Friday, June 8, 2012


I am quite sure they didn't even imagine for one millisecond that this whole thing was going to explode right on their faces.

Well, some say that what transpired was a simple case of overreaction.  The internet is fertile ground for an exercise like that. All you need is to create some form of provocation ... and before you know it, there is an avalanche of seething opinion resembling that of a river of lava flowing out of a volcano of hate coming right your way to completely annihilate you.

There is this whole mob thingy that is generated by the world wide web, a friend opined.  Once it becomes fashionable to bash something, someone or an issue, everyone will come attacking your way like a lynch mob.  This is so simply because it has become the latest form of recreation. Bashing someone is a form of therapeutic amusement to vent our anger and frustration into something in particular.  It intensifies our sila and tayo dichotomy.

Especially in our country, we cannot --- I repeat --- we cannot and can never exist without a controversy or an issue or a preoccupation of sorts to totally grab our attention with matching imagination.

So whether it is a badly choreographed action scene at the airport where a revered member of the telenovela royalty showed her hidden talent as an action queen --- or Miss 1999 finding God and bashing the entire gay community as a sign of her newfound vocation --- or even feeling cheated because the runner up of a high rating American reality show happens to possess Filipino lineage and was eased out by a white bread strumming songs about haystacks, we must always have something to fight for, to root for ... or simply to discuss while eating our bags of Boy Bawang or Tokyo San Crunch Coated Peanuts.

Well, as a friend of mine pointed out again, "Eh, kasi naman nagpaka-controversial pa, eh."  

But I do not think it was that.  This is not like the other clothing line that completely conquered the entire vista of the Guadalupe Bridge if you are northbound, plastering the whole stretch of the horizon with scantily clad rugby players (which, according to some very conservative mayor, could actually provoke not only traffic hazards --- but possibly suicides). And that became controversial only because somebody actually believed that the sight of giant men in skivvies would be invitations to dirty thoughts and phallic fantasies. Oh, dear. That ... or penis-envy, actually.

However this new controversy has got nothing to do with various states of nudity. This was all about percentages. And races. And skin color. And even thus more dangerous because it is pseudo-scientific.

There is nothing really wrong in trying to genetically deconstruct permutations of the human species.  It is tantamount to diminishing people like sachets of three-in-one-coffee, trying to figure out what is the right proportion for the perfect mix. And, besides, the campaign was supposed to be ( I repeat that with greater emphasis: supposed to be) pro-Filipino. 

The attempt of the ad campaign to underline the significance of buying Filipino was not subtly put at the end of the copy --- as if to insist that it is not only more fun in the Philippines ---  but we actually can dress better. That was not the issue all together. It is about the careless declarations ...and a case of really bad writing.

OK, I get that entire logic about mix-and-match.  

It is, after all, a female fashion brand that sells separates and hopes to encourage tasteful combination of tops, skirts and pants. But to equate this with interracial identity --- and to diminish everything to a series of pat equations --- is not only verging on the prejudicial but even fallacious and, yes, insulting. 

For who in his/her right mind would concoct a marketing campaign that would even dare say that the perfect recipe for a "world class beauty" is the Filipina mixed with foreign blood? 

Uhm, to think that this campaign is targeted for the consumption of Pinays in the marketplace who do not necessarily have Australian, British, African, Chinese or Indian blood.  Duh!

Or did the copywriter really believe that there is still any one of us Filipinos out here who is untouched by some foreign race or another? Perhaps. But to singularly point out that by having any semblance of being a half-breed is superior is ...uh, hel-ler. 

But leave that as you wish: let us give the benefit of the doubt that it was all about the wording and the copy that really screwed it up.  

To think that before an ad is brought out to print ... or launched as a full fledged campaign, the nitpicking and the scrutinizing not to mention the nearly-neurotic pambubusisi of ad men can reach the level of the manic. 

And they did not see that this would happen?  They did not even have an iota of clue that Filipinos will feel slighted by the mere suggestion that the hybrid is superior than she with the purest of pedigree?  Tell me about gross miscalculations. Or, as a feminist friend of mine said, textbook insensitivity. OK, somebody even suggested "borderline stupidity."

Again, leave it at that: the campaign wanted to celebrate diversity as unity.  I would like to think of it as that. 

But it also proved that the copy is mightier than the theme. Enter Madonna singing the bridge of her song Four Minutes: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." 

The brand wanted to show that there is no single look for the Filipina for, indeed, we cannot specifically pinpoint much less paint a thorough and precise image of who and what is the Filipino today.  The mixture of races and cultures constitute the dynamism of racial evolution --- inasmuch as our younger generation are much taller, think digitally and believe that globalization --- even acculturation --- are all inevitable.

But still that is no excuse to announce that she who has mixed blood has superior beauty --- because this is precisely the kind of thinking that has yielded such cultural schizophrenia in our sense of aesthetics. 

Yes, indeed --- Nikita looked beautiful because she is supposedly 60% African and 40% Filipino.  

For indeed, Nikita is beautiful. Period. And she is a Filipina born of both black and brown parents in Mindanao. Period.  I like that. Because she is black. And she is beautiful. And she shatters this whole botica brainwashing we get from media insisting that Maganda ang maputi, sumpa ang maging maitim --- kaya, Ate, mag-ambisiyon kang magmukhang anak araw at magtago ka sa araw para hindi kang mangitim.

This is the kind of thinking that has existed since the time of movies like "Cofradia" where the happily-ever-after comes when the black paint is washed off Tita Gloria Romero so that she can transform into her full mestiza glory.

This is also the kind of mindset we feed young people --- which is why we still have characters in our television shows who are painted as black as black can get --- and shown to be inferior to their relatively more pale-skinned companions. To be black is to be isolated --- because you do not fit in. The year is 2012 and we still encourage that kind of bigoted thinking. 

Worse is the equation that senyorita ang mga mapuputi, kasambahay ang mga maiitim. Yeah, right: bring out the frailles and all the Dona Victorina wannabes with pig ligament implants to gift themselves aquiline noses.


That is why we are peddling skin-whiteners so that women (in a matter of only weeks) can begin their crusade to become albinos. Yes, your dermatologist will still remind you to keep away from the sun because it can cause wrinkles. Your doctor will also warn you that sunbathing, when pushed to the extreme, can create adverse effects including skin cancer.  But I have yet to hear any representative of the medical profession (of whatever specialization) telling anyone that paleness of skin is healthier than anyone born with darker pigmentation.

That sort of thinking was not prescribed by medicine --- or dictates of health.  They are ploys of people selling products and services --- while pre-conditioning the woman that there is a template of beauty and it is usually what she is not and can never achieve. 

Now it is the choice of any thinking individual to encourage such prejudices and misconceptions or to finally be awakened by the fact that the beauty of any woman --- of any human --- can only come by accepting who she or he is and celebrating the qualities inherent in his race.  That specifically includes skin color. And that has got nothing to do with percentages of racial mixture at all.

This brings to mind a beautiful memory.

Twelve years ago, a group of Filipinos attended the Berlin International Film Festival. One of the actresses who joined the entourage of Filipinos was Ana Capri.  

Ana, a native of Infanta, would walk among the winter-clad international crowd of cineastes and movie diehards unconsciously creating quite a stir. In the sea of blonde and blue-eyed whites, she who was noticed had black hair, barely any make-up and stunning with coffee colored Filipina skin.  

Everywhere she went, people turned around and looked at her. And when the German press wanted to photograph the sample of the beautiful Pinoy --- it was the brown-skinned girl who emerged most extraordinary. And most beautiful.

What is so difficult to understand about that?  Why is it so hard for Filipinos to accept that when the world can apparently see what we refuse to acknowledge?

The clothing brand came out with its perfunctory apology and promised to bring down all the paraphernalia of the campaign.  The apology was short, precise and ...well, less wordy than the fatal copy.  Considering the proliferation of memes that emerged from the play with equations, perhaps it still served its purpose for being publicity.  After all, the brand got talked about. Maybe not in a very nice way ... but they still got talked about. And, as somebody reacted in my Twitter account, let us just hope that this translates into sales.

OK ... on to the next controversy, Folks.


  1. truth to be told minsan nahihiya akong pumasok sa store kagaya ng Zara sa mga taong pumapasok eh parang napakababa ko sa tingin ko pa lang ng store parang may vibes akong "tsupi you don't belong here." hahaha a good read sir

  2. Hahaha @ crusade to be albinos!

    I am still in disbelief how the ad have caused an uproar. I even know people who declared friendship over just because their opinions did not match.

    Anyway, great read, Direk! :)


  3. "Why is it so hard for Filipinos to accept that when the world can apparently see what we refuse to acknowledge?"

    -Wow. I got a bit teary eyed because I was overwhelmed with that feeling... that I'm really proud to be Filipino. No pretentions. 100% Real Filipino. Thank you direk for always reminding Filipinos what we always forget. Minsan kailangan pa ngang ipukpok sa ulo ng lahat. :)