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FF Podcast (Audio) 40: Should We Still Teach Tagalog?

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) 40 - Should We Still Teach Tagalog?

This week we talk about the Commission on Higher Education’s decision to remove mandatory Filipino language classes in college.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Pop Culture, SocietyComments (0)

FF Podcast 40: Should We Still Teach Tagalog?

This week we talk about the Commission on Higher Education’s decision to remove mandatory Filipino language classes in college.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Education, Media, Podcast, Society, VideoComments (2)

On “What’s Your Mix?” (And Why It’s Much Ado About Nothing)

Originally posted on

Does this offend you? Unless you’re a mathematician, probably not.

Yeah, I still don’t understand the mathematics involved that results in a lady with 80/20 blood lineage, but who am I to question the mathematical process involved in determining these things?

I touched on this briefly in my blog the other day, and while I was quick to join poking fun at the whole thing, I certainly didn’t feel outraged by the ad, to say the least. Having worked in advertising in some capacity or other for so many years, I tend to feel for the guys who made this campaign, because clearly, they had the best of intentions when they made this (Not that intent is ever an excuse for anything.). This was probably 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration, and that’s why we arrived at this copy…

Hmm. Needs a little more Godwin…

There were unfortunate implications there, but the intent is clearly the reverse of what the knee-jerk slacktivists are trying to say: more than Pinoys needing a mix of foreign blood to be a success, the copy of the ad implies that foreigners need a mix of Pinoy blood to be a success. It seems like people were 90% furious, and 10% reading when they decided to get worked up over this.

Semantics aside, I’m sure the copy writers for this campaign didn’t intend to channel Voldemort and notions of a brown Aryan race when they made this. Clearly, the campaign is simply about mix. Fil-Am rappers do this all the time when they talk about the intertwining of cultures, and how they have to deal with it every single day.

50% milk, 50% coco puff?

Despite all that, whether they meant to say that success is brought about by having a mix of foreign blood, or by having a mix of Filipino blood, it definitely sends the wrong message and yet again reeks of the kind of Filipino Patriot® I frequently poke fun at: the Pinoy equivalent of the redneck American whose only counter-argument to every single thing wrong about their country is, “If you hate it so much, then why don’t you just leave?”

While one can be proud of one’s heritage, one’s heritage in and by itself is not a cause for pride. The achievements of every Filipino, great or small, in no way reflects upon our own achievements. The beauty of it is, it works the same way with every Filipino’s failures. We make our own luck. What a fascinating concept!

Is it something to get all worked up over, though? No, I honestly don’t think so. I’m just 50% amused, and 50% meh when it comes to the whole “issue,” because outside of bad copy writing, this isn’t nor should it be a national pride issue. At all.

Look. I know it’s very delectable to pretend that Bayo was trying to undermine Filipino pride by insinuating that we need to have foreign blood to be worth anything, but not only is that a very uncharitable reading of the issue at hand, it’s also missing the forest for the trees: having Filipino blood shouldn’t give us a free pass to success, nor should having foreign blood. It really boils down to what we do as Filipinos that define our ability to succeed, far more than our ethnic heritage.

This is much ado about nothing. There is no need to crucify Bayo as though they are upholding colonial mentality when they are clearly (and unfortunately) trying to imply the reverse: a kind of brown Aryan bloodline that guarantees nothing but prosperity to anyone who is lucky enough to have Filipino blood in them. In fact, the campaign talks about “mix,” but at no point does it attempt to say that anything “pure” has less merit.

If anything, I can imagine a far worse backlash if they tried to so much as put primacy in someone being a “pure” Filipino. It goes against the concept of their ad campaign, but that’s what you get when you try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Clearly, fashion mix and ethnic mix don’t mix with each other well. The “palahian” uproar from the feminist sector should make that immensely clear.

When you have random xenophobic Filipinos hating Solenn Heussaff or Jinri Park or Grace Lee for daring to identify themselves as being Filipino, you kind of feel a wee bit weirded out by the double standard when we take every chance to remind South Korea that Sandara Park of 2NE1 used to be a TV and movie star in the Philippines, and the sheer amount of sourgraping this nation engages in every time the Azkals lose a game. Our standards of calling someone “one of us” are just so arbitrary it makes my head spin sometimes. It’s 50% funny and 50% pathetic.

Sometimes, you could almost imagine Erik Spoelstra wondering why all the Filipino support went to Jessica Sanchez in American Idol.

“LeBron, you’re not eating a pretzel, so stop choking, dammit! Pinoy pride!

Besides, if a throwaway ad campaign from a brand is enough to make you call your own Filipino pride into question, then maybe the basis for your pride doesn’t run quite deep enough as your wounded pride (or is it ego?) leads you to believe it does.

Was Bayo’s campaign a good one? 50% yes and 50% no (Okay, this percentage running gag is annoying even me, so I should stop now.). Logistically, it was poorly worded and insensitive to the implications of their poor choice of words. Whether you read it as a gateway brown Aryan statement or as a further affirmation of colonial mentality, it completely undercut the inherently good message of the campaign: it’s good to mix. It’s just that there’s that nagging feeling of, “But what if you don’t mix?” Is it bad? Is it better? Inquiring minds need to know!”

Not addressing that question properly apparently backfired on Bayo, on top of the common but irrefutable complaint about Filipino pride boiling down purely to bloodline rather than actual merits.

On the other hand, we’re talking about Bayo now. A lot. Brand awareness is at an all-time high. Positive or negative as it may be, there is now a dialogue going on about what it means to be Filipino; about why we support the Azkals and Jessica Sanchez but turn our backs on Erik Spoelstra and Rob Schneider.

I can think of a reason why we do, though.

While the conversation starter is admittedly pedestrian in nature, now, we are beginning to understand that this discussion on identity is a very important discussion to have at this point where the world is becoming a global village more and more. For all the good and bad this globalization brings, how does one remain Filipino, and how does one demonstrate and inspire pride in our heritage? These things do not merely happen in and by themselves: the how is a very important factor that needs consideration.

What does it mean to be a Filipino? Is it our bloodline a la Jasmine Trias or Tia Carrere? Or is it more about our desire to identify with being Filipino a la Grace Lee or Erwan Heussaff?

What does it mean to be a success? Is Manny Pacquiao a success in boxing because he’s a Filipino, or is he a success because he worked hard at it, and he just happened to be a Filipino? Does the latter take away from Filipino pride, or simply remind us that we need to look at Filipino pride in a more nuanced and all-encompassing manner?

If only for the fact that now, these questions do get asked, and hopefully, get closer to being answered satisfactorily, then yeah, I think Bayo did good, in spite of itself.

If I may be so bold as to suggest to whoever is running the advertising for Bayo, I think the easiest way to turn this around would be to ride the wave of your campaign’s memetic value. Don’t take the campaign too seriously, and revel in the absurdity of it, while encouraging the insightful dialogue you’ve already unintentionally instigated. The momentum is now in your hands to make something positive out of all this.

If I could paraphrase Lourd De Veyra, this all boils down to one simple thing: walang basagan ng mix. All this navel-gazing taken into consideration, though, I think it’s still boss to poke fun at the whole “controversy.”

Thank you, thank you! I’ll be here all week!

Posted in SocietyComments (5)

Pinoys Await Results of America’s Next Top Singer Ethnicity Test

Manila, Philippines — After the heartbreaking loss of Jessica Sanchez to another white guy with guitar in American Idol, proud Pinoys are pinning their hopes on one of the two finalists of America’s Next Top Singer (ANTS). But there’s a catch: they don’t know which one.

Both Jasmine Lopez and Evelyn Santos have been claiming in recent interviews to be part Filipino, raising the hopes of millions of Filipinos who watch ANTS on cable and via livestreaming websites.

But critics have accused both finalists of only claiming to be Filipino to get the Pinoy block vote, which has significantly helped the chances of Jessica Sanchez in AI despite her loss.

The controversy led popular online community Definitely Pinoy to conduct its own investigation into the ethnicity of Jasmine and Evelyn. “We need someone to be proud of,” said John dela Cruz, founder of Definitely Pinoy. “But first we have to verify which one of them is . . . definitely Pinoy.”

Jasmine and Evelyn have been subjected to a battery of scientific ancestry and ethnicity tests, giving DNA samples and taking various standardized Cosmo magazine quizzes. We got quick interviews from both finalists before they proceeded to their Karaoke challenge, Balut-eating contest, Tinikling face-off, and other exhaustive tests they’ll go through in the Chicago Center for Racial Profiling.

“I’m proud po to be Pinoy po.” Jasmine said to the applause of her fans. Jasmine was wearing a shirt that said, “Where I’m from, everyone’s a hero.”

Evelyn simply said to her cheering fans, “Mabuhay.” She was wearing a Baro’t Saya made from a Philippine flag.

But Pinoys in the US and at home are still holding back full support until the test results are in. “We know it’s stressful to lack this important information, so we’re doing our best to analyze our findings as fast as possible,” said dela Cruz. “They’re both world-class singers, but we can only call a text voting brigade for one of them.”

We asked him what the millions of Pinoy fans should do if the test results show that neither of them — or both of them — are Filipino. “Wow, I haven’t thought about that possibility,” said dela Cruz. “I guess we’ll just have to vote based on talent.”

Posted in Humor, SocietyComments (1)

Quit Being So Butthurt, Philippines


Dear Butthurt Filipinos,


It has come to my attention that the executive branch of our government has recently asked for an apology from a Hollywood actor, as said actor has made quite public his disappointment with our country’s Customs officials, not knowing that the actual venue of his mishaps was our neighbor, Indonesia.

Now, the fact that said actor was referring to Indonesia is actually not that important. Because something tells me that even if the actor really did have an unsavory experience here in the Philippines, Malacanang and like-minded citizens would still hold out the dark, shredded ribbons of their heart to the rest of the world and demand repentance. They did it with Claire Danes, who is actually an excellent actor, and now they have done so with Taylor Kitsch, who is actually not.

Oh, Butthurt Filipinos, when will you quit being so butthurt about everything? I understand that all of us have the right to be offended, as all of us have the right to take certain ideas and principles with utmost seriousness and passion, but there are far more compelling things for us to be concerned with.

If we just picked our battles and focused our energies on making our country something others can fawn over, rather than writing stern letters to two-bit actors; or squawking at someone who cupped his palms over his ears when they could have just brushed it off and went on with the business of justice; or throwing grade-A hissy fits when the secular government proposes laws that don’t jibe with their pet hypocrisies; we would be living far, far better lives.

Too much time and energy and money is spent on this masochistic whipping of our own behinds and pointing to others as the culprit. There’s a salve for that, dear Butthurt Filipinos, and it’s called dignity. You should try it sometime.




Posted in Personal, Politics, SocietyComments (5)

Girl, 12, Honored for Blind and Reckless Devotion to Inanimate Object


Pictured above is Janela Arcos Lelis, a 12-year-old schoolgirl from Albay province. That’s really her, on a very stormy day last July 26, risking life and limb to save the Philippine flag. The flag had been left behind in their already-submerged home. To keep her from getting swept away by the raging flood, Janela held on tightly to a rope hastily set up for evacuees. Her deed accorded her various honors — a plaque, a miniature flag pin, a full-sized flag, and Php 20,000 from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), not to mention quite a bit of media coverage. According to NHCP Executive Director Ludovico Badoy, what Janelis did was

“a selfless act of courage, reflective of her love for country and a constant reverence to the national symbol.”

In the awarding ceremony, NHCP President Maria Teresa Diokno told Janela,

“…we hope that your classmates and all the other young people in the country will follow your wonderful example of giving tribute to our national flag.”

The NHCP’s heraldry chief Teodoro Atienza claims that in his 30 years of service, he had never come across anyone who dared to risk their life for the Philippine flag.

With all due respect, Mr. Atienza, no one had ever dared to risk their life for a piece of cloth before because it is a really, really, really bad idea. Just to refresh your memory, a young human being’s life is infinitely more valuable than a large piece of cloth, no matter what it represents. And Ms. Diokno, your wording is a bit distressing. Some young men and women might misconstrue that as encouragement to forsake shelter in the midst of calamity just to save other physical symbols of our nation, in the hopes of receiving praise, attention, and maybe a decent-sized check.

What Janela did was born out of naivete, and one can’t help but wonder why her deed generated such a response. It could be the culture of “Pinoy Pride” that permeates many aspects of the average Filipino child’s life, from her schooling to the mass media she consumes. It is a culture of being absolutely ecstatic at the thought that some random half-Filipino American citizen who has never stepped foot on the motherland, so to speak, passed the first round of auditions on American Idol. It is a culture of taking pride in taking pride, of looking at our poorly developed, horribly managed, amnesiac country through thick, rose-colored glasses. Saving a flag in the midst of a flood that could have been avoided had the town been better planned in the first place? That seems to fit into this kind of culture just fine.

It must be noted that Janela did not do her deed entirely of her own volition. Her elder brother, a Citizen’s Army Training officer in the local high school, was actually the one who told her to fetch the flag from their waterlogged home. Why didn’t he do it himself? Because he was busy helping his relatives evacuate from their homes. (He has priority issues, that one.)

Janela complied not only because of the notion that the flag deserved utmost care and respect, as drilled into her in the classroom, but because she was afraid her brother would be berated by the school and have to pay for it if it got lost. The latter, in fact, seems to be the more plausible — yet still quite faulty — excuse behind her daring-do. People do stupid things for money and good repute. In fact, it’s quite possible that the whole nationalist hullaballoo was purely manufactured by the government and media after the fact, and Janela only did the deed because she just happened to be the kind of blindly obedient girl from a poor family who’d feel that she had no other choice in the matter.

Whatever the case may be, NHCP’s trumpeting of Janela’s misguided act was a bad move. No, Janela should not be berated for what she did; she just didn’t know any better. But neither should she have been the subject of so much pomp and circumstance. She should have simply been told that her show of selflessness was admirable, but that next time, she should prioritize her own life in such dire circumstances. She needs to be made to understand the illogic behind her deed in as kind a manner as possible, and that’s it.

For the NHCP to make such a big fuss over this smacks of opportunism and nothing more. These people are adults; unlike Janela, they do know better. To praise her, and to tell the youth that they should follow her example, is sickeningly irresponsible. There are infinitely better ways to promote a love of country like, oh, say, encouraging people to do what they can to make the place actually worth fighting for, for starters. The men and women of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines should very well know that the country has remained in a poor state for the longest time, and that this has a lot to do with our tendency to make the same fatal mistakes over and over again, with one of these mistakes being our refusal to see the country for what it is and simply aggrandizing the most trivial things in the name of “pride.”

Likewise, the media’s eagerness to make NHCP’s fuss-making more public was a bad move. And as we have learned from the whole Poleteismo brouhaha, where their sensationalism took the country down an especially dangerous path, they don’t really seem to care that it was a bad move.

I can only hope that Janela eventually understands why what she did didn’t deserve all that praise and attention. The flood she braved was much murkier than she thought, and far harder to get out of alive.

Posted in Personal, Politics, SocietyComments (10)