True to her form, GRP blogger Ilda wrote about what she thought about the recent church wedding between GMA Network stars Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes – in which no less than Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino was the best man – all which drew a lot of comments – generally irate and telling her off for being “bitter”, “inggit (envious)”, and “pakialamera (meddlesome or nosy)” – and sparked a “lively” discussion. She cited Article 25 of the Civil Code as something that the ostentatious display of wealth that was the #DongYanWedding could have possibly violated, but the deeper implications she seemingly wanted to make are these:
Certain well-off Filipinos apparently have a need to display themselves ostentatiously, and;
Certain Filipinos who aren’t as well-off don’t seem to be bothered by it.
Not surprisingly, not only did many of the comments left fail to address these two implications, they also validated her opinions. Also, similar to how commentators reacted to GRP webmaster benign0’s article about gated communities in light of Junjun Binay’s incident at Dasmariñas Village, many got hung up on the legality but did not address the issues of social acceptability and impact on the overall bigger community.
Why do those implications exist? Ating alamin.
Before anything else, let us note that some of the more sensible reactions to that article – that’s not saying much, though – generally followed two lines of thought:
”It’s their money, how they spend it is their business”, and;
”Why don’t you write about corrupt government officials instead?”
Raquel Fortun, whom Ilda cited as having said that the notion of “thoughtless extravagance” is a subjective one, was actually spot on when she said that. Without quantitative standards for defining what extravagance is, one can easily argue that from his/her own point of view, there is no thoughtless extravagance. Yet the trouble with defining quantitative standards is that the value of money changes all the time; with the changes comes a periodic review of standards to be used. There are, however, also qualitative standards that Filipinos should agree on. These are more, I would like to believe, commonsensical. Unfortunately, common sense is not so common in the Philippines.
Back to the two “sensible” lines of thought I mentioned above.
It’s their money, how they spend it is their business – fair enough; I actually do agree with that. Yes, how they spend their money is indeed their business. Yet Filipinos must remember that anything that is broadcast to the public or represents a public figure – showbiz celebrities and politicians being the most obvious examples – is fair game for commentary. Just as GRP leaves its blog page and articles open for comments to the public, the wedding, details and all, once shown on live TV, opens itself up to scrutiny by virtue of being in the public eye.
Unfortunately, Filipinos don’t like scrutiny. Especially of something that makes them feel “happy”.
Why don’t you write about corrupt government officials instead? – GRP has been doing so for the longest time, but Filipinos seem to react to government corruption in two very old, tired, and frankly disappointing ways: they either brush it off as incurable and become indifferent to it, or they express shock and awe that such actually exists.
It is when those two lines of thought are taken together that something interesting about Filipinos and their reaction to ostentation comes up:
When Filipino politicians, celebrities, and private citizens go on ostentatious displays of wealth, the reaction of the greater community can range from indifference to absolute indignation. In the case of politicians and government officials, however, it is usually assumed that such ostentatious displays were made possible at the taxpayers’ expense. Malamang ninakaw daw sa kaban ng bayan iyan.
Keep in mind that ostentatious displays of wealth are hardly anything new or out of the blue in the Philippines; they are a way of asserting one’s social status. Filipinos are extremely conscious about how they are perceived by others, and are very obsessed with “being and appearing to be wealthy”. They are hobbled by a compulsion to exert their dominance over each other, plus they have this baseless sense of being more important than everyone else.
Now comes the “hard” question: what determines the greater communities’ reaction to such displays?
The answer, I think, is very simple, thanks to what a friend of mind once told me: whether they get something good out of it or not.
Filipinos have an unmistakable balato (dole-out) mentality – they are incorrigible beggars, freeloaders, and palamunins. Quite simply, give them money, free food, or whatever “prize”, and they will keep mum about such displays.
In the case of the #DongYanWedding, the balato was the “kilig (giddy)” moments that the couple and their love story exuded. These “kilig” sentiments can be regarded as some sort of drug: as benign0 has pointed out in another article, grand weddings have a proven track record of effectively distracting the masses from their wretchedness. And as I have pointed out before, Filipinos are desperate for good vibes, feel-good moments, and opportunities to be happily distracted from their self-made misery.
And thus, yet another batch of realizations about Filipinos comes out:
Criticizing showbiz personalities, politicians, and others who make them feel good is an absolute no-no. Walang basagan ng trip, and;
Filipinos are not individualist, or collectivist, in the strictest sense of the words. They are incorrigibly self-centered, hypersensitive, shallow, easily distracted, and easily swayed moochers.
Finally, take note that while Filipinos here in Metro Manila (and possibly beyond) were enamored and obsessed with watching the wedding, typhoon Seniang was battering parts of Visayas and Mindanao. The current death toll is up to 53, according to Reuters. Now that the wedding is over, where are the Malacañang mouths when you need them? What sort of priorities do our leaders and their government have?
Around the region, Indonesian authorities believe that they have found the remains of AirAsia flight #QZ8501, and have recovered some of the bodies as well. On a personal note, it is truly heart-wrenching to hear about yet another airline incident in this region. Filipinos should be concerned; if such an accident happens to a Filipino airline, are we adequately equipped to conduct search and rescue operations. Even if we were, would we conduct them in a timely and orderly manner?
The answers to the questions above are painfully obvious. Filipinos, however, want none of the pain that comes with coming face-to-face with their wretched reality; they would rather stay in their fantasy “kilig” world and in their “contented” stupor.
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