Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wrong picture

Because I thought that my gay son’s rights as a human being would be defended; because I thought that finally, the LGBT community would have a voice in congress; because I believe that it’s about time that gays and lesbians are accorded the same rights, freedom and respect as everybody else, I was considering voting for Ladlad Partylist this coming election.

Then I turn on my computer today and a photo of scantily-clad men in cut-off Ladlad Partylist shirts and underwear greeted me. This was a photo taken during a male pageant, a "bikini open," and posted on Facebook. I would now have to reconsider my vote.

Gabriela Partylist t-shirts being used in a wet t-shirt contest? I don’t think so.

I would like my vote to go to a sectoral representative who would truly represent the aspirations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in congress; a representative who would fight for their right to equality and freedom from discrimination; and most of all, a partylist that would help free the community from stereotypes and the general public from biases.

The photo? It’s several steps in the opposite direction. If this is the kind of politics that Ladlad partylist wishes to introduce to the already rotten political system, then I hope they don’t make it to congress. We have too much of that brand of politics in there already. It is sad that a group claiming to be champions of LGBT rights would be the same group that would help reinforce the stereotype.

What were they thinking? That the image of bulging penises would earn the community the respect that it has long been longing, fighting for?

I give them the benefit of the doubt. I still hope that their politics will go beyond gyrating half-naked men and bikini opens.

I am still hoping that I would live to see the day that my son will live his life in a society where being gay need not be "accepted," in the same way we don't need to accept children who show signs of being straight.

I'm not sure now if Ladlad partylist can finally take us there. Apparently, they too need to be freed from the same stereotypes they're fighting against.

Friday, March 15, 2013

You don’t do that to me

What does it say about our society that rewards Willy Revillame with so much money and power and drives one college freshman to take her own life because she couldn’t afford to pay her obligations to the country’s State University?

One of the most viewed clips on the video-sharing website, YouTube, is the “you don’t do that to me” tirade of Revillame directed at an actress named, ready? Ethel Booba. He humiliated her on air, she confronted him backstage after, and Revillame, in all his arrogant glory, thought his comeback is worth being viewed by the whole country on a major network during prime time. This isn’t the first time he’s done something like this. He once stopped his show in mid-mediocrity to direct the network to remove an inset on the screen showing live footage of the ongoing funeral of former Pres. Cory Aquino.

He can do all that because he is one of the most popular and highest-paid game-show hosts in the country today. That’s the show where people lining up to get in the studio died in a stampede years ago. Where scantily-clad women gyrate for hours on end to Revillame’s off-key and often off-color singing.

And our society rewards that show with high-ratings and millions in the bank for one Willy Revillame.

The 16-year old college freshman, reportedly the daughter of a part-time taxi driver and an unemployed mother, was forced to file a leave of absence with the country’s state university due to unpaid school fees. The University of the Philippines has a socialized tuition fee system: basically those who have more pay more and those who have less pay less. Students’ financial standings are categorized, and the freshman belonged to Bracket “D” which placed her tuition fee rate at 300-900 per unit. She has not fully paid her tuition for this semester, and U.P. has a “no late payment” policy. She wouldn’t be able to attend school next semester.

She tried applying for a student loan but was denied. No surprise here because any lending institution would like would-be borrowers to show proof first that they don’t need the loan before they approve it. What has a part-time taxi driver got to show for anyway?

She took her own life. But wait, before we start training our guns at MalacaƱang, at the "establishment," let’s take a look at ourselves first. We are the people who put those people in power. We may be among those who scoff at protesting farmers for tying up traffic forcing you to get stuck in the middle of the road in your air-conditioned car. We’re the ones who shake our heads at students who storm out of classrooms to fight for their right to education and express their sentiments against an oppressive and abusive political system. We may even be among those who laugh at the efforts of a bunch of people doing all they can to save a mere 182 trees.

And we’re also the ones who tune in on a show called Wowowillie religiously every day.

The real reason behind the young woman’s suicide may be debatable – but she represents the millions of our youth today who have got hardly anything to look forward to in this social epoch we’ve laid out for them.

We did this to her.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Power Failure

Nobody’s above or beneath you, here we work hand and in hand and not under a hierarchy. Your position is not one of power, but of responsibility. We merely have different responsibilities.

That’s how it is in our theatre group, Open Space, where the bottom line has always been the artwork and how best to communicate that to our audiences. All efforts are focused on delivering that story in the best possible way we can – directors, designers, stage managers, technicians, crew and cast, we all recognize and respect our respective positions and recognize that how we perform our responsibilities affect the way our colleagues perform theirs.

A stage hand must know why he’s there, what his responsibilities are, and perform them with as much passion, commitment and dedication as the actor on centerstage. A hand prop or costume in the right place at the right time enables the actor to perform his responsibilities well, in the same way that a responsible actor who comes to rehearsals and performances on time, commit themselves to the role they’re playing and respects the work that the others in a production do helps the stage hand to be able to set that hand prop or costume in the right place at the right time. Once that stage hand or actor see their position as power to make or break a show, the whole thing falls apart. In theatre, we know we depend on each other.

Our people have been enslaved for centuries – by colonizers for hundreds of years, and by each other since becoming a free nation. The Spaniards recognized their power to conquer this nation and enslave a people whom they believed were beneath them, inferior to them. They came, they saw and they conquered these islands, and they only recognized the power of their position, and abused it for more than three hundred years. The Americans, while trumpeting the concept Manifest Destiny, that it is their responsibility to teach these economically, militarily, culturally and intellectually inferior little brown people to govern themselves, did exactly as our previous colonizers did – abuse the power they had to serve their own interests. The Japanese came under the pretence of freeing us from Western domination and influence, and ended up doing the same as first two.

And since July, 1946, the leaders of this country fared no better than the colonizers. They too began regarding their fellowmen as subjects, powerless individuals they can enslave, a nation, province, a city, a barangay, even neighborhood homeowners’ association they can abuse. What good is it if the slaves of today become the tyrants of tomorrow? Rizal asked more than a century ago, and that’s exactly what’s become of our people. Slaves of yesterday, tyrants of today.

It’s about the policeman who has stopped recognizing his responsibility to keep a community safe and only see his position as an opportunity to extort money from the people; or the barangay captain, the councilor, the mayor or congressman who take advantage of their respective offices to enrich themselves at the expense of the welfare of the man on the street. And unless tomorrow's policeman, security guard, businessman or mayor has the heart to break the vicious cycle, we will all remain slaves.

It’s not about power, it’s about responsibility. Until we realize that, all of us will always be slaves.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Baguio, Inc.

Welcome to Baguio, Inc., a rapidly progressing city that they say is inevitable. And they want us to grin and bear it, welcome it with open arms and embrace it. In today's Baguio, Inc. corporate interest reigns supreme, and the people are merely a market.

Progress is what they call getting caught in heavy traffic in smog and noise-filled city streets; when we buy our food in cling wrap and bar-coded instead of fresh off the ground at the market; having less earth space and more man-made structures; more money yet a poorer quality of life. It is progress when we lose our sense of community and we walk down streets filled with indifferent strangers.

In today’s Baguio, Inc., they trumpet the building of a parking building and a commercial complex, and muffle the sound of trees being felled and the risks that a denuded and concreted hillside posts on lives and property. In Baguio, Inc., we are supposed to celebrate the sprouting of high-rise condominiums and franchise restaurants all around us. In Baguio, Inc., they highlight the number of jobs created every time a concrete box is erected, and are blind to or intentionally gloss over the fact that we as a community become less and less happy living in a slowly decaying city.

They flaunt the prospect of more money going around and they want us to want that money very badly. And sadly, many of us have gone for the carrot on their one hand, without knowing that there’s a stick on the other. Enjoy the windfall now, and imagine the kind of city you’re passing on to your children.

And you buy it. In Baguio, Inc., your business may be earning a bit more these days because of this supposed progress, but they don’t want you to realize that you are also actually spending way more for everything. You spend more money for food bought from refrigerated shelves. You spend more time getting from here to there because the streets are clogged and they all lead to monuments to crass commercialism, shameless materialism. You now spend for recreation – tokens at the arcade, tickets to the movies, parking fees, entrance fees. You go to the park and you rent a bike, a boat, a pair of skates or buy tickets for a couple of minutes in a bumper car. And for a whole month every year, you go to the park to buy inferior mass-produced plastic crap and eat dirty food.

Is this really progress?

To progress is to develop, to improve, become better. Progress is for a once clean and green city to become cleaner and greener. Progress is for a once beautiful city to become even more beautiful. If you were sad before, to progress is to become happy. If you were already happy before, to progress is to become happier.

Again, in today’s Baguio, Inc., are we really progressing as a community, as a people, as a city?