Today’s Dispatch: Show Me Your Role Model

I was supposed to write this entry earlier, before my laptop’s motherboard failed me for the third time and I had to take it back to the shop for an overhaul. But I just can’t help myself.

It’s been 48 hours since I’ve read the article (linked above) and the responses to said article (notably this one from Chuvaness) and I’m still flabbergasted.

People still think that this guy deserves all the fame that he gets?

People actually think that this guy worked hard to get where he is?

People actually want us to be proud that this guy is going to be on TV with Tyra Banks as a judge on America’s Next Top Model?

Look, I know that this is one of those rich-people problems where nobody will learn the difference between truth and hearsay. (Remember, this is a country that’s just learning the definition of the word “plagiarism,” so I’m afraid that “hearsay” will take a long time to comprehend.) But even if it was pure fiction – and I’m sorry to say, it isn’t – the whole thing is just overwhelmingly puzzling.

There used to be a time when any Filipino who shows up on TV, film, Broadway, or Wikipedia was a Filipino worth celebrating. Now? I can’t buy that any more. I don’t like the mentality of throwing just about any Filipino on television and calling them “successful” by virtue of being Filipino.

Did you think that Erik Spoelstra got to coach the Miami Heat without spending years in underpaid coaching jobs around the world? Did you think that Bruno Mars did not get rejected by a gajillion record labels before somebody paid attention to his style? Did you think that Brillante Mendoza never made a commercial movie in his life? Did you think that Arnel Pineda would not have ended up on YouTube if he didn’t play all those dive bars and hotel lounges in Manila and Hong Kong?

Did you even think, for a minute, that Lea Salonga did not – and does not – have to audition for every production, before and after Miss Saigon, in order to hone her craft and become one of Broadway’s most respected performers? Did you think she doesn’t have to do that, in spite of her beauty and talent?

And yet, we are being told to be proud of a guy who shamelessly borrowed money, stabbed his friends in the back, and bragged about all the drugs and sexual favors he had to do for fame, glory, and a shot at being recognized by Anna Wintour.

How patronizing. How insulting.

You want to see a Filipino who has earned their success? Ask my father, who did not give himself a moment of rest or doubt so he could support several generations of his own family – not just me and my siblings, but his own siblings, and their children, and maybe even the children of those children – and see them through every step, from first enrollment to graduation day. Ask my mother, who overcame a troubled childhood to become one of the most respected members of her department in the university. Ask their friends in the academe, who have risked everything to be published in academic journals and hired as trusted consultants for foreign-aid organizations.

You want to see a Filipino who worked hard to be where they are? Ask the comic-book artists who have been sketching for decades before Marvel came after them with a contract. Ask the scientists who had to endure discrimination before publishing the study that ended up taking their field by storm. Ask Manny Pacquiao… and Onyok Velasco, Brian Viloria, Nonito Donaire, Mark Barriga, Ana Julaton. 

You want a Filipino you can be proud of? Ask Carlos P. Romulo. Ask Jesse Robredo. Ask Ninoy and Cory Aquino. 

As I mentioned in my essay about The Bourne Legacy, the rest of Manila is at this point where they don’t have to give a shit about what other people think, and the people who do are the ones who can’t get out of their comfort zones. Those people, I should add, aren’t just living on borrowed time; they’re also living in their own heads, toasting themselves over glories that nobody of note has accorded to them. These are the people who neither ask questions nor seek answers, and for that I have nothing but pity for their souls.

And as for that… there will be justice, all right. And it will happen, sooner rather than later. Bet on it.

What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.
– Abraham Lincoln (quoted in

Love, Stella

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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