OPINION | Filipinos are Angry at the Wrong People

Quick, try to guess which of these three recent news stories offended Filipinos the most:

“Netizens call out E.A.T. host Joey De Leon for ‘lubid’ (noose) joke”

“Pura Luka Vega draws flak for ‘Ama Namin’ (Our Father) drag act”

“VP Sara Duterte: Critics of secret funds have ‘insidious motivations’”

If you’re a foreigner disconnected from Philippine controversies, the answer might shock you.

Of these three personalities, only one was publicly mocked as they were arrested and tagged persona-non-grata by local government units across the Philippines.

No, it wasn’t Vice President Duterte, who has previously been filmed punching a court sheriff in public.

Nor was it the veteran comedian De Leon, who has made plenty of lewd jokes over the years that could make anyone ill.

It was the drag queen, whose social media following is only a tiny fraction of Duterte’s or De Leon’s, that got severely punished.

Let’s not beat around the bush here—it was homophobia and religious sanctimony in the country that did Pura in, not her performance.

Despite the strides the queer community has made in gaining acceptance these past few decades, the resentment of homophobes toward them always bubbled underneath the surface. Couple that with the intense (sometimes blind) religiosity in the Philippines, and you get the overreaction over Pura’s Jesus cosplay.

It was like watching two elements combusting. The lid had to pop off sooner or later.

If the reaction wasn’t a combination of homophobia and religious sanctimony, Marlon Tapalord would have faced the same outrage from his fellow Filipinos.

Tapalord, a male-presenting Jesus cosplayer, has made it his schtick for years. He appears in public dressed as Jesus and several of his memes posing as Jesus have gone viral as “comedy.”

Yet there are no persona-non-grata orders against Tapalord. No public shaming. No arrest warrants.

Surely, I don’t have to spell out the reason as to why that is. 

Double Standards Spilling over into Other Spaces

Unsettlingly, Joey de Leon getting a slap on the wrist from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for “joking” about suicide on E.A.T. demonstrates the homophobia of our government institutions too.

Only a few weeks before, the same Board suspended It’s Showtime (a noontime show like E.A.T.) after hosts—and couple—Vice Ganda and Ion Perez showed the slightest hint of same-sex affection.

A slap on the wrist for a suicide joke, but suspension for two adults showing affection. In what world is this a fair adjudication?

It speaks to a larger blind spot by the Filipino masses, where privileged people seem to be forgiven for their crimes much faster than minorities. Senator Bong Revilla, Jr. was famously jailed for pilfering millions of pesos in funds from congressional coffers.

Yet almost as quickly, he was acquitted and elected right back into the Senate after his “budot” dance (that essentially functioned as a campaign ad) went viral. Is it really any wonder why the same level of outrage directed at Pura Luka Vega could not be thrown at Sara Duterte, whose “confidential funds” were even less transparent than Revilla’s?

Cloak a public figure in branding using words like “power”, “resilience”, and “leadership” and Filipinos will eat it right up.

Cloak them in words like “holy”, “mystical”, and “reverend father” and Filipinos might even turn a blind eye to child sexual abuse and secret concubines.

We Need to Fix the Compass

If outrage were a compass held by Filipinos, we’re at a point where magnets are interfering with it. The compass is stuttering, leaving us confused about where to turn. We have lost our True North.

It seems the only way to fix it is through education and—more importantly—critical thinking. But this requires a little more effort from the average Filipino.

It starts with questions that are hard, but important all the same.

Are you fine with malicious leaders doing the thinking for you? Do you really believe queer people aren’t fighting for the same rights as you are? Would you really follow the word of a faith leader when they’ve been exposed as hypocrites?

Who do you really want to be angry at?

About the Author

Screenshot 2023-10-05 at 5.26.23 PM
Shane Haro

Shane Haro is the Editor-in-Chief of the HAPI Website and Chief of the HAPI Scholars. On his off days, you’ll find him zoning out to Lana del Rey songs. He’s always ready to tell you why humanism is critical in modern society.

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