one isn't required to be Catholic in order to be considered a Filipino citizen. It just makes me part of the minority - and that suits me just fine, in a major, major way.


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  2. Estou alegre por encontrar blogs como o seu, ao ler algumas coisas,reparei que tem aqui um bom blog, feito com carinho,
    Posso dizer que gostei do que li e desde já quero dar-lhe os parabéns,decerto que virei aqui mais vezes.
    Sou António Batalha.
    Muita paz.
    PS.Se desejar visite O Peregrino E Servo, e se o desejar siga, mas só se gostar, eu vou retribuir seguindo também o seu.