Gimmick Nation: Is the Philippines a society of con artists?

Part 1. A Look at How a Simple Word Impacted Our Culture

Gimmick is an interesting word in its use in Tag-lish and Eng-saya — and baffling in how it is used.  It is a local showbiz lingo, a jargon among the personalities of said industry.

Just listen to a familiar sound bite on TV: “Ang blessed niya, ang dami nyang gimmick.” There goes the use of gimmick, and the translation, hopefully correct, is: “How lucky he/she is, he/she has a lot of shows.”  (Lucky, we suppose, because that means more TFs, or talent fees.)  A “show” is a “gimmick”, alright, and I think we understand, and note this, we take it to be so.  But, how and when has the word, show, become synonymous with the word, gimmick?  It was not so before.

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Here is the dictionary meaning:

gimmick (noun)
(1) a drawback or difficulty that is not readily evident, as in: “It looks good, but what is the gimmick (~ catch)”  
(2) something unspecified whose name is easily forgotten, as in: “I forgot my mouse, so I used this square gimmick (~ whatchamacallit).”  
(3) a clever maneuver, as in: “cheap promotion gimmicks (~ trickery) of greedy businessmen.”

In view of that, a show is a gimmick?  Does that mean, a show is a catch, a trap (refer to #1 above.)?  Or, as in #3 above, a piece of trickery, or a clever maneuver, we reckon, of the mind?  Or, as in #2, the word, gimmick, is just an idle substitute for the word, show, which they are possibly tired of?  But, why would showbiz people risk using a word that has an undertone of trickery?  If it connotes trickery, why would the showbiz guys talk in public using the word, even if it is true that shows are out to trick people?   Where then did the noble advancement of arts go; is perfection of an art still a motivating factor of the industry?  Or, is showbiz purely about money now?  

When showbiz stars are promoting a show or a movie, they are wont to say: “Salamat po sa mga supporta nyo.” At surface, it looks like a good sales pitch.  But if we think more, and If showbiz is all about money, it sounds like an insult to those who watched, or about to watch, the show, doesn’t it?  Doesn’t that translate in effect to: “Thank you for your support — because, to be brutal about it, in buying tickets, you gave us your money, even if we told you the show was just a trickery — if you enjoyed it, thank you, (“ang babaw ng mga kaligayahan nyo”), but the main objective of the show, the movie, and what have you, was to earn money; it was a gimmick, remember?”  (By the way, have not the artists also promoted mendicancy by thanking the people for the money even if the artists may or may not have deserved it?  Why can’t they just wait for the people to thank them?)

If the show is acclaimed, even just perceived, to have loftily advanced an art, shouldn’t the people be the ones showing their appreciation?  The artists, if their intention is to first elevate art before money, why would they need to thank the people?  The people should be the ones thanking them for having rendered an excellent performance, shouldn’t they?

If you have been able to follow the arguments so far, we have to check: have we over-analyzed a situation, or have we a good lead to an image of a reality?  Well, we will see as we proceed.

I suspect that when they started calling shows, movies, etc, as gimmicks, these were just confined to private conversations, maybe initially as private jokes. But then, there must have been a good amount of truth in calling shows as just tricks (tricks to earn money?), that it just became a habit among them to interchange the two words, shows and gimmicks, without even a second thought about it.  But, with more and more talking as such, soon they longer knew if it was a lingo to be spoken in private or public, and later, unabashed that shows are gimmicks as if that was a matter to be taken for granted.

That is, of course, an speculation on our part; I think nobody is really sure now how things transpired, i.e., on how shows began to called gimmicks.  But, with a population such as the Philippines that is easily star stricken, a showbiz lingo would easily spread like wildfire.  We have reasons to believe this; I think it was GRP writer Ilda who argued that the Philippines is sinking because it is obviously overloaded with starstruck ignoramuses.

Wow, okay yan gimmick nyo!

Hoy, bro, long time, ha. Ano ba gimmick natin ngayon?

These are examples of lines that are no longer uncommon in everyday conversations we participate in, or overhear.  In fact, the youth has already taken it to the next level.  Gimmick, with just two syllables, is still too long a word for them, so they compressed it to just its fist letter.  So, gimmick is now simply ‘G’, as in: “Ano ba yan, boring, ‘la ba G tonight?”, which we take to mean: “Isn’t it boring, we don’t have any activity tonight?”, or “… don’t we have anything to do tonight?”

Words are very important memes of a culture, and thus, somehow they could gradually make or break a society. What then is the implication of people calling their activities, their businesses, their careers, their pursuits, as gimmicks?  Remember it is a word that delivers a silent secondary message connoting trickery.  Here, I am not aware of any research or survey that could answer that question, but if there are any sociology grads or undergrads out there, I believe you have a thesis topic worth pursuing, and you will see in a minute why.  So, without any empirical study, we have no choice, but to rely on our commonsense in order to proceed.

Could we advance and say that the use of the word gimmick has an indifferent effect to those who are ethically stable?  It may just be a word that makes them feel they belong to an exclusive crowd, and thus, they innocently use it just to be “in”.  Could we say there is nothing harmful about that?

So, is there a group being harmed by the word?  Could that be a group of those who are in the borderline ethically to those who may be of criminal mind?  Day in and day out, this cluster of people see on TV, or movies, personalities, a good number of whom are just good-looking, but couldn’t act nor sing, and yet are on TV, or movies, making a mint.  And then, some of these stars start talking: “OK ba gimmick namin?  Salamat sa suporta nyo, ha!!!”  It just looks like easy money.  What do you think goes through the mind of these people who are ethically challenged?  Would it fortify their worldview that living is about scamming, even if they haven’t scam anybody yet, about conning people, even if they haven’t yet?  Prior to an evil act is an evil thought first.

Are we making a mountain out of molehill as we look at a word as gimmick, that could be misunderstood consciously, or subconsciously?  Let us not even talk of big crimes, for those obviously could not just have been brought about by watching TV, although even that, we are not sure.  But, petty crimes could be caused by seemingly superficial thoughts and needs, could they?  Apart from poverty, do we have grounds to suspect that TV could be a major contributing factor because they talked of TV shows as being gimmicks?  Then, outside of TV, they meet real people who call their businesses and careers as gimmicks too.  So how should those who are ethically challenged react to the word gimmick?

In short, do we have within the society a sub-culture of con men influenced the way showbiz have loosely been using the word, gimmick?  How large is this sub-culture, and what is their influence?

Part 2.  A Look at the Same Problem from Another Angle

GRP Webmaster Benign0, in his article, Filipinos would rather be butt-hurt than gung ho about the future, wrote towards the end of his article:

Indeed, the Philippines is beset by many disadvantages. But rather than see those disadvantages as mere challenges Filipinos have regarded them as excuses to fail. And rather than encourage Filipinos to see things differently, President BS Aquino encouraged Filipinos to continue their fatal embrace with the comfy and the familiar warmth of their national delusion. Leaving an entire country still mired in its loser mentality is not the legacy of a good leader. It is the legacy of a con man.

If we have a President who is a con man, even maybe Presidents who were so, then it must imply that we have a population who are con men; goverments are just a reflection of the people, at least of the majority.  So, it is not just a sub-culture, it is the majority of the society!?!?!  If they have not conned anybody in actuality, it is only because an opportunity has not presented itself?  But, it is a mentality that is present?  How is it that they would allow without much protest a slogan that has deceived???  Or, is this what manifest as a crab mentality, a bottled up mentality of con men?

How is it that at the very gateway of the country, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), we immediately have to be continuously on high alert because there are so many shady characters who will pounce at first chance at unsuspecting tourists and unguarded balikbayans?  What a welcoming party.  It is a good warning to visitors that at the core, the government, of the country they have just been welcomed to is also made up of same shady characters.

So, does Part 1 of this article confirm what we are talking about here in Part 2, or vice-versa, or does each Part mutually confirm each other?

Part 3. Afterthought

The normally perceptive and regular commenter from Europe, Robert Haighton, commented:

Not in a million years, I foresee politicians to change their habit. Its too easy for them to continue what they are doing. Because politicians will not corporate, the change must come from the people.

But there is where I hit/foresee my “Waterloo”. The people are too scared and too afraid to and for change. So personally I am at a dead end.

To which BenignO replied:

So unless I see those solutions in a politician’s platform, then, yeah, I’m at a dead end as well as you put it.

(Those are excerpts only, to get a fuller understanding of said comments, you have to go to the combox of BenignO’s article.)

Question:  How do we break the vicious circle which has put us on a standstill for a while now?  Do we approach it first from the government side, which may include as a start rejecting every con man pretending to be a candidate for Election 2016?  Or, do we approach it first from the side of culture, which may include as a start by boycotting every showbiz product that corrupts the mind?

14 Replies to “Gimmick Nation: Is the Philippines a society of con artists?”

  1. Yes, the answer to the question is YES. Y-E-S in capital letters. BUT not everyone, there are exceptions and the harder you look for them the harder they are to find.
    It is almost unbelievable how people that arrive at NAIA will be hit with so many bull-shit stories before they even hit the TAXI-cab stand outside the terminal.Count the # of Taxi’s and that is the # of prices to your destination you will get.
    and your trip has just started, Via con Dios !!!!
    Do yourself a favor, turn around.

  2. The sad part is, all of these gimmicks have already been done, somewhere else by someone who was/is better at it. The saddest thing ever is the Philippines version of ‘The Price is Right’, just astoundingly sad. Anyone who has ever seen the USA/UK even South American version and was forced to sit through it,would feel so so so sad.(after they were done laughing?)

    1. another problem i notice is our command of the english language. the misconception of words is a very common problem. we need to hire english teachers from europe.

      1. Hey, there’s the idea. Maybe the Philippines should start hiring foreign educators and advisers or better yet, hire our professional kababayans back. But then our government or private companies should offer the same or better benefits to them. That should be part of the program of our government, a program that will encourage OCWs or immigrants to return and work here instead of a program that will encourage Filipinos to leave and work abroad. Ang ironic nga noon.

  3. The Chick in the picture,above, is pretty good looking and seems as though she thinks the guys she is standing next to is an idiot.

  4. we are being conned since adam and eve. now we have twisted history, incorrect government system and twisted culture and mentality (at least only here in Metro Manila). Correct these factors and we will move forward.

    use the word “gimmick” in sentence
    “A magician in the government uses gimmicks to fool the people.”

  5. Approach it on both sides; government and culture. The Philippines has a “Culture of Corruption”, which has been fostered by Filipino politicians; accepted by the Filipino people, as their fate.

    The “gutter language” that are being used is a reflection of the Filipino subconscious mind. Police corruption is prevalent. We live with it, and accept it. Corruption of politicians are prevalent. Like Aquino’s DAP, PDAF, Pork Barrel Bribery, etc…We live with them, and accept them, as normal.

    It is now like: “Evil, you are now my Good.”

  6. If you go to Quiapo or any busy sidestreet. You can observe the Jeepneys lining to get passengers. Then, there is a Guy receiving “tong” , from the jeepney drivers, as his jeepney is filled up with passengers. “Alaga ng mga Pulis, ang mga ito”…even snatchers, pickpockets, scammers, and other evil characters. They are “alaga ng mga Pulis”…we live with them , and accept them , as “normal”. Where the leaders will go. The people will follow.

  7. drone strike over batasan during a SONA? only half kidding…..isagani was a p#ss! he should have let the lamp explode!

  8. I’ll flick a penny to the dirt, and if I see one on the ground I won’t pick it up. So why is .99 cents so much sexier than a dollar?

  9. Both. If you try to fix just the government, you have to contend with the next batch of idiots who are going to replace the guys you just fixed. If you fix the people only… The government will simply saturate the airwaves with garbage to keep the masses subdued. And as you see in this country, it’s denizens are kept in a peasant mindset thanks to their addiction to inane and crappy programming.

    As pointed out in the book “Why Nations Fail”, to uplift a society, one must rework the country’s institutions: how it works and how it distributes power. Because clearly, the Philippines ‘ elites have re shaped the country’s institutions that it favors them and screws over the little man. Perfect example? Just look at their reason on why they keep the squatters in Quezon. They are used to be farmed for votes.

  10. “IF EVER” my son’s hated phrase. He works in Manila and no habla Tagalog. He was very idealistic when he start working there. When we talked negative things about the Philippines he get’s mad at us and he always tell us “YOU BALIKBAYAN”. See what 6 months living in Manila can do you become realistic.

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