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."
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.