Filipino viral videos: mere modern symptoms of a very old cultural dysfunction

As my colleague Ilda pointed out, Filipinos seem to be averse to speaking out. This may seem to be a counterintuitive assertion to make, given how Filipinos pride themselves with a tradition of flamboyant political activism, tacky spectacle in the way they practice freedom of speech in their mass media, and voluminous undifferentiated chatter in social media. But as far as “speaking out” goes, Filipinos at an individual level aren’t likely to speak up even as they are slow-cooked to a crisp within their often wretched circumstances.

This is the irony of Filipino society — at once both a noisy “democracy” and a timid, passive-aggressive culture. This mashup of opposing character flaws manifests its resultant psychosis in the infamous Pinoy viral video circuses that made personal hells for Christopher Lao, Robert Carabuena and, now, Paula Jamie Salvosa. When a people are told they live in a “democracy” in theory then find that in practice they, in reality, actually lack an effective voice then they switch to the more efficient alternative — technology.

So no amount of signing up to pledges will stop the so-called “cyber-bullying” of Pinoy viral video subjects unless the underlying issues that characterise the underbelly of the Filipino psyche are addressed.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

The reality of 21st Century living is that the technology to exercise “freedoms” that bypass traditional communication lines to authority figures, institutions, and public servants is now readily available and ubiquitous. This has always been touted by “social media practitioners” as the single greatest thing about the whole shebang of personal mobile devices, the Net, social networking platforms, and the apps that connect us to these. Predictably as such, the biggest causes for “indignation” amongst the Filipino chatterati are often about anything they preceive to be a threat to this “freedom” — such as laws that seek to regulate published digital content.

If we step back a bit and review the definition of that now-demonised concept of “libel” upon which Republic Act 10175 (a.k.a. the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) was built…

Existing libel law in the Philippines is quite specific about what elements need to be present in an act that may be construed to be libelous: “(a) imputation of a discreditable act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and, (d) existence of malice.” [Daez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 47971, 31 October 1990, 191 SCRA 61, 67].

Publishers — whether they be traditional journalists who disseminate their reports and views via mainstream media channels, or people and entities (such as bloggers, web publishers, and so-called “social media practitioners”) who do the same by making use of new forms of media to which the 2012 Act extends existing libel laws — are by the very nature of their trade inherently subject to Condition (b), publication of the imputation.

… we will find that all conditions are present to warrant a strong case of libel (specifically online libel as defined by RA 10175) against the people who captured and uploaded these videos onto the Net.

The irony in all this is that while the social media chatterati are quick to take up arms against any sort of legislation that proposes to regulate the use of these technologies, the same people expect us to take “pledges” to self-regulate our online activities on the basis of the same things RA 10175 supposedly seeks to protect the public against. And yet on the same page, they also celebrate the wondrous chatter of unfettered self-expression. The point we seem to be missing is that these viral videos and the pointed “discussion” these induce constitute a significant and inescapable aspect of the Filipino self — our collective ego — very loudly expressed. Viral videos and the power with which these resonate across Filipinos are mere symptoms.

As that iconic Bisolvon ad encourages us to do, we should not take drugs that merely suppress the cough. We should buy meds that take the cure down to the source of the cough — phlegm.

The challenge therefore is not around how to control the symptom but to address the root cause of Filipinos’ bad behaviour.

The fact is, good manners, good breeding, and common sense cannot be legislated, and certainly cannot be “pledged” out of existence. We need to get to the bottom of what keeps Filipinos bogged down in bad habits, bad manners, and bad thinking. The underbelly of the Pinoy psyche must be routinely identified, highlighted, thrust into the centre stage, faced squarely, and directly addressed. “Polite” and “civil” society have obviously not been up to the task of taking on the dirty job of lobotomising the Filipino mind to rid it of the sorts of dysfunctional thinking that, at the most fundamental levels, hinder it in attaining its aspirations to get in step with a sustainable march to prosperity.

Indeed, an analogy all of us can relate to are all these pledges to vote “wisely” and on the bases of platforms rather than on campaign songs-and-dances. And yet, none of these initiatives change the most ingrained thinking (or non-thinking, as the case may be) faculties of the average Filipino voter that pre-disposes them to vote to office popular pedigreed prayerful emo politicians despite their being the most awkward unqualified inexperienced unintelligent, and unstatesman-like candidate amongst the choices.

The key to change lies in our culture — the DNA of our society. Change that and sustainable change will bubble to the surface from the bottom up and pave the way for the effectiveness of guidance coming from the top down.

Then you stop coughing.

32 Replies to “Filipino viral videos: mere modern symptoms of a very old cultural dysfunction”

  1. Change needs champions, not lemons.

    When you have incompetence and inertia at the top, as exemplified by p-noy and his kkk,and the inbreds in senate/congress, and an uneducated and uninvolved mass at the bottom, as demonstrated by the wailing willie/thickman afficianados, then meaningful change is generations away

    1. There goes that mob mentality again. I’ve seen the said viral video and I never saw “Pnoy and his kkk” there. Not even the “inbreds in senate/congress”. What I saw were two people, a lady and a lady guard, having animated discussion about something.

      You have to watch it again and tell us why you conveniently ignore those two relevant and obvious characters of the story.

      1. It’s called an ANALYSIS, a discussion of a reflection of what is SYMPTOMATIC with Pinoy society. If you can’t see “Pnoy and his kkk” in the video, it’s because the video is a MICROCOSM of it. It doesn’t have to be directly in there, it’s ANALYZED in a greater context. Besides, if you’re looking for a discussion about these two characters directly, then you have to aim your guns at Ilda’s article.

        What’s so wrong about this specific analysis? If anything it’s AGAINST the current zeitgeist, and not the “mob mentality” you labeled it.

  2. It doesn’t help that there are no mainstream political/social interviewers/analysts.
    Can we borrow amanpour/blitzer/cooper, even piers morgan.

      1. Boy abumda
        Cue – music, tears, sad story, kitchen sink drama, and adverts.

        He turns a question into a speech – and who cares anyway, the q’s are so banal. He must get his inspiration from la cage aux folles, and his stylist

        1. When I write I always hint at supply and demand. Meaning if something is dumb in this country like a TV show or a politician it’s only because there is a demand for it. Boy Abunda exists in the form he does because that is what the people respond to. Noynoy was able to seduce people of all social levels because of some romanticized view of the past that really has no substance. Like Noynoy himself. Noynoy is where he is because the Pinoy voter does not demand competence, leadership, experience, guts and even hair.

    1. If CNN were completely fair and unbiased in their reporting then they would be credible alternatives. Unfortunately they have been known to editorialize and skew their reporting towards a certain political stripe. The four talking heads you name here are predisposed to leftist/liberal ideology and Barack Obama in particular. Not unlike ABS-CBN falling over themselves to promote the BS Aquino cult of personality.

      1. I love how Ressa denies to be under his spell. One of the few times I ventured to Rappler which was before the last SONA they even posted pictures of their press passes for it the day before. Don’t tell me they are objective. Acting like they were going to attend the Beatles.

      2. they were just names.
        the point is to have professionals – on both sides of the discussion
        how about stephen sackur then – bbc hardtalk.
        he would give p-noy a ‘bum stomach’

        1. I’m not questioning their professionalism. And I suspect Sackur’s confrontational style will probably end with BS Aquino pulling a gun on him.

          But even professionals have their prejudices. If you analyze the style most prevalent among today’s so-called reporters, a confrontational attitude with a predisposition to one point of view is encouraged by the networks. It makes for better ratings.

          What would be ideal is a professional who presents a fair and balanced point of view regardless of their political stripe. Sadly, reporters/analysts are more concerned with shouting down their critics than actual reporting.

  3. When ‘saving face’ is the most important thing,little chance for change is possible.Take a look at Europe/USA what happens when ANYONE touches another person in public,cuts in front of another person in line……anywhere?Cuts a driver off and almost kills them(try using a blank-face stare after pulling such a stunt…see what happens)?
    Might not want to hear it but : Saving face is for idiots.WHY? Who cares what someone who doesn’t pay for your dinner thinks? It is the refuge of the poor(saving face) and the ignorant,who rather than be ‘shamed’ out of the only thing they have (personal dignity) will not stick up for themselves and react to a violation of space/person/property(and will put up with the most outrageous actions of others),for example.But when ‘shamed’ will react with a deadly force over the slightest of things that do not matter in the least (an insult?).It is EXACTLY these idiocies that make the society go backwards.They are self stifling,unnecessary and just awful to watch or endure.When enough people get their asses kicked for cutting the line,driving like morons(dragged out of their cars and beaten senseless for that idiotic ‘I own the road’ move that kills 5 people coz a jeepney driver is in a hurry.) or demand a decent wage or do something that will really cost some money,then people will gravitate towards what really matters.MAYBE they won’t be soooo damm sensitive (because they do not give a shit what someone else thinks.) about things that do not matter and start realizing they should be concerned about what does matter.The young lady stuck up for herself?Good for her!!! Grab me in public,right…go ahead…see what happens.”Stick up for yourself and do not take any shit from anyone.”.Billy Joel says that every time he closes a concert.I can’t stand the guy,to me? his music blows….but he is right about that one.A shame based society produces drones that will accept/put up with anything.So those in power will do everything they can get away with…and do it with impunity,and get away with it too.WHY? Because they have no shame and know it is for idiots AND they know those who want to ‘save face’ will put up with their shit,because they are idiots.A vicious cycle.

    1. So by your own admission you would commit an act of violence (or at least threaten violence) if YOU are SHAMED according to YOUR SENSE OF HONOR in an effort to SAVE FACE? But you also said you are disgusted by the cycle of violence. Can’t have it both ways.

      1. No you have it wrong.I do not give one good shit about saving face(being shamed),as I said…that shit is for idiots! If you Grab me in public you are committing an act of violence towards me,first and foremost,not offending my honor…..DO not twist my words,I did not say I was disgusted by the cycle of violence.I said it “is a vicious cycle” and was not referring to violence…I suggest anyone who thinks about touching me? Don’t do it.Simple OR to think long and hard before they do!Now, maybe the girl went a li’l overboard…I do not know and I certainly do not give a shit.I did not see the video and would not waste my time trying to find it on-line.THE BIGGER picture is what I am commenting on here.
        Touching me is the wrong thing to do.I do not tolerate it anywhere from anyone.It has nothing to do with honor.I only have things one way,and I do not mind the highway when it is not my way.Keep the hands off me…that is all.
        If more people would stick up for themselves,not put up with intolerable shit…the country could actually get somewhere, instead of nowhere.It has been doin that long enough that ya might think the way things are done need to change a li’l( A LOT!)?

  4. “At least 26 million Filipinos still don’t have access to a sanitary toilet, with a large number still finding creative ways to shit, an expert said.
    In his speech during the World Toilet Day spearheaded by Unilever and Domex, Dr. Mike Gnilo of Unicef Philippines said that despite the advocacies of the United Nations for equal access to sanitation, 7.4 million of people in the Philippines go to the
    toilet behind bushes, in fields, plastic bags, ditches or along railway tracks,and in the streets”

    My god. Shits in a shit hole.

  5. “Filipino Democracy is at Risk. In 2005 Freedom House in New York downgraded the ranking of the Philippines from “free” to “partly free”; and in 2008 disqualified the country as an “electoral democracy.” According to Larry Diamond: “The Asian Barometer found that the percentage of Filipinos who believe democracy always the best form of government dropped from 64 percent to 51 percent between 2001 and 2005. At the same time, satisfaction with democracy fell from 54 percent to 39 percent, and the share the Filipino population willing to reject the option of an strong leader’ declined from 70 percent to 59 percent.” (“The Democratic Rollback: The Resurgence of the Predatory State,” Foreign Affairs March-April 2008).”

    That is why Enrile is becoming a currency again.

  6. Blogging and WebSites are the best things that happened in the Philippines. People can expose corrupt leaders. People can contribute their opinions. We can call a political leader incompetent; if he/she is really incompetent.
    They try to control the Bloggers. Passing laws to criminalize them. However, they cannot do anything about it.

  7. “At least 26 million Filipinos still don’t have access to a sanitary toilet, with a large number still finding creative ways to shit, an expert said.
    In his speech during the World Toilet Day spearheaded by Unilever and Domex, Dr. Mike Gnilo of Unicef Philippines said that despite the advocacies of the United Nations for equal access to sanitation, 7.4 million of people in the Philippines go to the
    toilet behind bushes, in fields, plastic bags, ditches or along railway tracks,and in the streets”

    This may be a off-topic but having a non-polluting toilet is easy and cheap, sometimes free, but it takes someone with the ability to think in a logical fashion. We’ve tried showing poor rural folks how to do it but they still insist on digging a hole in the bushes.

    Well, benign0, you’ve nailed it again. I swear when I read most of the things you write it’s exactly what is in my mind.

    The so-called “news” on television is simply a business providing what the people want. Unfortunately, the people want mindless sensationalism. Yes, media is biased around the world and it takes effort to collect information, reason through it and come to a rational conclusion. These are things widely absent in Filipino culture.

    1. No toilets for 26,000,000 people and people worry about saving face? WTF? The priorities of the land are so screwed up,and are not getting better.The taxes paid in this country could lead to a better life for almost all of the people,BUT it does not!!!
      MAYBE ask: WHY is that? and RE-act accordingly!!!! bout time,I’d say!

  8. Does it seem that this is symptomatic of another cultural oddity? The one where either there is no reaction or the reaction is overdone?

  9. Filipino Viral Videos: Proof that Tsismis has remained a national pastime since the “Filipino” tribes decided to multiply on this land.

  10. Gossip is a pastime everywhere in the world, except that in really developed countries, the more intelligent people do not take part in it.

    In the Philippines everybody does, even people from more “educated” circles, proving that the Philippines remains an immature culture.

    Just like Miss Amalayer or whatever her name, who is simply overreacting to a minor thing, like a spoiled child who gets mad because she is told that she is doing something wrong. The guard was just telling her to follow rules, period, no special treatment for anyone, no need to be too sensitive because the guard is just doing her job, I am sure Miss Amalayer would not DARE behave that way if the guard were an American at JFK Airport. In fact behavior like that can get you in serious trouble in any international airport in a more civilized country, sorry to say, OK at NAIA you have artistas and reporters fighting each other, very charming indeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.