Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fierce and Fabulous?

There are some things in life that make you bite your lower lip in subtle anger, so much so that you do not even notice that you actually bit too hard and hurt yourself, albeit gently, in the process. In my case, I bit my lip once when GMA confessed to cheating her way to the presidency, i bit my lip again when I was being reprimanded by a judge in front of everyone for a mistake that was not mine to begin with, and finally, I bit my lip again when a "big-time" lawyer put me down in front of my mother by belittling my undergraduate course and by basically implying that I will not amount to anything.

Then came a certain Ms. Malu Fernandez and a couple of articles that need to be read in order to be "appreciated". Read the article that started it all here. Apparently she thought that she didn't piss enough people off with her first article so she decided to write some more gibberish here.I don't read manila standard and I only became aware of the articles through a friend who sent it to our yahoo groups. I don't think I need to read all of Ms. Fernandez's previous articles in order to appreciate her style of writing or her socio-economic background.

After biting my lip while reading her articles, I felt that I needed to get something off my chest and i needed to do it immediately. Because I could not afford a boxing workout at the nearest gym or a soothing body massage from the nearby spa, I was thinking of borrowing a gun and blowing off steam by dropping by the nearest firing range. That was until my friend told me that he did not want me holding his gun. I did not have the luxury of time. Thus, I thought that I should write Ms. Fernandez or her editor a friendly letter from a concerned citizen. I immediately wrote down what I thought she and her editor should know and sent it to every e-mail address that I was able to see in the manila standard today website. I tried my very best not to get personal. I do hope I succeeded in that. See, Mr. "big-time" Iawyer. I will amount to something someday as long as I am patient, sober, and as long as my friend patently refuses to lend me his gun.

Here it goes:

To The Good People of Manila Standard,

This pertains to Ms. Malu Fernandez's article entitled "From Boracay to Greece" in her "Fierce and Fabulous" column last June and her subsequent article dated July 30, 2007 entitled "Am I being diva? Or do you lack common sense?" I have never sent a letter to any broadsheet despite some offensive articles that its editors decide to publish. Ms. Fernandez's articles were a cut above the rest though, her comments went too far.

I've read opinion columns chastising homosexuals, unfounded accusations, libelous slurs, articles about spending money ostentatiously without regret, and the like, yet none of these succeeded in making my blood pressure rise above its normal levels. To wit: “The duty free shop was overrun with Filipino workers selling cellphones and perfume. Meanwhile, I wanted to slash my wrist at the thought of being trapped in a plane with all of them."
Furthermore, she also wrote: “…I heaved a sigh, popped my sleeping pills and dozed off to the sound of gum chewing and endless yelling of ‘Hoy! Kamusta ka! Domestic helper ka din ba?’ I thought I had died and God sent me to my very own private hell.”

What did our OFW's ever do to her to deserve such nasty remarks. What was it that was so morally offensive with selling cellphones, perfume, the sound of gum chewing, and endless yelling of "Hoy! Kamusta ka! Domestic helper ka din ba?" Maybe she can enlighten us in her subsequent articles as to how they offended her with their actions.

I tried to look at her article from a holistic perspective and it didn't make any sense either. Those words were out of place, annoying, and irrational to say the very least. It would have been alright it this were a private letter that she sent to one of her high-society sisters, but this is was an article that she wrote for the fourth largest broadsheet in the country. Did she really have to say those unnecessary remarks? Did your magazine really have to publish that article? Where does ethical journalism and accountability lie in any of this? Being in the media entails certain responsibilities and a modicum of propriety. One can't say anything that he or she wants whimsically just for the sake of "expressing" one's self. Your magazine is not her blog, nor is it her own private space.

Ms. Fernandez, in her subsequent article dated July 30, 2007 entitled "Am I being diva? Or do you lack common sense?" seemed irked that some readers found her untoward comments toward OFW's offensive. Instead of explaining why she thought she was funny, or maybe why her comments were done in good taste, she merely shrugged all her detractors aside and took comfort in her right to freedom of speech, her stint as a professor in UP, and the politicians in her family. Furthermore, instead of being rational and confronting the issues that her critics brought up, she opted to offend more people by insulting their intelligence. To wit: "The bottom line was just that I had offended the reader’s socioeconomic background. If any of these people actually read anything thicker then a magazine they would find it very funny."
That was not the bottom line. The bottom line was just that she had offended every single Filipino who took pride in their fellow Filipinos that are being perceived by many as unsung heroes.

She tried to take refuge in her claim that she was merely stating the facts. Really now? Unless she can prove that someone else shares the same sentiments that she does i.e. "slashing one's wrists at the thought of being trapped in the same plane with OFWs", or considering the sound of gum chewing, and endless yelling of "Hoy! Kamusta ka! Domestic helper ka din ba?" as their own private hell, I'm not buying the "statement of facts" argument as of yet. Furthermore, she said that she and her friends found the article funny. Well, sadly, it was not funny, not through any stretch of the imagination. It was not even amusing to say the very least.

Poking fun is entirely different from blatantly making fun of an entire group of people who didn't do anything to deserve such an act. Humor has its limits. She did not simply poke fun at them, she wanted to show everyone how seemingly pathetic their way of life was compared to hers. And for what reason? To provide comic relief at the expense of our OFWs? Wouldn't you say that it was cheap and low of her to do so? There are certain lines that shouldn't be crossed. Your freedom to express your ideas or to make fun of your surroundings is not a license to chastise your fellow human beings. Nor should your freedoms be used to justify wanton disregard of basic decency and common courtesy.

To the editor of Ms. Fernandez's column, please try to see to it that Ms. Fernandez adheres to your profession's ethical standards. We don't need another Filipino writer telling us how she hates her fellow citizens by their very nature and without fault on their part. Maybe I am just an ordinary citizen who cannot, in Ms. Fernandez's words "read anything thicker than a magazine". Maybe I will never reach the level of intellectual depth that she has attained. But as far as I am concerned, one need not "read anything thicker than a magazine" to get offended when someone dishes out vile comments towards his or her fellow human beings capriciously, without any trace of guilt or remorse.

My message to Ms. Malu Fernandez is simple. Grow up. If you want to write your lifestyle articles and talk about your wonderful escapades in the cool, sandy beaches of the world or your exhilarating voyages in exotic and far-flung locations then do so. Nobody's stopping you from giving everyone a blow-by-blow account of how wonderful your shopping experience went, or how refreshing that sip of pina colada tasted. Just don't insert thoughtless and harsh remarks about people who you in your own well-written words, you "will never get the culture of". Don't step on them just because you feel that they are one rung below you in the social strata. How would you feel if one of our OFW's who were with you on that plane wrote an article about a louis vuitton lugging primadonna who sat in economy class yet felt and acted as if she were a princess seated in first-class? Wouldn't you be offended if they related their experience and perhaps their feelings of uneasiness and discomfort using your own words?

Ms. Fernandez, I am also looking forward to the bold claim in your July 30 article that: "Although I could mention that it is easier to understand someone who has a lower socioeconomic background that would entail a whole other page." I am quite interested as to what evidence you can come up with in order to prove this bold claim. Furthermore when you claimed: "and frankly I don’t want to be someone to bridge the gap between socioeconomic classes. I leave that to the politicians in my family who believe they can actually help.", don't worry, I don't think you and your "family of politicians'" words or actions will magically bridge the gap between socioeconomic classes, as it would take more than one article and definitely more than one "family of politicians" to do what thousands of principled Filipinos have been trying to do for the past century.

Finally, I sincerely hope that you become more sensitive to the feelings of those around you, many of them not well-cultured or high-society through no fault of their own. If, in your opinion, their annoying behavior, or their very nature offends your own sense of morality then keep your personal comments to yourself, after all they cause you no physical, mental, emotional, or psychological harm, nor are they doing any horrendous or vile act of moral depravity. Just smile, continue writing your columns about how soft and comfortable the plane seats are, or maybe how attentive and respectful the flight attendants are, and let our OFW's be. They've paid their dues too and have every right to be in the same plane as you are. The only difference is, they will be off to work for their families in a foreign country, risking life and limb just to make some money; whereas you will be off for your personal enjoyment to see the sights of Greece and marvel at its pristine beauty. Please keep on writing Ms. Fernandez and humor us with your "acerbic" wit in order to remind us in the "fierce and fabulous" manner that indeed, this is a wonderful world that we live in.

Respectfully Yours,


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wow.. very well said. i just hope she gets to read this email. nice post!

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