In a time where “fake news” is the hot topic, it pays to look at at earlier incidents where an actual media hoax caused serious damage. I recently learned more about how the Filipinos chocolate product fracas in 1999 started. The story is that then-senator Heherson Alvarez accused the chocolate maker of being racist, because the ad line “brown outside, white inside” (which described a certain bar product) was thought to originate from a derogatory description of the Filipino. So he filed a diplomatic protest. But I soon learned that he was fooled by someone, quoting American writer and historian Bob Couttie on Facebook:
The fake controversy was started by a Philippine Star journalist who wanted her husband to be appointed be the Philippine ambassador in London so she invented lots of fake stories, like this, and the fake tale of the Oxford English Dictionary defining Filipina as ‘maid’. All were false. But the hoaxes continue circulating. No, her husband wasn’t appointed to London, he did get a minor ambassadorship.
Then Couttie mentioned the real reason why the bar was called Filipinos:
They were called Filipinos because the Philippines was regarded as producing the very best chocolate and the biscuits were covered in chocolate. What the problem with being named after excellence? Not as daft as fake nationalism.
If this is the truth, then why does a Filipino have to make a fake story that will make the Filipinos irate? Well, we know that a “journalist” wanted her husband given a political position because of it. But it’s actually all about the evil of KSP – getting attention.
Perhaps this shows yet another one of the notorious habits of erring Filipinos – lying to get ahead.
While it can be argued that most Filipinos don’t lie, or that lying to get ahead can be found in every culture, there remain many enough cases that give the impression that it may be part of the cultural psyche. “Don’t generalize” is difficult to apply here. A lot of Filipinos lie, perhaps because it is part of a corrupted psyche that seeks to have a sense of self-worth through gaining favorable attention from others.
For example, the hoaxes on Filipino inventions. Cases:
Fluorescent light bulb invented by a Filipino – Agapito Flores was said to have invented the fluorescent bulb and the patent was bought from him. This was revealed to be a hoax, as the invention of fluorescent technology predated Flores. More information here and in MidwayHaven’s article. I read somewhere that he did build a fluorescent lamp of his own, but it was probably more like a kit-build or a development of something that already existed.
The Lunar Rover invented by a Filipino – A complete hoax. Perhaps a Filipino engineer was on the team that created the rover, but the team invented it, not just the Filipino.
Yo-yo invented by a Filipino – There is no hard evidence of this. Yoyos existed since ancient times, as far back as ancient China and even Greece.
M-16 invented by a Filipino – The M-16 was not invented by a Filipino. It was invented by Eugene Stoner, who works for the Armalite company in the U.S. Armalite does not stand for someone named Armando Lite, who probably never existed.
Some historical hoaxes that need to be exposed:
Code of Kalantiaw – One of the greatest hoaxes in Philippine history, the Code of Kalantiaw was once taught in schools as historical fact. Scholar William Henry Scott then disproved that the Code of Kalantiaw was real. He showed that it was part of a fictional work – “actually written in 1913 by Jose E. Marco as a part of his historical fiction Las antiguas leyendas de la Isla de Negros (Spanish, “The Ancient Legends of the Island of Negros”), which he attributed to a priest named Jose Maria Pavon.” It even led to the revocation of the related shrine’s status in Aklan. It is sad that despite its being a hoax was definitely proven, some “historians” still hold on to it.
The .45 1911 round and gun being developed to stop Filipinos – This is yet another exaggerated account to beef up the reputation of Filipinos being strong fighters. As some corrective articles have it, the Americans during the Philippine-American War did make a request for a stronger gun, but the answer was an already-existing .45 revolver. The war was long over when the 1911 pistol was finally issued.
The Barong Tagalog – The traditional story is that the barong was created as an instrument of oppression by the Spanish. It was partially transparent so weapons could not be concealed, and it was ordered by Spanish authorities to be tucked out as a sign of the wearer’s lower status. These days, there is reason to believe this is fake news, too. The sheer material and the tucking out of the barong are for our hot environment. It thus makes the story of oppression look more like a something thought up to sensationalize the idea of “oppression” by foreigners.
Sa Aking Mga Kabata – It’s becoming more increasingly accepted that Jose Rizal never wrote this. Many modern-day Filipinos use the line “Ang hindi magmahal sa kanyang salita mahigit sa hayop at malansang isda,” (who does not love their native language is worse than an animal or smelly fish) as proof-text for insisting that all Filipinos use Tagalog and eschew English. But Tagalog was not a “national language” that time in the Philippines, and the “national language” that time anyway was Spanish. Thus, it further invalidates Rizal being the author of this poem.
Deuterium in the Philippines – There is an article debunking this from the 1980s (still looking for the scanned clipping online). It had recently made its rounds again a couple of years ago, and was again debunked.
Tallano-Tageam family “owns the Philippines” – Being spread around in the Internet is the claim that a single family owns the Philippines (This is akin to the hoax that the Rothschild family purportedly owning all the banks in the world and manipulating world events). There are so many holes in this story. First, the amount of gold claimed is more than listed in the world gold registry. Next, there are supposedly documents that affirm this ownership, but such documents could be forged. This was so elaborate that it even got a certain known lawyer, Homobono Adaza, to support this. No, sorry, this hoax has been debunked since 2005.
“Mysterious” Flesh-eating disease in Pangasinan – covered by our own bloggers, this was revealed to be more of an alarmist scam by media.
Why do these myths persist? Perhaps some Filipinos, maybe journalists, are so eager for fame or glory that they lie to try and get it. Thus, it reinforces the idea that Filipinos can be habitual liars. Think of the concept of bola or flattery. Bola is obviously lying, and is not meant to be taken seriously. But some Filipinos do. They believe they deserve flattery. And when they do not receive this bola, for example, they want to be told they are beautiful even if they are not, they blow their stack. But when you blow your stack because you simply did not hear what you want, that tells a lot about your rotten character.
Move this up to government. The Aquino administration has consistently lied and even denied problems almost every time. The latest is the laglag-bala scheme, and it’s so obvious that our “leader” is defending its perpetrators.
Not only that. I have also read and heard before that Filipino parents often tell their children that it is all right to lie to get ahead. The word they use is “white lies.” That also comes from parents who teach their children that it’s OK to litter on the streets. Really, just look around, you’ll see that.
Perhaps another reason for fake stories to generate sympathy – and hand-outs – for Filipinos. For example, Filipinos will falsely claim to have been “oppressed” by someone, and so will run to someone else, like Uncle Sam, for support or protection. Then they’ll ask for money or something in payment from the “oppressor” party. In the case of the Filipinos chocolate product, while perhaps a diplomatic protest would not have led to hand-outs, it certainly didn’t generate sympathy for me. Instead, it generated embarrassment.
But yet another group that, sadly, resorts to lies is advocates. I have known such a one who says, when you have an idea or cause you want to throw out, it gains more ground when more people agree with your idea. But it’s hard to get people to do that, especially when your idea tends to be unpopular. So why don’t you make fake accounts online and make it look like many people are liking your idea. If someone disagrees, then have your sock puppets humiliate the disagreer until they finally agree with you. Yes, the classic sock puppet approach. This dismayed me. If you are going to advocate for a good cause, can’t you at least be truthful?
If many Filipinos continue habitual lying and create hoaxes, and such Filipinos continue to be found among the “educated” classes, then we know one reason we remain backward as a nation.
(Updated: June 26, 2017)