Monday, October 08, 2007

Desperately, hypocritically pathetic

Okay, I feel compelled to write this, even after my piece (“Global Filipino Image,” co-written with Trish Elamparo) in the August issue of Katipunan, even after dedicating my column (Memoir)izing that month to it as well. The Malu Fernandez mess broke days after that issue was released. I kept mum. Now, talk of perception yet again, taking on hilariously desperate proportions, bringing about ironies from both here and across the Pacific.

In a recent episode, Teri Hatcher’s character on the highly successful television show Desperate Housewives demanded proof of diplomas from doctors attending to her, taking a jab at Philippine medical schools and Filipino doctors in general.

Filipino-American doctors in the United States are now using legal means to make sure the show and its network are punished. On the local front, government officials have gone as far as to ask Filipinos to boycott the show. This one line on this entertaining show has also got many pundits, columnists, and those of us without regular venues for expressing opinion voicing their views as well.

Painful truths always get people worked up. I’m worked up over people getting worked up about it, especially because I’m guessing that getting worked up will likely lead to nothing in the form of solutions. Nevertheless, here’s my take.

Firstly, officials in government should be advised to cease all this complaining about being insulted and embarrassed. How dare they condemn a bunch of comedy writers and network execs when they themselves insult and embarrass us Filipinos with their shenanigans while claiming to be leaders and public servants.

Secondly, I suppose Fil-Am doctors do have the right to feel irked, but to blow this thing out of proportion through legal means is quite childish, as if there aren’t other problems to dwell on -- and that's all we ever do: dwell. Being a doctor is an honorable profession but these doctors should also not forget that they can be -- rightfully or wrongfully -- accused of being escapists, moving to become practitioners in a nation whose healthcare system is far from being as miserable and talent-drained than the one in the country these doctors supposedly pledge allegiance to. American scriptwriters think of a line and these doctors are insulted? Well, how would they react if this blogger -- a full-blooded Filipino -- said that they had no right to fight back for a country and a people they’ve turned their backs on by migrating?

Thirdly, it’s a comedy show for crying out loud! Fictional! They thrive by creating caricatures, and in case no one has figured it out yet, caricatures are based on stereotypes that aren’t completely without truth. Turn to any Filipino sitcom and you’re bound to see a Filipino-written script taking jabs at the Chinese, the Indians, the Muslims, and even the Arabs (thanks to what Osama and Saddam have contributed to the news which has influenced pop culture). Given how we reacted to Desperate Housewives, as well as to the New York Times editorial last year and to the Claire Danes comment years before, we would be less hypocritical if we gave thanks to the Indian government, for example, for not reacting to Bitoy-bylined sketches on Bubble Gang.

We are so quick to react to negative images of our country projected by foreigners, but as Marites Vitug of Newsbreak said when I asked her about global perception for my Katipunan article, “Perception is reality.”

So quick are our government officials to give responses to statements -- made under a fictional premise in this case -- which weren’t meant to grab their or anybody’s attention in the first place. Still, when questions are posed to these same officials, when answers and accountability are demanded of them, the rhetoric becomes passive, relentlessly evasive.

So “angered” we citizens become -- at least the ones not grounded in reality -- under the spirit of supposed nationalism when foreigners say something negative about our countrymen. But the anger just doesn’t come out when we commute to work, when another bus cuts off the one we’re on, leaving a child selling sampaguita helpless, shocked in the middle of it all.

I’m ending this with how I ended August’s (Memoir)izing entitled “Problematikong Persepsyon” (written in Filipino in recognition of Buwan ng Wika): “Ngayon, umiiyak ang isang sanggol sa harap ng bahay ng kanyang pamilya sa tabi ng riles. Nagpapatayan ang mga batang miyembro ng gang sa Tondo dahil walang pag-asa ang buhay at wala silang alam kundi maghanap lamang ng mga mababaw ngunit delikadong trip. Nagrereklamo ang isang babae dahil pumila at tumayo siya ng limang oras para lamang makaboto ng kandidato na sa tingin niya ay magiging mabuting pangulo, ngunit nabalewala ang kanyang pagsisikap at pagtindig dahil nakatira ngayon sa Malacañang ang isang pangulong di-umano ay nandaya sa eleksyon.

Totoo ‘to. Walang biro. At isang kapwa mong Pilipino ang nagsulat ng kolum na ito. Anong reaksyon mo? Anong masasabi mo? At higit pa rito, anong gagawin mo? Anong gagawin natin?


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