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The AlDub phenomenon, and why Filipinos have gone crazy over it

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No matter how much we complain or give praise about it, it is a fact that stares us hard right in the face: our country is fixated with showbiz. It has become part of our culture — Filipino pop culture to be precise. From advertisements to philanthropy to politics, celebrities are almost always a focal point. Since the departure of strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, who during the Martial Law years suppressed freedom of the press due to (alleged) circumstances beyond his control, emerging media moguls (led by ABS-CBN) somehow tinkered with the newly satiated freedom of many anti-Marcos Filipinos whose civil liberties were intentionally excluded by military rule. As emotions were running high during that time, new expressions of TV freedom (this includes TV Patrol’s rather controversial “on-air tabloid” style) were suddenly introduced to minds that had just been freed from years of media suppression. Not much later, Kris Aquino, the daughter of Marcos’ successor herself, became its prized darling and has been so for close to three decades already. Post-Marcos media’s coddling of suppressed liberties using glitz and glamour as well as appeal to emotion, including the enthronement of political daughter Kris as the “Queen of all Media”, is probably one of the reasons why celebrities from both TV and film have been treated by Filipino masses as if they’re demigods. The masses adore them more than anyone else, especially since the characters they portrayed on screen somehow mirrored real-life scenarios of the ordinary Juan de la Cruz. That is why their fame has even been used as a gauge for political readiness.

But fame, of course, is not without its repercussions. With fame getting into their heads, many showbiz personalities throughout the years have become notorious for acting like their Hollywood counterparts: their lavish lifestyle, foul behavior off camera, and personal scandals have been fodder for the very same ratings-hungry media which takes advantage of both them and their followers.

With the growth of Internet usage at the close of the last century, many have observed that TV and film appreciation may have reached a saturation point. Social media now provides a healthy avenue for Filipino netizens to look for new alternatives as against overexposed media brats. In fact, today’s revered media darlings (Charice Pempengco, Arnel Pineda, Bogart the Explorer, etc.), not to mention indie film breakthroughs, originated from the Internet.

But what happens when both TV and Internet personalities were put together?

“We’re moving towards the direction where both [social and mainstream media] have no choice but to co-exist,” observes TV host and talent manager Boy Abunda. And the first stop towards that direction is currently materializing on noontime TV.

For close to three months now, Filipinos all over the world via cable TV and the Internet have been glued to Eat Bulaga!‘s “Juan for All, All for Juan” (JAAJ) segment to witness an ongoing series that began in accidental fashion. The longest noontime variety show in the country has hit a goldmine with the unplanned formation of an unconventional love team between matinee idol Alden Richards and Internet sensation Maine “Yaya Dub” Mendoza. Eat Bulaga! since then has capitalized on the hugely popular tandem by creating what they call a “Kalyeserye”, much to the detriment of rival networks and to the amazement of pop culture observers, social media pundits, and even sociologists. Alden and Maine’s huge following has even given their love team a nickname which trends on various social media (particularly on Twitter) every single day: AlDub, a portmanteau of Alden and Yaya Dub.

And just how wild is this latest Filipino pop culture craze?

Worldwide phenomenon

AlDub brings back reminiscences of our fanaticism over Mexican actress Thalía brought about by her “Marimar” telenovela during the early 90s. Since AlDub’s accidental inception last July 16, social media have been pregnant with reports about office workers who miss or adjust their lunch breaks just to catch the ongoing AlDub drama, with some arriving late or not reporting for work at all. School children have been vocal about their wish for class suspensions (one provincial governor took time to answer such clamor). TV sets inside malls, restaurants, and other related establishments are being flocked by customers during noontime. Bus, jeepney, tricycle, and train terminals with TV sets have waiting passengers tuned in to them, unmindful of waiting for the next ride. Many sari-sari stores and bakeries shut down operations whenever Kalyeserye is about to begin. A video of a little girl crying because of AlDub’s star-crossed situation became viral in YouTube. One militant solon unashamedly professed his support for the love team. Fellow showbiz personalities like Judy Ann Santos, Ai-Ai de las Alas, and many others confessed that they are fans of the love team. Even people from ABS-CBN, the  heated rival of Eat Bulaga!’s studio GMA Network, were not spared from the AlDub fever.

Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada enjoying his “AlDub break”.

OFWs are not spared from the craze. As in the case here in Filipinas, many AlDub fan clubs from other countries have sprouted like mushrooms, keeping themselves abreast of each episode. And speaking of other countries, US film giant Walt Disney Studios stunned its Filipino fans when it posted on its Facebook page two characters from one of its popular animated films commenting on the AlDub fever!

AlDub has also been breaking Twitter records. Last September 24, its #ALDubEBforLOVE hashtag drew an astonnishing 25.6 million tweets! A week earlier, #ALDUBMostAwaitedDate was tweeted and retweeted more than 10 million times in a span of 14 hours (the final tally was 12.1 million). Guinness World Records is reportedly considering awarding the latter with the “Fastest Rising Worldwide Trend” Award.

No part of the world is spared from the AlDub craze.

How this love team is embraced by people from all walks of life, from a wide range of demographics, is certainly unprecedented and astounding. It would be thoroughly surprising to meet anyone who is not familiar with today’s most recognizable faces on both TV and social media. But for the sake of those who are still stuck in some kind of antimatter universe, here’s something to fill you in (and for the millions who already know, a reminiscence)…

Dubsmash Queen

It all began when Dubsmash, a video messaging application for mobile devices, captivated the interest of local netizens early this year. With the application, users can choose an audio recording of a well known recorded quote from an uploaded list and record a video of themselves in which they dub the quote. Usually, the uploaded quotes are lines from a movie or a TV program.

Enter Nicomaine Dei Mendoza, or simply Maine, a pretty twenty-year-old lass from a petite bourgeoisie family in Santa María, Bulacán. She graduated from an exclusive school where she took up culinary arts and had her on-the-job training in New York. As such, it’s unlikely for a pretty young lady with intimidating credentials to make fun of herself online, least of all distort her face for everybody’s amusement. But that’s what exactly Maine did to herself. Just a few months ago, her Dubsmash parodies of various people, most notably presidential sister Kris Aquino, have gone insanely viral, this because of her expressively creative ways of dubbing those persons’ lines, complete with body movements, make-up, and props to boot. Her facial elasticity and the preciseness in which she dubs made it appear as if she’s not dubbing at all, as if she really owned the uploaded voices. Because of her dubbing creativity, her Dubsmash videos became viral, with her rendition of Kris Aquino last summer earning more than a million views overnight.

Since then, any mention of Dubsmash will immediately bring Maine Mendoza to mind, at least in our country. Netizens now call her the “Dubsmash Queen of the Philippines”. And the buzz which she has inadvertently created caught the attention of Eat Bulaga! who then recruited her via Facebook. She was given the role of Yaya Dub which is short for Divina Úrsula Bukbukova, and her last name would be Smash, an ingenious homage to the video messaging application that made her an Internet sensation; yaya is Tagálog for nursemaid. Her responsibility as Yaya Dub is to be the girl Friday to comedian Wally Bayola’s snobbish and supercilious Doña Nidora Esperanza y Zobeyala vda. de Explorer, or Lola Nidora for short. Together, they join José Manalo and Paolo Ballesteros in JAAJ doing comedy vignettes in various barrios in Luzón while helping out less fortunate families (drawn through a lottery from the studio) by giving them food, cash, and other prizes from Eat Bulaga!’s wide array of sponsors.

Struggling actor

Let’s face it: it is already common knowledge that GMA Network is behind its rival, media giant ABS-CBN. While some of GMA’s shows have proven themselves to be more successful over their rivals (this includes Eat Bulaga!), mainstream media popularity is being enjoyed by a majority of ABS-CBN programs. As such, many of the former’s talents are considered by many as second-rate compared to the latter’s stars. A marquee with the name “Alden Richards”, a GMA Network contract star since 2011, has less appeal if it were to be placed vis-à-vis ABS-CBN matinee idols such as Daniel Padilla or Enrique Gil or James Reid. So despite his string of successes in his mother studio, Alden seems to be “still struggling” when it comes to the mass appeal being enjoyed by Padilla, Gil, and other ABS-CBN male stars, as if he is still carving his own niche in local showbiz — all this, of course, was before the AlDub craze that is currently sweeping the Filipino community worldwide by storm.

Nevertheless, Alden has everything a matinee idol needed to have in order to succeed: good looks, good build, and admirably good manners. But the impression remains that his seemingly goody two-shoes image is just that — another good-looking fellow who will soon fade away from GMA’s supposedly lackluster limelight. Whatever fame Alden has couldn’t seem to go toe to toe against that of his more popular counterparts in ABS-CBN. One write-up even called him the “John Lloyd Cruz of GMA” (Cruz is one of ABS-CBN’s top stars), a comment which, of course, complements Cruz more than Alden.

Recently, Alden was given the chance to be launched as a major actor when he was given the weighty role of national hero José Rizal in the epic docudrama “Ilustrado”. Surprisingly, despite the name Rizal and the historicity attached to it, the drama series was not warmly received. It lasted for a mere 20 episodes, immediately forgotten.

The birth of a phenomenon

As many fans already know, Alden was hired by Eat Bulaga! in May this year as one of its many co-hosts, but only for a month-long trial period. He was followed by Maine a few weeks later. But they were not put together since Alden’s duties are studio-based, hosting a contest for attractive young men. Maine, on the other hand, is always on the road together with her JAAJ colleagues. The only interaction that JAAJ cast had with their studio colleagues, particularly Eat Bulaga!’s main hosts Tito, Vic, and Joey (popularly known as TVJ), was via split screen communication.

The magic began when Eat Bulaga!’s staff found out that Maine had a real-life crush on Alden who she has yet to meet. The staff then thought of pulling a soft prank on her by having Alden sit with the audience at the studio while Maine was doing her grumpy Yaya Dub routine (JAAJ was somewhere in Olóngapo). Then this happened:

And just like that. Sparks flew on their first split screen meeting. Local netizens immediately noticed the delightful interaction between Alden and Yaya Dub and were tickled pink with how the latter unintentionally broke character. Yaya Dub’s masuñgit demeanor was shattered beyond her control. For the first time since her TV debut, Eat Bulaga! fans saw grumpy Yaya Dub’s genuine smile. More “kilig” moments between her and Alden transpired in the following days. On social media, particularly on Twitter, netizens were on a frenzy, demanding more screentime for the two. It was during those early days when somebody thought of coming up with the catchy nickname AlDub which spread like wildfire. Eat Bulaga! management took notice of the well-received split screen flirtations which seemed to have overtaken the segment itself. And then there’s that huge spike in the ratings, of course. Noontime viewing habits have never been the same since that unexpected July 16 episode. Kalyeserye (a Joey de León coinage) was born and has been on a nonstop rampage both in the ratings and in social media.

Because of the craze, Alden’s career was rejuvenated like never before! Both he and Maine have become instant media darlings and endorsement favorites. Just recently, fastfood giant McDonald’s Philippines and cellular service Talk N Text have also capitalized on AlDub’s huge popularity by making both Alden and Maine as their endorsers. And even before their commercials were premiered for the first time (especially in McDo’s case), netizens were already abuzz with excitement. It can even be said that McDo’s AlDub TV advertisement has become the most anticipated TV commercial in local media history. Now they have more lined up.

But what made AlDub in particular and Kalyeserye in general tick among an overwhelming majority of Filipinos?

Explaining the craze

It can be argued that while AlDub is the centerpiece of the so-called “teleserie parody”, it’s the whole Kalyeserye itself that has captivated millions of Filipino viewers all over the world. Wally’s superb breakthrough acting as the strict Lola Nidora hilariously complements the eccentric nonspeaking Yaya Dub of Maine who merely “dubsmashes” as a way of communicating. And as Kalyeserye took flight to stardom, Manalo and Ballesteros followed suit in the zany acting, eliciting hordes of laughter and tears wherever they go.

Many have attempted to explain the reason for this phenomenon. One sociologist claimed that “Cinderella complex” is the underlying factor behind the craze, It holds water since Filipinos have been exposed to “clacismo” conflict (poor boy/girl falls in love with rich girl/boy) in local romance movies for many years, a phenomenon that can be traced to our Spanish colonial past since it was the Spaniards who introduced feudalism here. And that’s the core of the story of Eat Bulaga!’s Kalyeserye: a matinee idol and a nanny falling in love — split screen style, though. But the twist here is that the nursemaid’s rich boss (who is later revealed to be related to her) is against the blossoming love affair for reasons not yet clearly known (in the story, the reason is written in Lola Nidora’s diary, but it was stolen by a mysterious riding-in-tandem).

Hispanic elements

Eat Bulaga!’s Kalyeserye is deemed by many as a parody of telenovelas or teleseries (hence the name). But if you look at it closely, it is more than that. Teleseries are rehearsed and taped whereas Kalyeserye is delivered spontaneously. As already revealed in various interviews, the actors don’t have a script. They merely follow a storyline. In drama circles, this is called “improv acting”. And since it’s improv comedy, the actors are given the license to break the fourth wall from time to time, that’s why it’s not unusual for televiewers and studio audiences to see them trying hard to control their laughter whenever a fellow actor (or other Eat Bulaga! hosts on the studio) blurt out one-liners or rib them with other hilarities.

Kalyeserye’s improv acting adds up to the charm. However, it is but another ingredient to what makes up the whole picture. To put it more bluntly, Kalyeserye is essentially a zarzuela. In fact, we see several elements of it: comedic acting with matching colorful costumes, drama and romance, and much dancing and music — “Dubsmash” music, that is. And it’s all done on live TV, hence the “modern-day” tag. AlDub is a reincarnation of this now rare Spanish lyric-dramatic genre. The zarzuela, in fact, is an important component in our national identity because it has been a major part of our history for more than a century. As a Hispanic people, it is already in our genetic memory, in our DNA, Deep within the Filipino psyche is a nostalgic longing for this theatrical art form which has endeared generations of Filipinos since 1879.

(Incidentally, Vicente Sotto, the grandfather of Tito and Vic Sotto, 2/3 of Eat Bulaga!’s TVJ triumvirate, was one of the first writers of the zarzuela. In 1902, Sotto wrote “Maputi ug Maitum” or “Black and White”, a zarzuela in the Cebuano language).

Zarzuelas of old were also known to tackle and include social issues of the day as well as to impart values. These we see in Kalyeserye whenever the riding-in-tandem appears (the prevalence of riding-in-tandem crime incidents), whenever Alden and Yaya Dub show their split screen “lambiñgan” right in front of a very upset Lola Nidora (impetuous juvenile relationships), whenever Lola Nidora cautions Yaya Dub to act like a “dalagang Filipina“, and a whole lot more. And speaking of values, Kalyeserye has also been earning both praise and support from various sectors, most notably the local Catholic Church, for subtly imparting traditional Filipino values and customs that, sadly, are rarely practiced by Filipinos nowadays. As a matter of fact, we can boldly claim that Kalyeserye has Filipino values written all over it. We see this whenever Alden writes “pô” and “opò” in his fan sign communications with Lola Nidora and her two sisters Lola Tidora (Ballesteros) and Lola Tinidora (Manalo). We see this whenever Yaya Dub performs the “mano pô” gesture, bowing her head towards the offered hands of Lola Nidora, Lola Tidora, and Lola Tinidora as she presses her forehead on their hands. And that only strengthens our claim that, indeed, this show is a modern-day zarzuela because it imparts the appreciation of Filipino culture, customs, values, and even spirituality (Alden making the sign of the cross before a Catholic image as he enters Lola Nidora’s mansion in episode 63).

In Kalyeserye we see more of this Hispanic genetic memory of which we spoke of earlier. Remember the first time Yaya Dub broke character when she couldn’t control her smile towards Alden? She immediately covered her face with her abanico. Wittingly or unwittingly, she mimicked the Filipinas of olden times who covered their faces with abanicos each time their faces revealed their emotions. Her now famous “pabebe wave” is, in fact, a modest/demure way for a Filipina to wave towards her admirer. And need we mention that this novelty word is rooted in Spanish? “Pa” is a Tagálog prefix while “bebe” is Spanish for “baby”.

We all laugh at the “asaua ni” jokes being thrown around by cast members when, unbeknownst to many, it is a nod to the Spanish language’s gender rules. And need we remind everyone that the word Kalyeserye is derived from Spanish (calleserie)? And of course, there’s Lola Nidora whose name was inspired from that famous Hispanic American cartoon character called Dora The Explorer. Lola Nidora herself speaks (broken) Spanish from time to time.

Magical realism

But how come Lola Nidora seems to have never aged in spite of the fact that she’s already 150 years old? All her three bodyguards are named “Rogelio”. The riding-in-tandem seems to come out from nowhere. In many episodes, we see Alden from one part of the screen hand out flowers and other gifts to Maine who’s at the other screen (in one hilarious episode, Alden hands out a glass of water to Lola Nidora; but when the latter, who is on the other end of the screen received it, it became a cup of coffee with a drowned fly in it). How come Yaya Dub (prior to episode 58) couldn’t speak? And who could ever forget episode 24 when Yaya Dub participated in Eat Bulaga!’s celebrity contest “Dabarkads Pa More”? After her performance, she was threatened by Lola Nidora, in the form of a witch, to immediately flee Broadway Centrum or she would turn into a fat pumpkin.

And the most bizarre yet most interesting part of all this is that the cast of Kalyeserye are able to interact with TVJ or whoever else is sitting on the JAAJ table, thus blurring the lines between fiction and reality.

There are lots of questions in Kalyeserye which nobody even bothers to ask not because the show is just a parody but because such questions don’t really need any answers. Or to be more apt, many weird occurrences in Kalyeserye just don’t require any explanation at all. Kalyeserye is simply out of this world and at the same time it is not because the segment still has to co-exist with the goings-on of Eat Bulaga! (Yaya Dub’s participation in the grand finals of “Dabarkads Pa More” in episode 75 best exemplifies this). This strange mix of fiction and reality is called magical realism.

Magical realism traces its roots to Latin American Literature, another Hispanic creation.

#KiligPaMore

But it can never be ignored that the major selling point of Eat Bulaga!’s Kalyeserye is its so-called “kilig” factor between Alden and Yaya Dub. Kilig is a modernized spelling for the word “qilig“. Many say that it has no direct translation to any language. So let’s go back to history to find out more about its meaning.

On page 265 of the book “Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala” (published in Manila in 1860 by Spanish friars Juan José de Noceda and Pedro de Sanlúcar), we see that qilig is defined as “temblar el cuerpo por picado de culebra” which means “the shaking of the body as caused by a (poisonous) snakebite”. That is why today, we associate kilig/qilig to that shaking, inexplicable feeling whenever one is infatuated or falls in love. The split screen antics of Alden and Yaya Dub have given their fans an overload of kilig/qilig not only to the young but across all age groups, including married couples. Surprisingly, even the “baracos” are not spared!

What in the world could have caused this strange occurrence, that even full-blooded males are swooning over AlDub?

Aside from the clacismo conflict that was explained earlier, one telling reason is the fact that Alden and Maine (prior to the September 5 episode and all succeeding Saturdays after that) had never met or communicated in real life. The only communication they had for most of the time was through split screen and fan signs. To some, this setup endeared netizens towards the show because Alden and Maine’s situation reminded them of long-distance relationships that are linked only by the Internet. Many of them use Skype, FaceTime, and other related video chat applications to communicate with their long-distance love interests. However, not all netizens use such software. Therefore, we still have to dig deeper into the Filipino psyche…

We go back to Intramuros, the blueprint of all towns in Filipinas.

During the days when the sun had not yet set on the Spanish Empire, houses inside the Walled City were built so close together that neighbors could see the interiors of each other’s houses through their large windows. This set-up was taken advantage of by young lovers who surreptitiously communicate through windows at night. This romantic practice by young Filipino lovers during the Spanish times spilled over to other towns across the country whose houses were similarly built like those inside Intramuros — close together.

The above facts remind us of this once popular tale of two lovers in old Quiapò who communicated with each other only through the windows of their respective houses. They have never spoken outside of their homes; only through their windows. The boy once attempted to come close to his wooed who was then walking outside the church but hesitated especially when he saw his lover’s parents with her. This went on for a while until, no longer able to bear her emotions, the young lady challenged her lover to formally court her and to present himself to his parents. Their courtship eventually gave birth to the traditional habanera Filipino song La Flor de Manila, now known as Sampaguita (more about this story in a future blogpost).

During that time, Filipino suitors touching even just the hands of Filipinas were considered taboo. The only time that they were allowed to come in close contact to each other was during the day of their wedding. And that adds up to the thrill which we now call qilig/kilig. In modern times, however, all of this has been lost. The Filipino youth, Anglo-Saxonized to the core, have engaged in premarital sexual relationships in wild abandon, debasing love of its purity and truest form. That is why Alden and Maine’s first appearance together in split screen last July 16 woke up in us our latent Hispanic romanticism. The split screen were, in a way, the windows of those old houses where lovers of yesteryears whispered either puppy love frivolities or their undying love for each other.

Bae Alden and Yaya Dub’s first eye-to-eye contact last September 5 is now considered as one of Filipino TV’s most iconic moments.

AlDub with Eat Bulaga!’s “Dabarkads” together for the first time at Broadway Centrum last October 3.

Lastly, AlDub is not your ordinary love team. Unlike all love teams we have, they’re not what most showbiz-loving Filipinos call “pa-tweetums” or “pa-cute“. They are weird and wacky, making their tandem somewhat revolutionary. But most of all, they subtly spread Filipino CATHOLIC Values. That is why they have touched base to our latent Hispanic soul. AlDub has inadvertently reconnected us to our past selves.

Like many other pop culture phenomena, Kalyeserye will one day run its course. But the positive effect it has on Filipinos about rekindling their time-honored values will be for keeps. Let’s enjoy and cherish it while it lasts.

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Too many “official” hashtags for the upcoming papal visit?

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In recent years, hashtags have become the lifeblood for social media’s dynamism, real-time qualities, and fast connectivity to other people sharing the same message or news online. Twitter set the wheels in motion, then other social media giants such as Facebook and Instagram followed suit upon noticing its popularity and usefulness. Hashtagging has now become a big deal in the Internet. Today, we have become a world fixated in hashtags. Even politicians, big business, and religious leaders find it riveting and, in the long run, useful especially in popularizing ideas and messages. And even one’s agenda.

In the past few months leading to Pope Francis’ visit to our country which will happen within this week, we have come across so many “official” hashtags for his historic and spiritual visit. Rappler has #PopeFrancisPH. ABS-CBN uses #PopeTYSM. And so on and so forth.

While these local media giants have all the right to popularize their own hashtag on the upcoming papal visit, let it be known that they are not official. There is only one official hashtag for Pope Francis’ visit. And that is…

#PapalVisitPH is the only official hashtag to Pope Francisco’s visit to Filipinas.

To declare that #PapalVisitPH is the only official hashtag is not being selfish. It’s just setting the record straight that an official hashtag referring to the papal visit should come, of course, from the Catholic Church and not from secular institutions, especially those who are forwarding their LGBT agenda while sucking up to the Pope for recognition.

Intramuros Administration responds to “graffiti art”

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I am reposting here the reply of Atty. Marco Antonio Luisito V. Sardillo III, Intramuros Administration administrator, to my Facebook complaint concerning the existence of a graffit mural art within the historic Hispanic walls of Intramuros which people like me find out of place (and my response to it is right below):

Mr. Alas, allow me to begin my “explanation” by setting out the factual context within which I hope my “explanation” is received. First, I assumed office in August 5, 2013. The graffiti wall that you are referring to was a project that took place long before I assumed office. (In fact, if you google, you will see that this has been written about before, eg: http://www.rappler.com/…/arts…/35516-legal-graffiti-wall) Second, I believe that some/most of the explanation that you are seeking has already been supplied by Carlos, when you posted a link to your article in the Heritage Conservation Society FB page. As I mentioned, I was not around at the time, and so, this project was not something that I could have “disallowed.”

I do not have the expertise and neither am I qualified to engage in a debate on whether graffiti constitutes art; thus, anything I say about graffitis would be but a mere comment and not an “informed” opinion. As such, I am not inclined to pass judgment or chime in, as my thoughts will not add value to that “debate” (that you alluded to).

That being said, I do believe that, as we chart the path towards the “orderly restoration and development of Intramuros,” we should be able to accommodate a more inclusive appreciation of what it means to be “Filipino” — and in that process, expand and enrich our notion of it. Indeed, Intramuros, by law, should be a monument to the Hispanic period of Philippine history. I should emphasize that it is a monument “to” and not a monument “of.” What this means is that Intramuros’ “orderly restoration and development” should not be a mere snapshot or recreation based on photographs — or what others have referred to as a “disneyfication.” Intramuros, too, is about what the Filipinos have made of it, and what it has become as a result of that enriching process. This ongoing process should be able to tolerate a difference in opinion, even as we are continuing to understand and unpack the meaning and value of “Intramuros.” (Case in point: I have been in conversations with “experts” where the only apparent consensus is that they can’t come to an agreement about what we really mean about the “past.”) [N.B. Under existing laws, it is Fort Santiago that has been declared as “hallowed” ground, and not all of Intramuros. Even then, there is no specifically mandated or required form of respect or reverence. After all, respect or reverence is, essentially, an internal movement.]

As a final note, and here my personal thoughts would indicate my general inclination towards that graffiti project. Do I personally find it disrespectful of Intramuros? Personally, I don’t. The fact that that project exists on the fence of a vacant lot indicates to me that its context is not premised on permanence. As a “public policy” issue, I also recognize that (1) there is a tension between “graffiti” as art and its street cred and (2) I appreciate that having a “graffiti wall”–particularly, on a temporarily designated fence–provides a venue for expression, and a disincentive for vandalism (that could occur elsewhere). That fence can just as easily be torn down–or the graffiti be painted over or whitewashed. In the greater scheme of things, within the context of the fence of a vacant lot, personally, I can tolerate (and, on some level, even appreciate) the effort made towards transforming bare concrete–and inciting thought and debate.

If the Intramuros Administration allows the proliferation of graffiti and other similar “art” within the Walled City, then our dear Old Manila would be relegated to the status of just another EDSA and the like.

Thank you so much for taking time to reply, sir, and for stating your honest-to-goodness stand regarding this matter. I do not desire to prolong this especially since our friend Carlos regards it as a “non-issue” (if a famous celebrity activist declares it as such, then poor anonymous me cannot do anything much about it). Besides, I have already made and proven my point that graffiti, no matter how cool it looks or how much you glorify it, is not Filipino art. No art appreciation nor rocket science needed to discern it.

Anyway, I would like to clarify a few things. One of them is your remark that Intramuros is a monument “to” and not a monument “of” our country’s Hispanic past, and that the Intramuros today “should not be a mere snapshot or recreation based on (old) photographs”. But sir, I wasn’t even thinking of old photographs when I first saw that graffit on Twitter. I simply deemed it correct that it shouldn’t be there. You know, I may agree with you to some extent that we can no longer bring back the Intramuros of old (if that is what you mean by “mere snapshot”). With huge buildings such as those of the Manila Bulletin, Bank of the Philippine Islands, and The Bayleaf Intramuros (gasp!) towering over the original edifices, squatter settlements such as the one fronting the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (irony of ironies), as well as several fastfoods and other commercial establishments firmly scattered throughout the Walled City, there is this huge impossibility of ever bringing back the original Manila of our nostalgia. But my point is simply this: what little we can do to conserve what Intramuros is all about —a monument OF our country’s Hispanic past, as you said— then that is what we must do.

That graffiti art simply does not fit the above statement.

And that is why, even though it is painted on private property, I am still against it. And speaking of private property, we should even avoid using that argument. So with all due respect, dear sir, I discourage you from even saying it. Remember that it is always used as an excuse by people without any regard to heritage for them to tear down or sell their privately owned ancestral houses (case in point: the fabled Alberto Mansion in Biñán, La Laguna).

Now, just like the debate on whether graffiti constitutes art or not, there is, too, an ongoing debate on what really is a Filipino (again, not who but what) which was aggravated more when renowned historian Teorodo Agoncillo, in his book History of the Filipino People, stated that “it is difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is“, confusing many students in the process. That is why today, we have different versions of our national identity: some claim that it dates far back before the Spanish advent; some say that it is based on our Hispanic past; some say that it is an amalgam of both our Hispanic heritage and US pop culture; still others say that our identity was fully formed only after 1872 or 1898 (or even 1986). The reason why I share this to you is that, in view of the ongoing identity crisis, it is highly unlikely that we can “expand and enrich” our notion of it.

To be honest —and you will certainly find this biased— I belong to that minority who believes that our national identity was formed from our Hispanic past, the very same era which created that walled enclave that you have sworn to protect as per the IA’s mandate.

And with all due respect to your personal opinions, they really do not matter here. What matters is what the IA’s national mandate to Intramuros is, and not what its officials personally think of what should or should not constitute the Walled City. Personally, I also find graffiti art cool. But as I have already mentioned, it is simply out of place. Un-Filipino. We don’t need to use it as a “disincentive for vandalism”. What we need is stringent measures to prevent it.

Be that as it may, I would still like to thank you for your humbleness to respond to a “non-issue” (unlike current NCCA chairman Felipe M. de León, Jr. who simply walked away with his tail between his legs, completely ignoring my grievance). I am sure that you and I have genuine concern for Intramuros. The only problem is that both of us do not possess the same eye on how to approach it. I see Intramuros as our country’s “heart and soul” (the state of Intramuros is a reflection of our country). I bet you see it differently.

He dicho.

Friendly advice: when you’re fuming mad, stay away from social media

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That’s one lesson I learned… the hard way. And embarrassingly, too.

Two Sundays ago, just a few minutes before going to late afternoon Mass in Barrio Landayan, I was engaged in a filthy word war with a troll account in Twitter (yeah, I know… not a spiritual way to prepare for Mass, mea culpa). The troll account is a supporter of Barrio San Antonio Chairman Eugenio Ynión, Jr., the man who sent me a death threat last summer, and a rabid hater of Mayor Lourdes Catáquiz and her husband, former Mayor Calixto Catáquiz.

The troll account won the word war simply because I fed its trolling. We are reminded of that well-known online adage: don’t feed the troll. But in a rage, I completely forgot all about it. The troll account I was up against is an expert roaster, a veteran even (in real life, this troll —whose identity is not a secret among San Pedrense netizens— is actually already a veteran, agewise). And since my family was hurrying me up to get dressed and my mind was blackened with spite, my replies got too clumsy, giving the troll account  the upper hand. Boy, did it give me some serious a$s-whooping.

I have joined a couple of online forums even before social media became in vogue. The forums that I join usually engage in topics which tackle Philippine History and other related subjects (my forte, I’d like to think). Throughout the years of my online existence, I’ve been a commenter, an observer, a moderator, and even a troll myself, haha. Whenever I am engaged in a heated real-time or live debate, and I am already on the verge of losing my cool, the opponent more often than not gets the better of me. Yes, I confess that I am a slow thinker.

But when I think slowly, I think surely.

Anyway, I already noticed this turtle-paced mental process of mine way back in college when my alma mater, mistakenly thinking that they have at last discovered a new JB Lazarte, entered me in an impromptu essay writing contest. When the topic was revealed, and the moment the timer started ticking, all the contestants were already jotting hurriedly. Me? I was paralyzed with anxiety, sweating profusely on my seat, helplessly watching the rest scribble it out like there’s no tomorrow. Nothing came out from my ink because that tension-filled moment was squeezing my brain. I only started writing when I decided to just give it up — and that was about half past the allotted time.

Now, going back to that online a$s-whooping I received. Nothing comes close to trolling than this Catáquiz hater who has found an ally in the person of one Manuel Mejorada, an Ynión attack dog based in Iloílo City disguised as a respectable a journalist. The troll account got the better of me, especially when I made a major boo-boo: when I referred to the Court of Appeals as “the court of last resort”, haha. And when Mejorada found out about my carelessness later on, he was so overjoyed that he even took time to make a screenshot of it then posted it on his Facebook account…

Thanks for the appeal for forgiveness, Boy Remedio. I appreciate it. I owe you one for your show of sympathy.

 

Before becoming a PR guy for Jun Ynión (and the mentally unstable Rommel Ynión), Mejorada was a former provincial administrator of Iloílo; if I’m not mistaken, he served under the term of former Governor Niel Tupás, Sr. So just imagine my amused surprise that this “VIP”, a self-proclaimed defender of the truth, took time to give me special space on that bastion of justice that is his Facebook account. For Mejorada and that Twitter troller, my “court of last resort” slip up was a huge event complete with fireworks and lechón and marching bands. They were having such a grand time as if it mattered all the world. It’s like, hey, who the heck am I to deserve such attention from a political and journalistic figure in Panay Island? In one comment of his, Mejorada himself even said that I’m just a mere “butete” compared to the others he usually defames… err, attacks rather.

Of course I got annoyed. However, the underlying sentiment I had was that of flattery. To make it more simple, and to Manuel Mejorada’s credit, who in blue blazes am I when made to stand side by side with a giant? (“wow, pinatulan ang isáng tulad có, haha.“) 😀 Yes sir. Make no mistake. Manuel Mejorada is a giant (figuratively AND literally speaking). That is why inspite of all the insults I received from his august Facebook account, I couldn’t help but feel being a little bit special… I must have surely made a mark to deserve this kind of attention! 🙂

Be that as it may, this blogpost, of course, will be deemed by those two Ynión attack dogs as nothing more but a deodorant to hide the stench of my “ignorance” (Mejorada’s words). Rest assured, dear reader, that I am and have always been cognizant of the fact about which institution is the court of last resort. Proof? Why, even those idiotic attack dogs know about it.

So there, dear friends. Let this be a lesson to you, most especially to slow-thinkers such as myself: never ever touch that mouse or keyboard when you are angry and/or in a hurry during an online argument. You might not like what you’ve been typing. When you feel like you are already losing your temper, better leave your opponent for a while. Breathe, take a break, then return to the battlefield once you’ve gone back to a relaxed demeanor. Besides, online arguments are not formal ones, especially with what had transpired between me and that troll two Sundays ago.

Speaking of a relaxed demeanor, I’m now wondering if Mejorada was in that particular state of mind and body when he posted this idiocy on Facebook:

Please forgive his ignorance too. Por favor. Have mercy on this travesty brought about by senility…

As mentioned earlier, Manuel Mejorada, aside from being a seasoned (yellow) journalist in Iloílo Province, is no stranger to politics, as he was once a provincial administrator (I learned that he also used to be the Twitter handler of Senator Franklin Drilón but there was a falling out). Having said that, didn’t it even occur to him that the incumbent leadership in a local government unit incurs advances from a previous administration? At capág may mg̃a dadaúsing eventos, programas, etc., ang mg̃a organizador ang cumucuha ng cash advance, hindî ang alcalde o ang alcaldesa. Naturally, only those who request cash advances are tasked to have them liquidated, and an order is issued to have those advances liquidated within a certain period of time.

Furthermore, it is not uncommon that unliquidated cash advances are handed down from a previous administration to the present one. Besides, even if Mejorada doesn’t do any pestering, these matters are under the watch of a city or municipal hall’s resident auditor from the Commission on Audit (COA).

I reiterate: this yellow journalist-turned-PR guy for the Ynión Brothers was a former “public servant” himself. That is why it is now puzzling as to why Mejorada should “pester” the COA about something which COA is very cognizant about.

So, should we also forgive Manuel Mejorada’s IGNORANCE on LGU state of affairs, something he is supposed to know about?

Drawing up our islands

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Asked about his country’s culture, brief history, and other Frenchy stuff while on a drinking session somewhere in Alabang, this former French officemate of mine readily obliged and even gamely drew up a crude sketch of his country on a large piece of tissue paper!

Me and the rest of our Filipino coworkers drinking with him were amazed at how he did it. And by the look on his face, he was a bit puzzled at our admiration. It’s because drawing a sketch of their country was something normal to him, to all of them there in France. Probably the same thing with other countries. Which led me to think: how many schools here in our country do even care to teach our students how to draw our archipelago, or at least make a more or less accurate crude sketch of it?

It’s understandable, though, that in comparison, France is a bit easier to draw than the Filipino archipelago: it’s compact and a bit squarish despite the irregularities on the sides. Our country, of course, is composed of thousands of jigsaw-puzzle shaped islands and islets. Other than that, not everyone has the talent to draw (the only stuff I know to draw is a bamboo stick). But should this be an excuse? In my alma mater, all students, regardless of their course, are required to take up Basic Inorganic Chemistry even though all of them (especially in my case) never intended to build their careers inside a test-tube-filled laboratory. And all high school students (not sure if it’s still the same with college) are still required to undergo basic military training. The point of it all, of course, is to help shape a well-rounded and (hopefully) multifaceted Filipino student.

Will the skill to draw our archipelago help contribute to that? Yes, I believe so. It will inculcate in them not just a knowledge of their country’s visual representation but also a sense of ownership, if not nationalism. And following a sense of ownership is responsibility. Like what environmentalists usually say about our planet, Filipinas is our only home; we have to take care of it, guard it, and defend it at all times.

With all this senseless and bigoted Islamic claim of the entire island of Mindanáo (not to mention China’s nincompoopish claim over OUR Spratlys and the Scarborough Shoal), may our educational system not wait until our country is composed only of Luzón and Visayas before they thought of inculcating geographical awareness and pride among our students.

*******

Follow me on Twitter!

Abusive journalism?

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When this seemingly innocent little tweet of mine caught the attention of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editorial staff last week, I didn’t intend to make an issue out of it. I just posted a brief comment on my FB account, then that’s it. But then, I got mentioned again by the same newspaper the following day, and this time by one of its most “respected” columnists. So I think that, hey, they really won’t let me be. Blast it.

First of all, I AM NOT a sympathizer of Janet Lim-Nipples. If you ask me, with all the evidence being presented by investigative journalists, I think she really is guilty. I don’t like her one bit. Imagine: buying several mansions and condominiums here and abroad when she and her husband only have four kids! Isn’t one house enough for these greedy people? But that’s them: stinking drunk with wealth and power.

However, I am not out to condemn Janet yet since she has not yet been formally investigated in a court of law nor has she been convicted. I’m not a fan of trial by publicity. But I’m a fan of sarcastic and witty memes, hehe!

When I tweeted that Janet was being bullied by Inquirer reporters, that didn’t necessarily mean that I was already sympathizing with her. It was just an observation of mine. Because that was the truth: she was really being bullied, particularly by Managing Editor Joey Nolasco and photographer Edwin Bacasmas. Imagine: she went to Inquirer on her own accord, ready to air her side, and knowing that she was to speak to only ONE journalist: the editor-in-chief herself, Ms. Letty Jiménez-Magsánoc. But her humble request was denied. Instead, the suspect was shanghaied into a round-panel interview that she was not expecting. Here, check this out (at the video’s 1:18 mark):

Nápoles: Yes, ma’am, I’m sorry po. Kasi ’di ba parang everyday na, tapos wala naman. Tapos sabi ko sa husband ni [pointing to reporter Cathy Yamsúan], first time kong nakita siya si Ma’am Cathy. Sabi ko, Brian, may access ba para sa Inquirer. Para lang umapela ako bilang ina na sana bago isulat, kunin muna side namin. Yun lang ho talaga. Kaya akala ko, mga 10:30, pag wala na hong. Kasi hindi ko alam may mga ganito. First time ko pumunta ng Inquirer. That’s why, Ma’am, na-shock ako sa inyo. “Don’t you know that there’s a roundtable?” Sabi ko, “Ha?”

And throughout the video, the suspect has been pleading the photographer, Mr. Bacasmas, not to take her picture anymore. Bacasmas already had taken several, but he still disrespected the suspect’s pleas. Worse, Mr. Bacasmas was not even admonished by Raúl Pañgalañgan (PDI publisher). What really irritated me is that some of those journalists asked her questions as if they were members of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee! My golly. For instance, listen to Mr. Nolasco’s arrogant questioning (11:03 of the first video above, then at the first few minutes of the video below):

Nolasco: Mrs. Nápoles, tutal nandito na kayo…

Nápoles: Nakakatakot ka, sir, ah. Bakit anong kasalanan ko sa’yo?

[Laughter]

Nolasco: Heto, pagkakataon mo na ’to. Ano ang maling sinulat ng mga reporters namin tungkol sa inyo? Sabihin niyo na ngayon. Ilalabas natin.

Nápoles: Asa anak ko, naka ganun eh [mimics writing/listing]. Naka… [laughs]

Nolasco: Siguro naman naalala mo ’yung mga main points nun. [This refers to Nolasco asking Napoles to talk about inaccuracies in the reporters’ stories on the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.-Ed.]

Chato Garcellano/Opinion Editor: Oo naman, alam niyo ’yun.

Nolasco: Pagkakataon niyo na ’to.

Nápoles: Mahirap magsalita.

Pañgalañgan: Kahit hindi lahat. Just a few.

Nolasco: Anong naaalala niyo dun? Kasi inaakusahan niyo ’yung mga reporter namin na…

Nápoles: Ah kasi [unintelligible] si Atty. (Lorna) Kapunan ng kaso. Nilagay niya. Eh dun na lang. Baka magalit sa akin yung abogado. Kasi kung [unintelligible].

Nolasco: Ang ibig sabihin, Mrs. Napoles, hindi niyo alam?

Nápoles: Hindi ko alam. Kasi siyempre, nasa dyaryo. Siyempre, hindi naman ho lahat ng sinulat sa dyaryo pwede mong idemanda. Siyempre babasahin mo, pantay ba yung [unintelligible].

Nolasco: O, ano? Ano ang maling sinulat ni ano … ng mga reporter namin? Wala? Wala kang masabi?

Nápoles: Hindi ho, meron siyempre.

Nolasco: O, ano?

Garcellano: Sabihin niyo na.

Mike Suárez/News Service Chief: Sabihin niyo na.

Nolasco: Dahil ’yun ’yung susulatin nila, wala kang masabi.

Blast it, do these journalists really expect the most hated Filipina today to be as articulate as they are, especially in an unexpected round-panel interview? Even I would have stammered like sh*t if I were placed in such a situation even if I wasn’t guilty of anything. So to paraphrase Mr. Mon Tulfo, that candid interview with Nápoles would have won her sympathy from the public had her initial request been respected.

*******

On a related note, I do not believe that the pork barrel would be scrapped that fast. Malacañang almost always uses it as a form of “bribe” to legislators. Cooperative senators and congressmen receive their pork barrel in full and on time. Those who are in the opposition would receive nothing. That’s the sad truth.

So I think the only remedy at hand is to enhance the government’s procurement processes. They should upgrade to e-Procurement wherein all procurement activities of the government are transparent to both buyers and suppliers. In our country, the only Filipino company I know that provides e-Procurement services is Transprocure (not sure if BayanTrade is still around). So why not give e-Procurement a chance? It’s worth a try.

*******

And lastly, Janet’s last name is pronounced as NAH-po-les, not Na-POH-les. Her last name is Spanish for that lovely Italian municipality called Naples, a major international tourist destination (no wonder traveling is in her daughter’s genes, LOL). So if you can’t pronounce it right, go for Janet Lim-Nipples. Blast it.

Did social media affect 2013 Philippine polls?

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Did social media affect PH 2013 polls?

By Kathlyn dela Cruz and Ivy Jean Vibar, ABS-CBNnews.com
Posted at 05/15/2013 10:29 AM | Updated as of 05/15/2013 10:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The 2013 elections did not yield a social media-driven, “Obama-like” miracle win. As a matter of fact, it may be said that what happened was the very opposite—social media lent little weight to the outcome of the mid-term polls.

Some of the most talked-about senatorial candidates online did not reach the coveted top 12, and despite the viral posts shedding negative light on certain candidates, they still were able to garner millions of votes, and were not even relegated to the bottom of the list.

Despite being said to have mattered very little in the recent elections, the social media seeds planted during this time may blossom in future. After all, the 2013 elections became only the second during which candidates extensively used social media to push their campaigns forward. Social media was already in use in earlier elections, but not by all national candidates.

The monitoring of online traffic seemed to be more intensive during this year’s polls, as media and technology companies partnered to create social media trackers to gauge the impact of online conversation on offline electoral decisions.

Several personalities were highlighted on social media during the past elections. Their mentions spiked as interest in them as offline events crossed over to the internet and social media. Some were also talked about due to events which occurred only online.

This, despite analysts saying social media does not quite have an impact.

Not much fuss over buzz

As of writing, Grace Poe Llamanzares is in the lead in the senatorial race according to partial and unofficial results sourced by ABS-CBN from the Comelec Transparency Server. She is followed by Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Koko Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes IV, Cynthia Villar, JV Ejército Estrada, and Gringo Honasan.

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