Thursday, July 16, 2015


I finally had to ask via a Tweet this morning: "WTF is this PABEBE? Overload and under-informed" and I got a chorus of replies.

Two suggested that I am better left in the dark --- for the sake of my sanity.

One said I should not even try to find out what it was all about.  But I couldn't help it: everybody is talking about this pabebe-pabebe (that sounds like Dyesebel's mahiwagang kabibe but which I am certain it is not).  In television, everybody makes references, mounts satires and even downright masticates this whole pabebe phenomenon.  And here I was in the dark so I had to find out despite warnings from both friends, strangers and sincerely concerned netizens.

Well, somebody finally gave a Tweeter-length explanation: Yun pong mga teens na pa-cute/pa-baby magsalita sa mga ina-upload nilang videos. (Those teens who act cute/ speak in baby talk in their uploaded videos.) Thanks so much for that, Koj Torre. I did not include the last part of your message because it echoed what twenty five others said in a matter of three minutes of social media time.

I more or less got the drift.  Teen-agers doing goo-goo talk (hopefully not with eyes closing and opening like those spooky dolls that go to sleep when you lay them down) and try to act desperate/terminally/uncontrollably cute to the verge of miming the mentally challenged.  In short,  nagpapakyut.

I thought nothing wrong with that.  It is a time-held tradition.

I know relatively intelligent men and women in their mid-twenties to early thirties suddenly indulging in baby talk just to sound vulnerable, approximate the cuteness of Anne Geddes dolls.  However, when badly executed or performed by the wrong people pagpapakyut would elicit a different kind of reaction from people in the audience.  Gusto mong tadyakan sa pagmumukha. (Translation: You want to give them a sample flying kick right on the face.)  That is, of course, assuming that these are adults trying to retrieve their memories of innocence and vulnerability mouthing, "Daddy, Daddy ... love mo talaga 'ko?" ending the question by puckering their lips. 

Siguro if you are in love, it would not look disgusting. But you must really, really be in love to find that pleasant. Either that, or you are desperate. 

Sigh. OK. Kanya-kanyang trip.  Walang basagan. I was never comfortable with being witness to public displays of affection especially when it borders on the ridiculous.

There is a survival practice to all this: when not in the amused zone, simply ignore. Look away and don't even give a comment.  Pero ang sarap pa ring tadyakan sa mukha.

This follows the same principle that another trend (also derived from the internet of a Filipina transgender in London ) is now being imitated by very visible and impressive local celebrities. This involves the use of a selfie stick and working it in the style that would impress both Ms. Jay and Tyra Banks, sashaying until the pelvic bone is threatened by disconnection or spinal misalignment.  It is ramp modeling in the streets --- but under the influence of steroids or enough caffeine to match the effects of meth.

It is called Mowdel-Mowdel-One-two-three Pak. It was even featured in a special segment in the news showing an ace comedian and a singer/actress sashaying in public with their selfie sticks duplicating the entire act. Hold up your selfie-stick then sashay-sashay-sashay --- then Pak! If you do not warrant attention doing that, then you realize you are in even deeper s--t than Brandy who sang on the subway --- and nobody noticed.

O sige. One more time. Kanya-kanyang trip.  

The things we do out of boredom --- or if only to amuse people who follow us in the net.  After all, ka-boring rin naman if everyday you post those inspirational quotes about reaching the unreachable star or that you treat each day like it is the last day of your life sort of dogma. All those quotable quotes are good --- but like Instagram photos of the food you are eating, your pet dog snuggled beside you --- or even how you look like wearing skimpy swimming trunks (so that the entire world can salivate at the body you worked on for months at the gym), things like that can be so --- you know --- predictable and boring.

And those are two no-nos when it comes to internet presence.

Despite warnings, I finally went straight to YouTube to find out who are these Pabebe Girls. And I watched.

Ah, OK.

O tapos?

There was nothing really extraordinary about the girls --- even when one of them teaches us how to eat --- uh, mamon.  

Actually their looks are not astounding but very familiar --- or regular, just like the children who I used to see lining up O'Farrell Street in Pasay, one of those side streets off Park Avenue.  Yes, there is a Park Avenue in Pasay City. My point is that ... well, these girls ain't no threats to the careers of Liza Soberano or Julia Barretto or Janella Salvador, right? 

They are just regular girls.

They just like talking to the cameras with utmost seriousness that you begin to doubt if these are actually broadcasts from some faraway planet as a result of earthlings now having a close-up photo of Pluto.  

These girls talk to the camera with such dead pan conviction that they could have been reading a teleprompter from the script of The Night of the Living Dead.  I guess they are trying to be cute ... but at the end of the videos, they are actually ... uh, disturbing. 

Somebody said that she got sorta kinda spooked out.

I mean these videos are more disturbing the Comic Con trailer for The Suicide Squad, really.  And to say that these girls stuck to my mind more than Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn really says a lot.  Also include Ang Babaeng Multo who really has a promising career if anyone should decide to do a bio pic of Lilia Cuntapay.

I wish there could have been more: I wish the Pabebe  did not give an instructional on eating mamon.  I would have wanted to direct her eating puto seco, pulvoron, tira-tira or better yet ---atis.  That would have had greater visual impact and dramatic challenge than a --- oh, well --- mamon. I would have also suggested even a two-hour acting workshop to add more angst to the pastry instructional.  After all, that is the heart and soul of being young, sweet and ... pusong mamon.

After all that hoopla, yon pala ang Pabebe. OK. And then what?

But honestly though, I really liked the Elevator Girl and Amalayer better.  At least that had a story arc. At least, for me ... their existence meant something. Even in the virtual world where everyday little girls can have the spotlight aimed at them for their fifteen seconds of infamy.

Monday, July 13, 2015


The restlessness has not left a great number of us --- not only those who work directly or indirectly for media.

The string of most unfortunate events --- all involving minors --- that became the subject of conversation from coffee shops to chat rooms all centered on one major concern: sex and children.

Whether it is the possible misinterpretation of physical familiarity between two boys (given malice by the voyeuristic viewers seeking for something sensational to take place in a social experiment) or the gender issues of a sensitive and extremely intelligent young girl or the discovery of the self by a twelve year old actress --- the results were quite clear. People were hurt, appalled, surprised, crushed.  

And the question that emerges is one and the same: what are we doing to our children?

Let us lay down some very important facts before we proceed --- something that we have to accept as givens so that we do not insist on what is no longer possible or even feasible.

The world has changed as it has always been changing.

It is no longer possible to impose the way we think in a planet that has so changed too quickly, too abruptly and is still changing even at a faster pace.  The generation that we were --- say twenty or thirty years ago --- is no longer the same mindset that rules the kids of today.

The same problems we faced as we were misunderstood by our parents --- is the same dilemma that kids are facing now when they think of us.  

The term "old" has never been so maligned because it is no longer viewed with the same degree of respect but rather with being dispensable.  After all, this is a world where nothing is permanent, nothing is irreplaceable and everything is as good as it is new and not because it is necessarily better.

This is a generation that demands instant gratification.  

It is the remote-control generation where everything can be Googled and that knowledge is the acquisition of facts but not necessarily the comprehension of its value or meaning.  This is the age of the instant ramen noodle, the three-in-one-coffee mix and the electronic cash.  This is a generation that does not know how to wait because time is so precious that they are in too much of a hurry.

What for? Why the rush? Why the compulsion to do things quickly ---as if to rush the years?  Why the need for the here and now, never projecting beyond what can be seen inside a room --- more so, not thinking of the rewards and repercussions of actions?  

Because it is a generation founded on fear: it is the fear to be left out, to be out of sync, to be left behind --- and worse, to miss out on what the world has to offer right to the last millisecond.

It is a generation terrified to be old.

This is how our kids view the world --- because we believe that everything has been made easier and more accessible to them.  The internet has simplified the search for knowledge with the click of a mouse.  They are fed with ideas, images, stories and what have you regardless of appropriateness, relevance, importance or even form. But to them, relevance is relative. 

Perhaps it is this information overload --- the ease by which all these forms and ideas can be gathered that has really messed up the minds of the young in trying to figure out what to do or make use of all their harvested data.

Yet there is repulsion at the thought of what kids are capable of doing nowadays.  The Baby Boomers are now grandparents --- as the Gen X have assumed the parental role and having to deal with their children, the Millennials.  And the Millennials far different from any other generation that came before them.  This is the generation that was born with fingers reaching out for keyboards even as infants --- that whole cluster of digitally-conditioned mavericks whose concept of rebellion is to be different because they can no longer accept anything outdated and forced down their throat.

They are computer natives --- as all the other generations that came before them are computer migrants.

The saddest realization is that the kids have become who they are because of the world that that their parents --- the adults --- shaped, provided and conditioned for them.  In our belief that moving forward in the name of progress/advancement/development --- so much has been forgotten, sacrificed or forfeited.

One of them is compassion. 

When kids do cruel things to themselves, it is because they fail to relate to a much deeper sense of roots to their very being.  

Parents try very hard to understand their children --- as they should --- but there are also those who impose the tenets of their world to the universe of their kids.  They no longer match regardless of effort to tow the line --- and compel their kids to behave in a way they were conditioned by their own parents.

In the age of the selfie, there is a constant need for affirmation ... and asserting one's existence.

Posting in social media is not merely for the sake of posterity but an announcement of one's existence.

Taking a Snapchat video or uploading an Instagram image is to create a sense of belonging to the timeline of life.  

The micro-blogging of Twitter is an up-to-the-minute announcement of one's thoughts, feelings and self-worth.

All these have become so much a party of the daily life of the twenty-first century plugged-in civilization: we have become so connected as a worldwide community --- but so isolated as individuals because everything for us becomes virtual.  This includes human relationships.

And this is the kind of world that has defined the existence of our children.

They are not to blame if they find great difficulty to relate to others because it is a world that takes relationships in the most superficial conditions.  All it takes is a click of the mouse to turn a total stranger into a FRIEND and to be eternally linked top this creature in Facebook.  It also takes little effort to adjust that cursor then click to UNFRIEND or BLOCK someone from the face of one's virtual existence.

That is how our kids communicate to one another and to the rest of the world that is so much larger and more complex.

Thus they are in too much of a hurry.  They want to grow up fast ... by gathering as much experience as possible and getting drunk with the speed of their development like the air that rushes to the face when one sticks out one's head on a speeding car.  They are afraid that time will move too fast ... so they abbreviate their lives with misguided recklessness.

And it is not solely their fault.

The decision may be theirs to choose whatever path to take --- but it is also the responsibility of the adults not only to provide guidance but to give them choices.  

How can there be disgust when a twelve year old girl makes a video of herself doing unimaginable things to her body whereas it is the adults that feed kids with ideas that sexuality is everything in validating one's existence?  How can there be moral grounds when what kids see is how they, at a very early age, are pushed to celebrate their puberty by being sold as love-hungry tweens whose only reason for existence is to get a partner?

(A disgusted parent said, "There is nothing you can see on tv that tells kids the importance of schooling. Yes, they are in school uniforms --- but all they do is flirt and talk about their crushes." I told the parent, "That cannot be helped. That is what sells to the audience. That is what they like ..." to which she replied, "Not everything we claim we like is good for us in the long run."

I told the parent that television is a business and that its principal concern is to sell.  She replied, with much sadness, "Yes, they sell ... but at what cost?"  

The answer to her question is quite apparent.)

It is easier to be harsh on the kids and conclude with a sweeping statement that they are a messed-up generation.

But looking back, the same observations were told of this generation now undergoing a dilemma trying to understand what happened to their kids.

We can only understand them if we also take into account what we have done to this world to make our kids what they have become. And it is only addressing this head-on that perhaps (just perhaps) we can comprehend their problems, empathize with their pain but more so learn to love them ... with much greater validation.

For over above being anything or everything else, they must see us --- the older generation --- to be friends rather than just being people watching and waiting for their next mistake. 

After all, nothing can bring back the world as we knew it --- so we might as well know the world for what it is right now.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Writing is most difficult when you are still on the crest of those emotions that make it necessary for you to do just that --- to write.  Put down your thoughts, solidify the sensations with words and hopefully understand what you are feeling --- why you are feeling this way --- what what you can do with these emotional explosions.

In a single week, both heart and mind are shaken.

Two boys --- one a minor and the other a strapping lad representing the best of what is possible that life can offer --- were shown on livestream television exhibiting unusual intimacy and physical contact. All these were captured, frozen in photographs and replayed as videos in social media --- emphasizing the fact that two beautiful boys were huddled together under a blanket, hugging each other and holding hands.

The audience could not help but drink a gallon full of malice.

In the same week, a fifteen year old girl --- the daughter of two of the most talented, intelligent and beautiful actors any man of theater and media would be privileged to work with --- ended her own life on a rainy Tuesday night. She too was a young actress --- starting out her career and proving that the law of genetics really worked. In that crowded universe of wannabe stars, she was an actress who did not depend on physical beauty to warrant her popularity.

She was her parents' daughter --- and she killed herself.

And before the week ended, the internet (again) exploded with the video of yet another young actress.  She is only twelve years old (I cannot emphasize that enough! ) and yet the minute and a half or so of material that was posted in social media showed her doing things that a fragile little girl like her should not be doing much less on video.

Why did she do this? What was in her mind when she took that gadget, pressed the record button and started doing all these things to herself? Why did she need to record this for posterity or who did she think was her audience for such incriminating material?

Yes, she was of that age of curiosity and experimentation and whatever.  But to see her in that context was, to say the least ---
painful. Painful and humiliating.

It was the same pain as realizing that these two boys holding hands and looking at each other's eyes did not know what the public in that great outside world is now saying about them. Whether these were innocent acts of camaraderie or something that their resident psychologist can explain in so many sentences, the verdict of the public was very clear.  Parents watching the show were appalled. Others were alarmed.  The less deciphering found this to be a punch line for humiliating the two boys with all sorts of accusations and name-calling. 

Of course there was no means of controlling what netizens will record or "screen-capture" from livestream --- but still: the very fact that you put two boys under this situation and left them vulnerable to public judgment is the responsibility of some adult out there. After all ... one of these boys is twelve years old too, for God's sake.  Twelve years old!

In media where perception is everything --- and you are made to believe what you see without questioning how you got to view what you are watching --- thoughts are reshaped according to the dictates of what we receive and accept.  

Sadly, we are so quick to pre-judge, foist our moral superiority. Then we feel appalled by the reactions from other citizens of the worldwide web who say that there was nothing wrong.  There was no sense of violation of showing two boys fondling each other because of the narrowmindedness of the public, the archaic way of thinking and, as a friend said, "Ganyan talaga ang mga bata."

There is that fear that age has completely detached you from reality.  Maybe it is true.  Ganyan na talaga ang mga bata.  Maybe reality shows are meant to disturb and shock --- and that what can be seen in other countries can be far more appalling.  Call us conservative. Call us .. well, Filipinos.  

Despite all our claims of globalization and opening our minds to the tenets of other cultures, there are still limitations we set to our worldview because we are who we are. And that is what makes us what we have become.

And then we ask ourselves, Ganyan nga ba talaga ang mga bata?  At what point in our lives did we lose touch or locked out from their worlds and minds?

Many of us weep for these teen-age suicides.

Just a few months back, a young boy --- also possessing such great promise and unquestionably armed with superior potential --- was scolded and supposedly humiliated by a school authority figure for what was deemed as intellectual dishonesty.  The boy could not handle the pressure as well as the degradation --- and killed himself.

It is too easy for others to pass judgment not only on the boy but also the parents.  But they --- the all too quick to judge public ---- do not understand the pain.  No, they can never understand the pain that parents have to carry when their children kill themselves especially at a very young age.

That was why ... more than shock and sympathy ... there are those of us who feel anger.  Great, deep and throbbing anger.

There are those of us who feel violated because there is this generation that seemed to have completely forgotten the value of their lives ... the temporary lease given to human existence to so easily use suicide as a way out.

It is not even about the code of honor to save face or dignity in the Samurai sense --- but simply because it is a way out.  And it is cool to do so.  The thought is sick --- but what is sicker is why the kids have reached that point to think that jumping off a building or using all their creativity to end their lives --- can be so romantic and  There are those of us who weep because of the sheer intensity of our anger.

We are even more infuriated by the thought that we did not reach out to them.  Was there a chance that we could have prevented an act of self destruction if we only opened our eyes and ears and minds to the signals they were sending us?  Or did they even want us to know what was going on in their minds?

We blame ourselves for what they have become because we did not exert enough effort to understand them.  

Yes, they are different --- these milennials with their sense of entitlement, their need for instant gratification, their restlessness, their materialism, their need to be ahead, ahead, ahead ...only to realize that they are running on a treadmill, panting with nowhere to go.

We blame ourselves because we think we did not love them enough --- but the question is: in this IPod, smart phone plugged-in texting generation, do they love themselves enough?

We weep at that thought too ... and blame ourselves for not understanding who they are because we have made them that way.

No one of sound mind could stand more than three seconds of that video attributed without substantial proof to a 12 year old TV actress.

We do not understand the perverse mind who spread it --- and why this video even exists in the first place.  

We again cry for the kids --- asking ourselves: Why do they do these things to themselves?  Do they not know the risks?  Do they not realize how one moment of indiscretion ... of a very, very bad decision ... can completely shatter their lives?

Something has to be done.

We cannot be adults enough if we cannot institute some kind of change even from our own personal levels. We simply cannot mope and bemoan the situation then tell the Universe that the End Days are coming and let us all prepare for the self-destruct mode.

We must do something.

We should listen. We should not merely hear but we must listen.

It is useless to scream at kids, castigate them and foist righteousness --- but we must listen. And understand.  

Even if we are bleeding for them, we must have the moral fortitude to assure them that in this confused, self-destructive world --- there is still right and wrong.

There is nothing romantic about suicide.  There is nothing wrong with love ... but there is everything wrong with being exploited for and by it.  And there are people who care ... who still care.

We have to reassure the children that we love them.  They can be what they want to be as long as they understand that we are there to tell them what else they can become.

We will always love them in spite, despite and because of the cries we never heard.

Because our tears are also falling ... and the children do not seem to see that either.