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Removing the veil on November 2021’s hopeful eyes 

As a storyboard of events comes off on the big screens and red flags behind political dilemmas are raised, the holidays might’ve just had a quick jumpstart.

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Photo courtesy of The Independent

Witnessing the moon enshrouded by the Earth’s shadow did not hinder the bright lights shining down on November 2021’s highlight reel of albums, movie releases, and announcements. As a storyboard of events comes off on the big screens and red flags behind political dilemmas are raised, the holidays might’ve just had a quick jumpstart with an array of hope and excitement.

Buckle up and set your eyes peeled on your screens as we give you a recap from this month’s wild ride of events. 

1. UST lands 177th spot in the 2022 Quacquarelli-Symonds Asian university ranking

main building

Aliah Danseco/TomasinoWeb

Despite the virtual classroom set up for this academic year, the University still proved its long-standing reputation embodying the ideals that are instilled within its students.

UST ranked 177th for 2022’s Quacquarelli-Symonds Asia University Rankings, climbing nine spots from last year’s rankings. UST was placed fourth among the top Philippine universities also included in the list with the University of the Philippines at the 77th place, Ateneo De Manila University at the 124th spot, and De La Salle University ranking in 160th place. Some of the factors indicative of this ranking were the continuous international exchange and faculty appointed by the University. 

Back in July, the University achieved a five-star rating according to the QS results on its third review cycle. 

2. We know ‘All Too Well’ about Taylor Swift’s ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ and Adele’s ‘30’

Photo courtesy of Her Campus

The highlight reel of November 2021 wouldn’t be complete without legends doing legendary things in the music industry through their purest skill and talent. 

As if being in a “State of Grace,” Taylor Swift woos and endears the fans with this newest version of one of her greatest albums, Red, and adds a cluster of bonus tracks within her re-recorded album. Red (Taylor’s Version) was released last Nov. 12, and we cannot get over the tears and smiles it brought us as the feeling of nostalgia flew through the cold winds of November. Featuring a 30-track album with songs “From the Vault” and collaborations with Chris Stapleton, Gary Lightbody, Phoebe Bridgers, and Ed Sheeran, Taylor’s Version of Red also granted us the ten-minute version of ‘All Too Well’ that we’ve come to know and love. 

A week after Red (Taylor’s Version) came out, Adele officially released her long-anticipated studio album, 30, on Nov. 19. Following its debut, 30 was recorded as 2021’s fastest-selling album in both the US and in the UK. The album’s lead single, ‘Easy On Me,’ was initially released on Oct. 15 which already provided listeners with a heartfelt message on regret and forgiveness. Frankly, 30 isn’t just the next released album on Adele’s discography; it’s her personal album that truly expressed her raw emotions and genuine storytelling through lyrical representation. 

3. Thomasians enter the top ten of Physician Licensure Examination 

medicine building

Abbie Vinluan/TomasinoWeb

UST was listed among the top-performing schools of the Physician Licensure Examination (PLE) in October-November, 2021 with seven Thomasians securing spots within the top ten. 

Ranking third on the list, Alyssa May Madriaga led the newest batch of Thomasian physicians and acquired a score of 87.33 percent. The sixth spot went to Emmanuel Luis Mangahas (86.92 percent), and fellow Thomasians Ivan Gabriel Simpauco (86.83 percent) and Miguel Luis Arkoncel (86.75 percent) succeeded to the seventh and eighth spots within the list. Placing in the tenth spot were Thomasians Aldric Mikhail Aw, Johnvert Fulgar Batara, and Lawrence Raymond Mariano, all earning a score of 86.50 percent. 

Noting with enlightenment, the University produced 302 new physicians out of 320 examinees and secured the 4th overall ranking in the nationally held October-November 2021 PLE. A national passing rate of 72.85 percent was glimpsed, with a total of 1,677 examinees out of 2,302 takers passing the physician boards according to the Professional Regulation Commission. 

This is a truly commendable feat for the passers of the physician boards that ignite a flutter of hope within all of us in these trying times, signifying that hope is never lost and a sliver of change is imminent for our country. 

4. A timeout for the 13th as messy political substitutions roll in just a day

Photo courtesy of CNN Philippines

What everyone thought was a regular and warm Saturday became bombarded with a chaotic onslaught of political candidate substitutions as the final deadline for the switching of candidates in both national and local elections nears its end. 

Previously, presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, reportedly withdrew her reelection bid for a mayoral seat after mentions of not running for national office. On Nov. 13, Sara filed her candidacy for vice-president through the help of Lakas CMD’s representative Atty. Charo Munsayac as a substitute for her party’s previous vice presidential bet, Lyle Uy, who earlier withdrew. Presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his Partido Federal ng Pilipinas thereafter adopted the presidential daughter as his running mate for the upcoming 2022 Elections. 

To boost another dramatic turn of events, Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa who filed his presidential candidacy in a last-minute time crunch, withdrew due to decisions of his party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan. This happened mere hours after Duterte-Carpio’s announcement of the VP bid, but the substitutions did not stop there.

Sen. Bong Go withdrew his vice-presidential bid and subsequently ran for the highest post in Philippine government under Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan, a PDP-Laban faction, as a substitute of formerly withdrawn presidential bet Grepor Belgica. His announcement in the COMELEC office was aided by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, who herded himself as well in the mix of substitutions. 

In previous discussions, Duterte was reportedly believed to be ‘retiring’ or in a possible chance of running for a senatorial seat. But as the wind changed its course to who knows where, Communications Sec. Martin Andanar formally announced during Go’s announcement that Duterte will be filing his vice-presidential candidacy by Monday, Nov. 15. However, he retracted this statement by Monday and instead ran for a senatorial seat due to his refusal in opposing his own daughter for the vice-presidential post. 

In lieu of these chaotic acts, politics must never turn out as an approved playing field for a game of substitutions and timeouts for the sake of winning no matter how the law allows it. It’s extremely wild to think how these actions can possibly reflect the way of their current and future governance, and it becomes a reminder for the people exactly who to vote for. 

5. Montagne bags Miss Globe 2021 

Photo courtesy of Cebu Daily News – INQUIRER

After Cindy Obenita’s win from Miss Intercontinental 2021 last Oct. 30, another beauty queen has slayed the pageantry field as Maureen Montagne, 28, won Miss Globe 2021 held in Tirana, Albania last Nov. 5 (or Nov. 6 in PH time). 

Montagne’s National Costume Designer Patrick Isorena produced a very fine and elaborately-patterned dress for the pre-pageant competition, inspired from the unique concept of the flower, Sampaguita, with hues of white, yellow, and green; all resembling the relevance of purity and dedication to her craft. During the evening gown competition, Montagne donned a golden gleaming dress that took everyone’s breath away and finally led her to her crowning moment. When asked about how beauty can be enriched, she then answered that beauty is “within us” and that “being a Miss Globe is being able to truly inspire others.”

As Montagne’s words take place into the hearts of many, we must always recognize that beauty can be a sort of perspective that is not objectified to a certain standard and rather a part of us that shines from within as we help inspire other people. 

6. Pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes begins

Photo courtesy of The Manila Times

After the earlier approval for the two-month implementation of pilot face-to-face classes in select schools, the day has now officially come for students to go back to a classroom setup and finally meet each other in person along with safety standards.

On Monday, Nov. 15, a hundred public schools nationwide finally opened their doors for Kindergarten, Grades 1-3, and Senior High School students alongside a strict enactment of health and safety protocols for faculty members, employees, and students. Some of these standards still include social distancing with the use of plastic covers around each student, and the usual need for face masks and face shields. 

The Department of Education (DepEd), with the help of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), remarked this special move to be the first of many improvements in education during a public health crisis and seeks to increase the number of learners and participants in the coming weeks if approved by the President. Yet in light of the situation, Longos Elementary School in Alaminos City, Pangasinan was reportedly seen having heavily-armed men within the premises of the classroom containing very young students. DepEd further advised that these are ‘zones of peace’ according to their National Policy on Learners and Schools. 

Earlier this month, the IATF also approved limited face-to-face classes up to 50 percent capacity for all degree programs and for areas already under Alert Level 2 with conditions set by the Commission on Higher Education.

7. Movies go back to the big screens in PH theaters 

Photo courtesy of Philippine Star

It’s time to hit up the big screens once again! But as protocol requires, it’s best to maintain safe distancing and wear our face masks for a healthier and risk-free viewing experience. 

The re-opening of cinemas officially started on Nov. 10 with movie houses opening once again in Metro Manila and a few to name outside the specified area in Bohol, Iloilo, Laguna, Rizal, Tagaytay, and Tarlac. Alongside the opening, the Cinema Exhibitors Association of the Philippines requires moviegoers and watchers to be fully vaccinated in order to enter the theaters and that no food should be allowed inside. A one-seat apart policy is also observed to maintain social distancing. 

Official movies showing in PH cinemas last Nov. 10 were A Quiet Place Part II and  DUNE; while following dates this November accommodated movie releases such as Black Widow, Don’t Breathe 2, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Malignant. In addition to these releases, QCinema, a hybrid film festival slated from Nov. 26 up to Dec. 5, will be holding online and onsite screenings over at Gateway Cineplex and on KTX.PH. 

8. The evening of the 19th was November 2021’s partial lunar eclipse 

Photo courtesy of Space.com

From beaver moon to relatively a blood moon in a matter of hours, the longest partial lunar eclipse in almost six hundred years merely happened before the evening of Nov. 19 as night time started to settle in and the sky was amassed with the vast dark and its main protagonist: the moon. 

The Partial Lunar Eclipse originally started at 3:20 p.m. in Philippine Standard time, the moon starting to darken and enter the Earth’s umbral shadow. Unfortunately, the moon only became visible during moonrise in Manila by 5:22 p.m. onwards where the partial eclipse was already at 75 percent, with the moon now having an ‘almost’ dark blood red face that was clearly visible in specific locations throughout the country. 

As it officially ends by 8:04 p.m PHST, it was considered the longest partial lunar eclipse to have happened after 580 years in a span of about three and a half hours. The next eclipse will be happening on Dec. 4, deemed as a solar eclipse but not visible in the country’s skies.

9. MOA Globe incident draws controversy for Netflix’s ‘Red Notice’ 

Photo courtesy of Screen Rant

The SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City became a hotspot for social media discussion and crazy theories on the night of Nov. 14, when netizen Chester Tangonan uploaded a video of his dash cam at night showing the huge MOA globe being ‘stolen’ by a helicopter while riding his motorcycle around MOA. 

SM Mall of Asia posted an announcement the next day regarding the incident, stating that they are currently working with authorities regarding the fiasco. Certain media outlets such as Rappler included a hashtag #BrandRap along with the post, leading netizens to believe that the MOA globe was another publicity stunt by leading names in the country and initially by IKEA. Eventually, the establishment announced again that it was, indeed, a PR stunt for Netflix’s newest movie addition, Red Notice, starring Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Gal Gadot. 

The ‘stolen’ MOA Globe incident drew flak and gained criticism as a marketing strategy, especially since giant media companies were used for the stunt and that it was untimely and irrelevant. In this age of prevailing disinformation, transparency in journalism must always be the main key point to observe. And as citizens, it is also our responsibility to tread the waters carefully and perceive which are false truths. 

10. ‘ARCANE’ is a breathtaking Netflix series expanding the League of Legends lore

Photo courtesy of IGN

“Welcome to the playground, follow me.” 

Riot Games officially released the three-act Netflix series based off of the MOBA game League of Legends in early November. Arcane is a purely animated television series that features main characters from the renowned game, Jinx and Vi, as two orphaned sisters who wound up on opposing sides of a corrupt war between the city of Piltover and Zaun. From allies to rivals, these two navigate through their distraught life stories and traumas alongside side characters who seek an illustrious goal to achieve innovation and progress despite vengeful foes. 

Netflix initially released the first act on November 6, 2021 that detailed an astonishing backstory of the two sisters accompanied with a striking art style for the animation series. Along with the release, Riot organized Undercity Nights, a two-day ‘invite-only’ event for streamers and players around the globe to experience firsthand the Arcane-inspired theme park for them to enjoy. 

Arcane is now available to stream on Netflix

11. PH lifts mandatory face shields in areas under Alert Level 3

Photo courtesy of Angie de Silva/Rappler

On Monday, Nov. 15, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte announced the approval of lifting the face shield requirement voluntarily in areas under Alert Level 3, while those in Alert Levels 4 and 5 are still mandated to wear these respectively. The IATF initially recommended this mandate to the governing body due to decreasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the country and increasing rates of vaccinated Filipinos. 

According to the IATF’s guidelines, the public is still required to wear face shields in hospital settings or medical care facilities as a form of added protection, while those going outdoors can voluntarily wear it. In previous months dating to this, face shields became a questionable layer of protection from respiratory droplets yet were still mandated here in the country since the start of the pandemic. 

12. PH logs the lowest recorded COVID-19 cases in November; Omicron threat poses risks

Photo courtesy of Rappler

To add a silver lining to end the month, the country logged only 838 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, Nov. 28, the lowest tally since the 849 recorded cases back in Nov. 16 according to the Department of Health (DOH). 

DOH also reported that only 16,630 cases are active, with 47.8 percent having mild symptoms, 7.1 percent being asymptomatic, and 6.5 percent of those in critical conditions. To add further, 1,217 new recoveries were reported adding up to the 2,831,807 total number of patients who recovered from the Coronavirus disease. This is also considered to be the lowest rate of cases dating back to Dec. 28, 2020 which tallied 766 new infections. 

Yet despite this, we still have to keep our heads up and health in check as another variant, B.1.1.529, more known as Omicron, becomes another threat to the population of both Europe and Asia. The World Health Organization classified this as a ‘variant of concern,’ noting that it can easily spread than the other variants already confirmed. The country has also announced a ‘red list’ of fourteen countries, imposing travel bans on these places reported to have cases of the Omicron variant so as to control the novel threat. 

In just a single month, a landscape of events transpired to what has become an eventful yet hopeful time of the year before the spirited wait for Christmas. If November 2021 was written especially for a highlight reel in its totality, it would be a wild ride of news articles and controversies, of great stories and inspiring comebacks, and signs of an auspicious future ridden with stars and bright lights. 

It’s still relevant to look at the moon at night when everything else is dark, for another day is coming to shine bright despite the cold breeze of December. And from behind the reality we’re directly looking at, it’s up to us to decide what we see and favor what is written among the stars. 

Sophia Katherine Sarmiento
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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