Criticism...not fun in the Philippines?
When a foreigner makes a comment that puts the Philippines or Filipinos in a bad light, expect strong backlash from Pinoys.
In our desire to uphold our national identity, Filipinos have a tendency to condemn the offending parties and even brand some of them as “persona non grata.” Social networking sites are flooded with online debates about the anti-Pinoy comments.
In the words of a sociologist, Filipinos are by nature “mapagtimpi” but being shamed in public triggers an emotional response to save face or preserve dignity and reputation.
What do you think about the comments made by these foreigners? Are we right in demanding an apology? Or are we just balat-sibuyas?— thin-skinned and quick to tears like in peeling onions.
Here are the international celebrities who made Filipinos bristle:
1. Dan Brown
2. Lee Da Hae
3. Taylor Kitsch
4. Lucy Liu
5. The Desperate Housewives writers / Teri Hatcher
6. Alec Baldwin
7. Jimmy Kimmel
8. Claire Danes
9. Jay Leno
10. Howard Stern
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) interviewed Mr. Crescencio Doma Jr., a sociologist from the University of Santo Tomas, to shed light on the strong reaction of Filipinos to comments made by foreigners.
1. What cultural trait of Filipinos can account for the strong backlash against foreigners who insult Filipinos and the Philippines?
I would consider the Filipino’s sense of nationalism as the primary factor that triggers the so called ‘strong backlash’ against foreigners who insult or malign the Filipinos and the Philippines as a country either such insult was intentional or unintentional. Some would think “balat sibuyas ang Pinoy” in such situation. But then, one would not feel that way if he/she does not care for one’s country. Filipinos think that anything said about his/her country is also a ‘personal attack’ on him/her because he is a citizen of that country— “Ang sakit ng kalingkingan, ay sakit ng buong katawan.”
2. Why are Filipinos very sensitive to these topics?
Filipinos have a strong sense of pride which I think is also present among other citizens of the other country. People see how the government or the country tries to promote the good things about the country (as we can see in the Department of Tourism’s campaign to attract tourists to come to the Philippines— to enjoy the beauty of the country, to know its people, its food and the talents and skills it could offer). And at the height of this campaign, here comes a statement, an observation or an impressions that is the exact opposite of what it promotes. Sa salitang kalye, you can apply here the concept of “supalpal” or “tabla” which they will never just take sitting down. Remember when one dictionary several years ago defined Filipina as a househelp or domestic worker and another TV show made an insult of Filipina nurses simply because of a rare incident of what others refer to as medical malpractice. While Filipinos could come up with jokes about its current socio-economic and political situation, its different when people; foreigners for instance who do not know much about a country or even just its capital would say something derogatory about it. Call it fiction or whatever, but when a name— that of a person or a place highly regarded by people is already directly associated with it, then that’s a different story for them. No one could accuse any single Filipino to have not loved his/her country and keep quite when its being attacked.
3. Is this really about upholding our national pride and identity or is it a matter of ego?
Both. One’s ego is a result of his/her socio-political experiences. The way one was socialized in the family about also affects one’s ego, in the same manner that what he sees in the neighborhood, in school, in the parish and the workplace all gets into his/her system as a person. It develops over time. While there may be some Filipinos who might have failed to fully perform its duties to the country as a citizen for some reasons, it does not mean that his sense of pride is lessened or lost. Maybe in some instances he/she is frustrated over issues concerning the nation; but this is one thing he learns to accept over time as well. Whatever good or bad things that happen to the country, he relates with it although he/she may not directly or openly show it. That is also a characteristic of the Pinoys. He grieves in silence over the failures of his fellow Filipino and at the same may not directly show his joy on another Pinoy’s achievement.
4. As a race, are Filipinos considered to be nonconfrontational? But when it comes to these negative comments, why is there such a strong reaction—especially online?
Mapagtimpi ang Pinoy. Matiisin. Hangga’t kaya niyang manahimik, mananahimik siya at magmamasadi at makikiramdam before he reacts, especially on matters that would put one’s integrity in a bad light or to an extent, the country’s pride and honor. If that is what being nonconfrontational mean. However, the value of being a “family” is also transmitted or integrated into his sense of community or a nation. Thus, Juan de la Cruz does not just say “I am Juan dela Cruz.” With pride, he declares to the world “PINOY AKO.”
Filipinos are intelligent people. They have the capacity to adapt to any situation. They were able to penetrate the world of new or advanced technology and so they were able to LINK with the world outside. Thus, we have become citizens of the world through on line communication. We have reached most parts of the world literally or virtually. And in all these things that we have experienced, we bring with us our national pride. In the same manner that when something wrong happens in the country, this easily spreads all over the world through advanced communication and we feel that it’s like happening just right before us. We could see, hear or feel it. And we also feel the need to react to it and let the world feel how we also feel about it.
If Filipinos expresses online their sympathy to other countries or nationals when they encounter a disaster, there is no reason why he would just be quiet when his country or his identity as a Filipino is being attacked or discussed online too. Filipinos comprise a big part of the online community globally. Therefore, such reaction can be expected.
5. In relation to this, can this phenomenon also explain why Filipinos are quick to cite Pinoy pride when they learn that an individual with Filipino lineage gains fame abroad?
Exactly. We relate with whatever good or bad things that happen to a KABABAYAN or kapwa PINOY. We cried over the death of Flor Contemplacion. We rejoiced over the victories of Manny Pacquiao and we fall on the canvass with him during his last bout. We rejoiced over the triumph of Charice Pempengco in the entertainment world when she captured the world’s attention as a YouTube sensation. Even the heroism, of Kabang got into our system; we are proud of the dog—FILIPINO DOG if there is such a thing as a dog given a nationality. We are a nation that values ‘family.” The country as a whole is a network of families. Kahit saan man tayo dalhin ng mga pagkakataon, we will remain a FILIPINO and we will always be proud that we are Filipinos regardless of geographical, socio-economic and political barriers that exist between us.
What is your reaction to comments made by these foreigners? Share your thoughts in the comments section below:
1. How Dan Brown painted Manila black
In May this year, Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno came out in local book stores. On Chapter 79, he called Manila, the capital of the Philippines, the "gates of hell."
The novelist depicted Manila as a city of "six-hour traffic jams, suffocating pollution [and] horrifying sex trade."
One of his characters named Sienna is so traumatized after being almost gang-raped in Manila that she feels like she had "run through the gates of hell."
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino wrote an open letter to Dan Brown, stating: “While we are aware that yours is a work of fiction, we are greatly disappointed by your inaccurate portrayal of our beloved metropolis."
He also wrote: "We are displeased [by] how you have used Manila as a venue and source of a character's breakdown and trauma, much more her disillusionment in humanity."
The MMDA chairman then tried to enlighten Dan Brown about the merits of Manila by calling it "an entry to heaven" and a "centre of Filipino spirit, faith and hope."
2. Taylor Kitsch’s encounter
In The Late Show with David Letterman (March 1, 2012 episode), Hollywood actor Taylor Kitsch claimed that he had an encounter with a corrupt immigration officer in the Philippines.
Letterman asked Kitsch about his experience while shooting the Oliver Stone film Savages in the Philippines. The Canadian actor did not correct him to say that the actual filming took place in Indonesia, not the Philippines.
Kitsch said he had an "airport nightmare" since a customs officer told him he had to return to Japan because there were no more pages in his passport.
"Their computers are not working. So I told him, 'You gotta look me up, I can show you something to prove [that I'm an actor]' and he said, 'You are on the next flight to Japan,' reminding me again. And then I'm looking on my iPhone because their computers weren't working. And he's like, 'Hey, can you get me one of those?' And I'm like, 'Can you let me in and I will give you one of these," narrated the John Carter star.
In retaliation, Philippine Customs Commissioner, Mr. Ruffy Biazon, wrote a blog entry asking the Canadian actor to clear up the matter. "Mr. Kitsch, perhaps you can help us redeem our lost pride. Not just my agency, but my country as well."
To date, Taylor has neither apologized nor corrected the negative impression about the Philippines.
Immigration ofiicials of Indonesia, on the other hand, have owned up to the incident.
3. Actress Lee Da Hae eats her words
On the Korean variety show Sweet Night (November 2010), Lee Da Hae imitated how Americans, British, and Filipinos talk.
The Korean actress is known for starring in telenovelas such as East of Eden, My Girl, and Green Rose.
She was asked to repeat the line, “Excuse me; I'm a little bit thirsty. Can I have a glass of water, please?"
When she pretended to use a Filipino-English accent, she seemingly poked fun at the way Filipinos spoke.
The uproar prompted Lee Da Hae to post an apology on her Twitter that stated, in part: "As an individual who takes English classes over the phone with a Filipino instructor, I give you my word that even the mere thought of mocking Filipinos would never cross my mind. I cannot tell you how much Filipino fans mean to me and as much as I love them, I would in no way hurt or upset them."
4. Lucy Liu accused of racism
Lucy Liu, a Hollywood actress of Chinese descent, was accused of making a racist comment about the moreno skin color of most Filipinos.
In the October 11, 2012 episode of The Late Night Show with David Letterman, Liu was asked if she liked running outdoors or indoors.
She answered: “I run in a machine. It's easier for me. Also if I get really dark, I'll start to look a little Filipino, it wouldn't match. If I start getting darker, you know what I mean? I can get really dark if I’m in the sun too much.”
Her comment sparked online debate among netizens in social media. Some were insulted by Liu's comment, which they perceived as derogatory of Pinoys with dark or brown skin. Others made no big deal, however, about the actress' offhand comment.
She later issued an apology through a statement published in a local broadsheet: "I am so sorry that my comment was taken out of context, as I would never insult another group or ethnicity.”
5. Apology from Desperate Housewives
The September 23, 2007 episode of Desperate Housewives featured a scene that made fun of medical education in the Philippines.
Teri Hatcher's character, Susan Mayer, has a medical checkup and is shocked when the gynecologist suggests she may be going through menopause. Her character then questions his medical background for suggesting she is entering early stages of menopause. "OK, before we go any further, can I check these diplomas? Just to make sure they aren't, like, from some med school in the Philippines?"
An online petition calling for the show’s producers and writers to apologize for the episode’s “discriminatory and hurtful” remark quickly spread through the large Filipino expatriate community in the United States.
In response to the complaints, U.S. network ABC apologized. Its statement read: "The producers of Desperate Housewives and ABC Studios offer our sincere apologies for any offence caused by the brief reference in the season premiere. There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines."
6. Alec Baldwin’s “mail-order bride joke”
In his May 12, 2009 interview on The Late Show with David Letterman, Alec Baldwin revealed that he wanted to have more children but the way he expressed it him put him in hot water.
"I’d love to have more kids. I’m thinking about getting a Filipina mail-order bride at this point or a Russian," said Baldwin who had just turned 51 at that time.
Senator Bong Revilla issued a threat for Baldwin when he said: "Subukan niyang pumunta dito sa Pilipinas nang maghalo ang balat sa tinalupan."
Baldwin posted on The Huffington Post that he was apologizing "for the perceived insensitivity of that remark." The Hollywood actor also said, "While on the David Letterman program, I joked that I might need a "mail-order bride" to achieve the goal of having more children in my life. I believe that most people understood that this was a joke and took it as such."
7. Jimmy Kimmel looks down his nose
When Josh Hartnett appeared in the October 24, 2007 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, it became an opportunity for the American TV host to insinuate that Filipinos are illiterate.
Josh shot portions of his film, I Come with the Rain, in a remote mining colony on Mt. Diwalwal in Davao.
The Hollywood actor mentioned that Philippine army troops guarded him and the crew during their stay to prevent them from being kidnapped.
They then had a light-hearted conversation about Josh’s stay in the Philippines.
Jimmy asked: “You weren’t kidnapped at all?”
Josh pointed out: “Not at all, not even once.”
Jimmy said: “That’s good news. That’s a little bit nerve-wracking. Yeah, because especially in the Philippines they probably don’t speak English and no one could read the ransom note or anything.”
8. Claire Danes’ roaches ‘n’ rats reflection
In 1998, Claire Danes came to Manila to film Brokedown Palace, wherein her character is imprisoned for drug smuggling.
The producers decided to shoot scenes in the Philippines. They were not allowed to shoot in Thailand since the movie would put the Thai penal system in a bad light.
When she was interviewed about her stay in the Philippines, the Hollywood actress made harsh remarks about Manila in the pages of Vogue magazine. She described Manila as a “ghastly and weird city.”
She was also quoted in Vogue magazine— “Manila smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over, and that there is no sewerage system, and the people do not have anything – no arms, no legs, no eyes.”
Then President Joseph Estrada said Claire Danes should be banned from entering the Philippines for having disparaged the country's capital. Manila's city council declared Danes "persona non-grata" and banned all her movies from being shown in the city.
As a result, Claire Danes issued an apology that went: "Because of the subject matter of our film Brokedown Palace, the cast was exposed to the darker and more impoverished places of Manila. My comments in Premiere Magazine only reflect those locations, not my attitude towards the Filipino people. They were nothing but warm.”
9. Jay Leno’s bad joke
In July 2004, Jay Leno struck a nerve when he joked about the Philippine government's response to the kidnapping of Angelo de la Cruz, a truck driver in Iraq.
In his show, Jay Leno quipped: "A new world record has been set in the 100-meter dash. It was set by Filipino troops fleeing Iraq."
An Islamic terrorist group demanded that the Philippine government remove its troops in Iraq by July 20 or else Angelo de la Cruz would be executed.
Then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, hoping to secure the release of the truck driver, ordered the pull-out of Philippine troops in Iraq one month ahead of a mandated August 20 exit date.
10. Howard Stern broadcasts an insult
Radio personality Howard Stern made insulting remarks about the Philippines on his radio show in 1992.
He claimed that the Philippines “is a country where fathers sell their own daughters for sex” and that he wouldn’t recommend anyone go to the Philippines “unless you want to get laid.”
The Filipino-American Citizens group sued Stern for $65 million in a New York court, saying Stern insulted ''the entire Filipino race'' with his remarks.