Response: The Overreaction of a Nation

Let me vomit some opinions in a slew of facts and righteousness. An exercise in writing?

While browsing happily through the web, I came upon a list (source) citing numerous events of Filipinos “overreacting” to so-called international slights, injustices or insults.

The most stark example of our oft exaggerated response was the insistent, undying campaign to make Jessica Sanchez the American Idol. While I was proud of any girl my age making it to the top on her own merits (and her being a person of color was just a bonus), I and my friends found the constant news coverage and media dissections sickening. Left, right and center there were analyses on why the American Idol backers were racist, or why America itself was sexist (citing the fact that the last few winners were WGWG — White Guys With Guitars), and so on. People in the States were raising awareness or what have you, throwing celebratory parties and drinking to Jessica Sanchez’ voice. It didn’t stop –not in Facebook, not in twitter and god the discussion even invaded the school.

So what’s wrong with a little support?

Nothing, unless you count these facts:

  1. I watch local news channels to hear about the progress of certain bills (and more on that later, actually), listen and sympathize with whatever road-related killings come up front, get updated on politics and some show business. I did not, however, sign up for twenty minutes of coverage on Jessica Sanchez, her supporters out on the streets, the opinions of local artists on her performances, her estranged but feeling-close family, et cetera. So yes, there’s something wrong when our “little support” becomes so obsessive and overzealous that the national news is invaded by her face.
  2. It’s not the Filipinos’ prerogative to decide who the American Idol winner should be. Sometime between her ascent through the ranks and before her defeat, well-off or connected Filipinos were donating to citizens abroad to vote for her. Isn’t that incredibly invasive? We aren’t Americans, we shouldn’t want to be Americans, and who they vote for shouldn’t be all up in our case. It would be nice if she won, but that should be the extent of our support and opinion-making. Going out of our rights to say that the American population is discriminatory is not only way out of line, but also counter-intuitive. I’ve read tweets by Americans saying they’ll vote for Philip Philipps just to spite us Filipinos. Knowing how noisy and aggressive we were at that stage, I can’t say I blame them.

To end this tangent: I have nothing against Jessica Sanchez or whatever success she has now, or with Americans who didn’t or did vote for her. I do have something against our zealousness as a nation, our lack of boundaries when it comes to support, and our aggressive need to establish ourselves as the winning underdogs –all of these when it’s not even within our territory to do so, or even when it undermines certain international codes of conduct (well, the latter’s more for the next part).

So on with that list I was talking about. I wasn’t certain if most of the events listed here were true, so I googled them up and looked for some facts. Not all of the original author’s remarks are congruous to my own; some events, I think, were worthy of the level of reaction. Those in brackets are my own remarks.

Philippine Defense Squad

This text file seeks to become a comprehensive listing of all instances of times when Filipinos overreact to criticism (both deserved and undeserved) by descending upon the subject like a swarm of angry bees and inflicting their wrath through letters, blogs, Photoshop contests, and other zany means of reaction. Anyone who figures out how to contact me is welcome to contribute.

  • The spoon incident in Canada, which really turned out to be the fault of the boy; [Okay. This even has its own Wikipedia page. One, the school principal –prejudiced or not– actually received a death threat from incensed Filipinos. Two, The family of the boy got 17000 CND in damages. I can’t find any credible source reporting that it was the boy’s fault, since majority of news coverage comes from Filipino-run sites; however, the slant in Wikipedia says that the boy was putting too much rice into his mouth (which was why he was called disruptive).]
  • former Chief Justice Isagani Cruz’s comments against gays; [There is a gay invasion, at least according to his opinion featured in his regular Inquirer column. A reaction and detail of proceedings can be found in this WordPress. The same account also published an open letter. Other than that, no comment. Jk. Because I finally read this, I’ve just now thought to add another segment to this long post. Sigh.]
  • Art Bell’s racist comments against Pinoys, actually a hoax [Here. I don’t actually know who Art Bell is, though apparently he’s some American broadcaster.]
  • Digital Pinay incident [?]
  • Filipinos getting angry over the Faye Nicole San Juan incident, which later turned out to be a hoax [It’s even on the site “the museum of hoaxes”. Okay, so the funny thing is that the Philippine press –and I’m assuming we’re talking about the bigwigs here– didn’t do their research before breaking this news.]
  • the Subic Rape Case
  • Claire Danes goes to the Philippines; gets declared persona non grata after making a few remarks that some people didn’t like hearing [No one is entitled to an opinion, unless you’re a Filipino. There’s a lot of stupidity going on here.]
  • Americans go to Jollibee and get flamed by a thousand angry Pinoys who can’t bear the thought that other cultures might be weirded out by other cultures; [Still can’t find this one.]
  • Malu Fernandez receives flames and death threats after putting her foot in her mouth–she then resigns from her job due to the wrath of the blogosphere [I don’t know what drugs she was on when she was writing her column, honestly. News bit.]
  • “Young Radicals” Google bomb Gloria Arroyo’s website so that it is returned upon searching for “sinungaling” [I’m not entirely sure how the original author saw this as an overreaction? It seems to me a perfectly valid act of political, uh, cybermovement.]
  • Government files diplomatic protest with Spain after discovering a snack food called “Filipinos” [I suppose two observations written within this wiki page ring true. First, the snack food does reflect our racial identity –dark on the outside and white inside, and second, Austrians don’t actually complain about the fact that small sausages are called “Vienna Sausages”.]
  • Tommy Hilfiger and the racist remarks which he never actually made [This is getting repetitive.]
  • Freshman writes up a long rant about the Ateneo de Manila University following her experiences at the orientation seminar–not only do people eventually force her to lock/take down her online presence, but internet detectives manage to find and post her name and personal info. [I can’t find this yet.]
  • Desperate Housewives character says “I want to make sure her degree isn’t from some med school in the Philippines”. Batten the hatches! Alert the Philippine internet!
  • Inquirer inaccurately reports that Malacanang tells people to forget EDSA II. Bloggers furious.
  • Flor Contemplacion–Filipina maid convicted of murder in Singapore. The government tries to get her sent here instead. They fail, she gets executed, and for some reason, is suddenly hailed as a modern day Philippine hero despite her innocence never being proven (let me add that the only two witnesses to her innocence were Filipino). She even gets a movie about her. [I watched this movie. And those are pretty valid points.]
  • Sarah Balabagan–Yet another Filipina maid convicted of murder, this time in the United Arab Emirates. The government this time is successful in getting her sentence commuted. When she gets home, she not only gets her own movie like Flor before her, but she even managed to launch her own SINGING CAREER. [What.]
  • Overseas worker May Vecina murders her employer’s youngest son and attempts to murder his two siblings. Government spends time and resources attempting to seek clemency, even going so far as to have the vice president seek a personal appeal from the Emir. Because she’s a victim in all this. [Oh my god seriously?]
  • Same with Marilou Renario, who killed her employer. Some articles written about her go on for paragraphs about what a good person she is, then in the very last sentence mention that she’s a murderer but who cares about that. [What I don’t understand is why our government consistently spends effort and money to save murderers instead of appropriating the funds to more constructive efforts, like saving our economy to erase the need for OFWs and the related dangers.]
  • The Philippines pulled out of Iraq to save some random guy. [Okay so Mr. Angelo de la Cruz is a pretty special guy. For the Philippine troops, regardless of strategy or cost-benefits or the ridicule of the entire international alliance, it’s a leave-no-one-behind game. Apparently it’s alright if the soldiers die; being kidnapped on threat of death is another thing entirely]
  • More whining about TV shows–Filipinos outraged over Filipino character with negative values on BBC comedy. [While I was searching for this one I found this gem of a funny article. And also this article on an ivory trade supporting priest which our Histo 1 prof mentioned. Here’s a crappy video of the segment; unfortunately I don’t know what to feel about it since it is pretty funny.]

Hi. It’s a pretty long list, so my comments end here.

  • Obama, freshly elected, is unable to respond immediately to Gloria’s congratulatory phone call. Somehow, this is the same as a “snub”.
  • Following much uproar over the VFA because of an alleged rape by Daniel Smith, most of the VFA critics are now left with egg on their faces following Nicole’s confession that it was consensual after all.
  • More from the brigade following Chip Tsao’s comment that the Philippines is a “nation of servants”
  • Saw this one coming. Ebert blogged that he hated Brillante Mendoza’s “Kinatay”. As I type this, the squad is rabidly attacking Ebert and other critics for dissing THE COUNTRY. “Never before have I received feedback confusing a negative review of a film with a negative review of a country.”
  • Alec Baldwin offhandedly remarks that he plans to get a Filipina or Russian mail-order bride. Philippine consulate demands an apology, telling him how ignorant he is of Filipino laws against mail order brides. I guess the Russians are not patriotic enough about their country to care?
  • Actor William Smith on the movie “The Losers”: “We shot this in the Philippines. It was a marvelous experience. Everybody was so nice to us, all the people there. But a few of the Filipinos were kind of weird, man. They can be nice to you, but if you insult them, they’ll pull a gun on you and shoot you. Our assistant director got shot and nobody ever knew who shot him. They hit him in the shoulder from [far] away.”
  • Some Filipina in Dubai posts that the Philippines is full of sinners and deserves the typhoon it got. Some Filipinoes in the Philippines bombard her with hate mail, create a Facebook hate group, and petition to get her declared persona non grata.
  • Adam Carolla is the latest addition to the Filipino hit list; due to a slew of derogatory remarks he made about the country. Someone tell me if antagonism is his gimmick because I strongly suspect that Filipinos are being huge drama queens again.
  • VP of Philippines goes to China to attempt to rescue death-sentenced drug mule. People act as though this person is some kind of hero.
  • America’s Miss Earth representative talks trash about the Philippines. Filipinos’ responses include multiple rape threats.

The last one is just embarrassing for us. Honestly.

To go on another tangent:

I am often irritated by the way my fellow Filipinos march to the embassies, boycott products and shout to the international community whenever an OFW or Filipino tourist gets convicted for some crime abroad. Mistake, set-up or not, their actions and their own body are their personal responsibility and not the Philippine government’s.

The last few cases of our Vice President flying off to China or Hong Kong to plead for a lesser sentence for the drug mules entering their country make me cringe for several reasons. First of all, I am not against death penalty in principle (just to get that out of the way; though economically speaking, in terms of domestic cases, it is not the optimal option). Second, I find it incredibly unfair for the government to expend such efforts to save one man of death, when, as Amnesty International reports, prisons in the Philippines are inhumane and are suffering from poor sanitation, overcrowding. The country’s concept of criminal justice has double standards, as those conditions cited above easily lead to degrading health and death. Why do they care so much for this sole person, who, mal-intentioned or not, was guilty of a crime? (I blame the messianic media). And as I’ve mentioned awhile ago, the sentence is certainly within China or Dubai or so’s jurisdiction. Unless there are special agreements, the Philippines shouldn’t have the right to plead for special cases. [Though as a disclaimer, I’m neither an international lawyer or diplomat. I’ll have to search more on this.]

In conclusion:

While other races and nations laugh at jokes at their expense, quietly file a complaint against racist or discriminatory remarks and judgements, or ignore these things entirely, it seems that us Filipinos can see no option but to rally loudly. Without an allowance of respect for ourselves, we will ask again and again for respect from others, from our fellowmen, from unsuspecting bystanders. If we continue on this route, then we are, truly and forever, the oppressed who lives and reacts, and who knows only to rebel and overthrow.

(So the overdramatic ender is said.)

In an even shorter conclusion:

Just chill.

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