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Behind the creepypasta: The Internet’s horror stories

Are you reading a creepypasta right now?

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The Slenderman, who emerged as an image in a forum at the comedy site Something Awful, is regarded as the mascot of the creepypasta phenomenon. Photo by Victor Surge.

Last April, the story of a particular “Lucia Joaquin” made rounds on Facebook.

The crudely-written story, almost entirely in the form of a chat exchange, details an online interaction between a certain Enzo Cruz and Lucia Joaquin, whom he just added on Facebook.

Their conversation starts off innocuously: Lucia flirts with Enzo, and Enzo willfully obliges with Lucia’s request for pictures, even requesting that they take a picture together despite the fact that they had just known each other.

Later on, and to Enzo’s horror, he finds a picture of himself in his bedroom on Lucia’s Facebook profile — with Lucia laying just right beside him.

Of course, the story is obviously fictional. Was it scary? Probably. The story seemed believable enough.

Perhaps, it is why the post has garnered around 68,000 reactions and more than 26,000 shares as of press time. These statistics do not even include the screenshots and copies of the story circulating on Facebook and other platforms such as Twitter, even the memes generated by the story.

The story of Lucia Joaquin is not new, nor is it the only one. Lucia Joaquin is just part of a large phenomenon known as “creepypasta” — Internet horror stories — and the Internet gives birth to millions of new creepypastas everyday.

It is still unclear how the phenomenon specifically started, or with which specific story it started.

The term, more or less, is pretty much known to come from “copypasta” — a portmanteau of “copy” and “paste” —and is used in message boards like 4chan for text, videos, and images copied-and-pasted across forums.

Creepypasta is basically copypasta’s horror genre.

Researchers often draw comparisons with creepypastas and other narrative forms such as folklore and urban legends; and clearly, the phenomenon is deeply influenced by these narrative traditions. However, what various studies are sure of is that the creepypasta is a phenomenon that could only emerge from — and thrive in — the Internet.

While it has taken on various narrative forms and media as it became increasingly popular, the creepypasta had its humble beginnings on chain messages.

One of the most popular — and most enduring — chain messages is about the vengeful spirit of one Carmen Winstead, popularly dubbed They Hurt Her; a ghost story cum cautionary tale on bullying, including specific instructions to pass the story on and horrifying consequences for those who will refuse to pass it.

No one knows who wrote the message, nor can the original message be traced — and even now, no one has claimed authorship of the message.

Nonetheless, despite various experts disproving the accounts detailed by the chain message for lack of police records and evidence, it persists to be shared up to this day — either out of belief in and fear of the story, or simply for the sake of entertainment.

The obscurity and ambiguity of credible details, combined with just enough tinge of familiarity and possibility, is one of the trademark characteristics of the creepypasta.

Will Wiles, who has written about the phenomenon in his essay ‘Creepypasta’ is how the internet learns our fears, says that this is basically the goal of the creeypasta — and also largely the reason for its popularity: “Creepypasta aspires to be urban legend: dark social memes with just enough familiarity to give a frisson of awful possibility.”

The creepypasta, however, would only begin to gain mainstream popularity with the birth of Slenderman.

Slenderman first appeared in a series of images in 2006, in a forum at the comedy site Something Awful, where users were instructed to create paranormal images. Victor Surge (real name Eric Knudsen)’s creation — a tall, faceless figure in a suit linked to alleged child abductions — quickly became a hit as the character expanded into an entire mythos, with other users adding more stories and accounts related to the Slenderman.

Spawning video games, films, YouTube series, and even a real-life murder, Slenderman has proven to be creepypasta’s most popular child and effectively becoming the phenomenon’s de facto mascot.

Nonetheless, outside the rather overblown sphere of the Slenderman mythos, creepypastas as narratives are best known for dealing with man’s relationship with everyday technology. Often-used examples include stories about cursed video games, lost television show episodes, ritual-games, and corrupted files passed and downloaded over the Internet.

Like the story of Lucia Joaquin, the most intriguing of creepypastas specifically tap into possibilities of the supernatural haunting the deep recesses of the cyberspace, manifesting before people as their everyday lives become more and more intertwined with technology.

Interestingly enough, these stories do not purely exist in text: More often than not, a reader would find several images, videos, and even audio clips attached or linked within the text to serve as evidence for the story.

Creepypastas then become immersive, multimedia narratives— a feat that could not be achieved by oral narrative traditions such as folklore and urban legends; the stories then become believable despite questionable origins or even obvious lack of credibility.

The most popular post in the Reddit thread r/NoSleep, My dead girlfriend keeps messaging me on Facebook. I’ve got the screenshots. I don’t know what to dois a good example. Not only does the post include screenshots; The screenshots include actual pictures, and the user who posted the story continuously updates his account in the comments.

Unlike fake news articles that are meant to fool readers, creepypastas explicitly demand the reader’s suspension of disbelief.

However, with convincing evidences attached, the story leaves almost no room for disproving — taking readers from mere suspension of disbelief to the chilling fear of realizing that the stories are indeed possible.

And like any relatable content, the share button is for everyone to press. Thus, the digital campfire keeps burning.

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#DefendPressFreedom: A War Cry Against Impunity and Disinformation

From ineffective COVID-19 cures, to conspiracy theories, to deliberate propagation of fake news and propaganda, the wave of misinformation and disinformation can claim lives. Without press freedom, we would succumb to this second pandemic.

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Patricia Jardin

May 3 is the celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, a day that serves as a reminder for people, especially governments to respect press freedom. This year, the theme for this celebration is “Journalism without Fear or Favor,” highlighting journalists’ need to freely do their jobs, especially during a global pandemic.

May 5, two days after World Press Freedom Day, is the day that ABS-CBN went off-air due to. National Telecommunications Commision’s (NTC) cease and desist order a day after its franchise ends. It is also the day when a radio broadcaster was slain in Dumaguete City, making him the 1616th journalist killed under the Duterte Administration.

#DefendPressFreedom has been trending on social media due to the shutdown of ABS-CBN and the killing of radio broadcaster Rex Cornelio. The hashtag was used to support the free press, and decry the attacks against the media and media practitioners aiming to silence them. While many people support #DefendPressFreedom, many still do not understand the concept of press freedom, even going as far as saying that the law is above the freedom of the press. 

However, #DefendPressFreedom goes beyond being just a hashtag or a trend.

Iron grip on media

Martial Law is a time of countless cases of corruption and human rights violations, and the press is not excluded in the abuses of power of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who held the Philippine media in his iron grip.

After the declaration of Martial Law through Proclamation 1081,  Ferdinand Marcos released Letter of Instruction 1, or the military  “take over and control”  of “newspapers, magazines, radio and television facilities and all other media of communications.” The reason behind the media takeover is to prevent involvement of media outlets with the Communists. Media outlets affected include ABS-CBN, Channel 5 (now TV5), Manila Daily Bulletin (now Manila Bulletin) Manila Times, and others.

With most of the media outlets closed or under strict government monitoring and censorship, critics of the Marcos administration were arrested. Several journalists like Joaquin ‘Chino’ Roces, Teodoro Locsin Sr., and others were detained. Media was also heavily censored and needs to be approved by the Department of Public Information.

Several laws such as  the Presidential Decrees 33, 36, and 90 were passed, placing the Philippine media into further chokehold.

Loosening chokehold?

After the People Power Revolution, the iron chokehold on the media began to loosen.

Press freedom has been written in the Bill of Rights, specifically in the Article III Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution. According to it,  “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” 

While the situation of the Philippine media became better, there are still attacks to the press coming from the government in the form of criticisms and  lawsuits from previous Presidents. There are also cases of media killings. As of 2018, 185 journalists. were killed since 1986 according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

In March 1999, former president Joseph Ejercito Estrada sued The Manila Times over a story about government corruption on public works contracts. The Manila Times issued a front-page apology, prompting some of the  editors and writers to resign in protest.

The former president also prompted an ad boycott on Philippine Daily Inquirer. Estrada has criticized the newspaper for being biased after covering several government scandals.

The Arroyo administration also had several cases of lawsuits against journalists. According to Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo has filed 50 lawsuits against 46 journalists for writing articles about his alleged crimes.The lawsuits were eventually dropped in 2007.

It is also in the time of the Arroyo administration when the Maguindanao Massacre happened. This event is considered as the world’s single deadliest attack on journalists in history, with 32 journalists killed out of 58 victims. Although a verdict has been passed, there are still around 80 suspects at large according to the Human Rights Watch. 

The Strongman versus the Media

Recently, the 2018 Time Magazine article depicting Pres. Rodrigo Duterte as a strongman. A strongman is described as an authoritarian leader with a heavy reliance on the military. Duterte denounced the strongman label, but he cannot denounce the actions that he had done, especially his  attacks on the press.

In March 2017, Duterte threatened several media outlets, namely ABS-CBN and Philippine Daily Inquirer over “rude” reports against him. Duterte said that “karma” will come someday.

Another media outlet that has been on the receiving end of Duterte’s tirades against the media in the news site Rappler. The news isie is known for its critical reporting on the Duterte administration, and has been plagued by attacks both from pro-Duterte blogs and  Duterte himself. 

In Duterte’s State of the Nation Address in 2017, he accused Rappler of being “fully owned” by Americans, which violates foreign ownership restrictions on the media. In January 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked Rappler’s license to operate over violation of the Constitution and Anti-Dummy Law. Duterte also banned Rappler from covering Malacañang in February 2018. Duterte himself banned Rappler reporter Pia Ranada, as well as Rappler CEO Maria Ressa from entering Malacañang. Maria Ressa was also arrested for cyber libel in February over a 2012 article on Wilfredo Keng. She was arrested again in March 2019 for violation of foreign ownership.

Duterte is said to have a personal vendetta on ABS-CBN due to an ad broadcasted on the network showing Duterte cursing and saying rape jokes. The ad was paid for by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. He also accused the network of not showing the campaign ads that he paid for back in 2016. ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak clarified that the campaign ads were shown, but some local ads worth 7 million were not shown due to airtime shortage.

Also in 2019, Duterte’s attacks continued and he once said that he will block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise. 

In February 2020, Solicitor General filed a quo-warranto petition against ABS-CBN on the grounds of foreign ownership, labor conditions, unpaid taxes, and issues on Kapamilya Box Office (KBO) and TV Plus. 

The network responded to the allegations in a hearing on February 24, 2020. In terms of foreign ownership, SEC Commissioner Ephyro Amatong said that the Philippine Depository Receipts, which Calida said is a form of foreign ownership, is not a certificate of ownership. The Bureau of Internal Revenue also said that  ABS-CBN has no unpaid taxes and has complied with the tax requirement of the government. The network also said that the Department of Labor and Employment cleared the network for their compliance on labor laws, and said that the network does not practice contractualization. The network was also cleared on the pay-per-view issue on KBO and TV Plus, and if there are penalties, NTC can just fine the network instead of a shutdown.

The network was allowed to operate until May 4. NTC said that it will give ABS-CBN provisional authority as the network’s franchise renewal is in progress. However on May 3, Calida pressured the NTC by saying that the department could face charges under Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act if NTC gives ABS-CBN provisional authority. Two days later, NTC issued a cease and desist order on ABS-CBN due to its expired franchise. ABS-CBN. went off-air at 7:52 p.m..

More than a hashtag

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that there is a “second pandemic” spreading as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads: the pandemic of misinformation. From ineffective COVID-19 cures, to conspiracy theories, to deliberate propagation of fake news and propaganda, the wave of misinformation and disinformation can claim lives. Without press freedom, we would succumb to this second pandemic.

Press freedom is necessary, with or without a global crisis. The press is the eyes of the masses. They are the watchdogs of the government, watching for corruption and injustices. They are the lenses that capture the society and its problems, bringing it to light for people to do something about these problems. They are also our frontliners in this global pandemic, reporting correct guidelines and calling out inaction when necessary. In short, taking away press freedom is like stripping a nation of its right to know and to be aware.

#DefendPressFreedom goes beyond a mere trend or a hashtag. It is a war cry against forces trying to silence the press to cover its wrongdoings and inactions, an advocacy promoting the right of every citizen to be aware, a simple message to the people spreading the culture of impunity that we won’t back down in this fight. As a popular protest sign says, “First they came for the journalists. This is a warning that we need to defend the free press”.

If we lose our press freedom, we will never know what happens next.

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TUBAW’s Kalinow: The Soundtrack of a Revolution

No emotion is more intense than the pain that the masses feel amidst the numerous challenges in our country. The TUBAW Music Collective aims to capture the dreams, struggles, and triumphs of the masses through their music. 

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Album artwork grabbed from TUBAW Music Collective's Facebook page

They say that art is at its best when driven by intense emotions. No emotion is more intense than the pain that the masses feel amidst the numerous challenges in our country. The TUBAW Music Collective aims to capture the dreams, struggles, and triumphs of the masses through their music. 

Being a citizen of our country is a challenge in itself. From the persistent traffic, mind-boggling taxes, poor healthcare, and high living costs, the “Filipino Dream” is bleaker than its foreign counterpart. Life has it worse for indigenous communities in our country with capitalism exploiting their non-conformity to the urban lifestyle, taking away homes, education, and livelihood from these communities. The cherry on top of this burdensome cake is the continued dominance of officials who offer scraps in their term after promising the world during their campaign periods.

These struggles are what the TUBAW Music Collective aspires to shed light on with their music. TUBAW or Tubong Mindanaw, Tulong Mindanao Music Collective are a group of musicians who produce and perform songs dedicated to the working class since 2016. In their Artist’s Bio, it states that it is their goal to inspire the younger generation “to take part in achieving just and lasting peace.” They have notably shown support for the causes of saving Lumad schools with their album PARAGAS: Mga Awit ng Pag-ibig, Pakikibaka, at Pagsulong. Their music can be heard on streaming services such as Spotify with their 2nd album Kalinow available on the platform.

Kalinow can also be downloaded for free by visiting their Facebook page here. The album features 12 tracks that communicate their advocacy and ignites the passion to seek for change.

Kapayapaan

Opening the album, this song immediately captures the vibe of its namesake. Using instrumentals that bring you back to the peaceful beaches, it conveys the message of finding the root of war and resolving it to achieve peace. It directly calls out aspects that ails our current society, such as the dependence on foreign aid and disrespect towards human rights. 

Misyonero

Following the first song, this song gets the ball rolling with its introductory lines. It calls for the masses to take part in the lifestyle of the communities in the mountains and stand by them to fight for their land. It takes the energy from the first song and takes it up a notch to get its message across. 

Bayani

Taking a more somber tone, this track is a departure from the rather direct message from the previous two tracks. The song gives thanks to a hero/heroes and proclaims the inspiration that they have provided. Once again, it focuses on one central message: fighting for peace in the entire country.

Tuloy Ang Laban

Picking up the energy once again, this song aims to serve as a battle cry. It places emphasis on the current issues today, particularly with promised changes that have done little to ease the real problems of the country. As the title suggests, there is power behind each lyric that is meant to rile up the listeners.

Paasa

The next track takes humorous instrumentals with melancholic lyrics. Keeping with the central message of the album, the persistence of killings and the absence of actual help. As the title suggests, it pertains mainly to false promises of change and how injustices keep the masses down.

Tala

This song is an ode to the working class in our country. It carries an uplifting tone meant to encourage and brighten their advocacies. This song echoes the same vibe as Bayani where it serves as a tribute more than anything else.

Ngayong Gabi

A departure from the nationalistic themes of the prior tracks, this aims to tell a love story. This could be considered the “pop anthem” track of this album, showcasing simple elements to place emphasis on the lyrics and the vocals of the singers. It’s a beautiful song that brings hope and love in its lyrics.

Alab

Another departure from the usual style of previous tracks, deviating from the instruments and musical theme that the prior songs took on. Nonetheless, this track makes its statement clear: igniting the passion for justice, truth, and peace. 

Paper Tiger

Concluding the album, this song from its introductory instrumentals sends a message of calm defiance. The only song in English in the entire album, this song sends a particular message of defiance towards the killings in broad daylight. It sends a message of defiance towards the robbery of land and the arson of properties such as schools and homes. The closing track for Kalinow is brooding, passionate towards achieving justice and peace for the entire country.

Kalinow does not only send messages through its tracks, but the entire album itself paints a narrative. It calls for defiance against injustices and empowers the voice of those who shed light on these injustices. The strong and powerful message is clear from the first track to the album and reiterates it again on the last. Tubaw remains consistent with the core message of their group while also showcasing their talent as a collective.

The musical styles of this album highlights the strong suit of the group. Vocals were never the sole highlight but rather the entire song as a whole. The arrangements make each song appropriate for a soundtrack of an equally strong revolution-themed film or play. They tell a narrative through their music and whether it serves as an accompaniment to a bigger form of media or standing on its own as an album, it inspires vigilance and deflates conformity.

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Imagine how tired we are: KPL’s stereotypes on single parents

In a patriarchal society that still manages to put on traditional lenses for how single parents are regarded, when will we ever let people, who know not a fraction of their struggles, be accountable?

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Screengrab from KPL | #AYUDAmn

If there’s an Achilles’ heel in the contents which Vincentiments spews, it is in the director’s self-proclaimed irreverent works. 

“Jowable” director, Darryl Yap, received backlash for the recent episode of the KPL series which included stereotyping single parents. KPL or Kung Pwede Lang shows fantasized no-holds-barred sentiments in situations that require moral decency.  Its latest addition to the long-running viral series, AYUDAmn, calls out the failure of some local government units to provide relief goods to residents despite the promises of doing so. Even with the upfront and relatable language which serves as the formulas for most viral KPL videos, AYUDAmn had netizens clamoring against parts of its message. 

Single parent? Single parent eh multiple ang kalandian niyan! Multiple benefits niyan! Daming kabit niyan. May ka-chat pang AFAM,” belted the lead character to emphasize that cherry-picking of relief recipients is existing, sorely implying how single parents should not be included in the list. The statement did nothing but proved that the struggles of most single parents could easily pass off as comedic antics, and not only for Vincentiments. 

In 2017, Majority Leader turned Senate President Tito Sotto made degrading remarks on single mothers in a confirmation hearing involving Professor Judy Taguiwalo. He referred to single mothers as “na-ano”, a street language that simply states “got knocked up”. What made the situation even worse is the snickering following Sotto’s crass joke. Taguiwalo, on the other hand, reiterated how teaching women’s studies as her profession does not sit well with the comment. “We respect all kinds of families and that includes solo parents,” she bluntly states and ends with a polite thanks. An ethics complaint against Sotto was made but it was dismissed by a Senate panel. 

Now, Director Darryl Yap issues an “apology” regarding the remarks made on his latest video. In a Facebook post, he starts by saying amidst his art’s branding on being unapologetic, it is not a reflection of his personality. He apologizes and takes full responsibility for whatever damage his video had caused, but is followed by cautionary tapes on how people should not expect the next videos to dissipate its provoking element. 

For an apology, Yap does a job in the same notch as his works, especially seeing as KPL videos specialize in faux revolution against oppressive states (through language that only executes blunt ranting) while still proliferating messages that cultivate a culture of discrimination. This is not the first time Yap has been called out and made public commentaries on his works.  

In a patriarchal society that still manages to put on traditional lenses for how single parents are regarded, when will we ever let people, who know not a fraction of their struggles, be accountable? Single parents, more so single mothers, are often boxed into tropes which cage them as irresponsible, promiscuous, knock-overs. Because of this, they receive a large weight of verbal stoning that had long been existing for centuries. People are getting away with it because they hold a seat of power or, in this case, they pass it off as a work of art. 

It is true that previous messages of the series did its purpose of representing people’s untamed turmoils in situations where they feel threatened or oppressed. In terms of letting the government know the pulse of its citizens, KPL’s AYUDAmn did a perfect job of voicing it out in yet an id-takes-over manner. The problem, however, is that its stereotypical message about single parents perpetuates a degrading picture of the likes of Josie in “Anak”, Widowed Grace in “Four Sisters and a Wedding”, and “Ang Tanging Ina”’s Ina Montecillo, instead of championing their fearless fight amidst the struggles of raising a family alone. 

With the surge of contents that aim to deliver a provoking purpose for discussion, people should know where to draw the line. While it is true that art is an expression, it should be known that art should also hold sensible and progressive expressions that aim to point out what changes are needed for a better society than continuously pursue age-old ideas that should have never existed at all. 

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