Sunday, August 29, 2010

One Beauty Queen & Eight Dead Tourists

If one question were to define the character of your people and if two events were to be pivotal in defining the character of your nation – what question and what events would you choose?

Maria Venus Raj, 22-year-old Miss Philippines contender for the Miss Universe crown, likely did not anticipate she would be at the center of the above-mentioned situations. The question that became a character definition, not only for her but for her entire country mates, was whether she had committed a big mistake and what she did to correct it. Ms. Raj replied candidly that she’d never had a major, major problem and thanked her family for guiding her – not in perfect English, granted, but neither unintelligible nor incomprehensible either. I've heard worse from winners and losers alike. 

Ms. Raj placed fourth and thereby became the object of intense criticism, and a cause for a general self-abnegation on her country people's part, as if she herself, not the judges, chose Miss Mexico for the title. Or as though this was and will be the only chance at a beauty title for the Philippines.

Worse, ex-cop Rolando Miranda decided in the same week to hold hostage a busload of Chinese tourists and allegedly killed eight of them before offing himself. I say allegedly because with all those bullets flying, I prefer to wait for the forensics.

One beauty queen and eight dead tourists then merged into an absurd symbol of the character of the entire nation called the Philippines and an entire people called Filipinos – to wit, that they are flubbers, fumblers, incompetent, corrupt, stupid, murderous, etc.

And now there are rallies in Hong Kong with the Chinese demanding apology, compensation, etc., etc. It shouldn't surprise us when, at some point, there's a demand that the Philippine government reinstate the ZTE broadband project, which was scuttled for corruption under the previous regime.

Filipinos themselves are adding fuel to the fire by blaming Ms. Raj (in lieu of the judges who, btw, were never asked why they chose Miss Mexico), not even understanding the source of their own anger, which in my view is our common perspective on OFWs: bring home the bacon or else... Ms. Raj was born overseas of an OFW mother and an Indian father, hence by legacy is cloaked by the same expectations of OFW women.  Give those of us at home what we want or die trying.

Filipinos as well add to the fury over the eight dead Chinese tourists by immediately blaming one another, passing the buck, falling to their knees and smashing their foreheads on the floor in self-abnegation.

Get a grip, people. The Philippines has had and will have beauty titles galore. Beauty contests are judged on the basis of (1) how close to Western beauty models a girl is; (2) how appealing she and her country are to those looking for product endorsers; and (3) whether there’s a political and commercial advantage to recognizing her country.

Get a grip as well, people and P-noy, re: the eight dead tourists. While it is proper to apologize for this unfortunate end to this murderous madman's actions, enough already with the kowtowing and feeling bad and blaming yourselves.  Hong Kong never apologizes for the cruel and sometimes murderous treatment of Filipina domestic workers; nor did Beijing apologize for the crazed guy who hacked  Filipino father and daughter tourists. If the Chinese feel it’s too dangerous to go to the Philippines, then tell them to go elsewhere.

For the sake of the nation's self-respect, stop acting like the country with its 100 million population is a beauty title contestant and/or a Chinese suzerainty. - #


vicky tauli-corpuz said...

Right on Ninotch. I share your views on these two incidents. It is just so unfortunate that the news that comes out on the Philippines which gets beamed to the whole world are usually the bad incidents, whether natural or man-made (and I really mean man). We do have our weaknesses just like any other nation and peoples. But I daresay, we are survivors and we can also lead in our own ways. Of course the biggest weakness, as far as I am concerned, is the breed of politicians we have and their utter lack of accountability.

Unknown said...

Hi, Vicki. Thanks for your comment. I would certainly like to set a limit to the accountability for the particular issue of the dead tourists -- meaning, the police, police chief, the mayor, the ombudsman who in two years' time hadn't even gotten to the case of the ex-cop, etc. And a revamp of the process used in dealing with amoks, as this is part of our cultural bedrock. I am not in favor of laying the responsibility for this one incident on the entire government, the entire nation and on all of the people. Perhaps it is time to be hard-core specific and particular so as to resolve issues one by one as fast as possible.

aL.g said...

right on!!!!!

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joseph said...

magandang madaling araw miss notch! (phil time) i don't know if you can still remember me, nag-meet tayo when you visited KPD office. ako yung taga teatrong bayan. anyway..

pinost ko po etong entry na to sa notes ko sa facebook. sobrang dapat mabasa ng mga tao yung article ninyo para naman matauhan ang marami.

by the way, hindi ko alam if you've read yung letter na nag-circulate sa buong mundo (dahil sa BBN at CNN mismo pinadala) na ginawa ng isang estudyanteng pinoy dito. gusto ko po sana malamang ano ang pagtingin ninyo dun? :)

Unknown said...

Dear Joseph:

Yes, I read the letter; Filipinos are passing it around via the internet. I have no intense reaction to it, taking it merely as symptomatic of our tendency to join the scene (eksena). Quite similar to everybody putting his/her finger into the hostage situation from the Manila mayor down, during and post tragedy. Or like everybody commenting on the "major, major" and blowing it up until it became a comment on the whole country itself.

Unknown said...

Post-script to Joseph: Actually, it is disturbing that in both the Miss Universe contest and the 8 dead tourists incident, the immediate response was for Filipinos to be divisive, attack one another, blame everyone, and kow-tow -- instead of trying to maintain a degree of objectivity and self-respect.

joseph said...

totoo nga po yan miss notch. it is really disturbing na pinoys have that kind ng pag-uugali. hindi ko actually maintindihan ng buo kung saan nanggagaling yung ganun. even if we claim to have different cultures as a result sa iba't-ibang colonizers na dumaong dito satin eh parang dku ata doon mahugot yung reason for such kind ng character sa atin. sana lang talaga eh magising gising ang mga dapat nang magising.

stuart-santiago said...

i think that if you had been here, watching it on television from 10 a.m. to the gruesome end to the midnight presscon, you would understand more where we are coming from.

Unknown said...

Dear Ms. Stuart-Santiago:

More likely than not, I'd have been at the scene itself, trying to get the story. The response to the massacre would not have been as surprising were it not coupled with the response to Ms. Raj's not winning the beauty title. It's like all of Philippine descent are frantic to own every failure. Reminded me of Pacquiao's response "I forgive him" to that comic's denigration of everything Philippine. I'm just tired of bowed heads.

stuart-santiago said...

ah yes the synchronicity. failure upon failure. i dont mind bowed heads if/when theyre deep in thought. but yeah that's rare hereabouts.

Mel said...


I am so glad I found this blog courtesy of a friend who posted an excerpt of the text in his Facebook. Credits were appropriately included so this led me to your site.

I look forward to visiting this site more often.

Here's a separate comment that I posted in another blog site sometime last week. This was a response to the same hostage incident. I hope you don't mind my sharing.

'Seriously, I think people are making too much of a deal about the hostage-taking crisis because it involved tourists. If Filipinos were the ones held hostage, I don’t think the public would be as disgusted. I hope I am wrong on this though, but how many of our friends have we heard say something like ‘Oh no, I can’t go to HongKong’, or, ‘Nakakahiya naman tayo sa ibang mga bansa’?

When those Morong health service people were detained, I don’t think there was an uproar from a huge number of Filipinos. I’m not saying that there should be not much reaction to the hostage-taking. What I’m saying is that we have not been very fair to ourselves. When a corruption scandal surfaces in our nation, we treat it as just another day in the Philippines. If we are to be outraged by the hostage crisis, we should similarly, or even be more enraged as each case of corruption comes up. Perhaps we don’t see corruption as something that kills people, but can we imagine how many lives could have been better if, say, the fertilizer scam did not happen?

Are we okay as long as we are violent and mean to our fellow Filipinos but not to tourists? I hope not, but I think we are mean to our countrymen. When Charice was going to appear in Glee, while the rest of the world was happy about the news, the Filipinos were like ‘Oh my gosh, but she doesn’t speak good English, and she might embarrass us all’. And when Venus Raj failed to give an excellent answer during the final interview, people started saying that we sent a jejemon to the competition. Sigh.'

Unknown said...

By happenstance, I saw an Oprah episode on late night where Charise and Justin Bieber appeared. I felt very sorry for Justin who cannot sing and can barely dance and who looks annoying; he had to be there with Charise who's really, really good. But no one went tsk, tsk, tsk, on Justin's behalf.

What offends me in the response to Ms. Raj and the hostage-taking is the tendency to wallow in self-denigration and self-pity.

Anonymous said...

To top it off...what the &*$! was the deal with another set of tourists stopping to take smiling photos in front of the bus? That was bizarre as it was disgusting. Where the hell was forensics and the cops talking control of the crime scene?

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