Pabebe Girl Power highlights Filipinos’ confusion: Are we individualists or collectivists?

There’s a case to be made for girl power growing stronger nowadays. I say that after seeing that Pabebe Girls video. Dude, they’re young girls making a statement. I suspect that the reason they copped so much derision is because of their, how do I put this politely, less-than-sosyal accents. I mean it’s easy for us village people to point out the way they said “beedjho” rather than video (enunciating two syllables in the earlier rather three the way it “should” be).

Maybe we Filipinos need to decide whether we are a collectivist society (befitting our place in the globe) or an individualistic one (befitting the roots of our former colonial masters). I think we’re simply just confused. I mean, here are two girls asserting their individuality and begging to differ. Don’t those last three words sound familiar?


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They want to do their thing and nothing can stop them, as they pointed out in one of their videos. But our initial reaction is to cut them down to size, put them in their place, and keep them there using a particularly cruel form of imprisonment — ridicule.

Strange. Think of how it’s become a tired cliché to cite all those men and women who overcame ridicule and even social stigma to go on to achieve great things to emphasize the point that greatness often comes from places we least expect it to spring forth from. Certainly there is no shortage of those corny memes flooding our timeliness where the virtues of embracing uniqueness and variety are extolled. And yet here we are beholding two kids being just that and reacting like the Victorian Era fashion police.

I get it. Low-brow tastes sell — which is probably why all these celebs led by Vice Ganda swooped in and grabbed a piece of Pabebe-dom as soon as the video went “viral”. Perhaps we have lots to say about the dumbing-down effect of mainstream Pinoy media — what with Pinoy Big Brother and all those teleserye being pumped through our TVs and devices and the whole debate about whether these add or subtract to efforts to become a progressive society. But there may be some merit in pausing and reflecting on how much about creativity and innovation we don’t understand.

The thing with new original ideas is that they don’t normally appear where we are actually looking. Original ideas are the true unknown unknowns in the purest sense of the term. For example, back in the early 1990s when all eyes were on family-themed sitcoms with episodes that almost always ended in heart-warming resolutions, out popped Seinfeld with its hilarious cast of assholic characters and episode endings that elicited an eeewwwww rather than an aawwwwww.

So it occurs to me now. While we “upstanding” citizens may be looking at the usual places for where the next crop of young achievers might come from, we could very well be overlooking that cauldron of seething youth angst from which the next Eraserheads or Parokya ni Edgar, the next Nora Aunor or Lino Brocka, or the next might be coming from.

Perhaps the Pabebe Girls are not your cup of tea and, admittedly, they don’t fill my mug either. But far from being the society that supposedly upholds freedom of expression and tolerance for diversity in ideas and lifestyle, we seem to be routinely failing to capitalize on the potential wealth that resides at the fringes of the range of what we consider to be “sensible”. Look no further than our current crop of “presidentiables”.


You see the same sort of inbreeding in showbiz as well. Our celebs have come to look like the Asian equivalent of the Stepford Wives — mere products being churned out of a mannequin factory — all fair-skinned and Korean-looking. Cut to specs down to a tee.


So maybe it’s time. Rather than cringe, maybe we should try to squeeze the words “Go Pabebe Girl!” instead.

15 Replies to “Pabebe Girl Power highlights Filipinos’ confusion: Are we individualists or collectivists?”

  1. WOW, Kate!!! You got straight to the point and said it well. THANK YOU. In the absence of Good Role Models, young people will fill the void themselves.
    The GRP family has been posting and replying about Role Models (or lack of) for a few days now, but we continue to speak about the “Pabebe Girls” in third person, when we probably should be listening to them in real time.
    Agreed, global feminism is coming, and these girls are just the leading edge of that Tsunami. We need to learn the new language and study the nuances of that movement quickly so we can contribute and guide them. Lecturing is counterproductive; it’s time to listen and communicate.

  2. I agree with you Rico and Kate.
    Maybe its the first small sign of change from a collectivistic to individualism mentality. Change always start small in a tiny corner of the world. But mostly not by people of the age of those kids. If it would have been done by mature grown up adults the chance it will get followers is bigger. Those kids are probably not aware of possible consequences/retributions.

    1. Good points, Robert. The tiny corners of the world are not connected to and viewed by the ENTIRE WORLD COMMUNITY. This brings us back to Kate’s GREAT QUESTION, “Are we Individuals or Collectivists?”
      There is no more powerful force than an individual with freedom of thought, but that force can be good or evil. Nations are know for their collective values of the individuals, but is the Nation progressive or oppressive. Philippines is on the cusp. 34% of the population is 14 years old or younger, and 19% is 15-25 years old. These kids are asking questions individually and will soon begin demanding answers collectively The Politicians and Oligarchs had better start coming up with better answers FAST. The impatience of youth is an irresistable force.

      1. Rico,
        in my humble opinion, the Philippines is overall a collectivistic country. Everybody is taking care of everybody (hence nobody is really responsible for anything). The first real sign of individualism is when kids start to tell their parents they will stop taking care of them. Then they (the kids) can finally start living their own life/way and get out of poverty by keeping all the money they make and earn. Look, if I had to take care of my parents and pay all their bills, I would be poor as hell today not being able to live anymore. I would still be living in my parents house. So it limits my movements. But will this happen soon in PH? No, bec its seem as being disrespectfull to one’s parents. I call that psychological and emotional black mail. It keeps me stuck inside the system with nowhere to go. Feels like prison actually.

        1. Yes, Robert, large families have been the Social Safety Net in emerging nations, where parents have 10 children hoping that at least 2 will support their parents in retirement. It’s an emotional and economic strain for everyone, but it works well for Governments where Poverty is the Product. Changing this dynamic is one of our objectives in Philippines.

  3. You tell ’em ,Kate. The Philippines is so full of shit I am surprised it is not spewing out of Mount Pinatubo. Individual atlent and original thoughts and idea’s are the greatest things in life and should be encouraged, and should not be a source of derision. Look at ‘Lady Ga-Ga’ ,wears outlandish fashions and is a millionaire, and yet is not too terribly talented. It seems like if it is different and held aloft in another country, Fail-ipno’s will embrace it and celebrate it. BUT, if it is one of their own doing it, OH NO, drag that one straight back down. ‘Crab-mentality’ is what the country has a big dose of, and the cure is nowhere in sight of the average silly-ass flip.

  4. Its one thing to say that the Pabebe girls video is a sign of “individualism”. Unfortunately, those girls still have to deal with the grim reality of the country they live in and the fallout their video has caused.

    Sadly, their rise to fame are by no means unique. Its a tale repeated again and again. Perfect example, Jessi Slaughter. A girl who said some things that raised the ire of the internet which resulted in her getting severely ridiculed to the point it affected her real life.

    While its true that low-brow sells, society pays a price for it. While in other countries trends change. But not in the Philippines. Our showbiz has remained unchanged since the 90s.

    1. Sadly, Ricardo, you are correct. Philippines is a tough place for individuals. Society will severely punish these girls any any that dare to speak out or speak up.
      Suffer in silence, smile in the face of calamity and continue to vote for those who oppress you. That’s the proud tradition.
      What I pray for is that these girls find hundreds and thousands of other girls that will continue their rebellion against the way things are, and make a new Philippines they can be proud of.

  5. “Go Pabebe Girl!” – Sorry ma’am Kate. With all due respect, ma’am, I don’t think I’m ready to do that. At least not with their cause.

    Had it been something like “mag-aaral kami at walang makakapigil sa amin” or “hindi kami susunod sa mga kalokohan na napapanood namin sa TV kahit ano pa sabihin nyo” I would have applauded them and shared their video.

    But I agree with your article in general. Months ago, I tried giving showbiz news a shot in my ears. I tried to tune in in one of the showbiz-gossip oriented radio shows on AM one afternoon, shedding off my sort of “anti-showbiz” news stance so I could “listen.” I told myself maybe there is something in this that is healthy and could be a form of alternative journalism that I should learn. I was disappointed when I learned that they are just collecting their materials from Yahoo! Philippines showbiz news (when it was still up) and expressing their opinions and analyses that have familiar lines like (regarding a news about squabbling actors) “ang masasabi ko lang ay ganito. magbati na sila kasi walang makukuha sa away away. pero kung mapilit kayo e di go! buhay nyo yan e. desisyon nyo yan”. I was hoping (and expecting) they have materials of their own and prepared analyses that are well-searched and/or well-formed.

    Well, it’s mission accomplished for them. I just hoped they used their gut and effort to some other things that matter. They asserted their place in society and, I’m sad about it, they got it. They “begged to differ” but carried the old cause.

    I suddenly imagined Tiffany Grace Uy posting her own rant video on YouTube.

  6. If grown men (GRP regulars included!) can have their fixation on foreign anime, games, porn and Maria Ozawa without any issues, why can’t the young have theirs as well! Beyond their pabebe video, we really do not know what else they’re capable of. We can just presume!

    (In an interview segment in “kapuso mo jessica soho”, the pabebe girls said that it was just a “role play” (an act or make-believe). They were just surprised when it became viral!)

    I am surprised that GRP men tend to be hypocritical. They can’t let this past without an issue but failed to render same judgement in grown men and women who allow themselves look stupid participating in comic conventions, acting out anime characters in cosplay events and/or drooling over Maria Ozawa and others in FHM events.

    1. oh come now. individual taste is hardly the issue here. i couldn’t care less about someone worshipping some unknown cretin on youtube. that’s none of my business. “art” or any form of “isms”, though, should have more stringent parameters other than feelgood sentiments it projects to its otherwise emo audience.=)

  7. Enteng, you are correct. If your generation chooses to indulge in the adolescent, mind numbing mental masturbation of Anime and Vice Ganda in search of the true meaning of life and moral values, that is certainly your right.
    The younger generation, including the dreaded “Pabebe Girls” has chosen a different media that offers freedom of expression and interactive exchange of ideas. This media, however, requires initiative, action and reaction and is best left to the energies of youth.
    So, please return to your sofa, TV and remote and let the “Go Girls” GO.

  8. i have no problem with people liking shit. that’s their business. but packaging shit into something other than what it is, well, that’s a bit hard to ignore. 😉

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