Monday, March 15, 2010


Saturday, March 13, 2010


The Pacquiao-Clottey "Event" clears the roads and freezes the crime rate again. Pacquiao is touted yet again as the man who single-handedly unites the Filipinos even as he flashes the Villar check-sign in political sorties. An eighth title will further cement his godlike status among boxing pundits, and sweaty, giddy Filipinos will line the streets of Manila and Gensan once again, welcoming their hero noisily before returning to their daily grind and barely minimum wages, as Manny rides on to his first class hotel room and back to his American Dream-inspired mansion.

I have the highest respect for Manny and his profession. Manny did rise from the hard knocks of poverty and anonymity to become one of the world's most influential athletes. Will there be another Pacquiao? Highly doubtful. That's why I subscribe to what our Lenten recollection speaker observed about this whole phenomenon: the country's fixation with Manny Pacquiao, the rabid desire for him to win, are all symptoms of CULTURAL POVERTY pervading this nation. ECONOMIC POVERTY is one thing.
I understand the struggle to make ends meet, to make painful decisions about which bills to pay first, to work for peanuts in industries and corporations that insist on tossing the VAT to hapless consumers (The height would be taxing our text messages. I imagine the whole country texting expletives and death threats to the big 2). Economic poverty is too enormous a monster to slay, but cultural poverty is a contagious disease that festers in one's organs, poisons the bloodstream and makes even bigger monsters of the carriers. I personally wouldn't want to have that with my daily morning coffee.

What are the symptoms of this disease called Cultural Poverty?

1. That Filipinos structure their schedules around a Manny Pacquiao bout. The Pacquiao-Dela Hoya fight was a historical event, so I'd excuse that, but after the Golden Boy, they were just throwing infants at Manny's seasoned feet. Why watch a foregone conclusion?

So many other Filipinos--professionals, wage-earners--have achieved much more by uplifting more lives and creating a more lasting impact on society. For a while there, pushcart teacher Efren Penaflorida, CNN award in hand, hugged the limelight and was hailed as a true hero. But compared to the massive media blitz that has followed in Manny's wake for years, that few minutes of attention has since waned, and I can only pray that Efren's advocacy continues to bear fruit long after the once-adoring crowd's eyes have moved away. Why God-fearing, Bible-toting, pro-life advocating Filipinos cheer on a man in the barbaric sport of punching and nearly-killing another man totally floors me.

2. That people call themselves "artists" when all they know how to draw is manga-style comics. I'd like to blame this on the mediocre Art curriculum being used in schools. The curriculum doesn't have to adopt what Makiling School for the Arts is adopting, it just has to make art genres more experiential rather than theoretical.

3. That television exaggerates suffering by making the heroine literally crawl, grovel for food and have her face disfigured or perpetually shoved in mud. Almost always she would start out as a provincial lass who finds employment as a maid in the palatial house of a cruel matrona whose heartthrob-of-a-son falls in love with her and saves her from her fate. The actors even have the gall to claim that their show is full of values ("Marami kayong values na mapupulot dito"). I especially detest the maltreatment of children in these primetime shows. There is no subtlety, no delicadeza in these scripts. In American crime shows where children are the victims, the director and cameraman make sure that the angles are respectful and the editing does not expose child actors to physicality. I cringe whenever a Filipino child actor is thrown to the ground by an adult actor, or is made to cry for hours on end, night after night just to get that "api" effect. Hello, MTRCB. You penalize hosts for saying offensive things. Don't you find the treatment of women and children in telenovelas just as appalling?

4. That Noynoy, Villar, Erap, Jinggoy, and Lito Lapid are leading in surveys because their names are familiar and their ads (except in Lapid's case) are glossy and repetitious. I am all for amending the constitution so ex-convicts, current convicts and actors don't get a free ride into delicate government positions.

5. That years after the Expanded Senior Citizen's Act was passed and signed into law early this year, my Mom still has to wait before she can get a full 20% off on her medicines purchase. I never tire of asking the Mercury Drug salesclerk when they will implement the law, and they never tire of telling me that they are waiting for BIR to send them the Implementing Guidelines. Do they expect me to believe that anyone in BIR, or any government agency for that matter, is doing any form of service or work, in the heat of the election campaigns?

There's more, but I'd like to save them till after the Pacquiao-Clottey fight. I hope that Filipinos everywhere will wake up to the reality that Pacquiao will not save us, nor will he punch away our problems. Let's stop using him as a metaphor for success and heroism. Let's put our minds and hearts somewhere else where real problems are solved. Where that is, is up to us.