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March 2022 brings out an embattled game of chess 

Akin to knights and rooks, we’ve made careful yet hasty moves while attempting to stand by our own kings and queens in this political race. Here are the highlights of this month’s bardagulan fest.

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Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb

Almost echoing the unhinged events of February, March was a hot extension of more political tirades, campaign rivalries, oil price hikes, singing sensation frictions, and so forth. After a two-year drought, the heatwaves of March also opened the doors for the much-awaited UAAP season. 

Akin to knights and rooks, we’ve made careful yet hasty moves while attempting to stand by our own kings and queens in this political race. Here are the highlights of this month’s bardagulan fest: 

1. Senatoriables exchange heated tirades on the Marcoses: Espiritu vs. Gadon and Roque 

Screengrab from SMNI News/YouTube

On Mar. 2, senatorial bet and labor lawyer Luke Espiritu gained traction online after verbally sparring with Marcos-endorsed senatorial bets and lawyers Larry Gadon and Harry Roque about the history of injustices of the Marcos family in the Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) Senatorial Debate. Asked how they would solve the problem of children being scapegoats during election seasons should they be elected as senators, Espiritu argued lowering the age of criminal responsibility, citing children should be taught that human rights violations and extrajudicial killings are wrong. 

The suspended lawyer Gadon countered that the forum should not be used as propaganda against the Marcoses. Espiritu hit back with records of Amnesty International on the myriad of Filipinos tortured and jailed during martial law. Espiritu’s infamous and unreserved line, “Huwag kang bastos!” has captured netizens in intrigue. He uttered to Gadon as the latter frequently interrupted his speech although it was not yet his time to rebut.  

Unfinished with going for the jugular, Espiritu went after Roque’s two-faced history of defending the Marcoses. The former presidential spox added that he had gone through the documents of the Marcoses and allegedly found no record of human rights violation in the United States. Espiritu called out Roque’s incoherent arguments, saying he spent his life before as an advocate for human rights and an anti-Marcos. “And now that you were given a Senate spot under the party of Bongbong Marcos, now you cry hallelujah and praise Marcos,” the labor senatorial bet said, indignant. 

Garnering mixed reactions, his unfiltered honesty and courage to speak up have bewildered netizens. After all, the figures he lambasted already have the upper hand, backed by the Marcos-Duterte tandem who is endorsed by the controversial Quiboloy-hosted network. Espiritu, who says he had to stand his ground as he was triggered by his fellow senatorial bets’ comments, emphasizes the importance of exposing historical revisionism and disinformation. 

2. Duterte signs law raising sexual consent to 16 

Photo courtesy of Malacanang

On Mar. 7, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) No. 116481, which raises the age of sexual consent to 16. The act aims to “provide stronger protection against rape and sexual exploitation. Increasing the age determines the commission of statutory rape — any adult who engages in sexual activity with a minor, automatically deems them guilty of rape. 

Although, the exemption does not apply if the victim is 13-years-old. Before the law was signed, the Philippines had the lowest minimum age of sexual consent, 12-years-old, in Southeast Asia. 

3. Sen. Lacson and Cavite representative Remulla under fire for insisting bribery and communist infiltration in VP Robredo’s Cavite campaign 

Photo courtesy of VP Leni Media Bureau

Cavite 7th District Representative Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla suspected the large crowds of Kakampinks in the huge campaign rally of presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo on March 4. He alleged her supporters were paid, “hakot” crowds, and were not residents of the area. Remulla then red-tagged some attendees, accusing them of infiltrating as communists groups. 

Presidentiable Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson chimed in with a tweet, retweeting Remulla’s allegations, saying a government coalition with communist propaganda would be worrisome. 

The men were called out for their malicious and unproven arguments by Robredo’s camp, groups, journalist Karmina Constantino, and Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon. Robredo said she is not the type to pay crowds in her rallies, let alone has the money to do that. Robredo, fellow supporters, and other groups argued that their accusations are ignorant of their own citizens’ choices to exercise their right to support and vote for the candidate they want. They denied they were paid as they used their money for their own props, placards, and other materials during the campaign. 

Netizens struck back that the men were possibly surprised and threatened by the unexpected turnout of pink-clad supporters that showed up as Cavite Mayor Jonvic Remulla had promised the lone female president’s rival, the late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., 800,000 votes from his city. The tagline, “800,000 minus 1,” has then been a callback of Caviteños supporting Robredo to shade and disprove Remulla. 

4. Russia-Ukraine war elicits drastic oil price hike in the Philippines

Photo courtesy of Rappler

Throughout March, oil prices have been fluctuating as companies have set their highest pump prices of diesel and petroleum products amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine, prompting ripples of inflation. 

Prices of diesel have increased by P13.15 per liter and gasoline by P7.10 per liter. Kerosene prices will rise by P10.50 per liter.

Rollbacks have followed though after weeks of intense price hikes. Shell and Seaoil have reduced their rates of gasoline by P5.45 per liter, diesel by P11.45, and kerosene by P8.55.

Drivers and transport groups such as Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) have been affected by the oil price hike. Staging a mass protest, they heeded calls for fuel subsidies to increase the minimum wage, and rid of the oil deregulation law. 

Energy secretary Alfonso Cusi rejected lawmakers’ and transport groups’ call to declare an economic emergency amidst the oil price hike. 

5. ‘Sabay sabay!’: Toni Gonzaga trends for belting Titanium notes at Marcos-Duterte rally 

Photo courtesy of PTV

If February’s inside joke was Toni’s rendition of Katy Perry’s ‘Roar,’ this month has moved on to Sia’s ‘Titanium.’ If you’re still clueless on the origins of the “shabay shabay” memes, here’s where it all began. Nosy and amused Filipinos poked fun at Gonzaga for seemingly skipping the high notes of the song by hyping the crowd to sing “sabay sabay” while they visibly looked like they lacked energy. 

For the month, content creator @ItsACsLife has amused netizens as he got into his spoof character, ‘Otin G,’ parodying Gonzaga as a Pinoy Big Brother host and singer in the BBM-Sara grand rallies. 

6. BIR sends written demand to Marcoses to pay estate tax worth P203 billion

Photo courtesy of Imee Marcos/Facebook

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) confirmed that they wrote a demand to the Marcoses in December 2021 to pay their estate tax worth P203 billion. The written demand was sent by BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay as a response to the letter sent to them by the presidential bet and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso’s chairman, Ernest Ramel. When Imee Marcos was questioned in an ambush interview, she had no comment. 

Ramel said they should disclose the details due to public interest and that it is proof of their many issues, primarily lying about their ill-gotten wealth. Moreno has sworn to collect the P203 billion should he be elected. 

In the COMELEC presidential debates, bets labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, VP Leni Robredo, and Senator Ping Lacson all agreed that the P203 billion should be paid by the Marcos family. 

7. First COMELEC Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates

Photo courtesy of Angie De Silva/Rappler and ABS-CBN

In the first-ever Commission on Elections (COMELEC) presidential and vice-presidential debates, nine out of ten presidentiables and seven out of nine presidentiables graced their presence with their insights and platforms on Mar. 19 and Mar. 20. Son of late dictator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has once again bowed out from the presidential debates along with his running vice-presidential bet Davao Mayor Sara Duterte. Vice-presidentiable Lito Atienza has also skipped the debates due to medical surgery. Their podiums were left vacant.

Presidentiables Ernesto Abella, Leody De Guzman, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Norberto Gonzales, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Faisal Mangondato, Jose Montemayor, Manny Pacquiao, and Vice President Leni Robredo tackled matters on COVID-19, the oil price hike, mandatory vaccination, and agriculture. Toward the end was a subtle touch of unity as four candidates also came to the consensus that it is a must to collect the unpaid P203-B estate tax of the Marcoses. 

On the other hand, vice-presidentiables former Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello, Vice presidential candidate Rizalito David, Economist Manny SD Lopez, Doctor Willie Ong, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, Lawyer Carlos Serapio, and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III discussed topics related to their platforms, pandemic response, and oil price hike as well. Though the highlight of the evening was another one Bello’s tirades against the Marcoses and even COMELEC, criticizing their absence as an insult to the Filipinos and that the poll body should penalize them. 

8. PasigLaban spills a sea of 137,000+ supporters

Photo courtesy of Jire Carreon

On Mar. 20, Pasig’s Emerald Avenue in Ortigas was brightly cascaded with clad-pink supporters of the Leni-Kiko at their campaign rally. According to the Pasig police and organizers, over 137,000+ supporters came to paint the city pink, the largest rally crowd of the campaign season yet.

To name a few, Senators Chel Diokno, Neri Colmenares, Risa Hontiveros, Dick Gordon, Antonio Trillanes, and Teddy Baguilat also came and were welcomed by the massive crowd. Bands like Ben&Ben, Rivermaya, Itchyworms performed their songs and several artists and influencers hosted the event or simply came to show their support, namely Julia Barretto, Robi Domingo, Melai Hontiveros, Donny Pangilinan, Angel Locsin, Cherry Pie Picache, and others. 

Like a family day, the spirit of volunteerism radiated among Kakampinks as came prepared with their witty placards, materials, pets, free snacks, merchandise, performances, jives, and many more. American singer-songwriter Ariana Grande was also delighted, reposting videos of the pink rally singing to her song ‘Break Free,’ while American influencer Bretman Rock also showed his support for the lone female candidate on his Instagram stories, claiming that she is his president. 

Though Pangilinan was absent, he left a pre-recorded message for his supporters while he was at the COMELEC vice-presidential debates. Robredo expressed her gratefulness for the vast support poured by the city yet realistically notes that they need to amass more supporters than ever. On the COMELEC presidential debates, the lone female candidate left saying: “The best man for the job is a woman.” 

9. Contradictions in endorsements: PDP-Laban endorses Marcos Jr., Partido Reporma drops Lacson and endorses Robredo 

Photo courtesy of VP Leni Media Bureau

On Mar. 22, the Cusi party wing of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) has officially endorsed presidential bet and late dictator’s son Bongbong Marcos Jr. 

“So if you do that, that means you are not really a genuine member of PDP-Laban. So we will use what they did yesterday as evidence against them that they do not understand a thing about this political party which they claim to lead,” Pimentel added.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III opposed this move. His father was the late Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., the co-founder of PDP-Laban which was created to oppose the dictatorship of the late President Ferdinand Marcos. Pimentel claimed to use their move as evidence that they do not understand the rationale behind the political party they claim to lead. 

Meanwhile, Partido Reporma has dropped presidential bet Senator Ping Lacson, deeming him as an independent and party-less candidate, and officially endorses presidentiable VP Leni Robredo instead. The ex-Duterte ally Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez informed the party bloc’s withdrawal of support for Lacson in a text message. Lacson also resigned as chairman of Partido Reporma. 

10. UAAP season 84 begins after 2-year hiatus 

Photo courtesy of UAAP/Facebook

After a two-year drought, the annual University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) games officially began on Mar. 26. The University has their first virtual kick-off for its athletes and coaches on Mar. 19. 

In the Men’s Basketball Tournament, the FEU Tamaraws defeated The UST Growling Tigers in the first round, 76-51. The quarter scores: 22-9, 47-18, 60-35, 76-51.

On Mar. 29, they bounced back at the start but eventually finished winless, 98-82, against the UP Fighting Maroons. The quarter scores: 16-25, 42-48, 78-63, 98-82.

11. Will Smith slaps Chris Rock over G.I joke about wife Jada Smith

Photo courtesy of Myung Chun/Los Angeles Times

Moments before accepting his Oscar onstage, actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock after the latter joked about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, for her medical hair condition. He said, “Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane II, can’t wait to see it.”

This incited a violent reaction from Smith, who went onstage to strike Rock who kept his cool after the jab. It turned serious when Smith shouted back from his seat, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f*ck*ng mouth.”

Smith won the Oscar for portraying Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. Smith apologized to the Academy, his fellow nominees but not to Rock. Amidst the rampant memes and jokes that show up in almost every scroll, netizens were divided on whom to side with. A significant portion critiqued that both were in the wrong, that their actions are indicative of toxic masculinity. 

On Mar. 29, Smith went on Instagram to apologize directly to Rock and everyone he upset. He noted violent behavior was not indicative of how he wanted to be as a man, and how violence was not the solution in a world of “love and kindness.” 

The fallout of many duos and groups might have been the most stressful or entertaining month-enders. To these different kings and queens, the masses are merely pawns in their chess game. However, let us remember that no matter how turbulent things may get, the battle is far from over. We must not drop our swords, our weapons, which are our voices. 

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

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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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