Filipinos’ values are indeed perverted beyond recognition. In many Filipino movies, the bad guys are often pointy-nosed fair-skinned snobs (keeping to the narrow-minded way Philippine cinema’s jeje-culture traditionally portrays the rich) living in obnoxious tacky mansions while the “hero” is an other-side-of-da-riles lad or lass living the Pinoy challenge of scraping together a “decent” life. You’d think that this would mirror the Filipino Catholic mindset — the “good” poor versus the evil rich.
It seems that this is not the case. The much-celebrated wedding of Filipino starlets Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera was baldly lavish and pointedly obnoxious. As if the event was not in-your-face enough by itself, sheepishly complicit government officers sealed off public roads in Quezon City to insulate the “royal” couple and their guests from the oppressive footprint of the masses’ banal existence. Even the President of the Philippines, Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, no less, blocked out a big chunk of his “busy” calendar to show up at this spectacle. It had Pinoy-showbiz-style “rich” written all over it. But to the same “C-D Crowd” masses who’d normally cheer the triumph of the batang yagits against the vile Spanish haciendero when watching the movies, this circus got a resounding thumbs up.
Baffling indeed. But this is the Philippines, see.
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The logic that Dingdong and Marian are entitled to spend their “hard-earned” riches the way they see fit — even throwing it to the tune of mega-millions — into the baking of a 7 million-peso 12-foot-tall record-breaking cake is sensible from a “free-market” perspective. Consumption does create jobs and employment and redistributes wealth — much the same way as the remittances of the Philippines’ vast army of overseas foreign workers (OFWs) prop up the national economy to the tune of more than 10 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). Or how an army of high-rollers from China and Hong Kong jetting in every weekend to gamble away their days in Manila’s up-and-coming casinos is being pitched as the great northern Asian hope for the millions of idle and under-employed but able-bodied Filipinos who, erstwhile, had multiplied way past their ability to sustain their numbers domestically.
But is an economy that relies on splurging celebrity fashionistas, overseas employees, and Chinese gamblers an economy one can be proud of? I don’t think the architects of free market economics had that kind of mendicancy in mind when they called upon the world’s leaders to embrace open and competitive markets. “Globalisation” was premised on the idea that if a nation opens its doors to foreign competition, its domestic industries will gear up for battle. What happened to the Philippines? The opposite. Domestic industry withered under the onslaught of vastly superior foreign products and services. Rather than face the new enemy, Philippine industry turned its back to them, dropped its pants, and bent forward to assume the position it maintains today. That, in a nutshell, is Philippine history.
Does that therefore mean that the “haves” should not buy nice things? It seems this is the sort of interpretation many hollowheads took away from reading the many brilliant articles Get Real Post writers posted on the subject. One bozo insisted that people who believe that Dingdong’s and Marian’s wedding was outrageously extravagant “should [not] live in a good house, drive a car, own expensive items because [doing so] is like […] mocking the poor people who don’t have them.”
Unfortunately, small minds think the same, and this logic persists, interestingly enough, amongst the very people who cheer their underdog heroes in many of those template Filipino movies and teleseryes. Thing is, driving a car and living in a good house is something one can reasonably aspire for. In fact, aspiring for those should be encouraged. Owning a car and a decent house is normal in a modern nation. Living in a lean-on shack built upon land you don’t own is not.
On the other hand, throwing a 100m-peso wedding celebration cannot be considered as something that can be reasonably aspired for. And, certainly, no one would encourage the 99 percent of ordinary starstruck Filipinos to include such a dream in their bucket lists. The trouble with the DongYan Wedding picture is that Dingdong and Marian are revered celebrities. They are paid millions to associate themselves with products and entire lifestyles so that ordinary Filipinos can be persuaded to think that all these are important, are within their reach, and are reasonable things to spend money on. This is where the problem lies. Dingdong and Marian sent the wrong message to their admirers by making them believe spending 100 million pesos on a wedding is a beautiful thing.
Indeed, it is an irony that flies over Filipinos’ pointed heads that Pope Francis is coming for a visit this January. His Holiness is out to show that his focus is on simplicity and humility. As a matter of fact, Filipinos are celebrating this man because he espouses these values as the right ones. Dingdong and Marian are just as revered as Pope Francis in the Philippines. But are the values they espouse the right ones? Filipinos need to answer that question in between the Hail Mary’s they will be chanting in unison this month.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.