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2021’s unforgettable K-drama characters

We were transported to ordinary tales in Seoul, blossomed romance on the seaside, and tensed up with suspenseful child games. But who really became legendary icons and had the best moments this year? 

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Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb

Rewinding the past eleven months, our perseverance to keep striving has almost been little to none. But once we switched tabs or turned on the TV, K-dramas were there to comfort and cheer us during the highest and lowest points of our days or weeks. 

For fleeting moments, we were peeled from our nauseating reality. We were transported to ordinary tales in Seoul, blossomed romance on the seaside, tensed up with suspenseful child games, and laughed at the comedic repartee from the Joseon period. 

But who really became legendary icons and had the best moments this year? In no particular order, here are some K-drama characters that made 2021 a memorable year. 

Kang Sae-byeok (‘Squid Game’)

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Her ‘MONEY’ fan edits all over the internet are enough proof. It is undeniable that we have all fallen head over heels for Squid Game’s Player 067, otherwise known as Kang Sae-byeok (Hoyeon Jung), for good reasons too. She instantly rose to fame with her impressive debut role as a cold North Korean pickpocket who enters a deadly game of cash to support her brother and family’s escape. 

A minority of people call her overrated, but I’d like to believe that the hype surrounding the sly player is not just due to her stone-fox visuals. Her arc was all about assembling trust in people again, even in the last moments. Without her heartbreaking ‘right person, not enough time’ pact she had with Ji Yeong (Lee Yoo-mi), we wouldn’t have those popular I love you so marble game edits. 

It is time to stop equating aloofness with the incapability of being a warm and good-natured person (unfortunately, Sang-woo didn’t catch the assignment). Hence, the Sae-byeok supremacy is well-deserved. May we clink our mojitos with her in Jeju Island’s parallel universe. 

Hong Du-shik and Yoon Hye-jin (‘Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’) 

Photo courtesy of TVN/Netflix

It’s always a romantic Sunday with Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha. The healing drama’s dimple couple, rationalist dentist Yoon Hye-jin (Shin Min-ah) and part-time job juggler Chief Hong Du-shik (Kim Seon-ho) reduced us to tears and kilig every weekend. A shift from the repetitive and common toxic love triangle tropes, this wholesome couple proved that healthy relationships are just as interesting and don’t need cheating subplots to spice things up. 

With Chief Hong, I’ve learned to appreciate the mundane even more. Be it the small conversations with the Gongjin villagers, his little acts of kindness, or his loving gazes at the sea and his found family, we are reminded to take notes from him. Like rekindling even the smallest but meaningful sparks of happiness. Another addition to the manic pixie boy list. 

But Hye Jin strongly resonated with me the most. In her, I saw my fleshed-out hard headed perfectionist characteristics. Her development toward becoming more empathetic and compassionate toward the community was beautiful. She and Chief Hong perfectly complemented each other, subverting hetero tropes and norms, and just lavishly overflowed with wholesome love in becoming better people together. 

I’ll always remember this Ghibli-like drama that turned my non-K-drama friends (and dad) into emotional wrecks. 

Cheon Seo-jin (‘The Penthouse’)

Photo courtesy of SBS Drama

The Azula of K-dramas. We either hate her or love her. But this villainous femme fatale of opera melodrama The Penthouse has given us a handful of the most iconic crying, screaming, throwing, and slapping memeable scenes of 2021.

Dubbed as the nation’s elite soprano, the complexity of Cheon Seo-jin’s (Kim So-yeon) background, family ties, and music career are what made the show so unputdownable. Only Seojin could turn a singing drama into an intense bloodbath between the rich and poor competing for a trophy. 

But despite being depicted as the spawn of evil, the show unraveled that her troubled and ill-natured character was brought about by generational trauma, daddy issues, and pressure to become the best of the best, which she passed onto her daughter.

Interestingly enough, Kim So-Yeon’s acting as she descends into insanity is top-notch. Her bubbly personality in real life is the polar opposite of Seojin’s coldness. 

By virtue of The Penthouse, I’ll never listen to ‘Una Voce Poco Fa’ the same way again without hearing Seo-jin’s “high F!” 

Jang Han-seo (‘Vincenzo’) 

Photo courtesy of TVN/Netflix

As they say, protect Jang Han-seo. 

Mafia-thriller Vincenzo subverted our expectations of himbos and comic relief characters. Used as a puppet to control a scamming company, the lightheaded chairman parted ways from the cruel intentions of his brother and sided with the main protagonist Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joong-ki) to put an end to his schemes. Together, they formed a heartwarming and Yoda-Jedi bond amidst the crime and actions in fighting the villain. 

Han-seo (Kwak Dong-yeon) remained a memorable character that brought a great contrast of fun to the suspenseful theme of Vincenzo. Although I found some scenes a bit forced and cringey, he simply just sought a true brother figure. And when Vincenzo was finally there to fill in that void, we were cut short of what he deserved. 

What is it with writers and their hobby of swaying the side and comforting characters we’ve come to care for by tricking them (and us) into facing the most undeserving perils? 

Kang Sol-a (‘Law School’) 

Photo courtesy of Netflix

The rigid experience of studying law is personal, but Law School’s characters are a testament that resisting the broken structures of the justice system while being a burned-out student is possible (and a common experience too). 

Imagine a more brutally honest outtake of Legally Blonde, then you’d have freshman law student Kang Sol-a (Ryu Hye-young). Her “I will not fail” and alarm on cheek memes represented our whole 2021 mood, especially during online classes. 

She depicted the realistic struggles of students and the pressure lodged in an environment with her well-off colleagues. Just like us, she runs on caffeine and complains when she doesn’t understand the lessons. Although laughable, I appreciate the genuine depiction of the grueling process in understanding and revealing the flawed streaks of the law. 

As we saw our personified academic insecurities projected on screen, Sol-a reminds us that progress isn’t always pretty. But our efforts to fight the good fight will eventually go to their worth. 

Yoon Sol and Seo Ji-wan (‘Nevertheless’) 

Photo courtesy of Netflix

I “get defensive and insecure” every time Nevertheless gets unnecessary hate for not following fixed expectations for romance stories. 

Akin to Normal People, Nevertheless had a set of unlikeable but authentic characters. That’s why we’re still so drawn to its straightforward plot. Just people being people. Sure, the main characters, Yu Na-bi (Han So-hee) and Park Jae-eon (Song Kang) kept running in circles of red flags. But I thought the depth of side characters Yoon Sol (Lee Ho-jung) and Seo Ji-wan’s (Yoon Seo-ah) relationship outshined them more. 

A diamond in the rough from the oversaturated queerbaiting shows, Yoon Sol and Jiwan’s honest childhood best friends-to-lovers became the soulful saving grace of the show. A relatable experience for queer women, Sol finds herself struggling harder in expressing her unrequited feelings to Ji-wan. But when Ji-wan’s feelings are finally revealed to be the same, rapturous love blossoms for the two. 

Sol and Ji-wan’s realistic take on internalized fears about their sexualities and molding stereotypes is a game-changer for mainstream Korean media and a win for the gays. How unfortunate that the best developments in the show came from the best girls who had such little screen time. Nevertheless, we need to petition for #SolJiwan to be the main leads in future dramas to come. 

Yoon Ji-woo (‘My Name’)

Photo courtesy of Netflix

From portraying the delicate and unhinged Na-bi to the vengeance-filled badass Yoon Ji-woo, Han So-hee once again proved her duality as another rising star this year. Although I thought My Name followed a predictable, linear revenge plot, the fine action scenes and intimate moments that humanized Ji-woo amidst all the convoluted drug fights going on compensated for it. 

Admittedly, I’m not too big on the strong female character trope anymore. Particularly because it dilutes emotions and love for weakness and usually only takes rebelliousness or masculinity as the defining characteristics of a strong empowered woman. Ji-woo’s character was allusive to Trese’s Alexandra Trese. Besides the fact both have worked with the police force, their character personification had so much potential than just fighting crime or showing who’s boss. 

But regardless, Yoon Ji-woo was an impressive and distinctive character, a calling reposition for more character-driven K-drama female leads. Like Squid Game, My Name became the leeway for those who generalized K-drama as a mere cliché subgenre, to actually be introduced to its larger scope of artistic storytelling with well-written heroes and heroines. 

Jang Bong-hwan (‘Mr. Queen’) 

Mr. Queen is a refreshing and laughable spin from all Mulan-esque, woman-conceals her-identity-and-pretends-to-be-a-man period kind of stories. 

Modern-day chef Jang Bong-hwan (Choi Jin-hyuk) transports back in time to the Joseon Era where he is trapped in Queen Kim So-yong’s (Shin Hye-sun) body. As he grapples in searching for a way to get back home, he brings in shenanigans and techniques from the 21st century (such as dancing BLACKPINK’s ‘DDU-DU DDU-DU’), ultimately freaking out the royalty in the palace and significantly bringing change. 

Caught in the interesting frenzies of palace disputes, Bong-hwan brings a feel-good atmosphere to the show with unorthodox antics and a balance of serious themes. 

What stood out to me was the comical bond and chemistry of the queen as he intersected paths with the taciturn king (Kim Jung-hyun), and formed a found-family bond with other servants. This may be part two of Park Bo-gum’s ‘Boombastic’ mob dance in Love in the Moonlight. 

Han Seo-jun (‘True Beauty’) 

Photo courtesy of TVN

Another drama where the second-lead has a larger support group than the main lead? We’ll take it. 

Before Nevertheless’ Potato Boy cult came in, the first months of 2021 were swarmed with the charismatic bad boy Han Seo-jun (Hwang In-youp) supremacists after True Beauty kept dangling ending hints of romance then friendship then romance between Seo-jun and Lim Jugyeong (Moon Ga-young) only for it to be tossed in the end. 

No one can blame the strong wave of #TeamSeojun. The caring and protective student-idol trainee set the standards too high for bad boys that are actually good boys. He is indeed truly written from the female gaze. 

Seo-jun and Jugyeong’s ‘all’s well that ends well’ bond, like Little Women’s Laurie and Jo, were so difficult to accept at first. But after all, like Seo-jun, we all deserve someone who wouldn’t treat us as their rebound or doormat and that platonic soulmates could exist. 

Someone give In-youp main leading roles because I can’t bear to watch his painful second-lead roles anymore.

In truth, it’s hard to select favorites from this year’s sublime cast. But thanks to this year’s memorable lineup, some bad days became bearable with the lessons and scenes they imparted. 

And while we’re at it, there are still promising candidates to watch out for from ongoing winter and summer gems, Snowdrop and Our Beloved Summer

Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro
Blogs Editor, Blogs Writer | + posts

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Blogs

Fictional characters’ moments that queer people can relate to

To champion visibility and right representation in media this Pride month, here are some fictional characters’ moments that you may have related to one way or another.

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Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb

Finding relatable queer representation in media is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Most of the time, you come across queer fictional characters that siphon every negative stereotype with the purpose of wider viewership or as an ill attempt to feed a horrible narrative of whatever sexuality they are portraying, for whatever reason they think it would serve.

But there are still characters whose portrayal of certain sexuality transcends with the audience; bringing awareness to the viewers and giving the right visibility and accurate representation to those intended—most times by breaking the stigma and defying stereotypes, sometimes by reminding them of the pain of the past (or present).

To champion visibility and right representation in media this Pride month, here are some fictional characters’ moments that you may have related to one way or another. 

1. Taking sexuality quizzes 

Screengrab from @heartstoppertv/Instagram

The scene from Heartstopper where Nick did a cursory search for the question “am i gay?” and answered a sexuality quiz online where it said he was 62% homosexual along with Orla Gartland’s ‘Why Am I Like This’ blasting in the background music perfectly sums up the experience of confusion and utter dread that comes in grappling with the feeling of liking someone from the same sex. 

There was a part of you wishing the quiz was wrong but there was also your gut feeling nudging your heart to believe that it’s real. The dichotomy comes with its respective factors. On the one hand, believing that the quiz coincides with what your heart means embracing what you truly feel. 

On the other, being in denial comes with the fact that if the quiz wastrue, you’d face the imminent danger of dealing in a world where homophobia was rampant and where queer people were subject to mockery and invalidation and even die because of it. 

2. Explaining the bisexual narrative 

Screengrab from @filmsofchalamet/Twitter

Nick’s realization that he may be bisexual peaked while he was watching Pirates of the Caribbean with his mother. The camera went to a close-up on his eyes twiddling from Keira Knightley to Orlando Bloom and vice versa. This short scene was enough representation of bisexuality on its own. 

You’re attracted to both men and women, end of discussion. But since promoting bisexual identity visibility is heavily hindered by the societal and cultural narrative of only two sexualities (gay and lesbian) existing outside the gender binary, bisexual people find it hard to explain what bisexuality is without facing invalidation such as being called indecisive, and just joining the bandwagon.

In Heartstopper, Nick explained the bisexual narrative by replying, “No, it’s definitely not just guys,” after her mother said, “You don’t have to say you like girls if you don’t.” Through this, he showed that there wasn’t a switch button to bisexuality wherein one wakes up and decides that they like men and changes to liking women at the latter part of the day or vice versa. Instead, being attracted to men and women coexist and there were none of those 70/30 or 50/50 percentages that people tend to ask when you tell them you’re bisexual. 

3. Being in a constant state of in-denial 

Photo from Nadao Bangkok

Throughout the episodes of I Told Sunset About You, Teh had struggled to confront his newfound realization that he was attracted to the same sex, hence having a series of “push and pull” in his relationship with Oh-aew who—contrary to Teh—was out to the people around him. One moment, Teh would indulge in his awakening, the next moment he would withdraw whatever feelings he had and leave. This “push and pull” factor was Teh being constantly in denial of coming into terms with his sexuality as the confusion kept him hovering above keeping his friendship instead of pushing through the budding romantic relationship he had with Oh-aew.

The reasons behind Teh being in denial were multifaceted. For one, he knew he had always been attracted to women—considering his years of wooing a girl classmate named Tarn. He was also afraid of how his sexuality would affect his mother and her booming business. Teh also felt suffocated by the societal pressures and gender roles he had grown accustomed to; hence, these thoughts came surging in like a whirlpool and he was stuck in the midst of it, not knowing what to do.

There would be queer people who embody what Teh was feeling the entire series and they were valid in every sense—the fear, expectations, and pressures of it all. For people who do not understand, coming to terms with one’s sexuality would seem like an easy feat—the identifying marker being what you played with as a child: Barbie dolls or Hot Wheels. 

But like Teh’s struggles, understanding one’s sexuality and eventually coming to terms with it could take months at least or years at most, unspooling a skein of yarn that doesn’t seem to end. It’s a constant battle within yourself based on what the external factors were hindering you from eventually deciding. 

4. Having the mindset of needing to prove more than others

Screengrab from GMMTV Official

In the scene from Dark Blue Kiss where Pete and Kao were sitting by the pool and talking about their future, Pete looked at Kao before staring blankly into the distance and asking why he had more to prove than others just because he was attracted to the same sex. “It’s like we disappoint our parents with our sexuality so we have to be a good person, get a good job, and make them proud,” Kao said to which Pete replied that he felt like he needed to be better than everyone else because he was queer when he could be a good person simply because he chose to be one. 

For some queer people, especially the closeted ones, it’s always working double shifts to hide their sexuality in fear that they haven’t proven their worth to come out yet. It’s the fear of being a disappointment but also thinking that proving oneself worthy would help negate any disappointment that came forth. 

The constant urge to strive for perfection could then be a desperate cry for acceptance and acknowledgment wherein you can be embraced, loved, and accepted for who you are without needing to pass through an invisible threshold. 

5. Getting the spotlight for being queer

Screengrab from Hat Trick

In that episode of Derry Girls when Clare wrote an anonymous essay about being a lesbian, Michelle took the credit and shouted that she was the ‘wee lezzer’ in the middle of their school’s staircase all because James said whoever wrote it would basically be a celebrity. 

At first glance, there seems nothing wrong with it. It’s a ’90s show where being queer is a big deal and everyone wants to have a share of the story to quench the curiosity that kicked in. But it’s the fact that announcing you’re queer still equates to being the center of attention that’s the problem. 

This portrayal was an honest take on having people speculate about your sexuality and getting the spotlight for being queer but it’s definitely a horrible experience if you were the subject of it. Clare didn’t write the essay because she wanted the limelight but because it was a “brave” thing for her to do. 

Likewise, queer people come out not because they want the unnecessary attention being brought to their faces but because hiding one’s sexuality can be extremely suffocating, and coming out can be a freeing act to do. However, this isn’t to say that coming out is necessary to feel free. It still depends on one’s decision and what makes them feel better. 

6. Receiving the uncalled-for “So, did you like me?” remark

When Clare came out to Erin that she was the lesbian who wrote the essay, Erin was appalled and said, “Well, I’m sorry Clare, but I’m just not interested in you, not like that,” seemingly implying that because Clare came out as a lesbian meant her friend feels an attraction to every girl. Clare was quick to her wit by saying, “Look at the state of you,” before walking out of the room.

This situation can feel like looking in the mirror after coming out to the closest friends you trust the most. The initial reaction was to blurt out, “So, did you like me?” This common banter with friends after pouring one’s heart to come out reeks of having been fed the stereotype of queer people liking everyone from the same sex when in fact that isn’t the case—not even close. 

Accurate queer representations in media can be a glimmer of hope for everyone to understand the ordeals that queer people go through. However, these are not enough. Despite the sense of comfort that it brings when seeing oneself through the screen, these representations should be projected back to reality instead of staying inside the dialogues said by these fictional characters. 

After all, what better way to go through the rough patches of life than to be embraced not in the confines of queer characters alone but by society and the law as well. Albeit still a long way to go, through actively portraying queer lives the right way, we’ll hopefully, and eventually, get there.

Ada Pelonia
Stories Writer | + posts

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Running up that Palace: Should bloggers become our new journalists?

With the polarization of blogs, vlogs versus journalism in the Palace—the former containing a multitude of outweighing flaws and insufficiencies—can it be truly justified that journalism is no longer needed?

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Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb

Another month calls for another dystopian arc in the Philippines. 

Controversial lawyer and vlogger Trixie Cruz-Angeles is the country’s next Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCCO) secretary, who was appointed by a dictator’s son and president-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. She, along with the current administration, already flicked their trump card: aiming to institutionalize bloggers and vloggers to cover presidential and other governmental coverages, like the Duterte administration.

But that’s not even their cherry on top. As of writing, the Pro-Marcos vloggers formed the United Vloggers and Influencers of the Philippines (UVIP), which is currently in the process of drafting their own code of ethics and constitution that would regulate their access to Malacañang. They claimed they will not be biased but at the same time, “pro-government.” 

With the polarization of blogs, vlogs versus journalism—the former containing a multitude of outweighing flaws and insufficiencies—can it be truly justified that journalism is replaceable? 

Journalism is defined as “the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media,” and “writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation.” Meanwhile, blogs are “a regular record of your thoughts, opinions, or experiences that you put on the internet for other people to read.” In short, journalism is the absence of emotions and interpretations in articles, while blogs are the presence of the aforementioned. 

Without needing an editor or supervisor as well, a blogger’s own thoughts and topics that interest them are their priority; and there’s nothing wrong with that. But making bloggers and vloggers recognized as licensed individuals to do the reporting instead obscures the elements that come into journalistic ethics and editorial standards such as: objectivity, factuality, credibility, and integrity, which are rules of thumb in reporting. These are primarily taught to and mastered by journalists who undergo methodical and demanding years of writing, finishing a degree, training, internships, and more. 

How can we ensure that an accountability system will be implemented and followed? More importantly, if they’re already attempting to draft their own by-laws? 

Journalism has already grown “less trustworthy”

We all deserve the most truthful and credible individuals to detail accounts and events for the common good of all. But why do others swerve for the defective option as always? 

According to a report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, most Filipinos believe most news organizations have become heavily politicized (37%) and commercialized (34%), thus rendering evasion of news amongst Filipinos.

There are also instances where reporters are criticized for asking “rude,” biased, and hard questions to politicians. But let it go unnoticed when these politicians at issue proudly give misogynistic, sexist, or foul remarks. The latest report from Reuters also observed that outlets known for their reporting of politicians are “highly distrusted by supporters of the politicians in question,” such as Rappler which ranked the lowest (42%) on the brand news media trust scale. This statistic was said to be prone to  “abuse”  for politicians and trolls to attack independent media and fact-checkers. 

Rappler and ABS-CBN also faced censorship and libel concerns, including communist accusations from pro-administration supporters and black propaganda by the National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Indeed, Filipinos continue to be caught in neck-deep stigmatized beliefs on advocacy and activism. As a result, several have relied only on contentious media networks, blog sites, and vlogs that support their narrative and politicians—only tightening their blinders and sticking them firmer to their echo chambers. 

However, special treatment for and appointment of questionable vloggers or even reporters aren’t new. In an interview of veteran journalist Karen Davila with Angeles who defended fake-news peddler and then-PCCO assistant secretary Mocha Uson, Thinking Pinoy and pro-administration supporters thought the established journalist “will never be at par” with the then-social media strategist and vlogger’s wits. 

On Marcos Jr.’s first day as president-elect, only three media networks were invited, namely: the Quiboloy-owned Sonshine Media Network (SMNI), the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC)-controlled station NET25, and GMA News. NET25 has received backlash from media watchers for their propagandized, poor sourcing, foul language, and tabloid reporting. The religious sect that endorsed Marcos Jr.’s presidential candidacy attacked the opposition members, Vice President and her supporters numerous times. Their partisan and right-wing reportage also earned them more engagements and followers on Facebook. 

It’s quite clear that if this administration intends to pursue its selective exploits by cherry-picking parts of the media that will only enhance their good side, for mainstream media to stop “antagonizing” them, they are outrightly depriving the public of transparency and accountability—which we shouldn’t have to beg for.

‘Pang-content lang’: School of TikTok, Facebook, and fandom

Screengrab from Bongbong Marcos/YouTube, Toni Gonzaga/YouTube, Rambo Talabong/Rappler, and Google

How has vlogging contributed to the systemic crisis of misinformation and disinformation that got us here? 

The “no to negative campaigning” and “well-mannered” team of Marcos Jr. prides itself on focusing on its own campaign rather than pulling its opponents down; despite being visibly contradictory on multiple occasions, with their approach mimicked by their followers. 

For director Darryl Yap, the creator of the ‘Lenlen’ video series that mocked Robredo—bad publicity is still good publicity. Thus, allowing enablers like him to make more viral gigs to capture the minds and hearts of—if not the old—the younger generations. Anyone who tried criticizing them for their problematic content was called out for their “toxic cancel culture” behaviour by Marcos followers.

While the dirty work is left to the apologists, the Marcoses cleanse their hands as they humanize themselves with down-to-earth personas through their vlogs: playing games, answering Q&As, and day-in-the-life videos in the realms of YouTube and TikTok. 

In many Facebook and TikTok spliced edits, Marcos Jr. is a misunderstood villain whose family name has been wronged. Now, he’s back to heroically sacrifice himself and prove us wrong even when the whole world “turned against him.” Romanticized microcontent like these sanitize their bloodstained history of fascism, murder, and corruption in a snap; and his followers insist they’re untainted while the blotches of injustice are vivid as red. 

There’s also the selective application of freedom of expression. Marcos supporters passionately defended talk show host Toni Gonzaga from criticism in her interview with him. They even thought she was better than most journalists for she was neutral and not negative, refusing to acknowledge the impact of her platform and angle that invalidated martial law victims. But where were they—or worse—why were they sadistic—joyful even—every time a journalist, critic, peasant, and activist were shoved to the fringes for exercising the same thing? 

When content creator Agon Hare of Project Nightfall made a video about the controversial presidential win of Marcos Jr. and the atrocities of the dictatorship of his father, supporters of the family fiercely accused the vlogger of being another biased foreigner who shouldn’t interfere with the Philippines’ history. The video was then removed and he released an apology. 

This isn’t just about them being unapologetic with their blatant display of double standards, but a perilous testament that regardless of where you are; on the riskier edge of being a journalist or safer side as a blogger or vlogger, they’ll hurl at you with their own rendition of history when you reveal a periphery they constantly deny. 

Conjure an image of these reshaping tenfold into power when more vlogger-apologists are then legitimized in the government. It’s a distressing scene just visualizing it. Perhaps this is why it was unbearable to brace for the impact of the 35 million votes at first, for we named them blind followers—just as we were blindsided too by what was about to hit us. 

Quantity over quality?

Table by Rambo Talabong/Rappler, sourced from Social Blade

Listed are the Pro-Marcos vloggers with a high subscriber count, who are members of the UVIP. Angeles said virality, engagement, and a large number of followers are factors in basing the bloggers and influencers that can cover Malacañang. 

The same idea applies to a clairvoyant insight from 2008 by writers Angela and Katrina Stuart Santiago in their book The Filipino is Worth Blogging For. “[T]he success of a blog is measured by it its popularity, i.e., the number of blogs that link to it and the comments it gets per post. Never mind the substance or lack of it or the vision or lack of it,” they wrote. 

As the editor of the publication’s blogs section, this is true. There is a dopamine push that feels like a hard-earned reward, a validation, when our think pieces, commentaries, and reviews acquire high engagement, receive compliments, and have the potential to encourage discourse. 

But even I, myself, have reservations. High yet susceptible engagements, which may be twisted into the “wisdom of the crowd,” shouldn’t be a standard to accredit bloggers, influencers, or anyone, into becoming the new and main information disseminators in the government. Especially when these high tractions mainly stem from spliced videos and false news, turned into propaganda and sensationalized content. 

Ingredients to toss a democracy

Photo by Larizza Lucas/TomasinoWeb

This shouldn’t even be a debate in the first place. But unfortunately, it is. From the get-go, it’s not rocket science to determine what job is more appropriate and qualified in dissecting and delivering information. 

This is not to antagonize that all bloggers and vloggers are discreditable. It’s a matter of who is more qualified for the position, place, and event. There is no perfect blogger and even journalist. There are those who claim the journalist title whilst being deliberately puppeteered by commercial and political interests, rather than being watchdogs of the state and truth bearers for the people. 

I’m certain that arguments about the pros of citizen journalism will arise. In our own ways of being netizens that post and capture happenings in the online and offline setting, we all contribute positively to citizen journalism; expanding data accessibility and boosting exposure to more people. However, if the concept of citizen journalism is distorted as a dire excuse to legitimize unqualified individuals to capriciously blog and vlog in the Palace, it will jeopardize each and every one of us. 

Stuart-Santiago wrote, “[W]e blog because we can, but [we] also blog because we insist that there are alternative ways of seeing, as there are always the silences that surround us. We blog because we always imagine that at the very least, even if no one reads it or no one agrees with our story, it will reveal that someone thought differently from the mainstream.” She also insists that blogging is a necessity to question the status quo with a sense of responsibility.

Indeed, content produced by bloggers and vloggers aims to bring a nuanced and fresh take from the conventional. But an important question to ponder is: Are the bloggers who will be granted these extra privileges (that independent outlets and journalists hardly ever had) be there to analyze the status quo, or protect it? 

Why are journalists at fault—forced to adjust and hush—when certain politicians flinch at criticism, the consequences of their own misdeeds? The role of a reporter is not to beautify a pleasing picture of the government like a sponsored food review. They show up not only in favourable situations, but they arrive with unwavering tenacity and grit despite the circumstances. 

Every time they were barred to cover, nudged by the lapdogs of politicians, shaken by the deadliest typhoons and calamities, and bitterly silenced every time they uttered facts. They did not become professionals and put their lives on the line just to be effortlessly replaced by disreputable impostors. 

In the incoming six years, we must not only buckle our seats for the red carpet of populism rolled by President Duterte for his successor. We are challenged to muster the impetus to unearth the other odds of disinformation stacked against us. 

Before they desecrate the crevices of our history and democracy for good.

 

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Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro
Blogs Editor, Blogs Writer | + posts

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5 things that students with strict parents can relate to: Pandemic edition

Your request to see people in person as an attempt to improve your overall well-being definitely deserves some consideration from your parents.

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Screengrab from Jim Flores. Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb.

If you think your parents could not be any more stern, the two-year-old pandemic proves Filipino students (even those over 18 years old) wrong once again.

Trying to convince them with your gala plans and other outdoor activities with peers or colleagues already had you grasping at straws pre-pandemic. Now, it’s your job to continuously update your Bible-long presentation templates with scientific data on the SARS-CoV-2 virus while trying to appease them that you will follow the minimum health protocols while you’re out.

Even UST Senior High School (SHS) student Jim Flores was compelled to create a presentation entitled ‘Bakit Dapat Ako Payagan Gumala.’ The snippet made rounds on Twitter which featured the isolating effects of online learning along with the necessity of face-to-face (F2F) interaction as the University shifted to an enriched virtual mode of education in 2020.

To Filipino students with strict parents and are thinking of making their own persuasive PowerPoints, here is a list of five struggles you may have gone through during your countless attempts to gain your parents’ gala approval amidst the pandemic. 

1. The “it’s too dangerous to go outside” argument

Photo from Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News

The Philippines ranked last in the Global Finance World’s Safest Countries for the second time last year after the 2019 rankings. You also have your fair share of “holdap” stories and near-death experiences trying to cross the streets. The airborne virus might just seem like an addition to the grueling list of hazards in the country.

In the back of your mind, you truly empathize that your parents care about your safety. Getting infected with COVID is no joke; at this point, you should know that the stages of the disease span from mild to severe and acquiring it can make you a spreader of the said pathogen. However, some people forget that health is a holistic state of being; not just the absence of disease.

Moreover, eight dimensions of wellness include: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. Lacking in some aspects can also result in debilitating effects. In a way, it’s just as dangerous to take the other dimensions for granted. Your request to see people in-person as an attempt to improve your overall well-being definitely deserves some consideration from your parents.

2. Parents think it’s just for leisure

Photo from Unsplash

Hobbies count as a leisure activity but they also hone talent, skill, and possibly a future profession. It’s time to remove negative connotations with the word ‘leisure.’ Many students across the country have not even set foot in their universities and colleges due to the aforementioned virus. Some of the important life skills were picked up by students through their daily commute and interactions inside a learning institution during the pre-pandemic era.

How would I learn how to ride a jeep? How should I establish a rapport with my blockmates? When should I leave to avoid traffic or rush hours? These are questions you may have asked yourselves. For some of you, it’s your own way to set a sense of responsibility to fend for yourselves in the real world.

3. Physical interaction is not yet an academic requirement

Screengrab from Jim Flores

While higher education institutions are not allowed to make you complete academic requirements solely through F2F means, it does not imply that it’s not needed for your personal growth at all. Some students learn best in the company of others which may lead to a better overall performance in school. Others just want time away from home to gather inspiration to take on responsibilities.

Flores cited in his presentation that online learning has made it likely for students to “interrupt their studies” and feel “more socially isolated.” A change of pace may sprout more productivity. Activities outside the comfort of your home should also be viewed as opportunities to develop your scholastic pursuits. Learning is not limited to what your school provides you.

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4. “You don’t even know them”

Photo by Deojon Elarco/TomasinoWeb

Yes and no. Is there an easy way to answer this? The dilemma is ironic because not knowing them could be the driving reason to meet them physically in order to know them. You’re lucky if your peers or blockmates are exactly the same set of people your parents knew before the pandemic. You may have met new people along the way and it’s even harder to convince them that they’re trustworthy.

Stranger danger is still a valid thing that your parents worry about especially for students who are still minors. A good compromise is to have a trusted adult with you if you have absolutely no experience on this — with experience comes knowledge.

5. You are only allowed to go out once COVID-19 cases dwindle

Photo by Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb

“Kapag bumaba na ang active cases, baka pwede ng lumabas.”

If you were given a peso every time you heard that from your folks and the Philippine government, everyone would be millionaires by now. Not a lot of people have a clear understanding of COVID statistics. Pandemic fears can also be driven by a poor comprehension of figures; it can also instill a false sense of security.

Let’s go back in time. The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) curbed  Metro Manila’s quarantine classification on Nov. 4, 2021, to Alert Level 2 in preparation for the upcoming holidays.  Since active cases were seen to form a steady decline, the IATF figured to loosen-up the restrictions until the end of the year.

Alert Level 2 means that there are no age-based mobility restrictions. It allows an increased capacity for establishments such as dine-in services, beauty salons, and in-person religious gatherings, among other things. 

In December 2021, the number of newly recorded infections dwindled to less than 500 per day. The month maintained an unalarming streak of new cases in the first 3 weeks despite sums of people setting out to public establishments during the Christmas season.

COVID cases reached record-levels earlier this year as mobility and complacency with minimum health standards increased. The emergence of the highly infectious Omicron variant and the insufficient number of Filipinos who should be completely inoculated then was also blamed. Moreover, highest single-day tally ever recorded in the country was at 34,021 new COVID cases on Jan. 13.

Therefore, seeing a decline in new active COVID cases as a basis of safety from acquiring the respiratory virus should be taken with a grain of salt.

This is not to say that biostatistics and epidemiology are not efficient markers; rather, these sciences should be understood holistically.

Safety is not confined to these numbers. Following minimum health protocols, immunization records, health practices of people in close contact with you, and the type of venue you would go to also play a big role in your safety.

By strictly adhering to prescribed safety provisions in the country on COVID transmission prevention, you can do yourselves and others a favor. By holding onto that moral responsibility, you could be one less statistic from positive SARS-CoV-2 cases.

Despite how well a request to gala has been defended, a parent’s love for their child transcends sources, reasons, and arguments. There is no assurance that you will be granted absolute freedom in seeking the great outdoors because not even the best scientist can promise that the pandemic will end this year.

Hang in there.

 

Angela Gabrielle Magbitang Atejera
Reports Writer | + posts

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