Friday, June 28, 2013


It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Not that we are really surprised.  As a matter of fact, we were counting the seconds --- like the ticking of a time bomb. Or just like when you light a whistle bomb and you hang around nearby waiting for that familiar loud sound right before the big bang.  

But in this case, well, there was no big bang at all.

Just a lot of saber-rattling and moralizing from the same folks that gave you the anti-RH filibustering.  As a matter of fact, we realized that it had already reached the level of the highly predictable.  When something turns out to be guaranteed, then the whole protest against a television show about a married gay man, his wife and his lover just turned out just to be that ... predictable.

What did we expect?  This is after all the holy of everything holy. This is the cradle of conservative Catholicism. Of course they will get mad because they are expected to do and they do not disappoint.  Of course they will accuse the network and its creative people of polluting the minds of the television audiences.  A show like this shamelessly propagates immorality because the Catholics believe that it is a perversion, a manipulation of the demons ... to even think that a man can love another man ... or (Susmaryosnes garapones!) have sex with the same gender.

Not in their Universe. Not in their mindset. A show like My Husband's Lover is dangerous because it packages itself as something real by defying stereotypes, daring to explore a plot line that has been considered taboo for television ... and worse, depicting homosexuals as normal people.

Normal people?  Yes, in the sense that the gay men in this series do not sashay, do not speak bekimon and act/look/talk like everyday men. Correction: extraordinarily good looking well-dressed men (maybe the baby pink clothes are a bit of a giveaway but then go look at Style.Com and you realize that it isn't exactly a mortal sin) who do not have the slightest hint of being effeminate.

That's pretty dangerous, huh?  The fact that certified heterosexual actors like Dennis Trillo, Tom Rodriguez and Victor Basa are the points of a controversial triangle should indeed send shivers up the spines of the moral guardians who would exclaim: "That is not possible! Mga lalake sila! Hindi sila puwedeng maging mga bading!" 

What will the kids think? That these guys are role models for good looks and alternative lifestyles?

The images being sent by this telenovela has become a deliberate deviation from the stereotype badings who have spiced up the idiot box through generations of screaming, squeaking, prancing and even playing the role of the buffoon or the village idiot.  These are not the parloristas with agua oxigenada dyed hair, fake or manipulated mammary glands to impersonate women or who walk around any possible nook and cranny of the city sporting scandalously short shorts, tube tops and barrettes on their hair.

The gays in My Husband's Lover are not even comedians!  They are human, goddamn it! They have real honest-to-goodness feelings.  They cavort with one another ... not to indulge in that usual rowdy act of cheap flirtation but because they are ... in love?!  

So are we still surprised that the Bastion of the Morally Upright would not be offended, appalled not to mention shell-shocked and mollified by this? Prime time television! We are talking prime time television!

But wait: there is more to this than this boring predictability of it all.

The unquestioned Numero Uno entertainer in our country who holds the record for the biggest box office hit in the history of Philippine movies is an overt homosexual who makes no qualms --- and certainly does not hold back on the fact that he is active and practicing in his chosen alternative lifestyle.  As a matter of fact, his association with various men often make it to the newsworthy in the field of entertainment journalism.

Not only does he reign in the box office, he also filled Araneta Coliseum and has a high rating daily noontime and late Sunday evening shows.

It was only a couple of weeks ago when this entertainer found himself in the eye of a storm because of his alleged recklessness in exercising his brand of acerbic humor on a most respected broadcast journalist.  Indeed, if we are to believe the comments and observations of a great number, Numero Uno crossed the line of good taste --- while performing with a blonde wig, fake exaggerated boobs and a skimpy shiny outfit in front a throng of thousands for his audience ... and even more on his Pay-Per-View telecast.

There was an outcry about his sense of propriety --- but, hey, not a pip from the moral guardians, right?

That was because Numero Uno was not a threat while wearing his outlandish costumes.  He may have said a mouthful of hurtful things but he was being a clown.  And jesters are never taken seriously. They are not within the moral radar.

Even if the performer was a certified and self-confessed homosexual, he was seemingly exempted from holy castigation because he was "entertaining."  

So what has that go to do with this whole brouhaha about My Lovers Husband? 

A helluva lot. 

Because it only confirms that gay characters are tolerated (not necessarily accepted) as long as they do not exhibit the behavior of any other normal human being  --- which is caring and loving and having sincere relationships with one another.

The "moral standard" demands that gay characters are laughed at, make fools of themselves, present their personas as larger than life dedicated to the amusement of others --- but never introspective, then they are passable.  They are tolerable.

But make them hurt ... worse, make them love, then they become threatening. Then they are perceived as that lethal virus that transforms everyone queer upon contact like that kind shown in World War Z.  

Make them true ... then the moral guardians will feel threatened. And appalled. 

But what is even saddest about all this is not the ridiculousness of it all ... or the endless moralizing or grandstanding ... but the alienation from truth that emerges when institutions build walls to protect themselves from the rest of the world in order to create their own version of virtual reality.

That, unfortunately, is the much greater danger because it is intolerance and prejudice re-branded as the vessel of the greater good.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Once upon a time coming out meant a girl is celebrating her eighteenth birthday with an impressive party inviting all the significant people in her life so that she may be introduced to society as a young lady.

Or maybe a boy hits his twenty-first year and is now initiated into the rites of adulthood as he assumes his new responsibilities as a dutiful citizen destined to conquer the world with the uniqueness of his person and the armor in his dreams.

But the term coming out has completely changed.  

It no longer involves any physical or social metamorphosis.  Instead it refers to the act of telling the whole world the stuff that you are really made of.  It is, after a drum roll, literally a very public announcement of who you are because of what you have chosen to become.  More than that, it said to be about honesty, liberation and pride for accepting who you are and what you want everybody to know about what you will do with the rest of your life.

Coming out has become a turning point when one reveals if not confirms what everybody has been assuming or whispering regarding one's true sexuality.

In other words, coming out no longer connotes the emergence from some pretty chrysalis to become a fresh adult ready to learn and confront life's challenges. Instead, coming out is actually stepping out of the closet or some cloud of discreet animosity to announce to everyone that, yes, you are different. The term queer (despite its political correctness) seems to be updated --- because standing out of a crowd does not make you a freak. Better yet, you are an exception to the general rule --- and for the eyes of some, you are even breaking the rules, violating the norms and even deprived of the rights to enter the Pearly Gates without some form of exorcism.

You would think that in this day and age when not mere tolerance but acceptance has become the dictum to recognize and appreciate plurality that issues such as these are already considered so last century.  But in these islands, we are the seeming freaks.  We take pride in thinking differently. We celebrate how "uncool" we are in thought and norm even if it meant being left behind how the rest of the world feels.  But then that's just being us.

OK, I get the point. May tama ka rin diyan. 

It does not mean that just because everybody else does it or thinks in a certain way (on this planet anyway) that we have to follow suit as well.

Remember, we are the only nation in the world that does not recognize divorce and there are certain sectors of our society who are so proud about this.  We take great pains to prove that we are pleasantly conservative, practically unmoved by the changes in the world --- and living in our own alternative universe.

We still make such a big deal about the morality in the use of condoms, right?!  And we aren't even discussing about the choice of colors and flavors in these controversial rubbers.

No wonder it's such a friggin' big deal to come out in this country.

After all, we energize ourselves with all sorts of speculations about people --- whether they are our next door neighbors or species of popular interest --- by focusing on ano ba talaga sila?  

No, it doesn't really matter if they are mabait, masama, kampon ni Satanas or even blessed with stigmata. We don't really care if they are matalino, bobo, mautak, mandurugas, magnanakaw or may sayad. We are more titillated speculating whether they are bading or tibo ... manyak or bano, kabit or legit. It is as if it is a matter of life or death or one's choice of sexuality will affect the diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China ... or would be a strong factor in the economic growth of the nation until 2016.

As a friend of mine would put it, "May gan'on?"

The curiosity for somebody else's sexual orientation is equated with moral fiber.  Maybe that is why it has become a national preoccupation along the lines of the feverish interest as to who got boinked by who --- or who is now gestating yet another child without the blessings of a holy sacrament.

And not that someone's coming out is not newsworthy all over the world. We hear and read about these things happening in that sector of the news-hungry or scandal-savvy brand of journalism wherever whenever.

For instance, after harassing Ricky Martin for years speculating on his true sexuality, he finally came out into the open and confirmed all those hushed-up whispers or the stuff that fills up spaces in tabloids.  Then what? Well, so what? Ricky Martin can still sing Living La Vida Loca like no other ... and swing his hips to create tremors all the way from Puerto Rico.

When, for instance, years ago Ellen Degeneres came out and admitted that, yes, she was gay ... and had a string of partners until she finally married Portia DaRossi, the world did not exactly stop spinning to freeze in shock. After a while, everything proceeded as the universe planned it --- and people accepted the fact that Ellen was a brilliant host, married to another woman and the face of a most successful talk show that has made its mark in so many seasons.

This holds so true for so many high profile individuals who are eternally scrutinized by the microscopic eyes of the prying platforms of media all over the world. We never get enough of speculation --- and when we get the confirmation, we begin our ruthless exercise of hasty generalization, ruthless judgment or even downright bigotry.

But the point is that whether Anderson Cooper admitted that he is gay or not has got absolutely nothing to do with his brilliance as a broadcast journalist or his integrity as a human being.

The point is also that the talent of actors like Neil Patrick Harris or Cynthia Nixon did not diminish nor did the perception of the audience of their integrity as artists dim in any manner whatsoever when they admitted that --- yes, they were gay.  Why? Because it had nothing to do with what they did best --- which was to perform on screen, on stage and in various television shows.

Being gay is important to who they are all --- but that is not everything about them.  In the same vein, being a homosexual plays a great part in how one thinks, feels and is positioned in society --- but it is not everything about a person.  It just so happens ... in the same manner that it just so happens that one is straight, one is bisexual or one who decided to pursue asceticism. 

Again this is all a matter of the choices you make.  Acknowledging who you are and knowing the rewards and consequences of choosing to become what you are meant to be regardless of what institutions, man-made norms and social obligations dictate is part of everyone's journey for growth. Our pursuit for personal happiness is ours and ours alone.  Parents and other organized institutions dedicated to the distinction of right from wrong will always have something to say, hopefully with the best of intentions.  But the choice is still left with the individual because only you can define, describe and eventually discover what will make you happy.

It is also your choice whether you want to make a big deal about coming out or just go with the flow and let whatever may be ... may be.

For the media personality, coming out has become an event whether they maneuver it as such or drawn out of inevitability.

The moment you make a living in front or behind a camera, onstage, on location or in a studio, people are always bound to speculate.   Whether you will admit, confess or make this an event comparable to the red carpet premiere of a multi-million peso production is again one's personal choice.  

Whether one chooses to keep mum and not respond to any queries as to what one really prefers as company when the doors are locked or the lights are dimmed, again that is the choice of the individual. This holds true for the most brilliant of stars ... to the barely noticeable asteroids gravitating around Planet Fame. 

Is it a sin not to give any concrete reply or even address questions about one's sexual preference? Of course not!  There is not a single line in the constitution of any nation or any legal contract binding the services of an individual that demands that a person guarantees his heterosexuality much less the mastery of the missionary position in the realm of bedroom exercises.

Coming out only becomes overstated when the celebrity wants to push this aspect to the focus of everyone's attention.  The imaginary sense of obligation to the public  ("I owe it to my fans.") is usually proportionate to the degree of popularity --- or propensity for controversy of a media personality.  Realistically speaking, the public couldn't care less if an actor or actresses chooses to make out with goat or sheep if the said creature is of no media value, right?  The bigger the star, the more popular he or she is ... the more we become curious and the more premium we give to the question, "Who does he drop his pants for?"

But, really? Does a public personality owe the public the right to know how he or she gets his or her jollies?  

The answer is both Yes and No.  

Yes, if he or she feels that this would inspire and give a sense of dignity for accepting one's self. To use celebrity power to also empower people into recognizing the beauty in differences --- and how in a space honoring diversity can human dignity be truly recognized --- is one beautiful way to constructively use popularity.  To inspire, affect and help people by living through example is the best way to show the fans that "It is OK to be different.  It depends on how useful and helpful you serve your society."

However, when coming out is all about launching a career, grabbing public attention and literally kicking the hornet's nest just to have cameras aimed at your direction or have people talking about YOU and not what you are supposedly representing, then that's an entirely different agenda all together.  That is when one uses the vulnerability of the audience (and the gullibility of media) to suck up to very, very personal if not selfish needs.  

When one chooses to focus on the sexual in sexuality --- and to express defiance rather than self-expression, self-affirmation and validation, then coming out is nothing different from any other form of media whoring.

The sad part about coming out in this country is that despite the honorable purpose of a few to show how an alternative lifestyle is not the be all and end all of an individual's usefulness in society, there are those who have merely trivialized it.  Maybe it is media itself that is to blame for turning an event meant to awaken and inspire, open doors for intelligent discussion or even reconsider norms into sheer sensationalized melodrama.  That is when coming out is commercialized and trivialized.

Unfortunately, that does not empower or affirm dignity. It merely cheapens not only the event ... but everyone involved.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Dear Kids (and some of their parents as well):

Almost every day I receive a message in Facebook or Twitter from some restless soul literally craving for a shot at the limelight.

These are unsolicited (and even irksome) messages yearning for a chance to stand in front of the camera and be seen by the imaginary millions thus launching what they deem as a profitable career.  They all seek for that life-changing moment, that split-second opportunity, the Great Golden Chance to be known by the People Who Matter so that The Rest of Mankind can appreciate the Magnificence of their Beauty, the Wealth of their Talents or even their Damn Good Looks.

OK, let it be told at this point that I am exasperated.

I have reached the level of the numb when I read these pleas that verge on the begging just to be given that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an audition.  A great number are kids --- pre-teens or teens --- and some are even adults or over-aged teens --- who still think that a walk-on role in a teleserye taping holds more promise than a two year course in caregiving or midwifery.  

As I said, there are also parents who attach photos or even videos of their children to their Facebook DMs if only attest great success in their genes resulting from cross-pollination.  These are usually three to four minute videos of kids singing Rihanna or Justin Bieber songs ... or worse, yet another juvenile version of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls.  

Panginoon kong Lord, utang na loob, ha?

These are usually followed by polite requests to:

(a) Be given that much-delayed help so that finally but finally Ate Charo, Tita Malou or Sir Deo can realize that they actually exist on this planet. Granted such a chance, the message sender is quite certain that any if not all of the three entertainment demigods mentioned above (upon seeing these rare and historical photos or footages) would exclaim, "Where have you been all my life?  Facundo, ilabas ang kontrata!"

(b) Be given a proper introduction of Mr. M (also known as the Professor Higgins of this generation of popular entertainers --- the Pygmalion of local stars ) or Miss Mariole (head of Starmagic, whose degree of patience in managing the careers of over a hundred performers must be brought to the attention of the Vatican) so that these undiscovered talents can be properly brought to the sacred portals of the revered to hone, develop and eventually blossom into the heirs apparent of Papa P., Lloydie, Bea and Whoever Else is There To Displace from the Throne.

(c) Be given an extra push to be part of the next major network reality show --- whether it is a singing competition ("My daughter is ten years old. She sings so well.  Listen to her version of "My Heart Goes On". Please help her become a star."), another star search ("Dear Tito, I want to be the next Gerald Anderson" to which I wanted to reply, "Life is full of wants ... judging from your photos, you have needs.  And your needs have nothing to do with Gerald Anderson.) or --- utang na loob --- yet another edition of Pinoy Big Brother  ("Tito, six hours akong pumila.  Dinaanan lang ako ng kamera at ng mga mata ni Direk Lauren.  Help me naman. I want to be inside the Bahay ni Kuya." To this I reply, "Heto ang  pamasahe. Umuwi ka na sa bahay mo sa Catbalogan. Hinihintay ka na ng Lola mo.").

(d) Be taken under my wings, to be mentored, managed and eventually launched like a rocket ship (or even fired like a cannon ball) to the stratosphere of stardom where mere presence is enough to provoke an entire community orgasm of screams, shrieks and approximations of demonic possession under the guise of unbridled adoration and idolatry.

(e)Be casually included in my next movie and television project, even in a walk-on role ("OK lang po kahit walang dialogue. Para lang may exposure.")  or hopefully a markado supporting role ("Direk, baka naman puwedeng may kaunting dialogue?").  Of course, there is that ancient quip in an attempt to be witty when they said, "Puwede ring ipakain sa buwaya ..." to which I reply, "Naku, sana sinabi mo noon pa. Dead na si Lolong."

OK.  Enough said and written: as I keep insisting in all my profile pages in social media, I am there to meet people, to know sentiments and ideas --- even to argue or to link up with persons from my past and future. I am not in Facebook, Twitter or any of the chatrooms to hold auditions.  There is a time and place for that.

I am only a talent scout by name in a TV contest where I appear on camera. In real life, I am not --- I repeat --- I am not a talent scout who haunts bars, streets, department stores, latrines and school campuses looking for the "next big thing."  

I also do not manage talents because I do not have the patience --- much less the perseverance and matching manpower like others who have made a career out of taking care of actors, actresses, singers and performers.  This is really a full-time job that demands any individual to be father, mother, benefactor, spin doctor and even hitman, fluffer or buffer just not only to jumpstart a career but also maintain it.

But what boggles my mind is how there is this Great Disillusionment of kids --- especially kids --- in thinking that they can duplicate the life and blossoming career of Daniel Padilla.  I guess it works that way, right?  Every time there is a new teen sensation --- every time you see all these You Tube videos of girls not even wearing training bras crying and having epileptic attacks at the mere sight of their idol --- there is this strange push, this obsession to become just like this privileged child from Heaven.

When I ask these kids why they want to enter showbiz, I usually get more of the same answers:

(A) They perceive work in movies and especially television as the Jackpot ticket to a multi-zillion peso lotto that will change their lives --- as well as those of their parents, siblings, relatives and perhaps the next two adjacent barangays.  They see stardom as the manna that literally falls from Heaven (well, in this case --- it is called the Upper Management of every tv network) that will defy all odds and karma.

(B) They want all the material possessions, branded clothes and luxury goods attached to the glamour of stars.  Boys want their SUVs, eventually their Jeeps, Benzes, Hummers.  Girls want their debuts covered by all the media as they are dressed like perverted Christmas bells in fantasy lands created by production overdosing on uppers, served their eighteen roses and eighteen candles by everybody who is any body in the biz.  Boys want their Rolex watches, Paul Smith or Dolce and Gabanna suits --- while the girls want to gallivant in Greenbelt and Bonifacio High Street invading Zara, Max Mara, Top Shop, Armani while swinging their Mulberry or better yet ... their Birkin 40s in their favorite shade of Togo leather.

(c) They want to be styled by Liz or Alyanna ... they want to be photographed by Raymund Isaac, have their make-up done by Juan Sarte ... be dressed up by Rajo, Francis or Randy O.  They want to rub elbows with Ann, Solenn, Georgina and maybe go on first name basis with Tim and Divine.

In other words, they want everything ... except being good at what they are supposed to be doing.

I shake my head and ask them if they have had any acting experience.  What was the latest film that they saw on the big screen?  Have they had even the semblance of training in theater?  Who do they consider as their greatest influence? ("Direk, ano po yung influence?") And at the end of every exchange of questions, I end up petrified, stupefied ... or simply appalled.

I realize that not all ... but most ... have such a superficial view of what being an actor in media is all about.  Because the brainwashing received from television and the enforcement given by magazines about the splendor of stardom, young people believe that being an artista is the only viable short cut solution to the anguish of poverty.

"Teka, marunong ka bang umarte?" Do you know what acting is all about?

And each time I get this somewhat standard reply, I go completely ballistic. "Direk, meron namang mga workshops, di ba?"

Utang na loob!

So just for the sake of clearing the air and clarifying exactly where I stand, let me raise the following points:

(A) The saying that "Many are called but few are chosen" must be referring to the auditions of reality shows ans star searches all over the world. But in this country, let it be known that out of about a thousand people seeking stardom, it will be a stroke of good luck if even one manages to make it to the top.  Now this is because ...

(B) Stardom is a strange brew.  You can be the most talented actor in the world but that does not guarantee that you will be a star.  There are some stars out there whose only claim to fame is that they are the faces of the moment, they have the right backers in the form of directors, studio executives and even talent managers or that God loves to throw a joke into the pit of mankind once in a while.  But ...

(C) It is also true that with limited talent comes an even more limited lifespan. Some stars last for a grand total of six months.  Others can remain above the title for more than five years. But for most, they are has-beens even before they get there and that is because ...

(D) As I have pointed out before, today is the age of pre-fab stars. You often wonder why entire houses can be built in a matter of days? Well, that is because of the miracle of pre-fabrication, the cut-and-paste-color-by-numbers sort of careers that are hastily assembled but not meant to withstand any earthquake exceeding Intensity 5.  Gone are the days of Judy Ann Santos or Vilma Santos or Nora Aunor because they were performers who became actors because they are artists.  Now actors are merely products discovered by networks, defined by marketing and thrown into the assembly line of entertainment. But again ...

(E) This does not mean that the actors today have no talent: some do. Some have such awesome talent.  How can one define Philippine cinematic acting today without the versatility John Lloyd Cruz and other actors who have what it takes? But part of the unfortunate scheme of things is that in a fast paced world like ours, nothing is built to last. Everything is disposable ... including acting careers.  In a profession so competitive, so crowded and so confusing, you are only as good as you are young.  And young means anyone below thirty.  Anybody who crosses that line will end up in parent roles.  Moreover ...

(F)This is a profession that no longer guarantees a lifetime involvement.  Sige, granted that Anita Linda and Eddie Garcia are octogenarians --- but these actors are living legends.  These actors evolved into who they have become through the years. Include Gloria Romero or the late Bella Flores.  They are not mere performers. They are icons because they represent growth in their careers spanning more than half a century.  But what about actors today?  Nora Aunor can still bedazzle.  Vilma Santos is impeccable.  Judy Ann Santos has never been this good.  But think about the young stars of five years ago? Where are they now?

Let that be a lesson.

Success is different from fulfillment. You can be successful but remain unfulfilled.  The sad part is that young people do not give a hoot about fulfillment any more because they think having their houses featured in ten spreads in a celebrity magazine is enough proof that they have made something out of their lives.  Some believe that the all the bling-blings in the world, all the pictorials and all those red carpet events are assurances that they have made it in life.

Oh, you wanna bet?

Kids, talk to me after five years and tell me what you've been through ... and I will tell you over and over again: Go back to school. Don't think that this career is forever. Keep your eyes wide open, your feet on the ground ... and never ever think that being on top means every thing. Sometimes it is too hard to get to the peak ... and for those who manage to crawl to the summit, the harder part of the journey begins: how do you stay there as long as you can hack it?

Let me unsettle you with an answer: you can't. One day you've got to go. So look at all the other better options.  I am saying that to the parents who are pushing their kids in the business as well.  It pays to be wise and shrewd. It's a damn bumpy ride.

As always,



Should we be surprised?  Should we even wonder at all?

Whereas the rest of the world is discussing the validity of same-sex marriages, accepted divorce as not only part of the legal process but as a fact of life and considered contraception as a viable way of insuring the quality of life of the citizenry in controlling the population, we are still caught up about the sins of using a condom.  

The ultra conservatives and the zealots among us beat their chests vowing to preserve the sanctity of marriage and human life by considering divorce as a non-negotiable proposal in the august halls of legislature --- more so the very idea of sex education or birth control.  And why is that?  Because we take pride in being the most upright Catholic nation in the world.  As one very vocal proponent of the anti-divorce movement declared, "The rest of the world can go its own way ... but the Filipinos will never succumb to the pressure to give in to legalizing divorce."  

O siya.

But it is really quite ironic that this nation with self-appointed guardians who safeguard morality with iron fists and loudspeakers is really all too quiet when certain issues of equal significance arise.

Maybe because some issues bear no real political clout --- or even media value to warrant publicity.  Yet these dilemmas are as important as the Reproductive Health Bill or divorce or tolerance and acceptance of alternative lifestyles.  More often, issues that are as important seem to sound so trivial but they still permeate the fabric of everyday society and determine how we, as a culture, will feel and think.

Those who take pride in being vanguards of the ever-shifting and changing values of the citizenry should give equal time and importance in responding to everyday social issues that do not requite Senate investigations or one-on-one interviews with tv anchors.

It is what seems all so trivial that says much too much about what we have become.

I may not be a fan of Nancy Binay but the insults hurled at her direction especially during the final leg of the senatorial campaign last month was nothing short of disgusting.  

It was appalling in the sense that --- uh, we are right here in the twenty-first century --- and a number of our countrymen (some of who foist their educational attainment, professional demeanor or even social clout together with the usual quota of the scum of the earth) mock the vice-president's daughter because the color of her skin.

This I could not believe.  Even in jest, calling someone dark-skinned and using that politically incorrect "N-word" as forms of insult are sickening. 

Of course, such crass thinking can only be attributed to an even larger misconception --- if not miseducation of the Filipino: to be brainwashed into believing that maganda ang maputi (white is beautiful) and pangit ang maitim (black is ugly).

A mindset that propagates the use of all forms of skin whiteners --- whether bleaches or something you inject into your veins to turn your kamagong complexion to alabaster --- reeks of the kind of colonial mentality that existed since the time when Luneta was still called Bagumbayan.  To still believe that the ultimate standard of beauty is the maputi and to equate the kayumanggi or the maitim to the breed of kasambahays (housekeepers) or muchachas (maids)is plain and unquestionable throwback thinking. It is not even elitist. It is just plain stupid.

But that is the way it is.  We still think that anyone with dark skin is ugly and is inferior to he or she with the aquiline nose and has a fair skin because he is of a mixed race and therefore a mongrel.  

Unbelievable.  And even unspeakable. And again ... stupid.

And what makes us think like that?  Uhm, just look around you: turn on your tv sets or scan the billboards in EDSA and you will understand why.

It was downright mean and completely unfounded to belittle Ms. Binay because of her looks.  And what the arrogant middle class who chided and pointed out her lack of illustrado features failed to see is this is exactly what made her win that seat in the Upper House.  

It was because of her brown skin that the masa identified with her name and look. Regardless of all the diplomas, post-graduate degrees and eloquence for argumentation and debate, the bigger sector of the voting public ( approximately 93% lang naman ) voted for Nancy because they identified with her and not the senoritos y senoritas. 

Most recently, another uncomfortable issue rose to the surface when a most popular comedian cracked "fat lady jokes" against one of the most respected and prolific broadcast journalists in the country.  This new tradition of the "comedy bar" --- which points to creative and innovative insulting as a brand of humor --- has graduated from the cozy dark venues of post-happy hour diversion into mainstream television and even the extravaganzas in the grandest of concert halls.

The jokes, captured on video and uploaded in the internet, showed how the audience was hysterical with laughter as the comedian continuously bashed the journalist in a series of jokes focusing on her girth.  

Mention of the word rape triggered the most sensitive of critics, outraged by the trivialization of one of the worst crimes that can be done to women --- but then let us not even discuss what is obvious.  

The issue was not only about the comedian's alleged inappropriate choice of topic or object of humor or even insensitivity to certain social norms. That can be the subject of lengthy discussions --- even further trivialized by the accusation that this whole event is yet another manifestation of the already all so boring network wars. 

The bigger problem is the real state of Filipino humor today --- or how jokes about obesity directed at a particular famous public personality was interpreted as cruel.  This was most especially emphasized because of the equally recognizable personalities in the audience caught on video laughing at the tirade of insults.

But humor of such a nature is not unique to the Filipinos.  

We are all capable of exercising our lacerating tongues and catapult into the level of world class bitches if we choose to do so. Filipinos are natural pintaseros or laiteros --- according to some.

But the Pinoy who is obsessed with pakikiramdam and pakikibagay will never take the risk of offending someone deliberately --- not even in jest and certainly not in front of an audience at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

This whole tradition of put-down humor --- started on the stages of American comedy bars since the time of Lenny Bruce --- and more popularly identified with the octogenarian comedienne Joan Rivers (seen regularly on Fashion Police but has been around since God knows when). Admittedly, American culture that has opened the doors to liberalism and freedom of speech to accommodate practically everything but anything as long as what is said is within the guidelines that define the slanderous or libelous in nature.

But we are not Americans and we still take jokes personally especially when they are delivered in large venues or made accessible to a public far much larger than exclusive or intimate circles. We can bash anybody as much as our hearts desire as long as we keep within the bounds of propriety.  There are things meant for the public ... as there are others that are only meant to be consumed by a chosen few.

There are jokes as there are insults.  The line is fine ... in the same manner that it can be dangerous to walk that tightrope that serves as a fence dividing brilliant wit from downright cruelty.

Plus size existence and darkness of skin are such easy punches to throw at people --- but they also perpetuate a kind of prejudice, a vicious discrimination against people who just happen to be overweight or are blessed with a greater degree of melanin in their skins.  Even worse is the way media perpetuates this prejudice, this ugly discrimination in making overweight people as objects of jokes or humor --- or worse, painting actors and actresses with black paint to point to ugliness only to be liberated when they turn fair and therefore beautiful.

It is these insensitive traditions of media that perpetuates bullying, sending wrong values to our kids into thinking that fat people are to be treated and mocked as pigs ...and dark people are ugly.  Yes, we have even turned bullying into entertainment.  

Pag pumayat ka ... gaganda ka, masaya ka na.  Pag pumuti ka, makakahanap ka na ng pag-ibig, kaya may katuturan na ang buhay mo.  Pero habang mataba ka, panget ka at pagtatawanan ka. At pag maitim ka, hindi ka maganda. Pang alila ka lang.

That is how we are made to think.  That is what we are made to believe. That is what media perpetuates.  That is what entertains us.

Well, for the record, the past three years we have celebrated the near-wins of the ladies we have sent to that Oh-so-Important Miss Universe Beauty Pageant. Let it also be known that Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup and Janine Tuganon are all morenas who stood tall and outstanding beside a line-up of Caucasian beauties.  They celebrated their brown skin --- and made us realize that you do not have to be radish pale to be beautiful. You only have to be yourself.

And just for the record too: the plus size TV journalist who was the object of humor in the concert has won so many international awards for her outstanding work in her field so much so that she is recognized as one of the stalwarts of the industry.  The size of her dress is definitely proportional to the greatness of her brains.  And that is no joke.