Life between the ivory tower and a cardboard box

Filipino

Neo-Filipino: Third Culture Kids and Advocating for Diversity

I wrote the following article for online zine New Slang, published on Sunday, 11 April 2010.

I can still remember that one night back in college, at my part-time job calling alumni for donations, when the woman on the phone asked me the question I dreaded the most: “So, Erin, where are you from?”

I drew my breath, “I’m from the Philippines,”

“Oh, really? Where in the Philippines?”

“My family lives in Quezon City. It’s a part of the Greater Manila area, which is the capital.”

” . . . I see. Hold on while I get my husband.”

Thinking she had the phone muffled, she called for her husband, whom I was supposed to talked to.

“She says she’s calling from Grinnell College. And she says she’s from the Philippines, but she doesn’t have an accent. I don’t think she’s really from the Philippines.”

Answering a simple question like, “Where are you from?” means unloading all the baggage that comes with it. Many people may believe that there is a logical connection between where one is “from” and what he/she is supposed to sound like, but it is much more complicated than that. With the woman on the phone, I could almost see images of nurses, lumpia, and Imelda Marcos’s shoes flashing before her eyes as I carefully evaluated my choice of words, knowing that my answer would immediately shape her impression of me – what I looked like, what I liked to eat, what I believed in, and ultimately whether I could be trusted with her family’s hard-earned money.

While the conversation above took place in the United States, many people all over the world fall prey to the assumption that “where you are from” determines who you are. In the Philippine experience, I find it frustrating that the our cultural landscape places so much emphasis on standardizing the expression of Filipino identity. With these expectations in place, it remains a fruitless exercise in monitoring one’s level of Filipino-ness and thus a challenge to advocate for diversity in Filipino cultural identities.

My story may represent a tiny fraction of our population; however, it is significant given the global nature of the Filipino community. As Filipinos continue to live and grow in different parts of the world, our cultural identity will evolve.

Read the rest here.

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A Petition for Anthony Bourdain to Visit the Philippines

anthony-bourdain.jpgI’m not sure sometimes if I am in love with Anthony Bourdain or if I just want to be him. Aside from his dashing good looks, his acerbic wit, and even the way he makes eating look badass on his show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, he is an example of someone who is “living the dream”. To me, he has found a way to combine all of the best parts of life — food, travel, and writing — and even make some cash out of it. The best part is that he does all of it with honesty and respect for the cultures of the many places that he visits. If that doesn’t make for good TV, then I don’t know what does.

To summarize, No Reservations is a travel show hosted by and featuring Anthony Bourdain, who travels all over the world to sample different cuisines, learn about local cultures, and provide a little bit of his insight and humor on his trips. In addition to eating, we also see Bourdain drink alcohol, visit a few happening nightspots, do a little karaoke, and go to religious functions, among others. To me, what makes Bourdain and No Reservations stand out from his peers, most notably Andrew Zimmern and his show, Bizarre Foods, is the way he really engages himself in the local setting and comes in with a very open mind. Perhaps this is what makes the title No Reservations so clever and so encompassing of the host’s attitudes towards new experiences and life in general.

After watching hours of No Reservations re-runs, I realized that, despite his travels throughout Asia, Anthony Bourdain has not yet featured the Philippines. I am of the mind that this must be rectified, post haste. Here are my top 5 reasons why Anthony Bourdain must feature the Philippines in his show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.

  1. Filipino food is delish, obviously. So I’m biased. Still, this may come as a surprise to people who may not have ever heard of or tasted Philippine cuisine. Admittedly, Filipino food doesn’t exactly inspire the global imagination in the same way that Chinese, Japanese, Indian, or Thai cuisines do. Furthermore, there is still a hint of insecurity about a perceived lack of exoticness or authenticity in Philippine cuisine, seeing how it is deeply influenced by Malay, Chinese, Spanish, and U.S. cuisines. Nonetheless, I am curious to hear what Anthony Bourdain has to say about Filipino food and see what brilliant piece of insight he can give us after tasting his first sinigang.
  2. More importantly, Filipinos love to eat. I think there is something to be said about a prevailing social expectation to invite others to eat with you, even if you do not have enough, because it is considered rude to eat alone or in front of others without inviting them to join you. This is one thing that Filipinos have in common with Anthony Bourdain, and I am sure it is something he will appreciate.
  3. Anthony Bourdain keeps it real, but in a good way. That’s right, I’m talking to you, Andrew Zimmern. While generally enjoyable, one of my problems with the show Bizarre Foods is the way Andrew Zimmern comes in with the assumption that, just because something is prepared “differently”, that is must be considered “weird” or “bizarre”. Take his response to the ice cream sandwich, one of many common street foods (start at 5:03):

    I understand that it is new to him, but I don’t understand why he has to go up to someone who clearly appreciates it and tell him just how “unusual” and “different” it is. No, honey, you’re the one who is different here.

    On the other hand, check out this clip of Anthony Bourdain trying out what Filipinos call balut for the first time:

    While clearly not his cup of tea, he doesn’t go out of his way to offend people, especially locals, with his thoughts about how different he thinks it is. He briefly and graciously tells us his opinion, stopping short of enlightening the viewer with a value judgment, and moves on. I would prefer to see someone who can present his reactions in a chill and dignified manner, instead of exaggerating its difference. Anthony Bourdain is the man for the job.

  4. Anthony Bourdain is cooler than Rachael Ray. Enough said. Don’t get me wrong; Rachael Ray does have her moments. I just don’t understand why she is as popular as she is and why I can’t flip past the Lifestyle Network without seeing her talk show. We need a little bit of cynicism to hit our shores. We need Anthony Bourdain!
  5. Anthony Bourdain would totally eat balut. See the second video in #3. This is the gold standard for foreigners upon visiting the Philippines. If you can eat balut, you become one of us. Anthony Bourdain has already joined the family, and he hasn’t even met the cousins yet. Anthony Bourdain needs to get his ass over here!

I encourage all foodie or travel fans to get this brilliant man to the Philippines, whether by writing him or by cooking up a storm so large the smell reaches New York. I think Anthony Bourdain would do an excellent job of presenting the Philippines, and we can expect nothing less than an honest, respectful, and humorous account of his visit.


What province are you from?

Map of the PhilippinesHere in the Philippines, All Saints Day and All Souls Day have been declared working holidays. Many Filipinos are taking the time to visit cemeteries all over the country, where they can reunite with loved ones, honor the dearly departed, and find another excuse to eat good food together. I am sure it can be fun, but I never grew up with it, mostly because we were abroad.

At work, many of my colleagues had been preparing for the holiday for weeks, anticipating the time when they get to go home and see their families again. Some had asked me where I was going for the holiday, and, among these conversations, the question “What province are you from?” popped up.

For readers who aren’t familiar with the question, colloquially, the “province” basically refers to any region in the Philippines that isn’t Metro Manila. Technically, Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region, is also its own province. However, I have found that many do not consider this when using the term “province”. According to Wikipedia, the same meaning is also applied to the term “province” in France, Peru, and Romania.

Much like the question “Where are you from?”, the question “What province are you from?” seeks to gauge who you are culturally, amidst the vast diversity that exists throughout the 7,107 islands. What province you are from apparently tells others what language you speak, what kind of food you like to eat, what religion you follow, and so on.

Like the question “Where are you from?”, I generally do not have any personal problem with other people asking, “What province are you from?” I know that, generally, there is a genuine social need to answer this question. However, my problem does lie in how to answer it.

First, even without the third culture kid aspect of my life, I have a problem answering the question, simply because I never lived anywhere in the country outside of Metro Manila. When I say this to people like my co-workers, many are genuinely surprised, as they themselves grew up outside of the city and only came here for school and work. The province is still considered “home”. To assuage their surprise and curiosity (and possibly any thoughts of my being a “city brat”), I just tell them I grew up abroad, and somehow that makes it more understandable.

Second, I often find myself answering the question by telling other people where my parents are from. However, I still don’t think this says anything about me. I have visited my dad’s hometown in Bicol and my mom’s family in Quezon many times. The most time I had ever spent outside of the metro and its connected suburbs (where my high school is located) was about three weeks or a month in Bicol. However, I don’t really feel like any of these places have influenced or define me. I don’t speak Bikolano, and even my mom’s Tagalog is different when she is with her family. I am also not knowledgeable about the way of life in both places. So, I feel like I’m just telling a half-truth when I answer the question “What province are you from?” in this manner.

Nonetheless, it still appears to be very useful when I tell other people what provinces my parents are from. Last week, I took a cab home with a particularly chatty driver. He told me he was from Bicol, and I ended up telling him that my dad was, too. Even though I told him that I didn’t speak any Bikolano, he was still very excited and proceeded to tell me about all the other Bikolano people he met here in the city. He told me that the cab he drove was operated by a fellow Bikolano, who basically gave him a lot of flexibility with the cab, even telling him that he could own a cab of his own one day. He told me about another passenger he once had, whose father was also from Bicol, and she said that, even though she also didn’t speak any Bikolano, she knew she was a true Bikolana because she really liked spicy food. We then had a good laugh and started a conversation about spicy food, including the famous Bicol Express. Provincial affinity is clearly still very important to many people here.

While I cannot relate to it, I have always wondered what it would have been like to grow up in the province. My mom likes to tell me outrageous stories from her hometown that somehow always involve faeries, duendes, or creepy neighbors standing outside of your window waiting for you to die. Many of the old folks from that area still believe in many of these stories, and will talk about them matter-of-factly at family gatherings. My dad’s side of the family also had a family reunion a few years ago, and I didn’t know most people and lost track of how I was related to everyone. Despite my own very culturally rich upbringing throughout the world, in a way, I feel like I have missed out on something just as valuable and, in a way, that is a part of who I am.

I will never be comfortable with telling people about what province I am “from”. However, I may consider looking for some ghosts or stopping by the cemetery in my dad’s hometown someday to light a few candles and perhaps enjoy some barbecue.


Scene in the City: Elections

In honor of the coming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections this Monday, October 29, today I give you not just one, not even two, but three short videos I took last weekend, of campaign activities going on while I was doing field work in the metro. They aren’t fabulous quality or anything (two were taken with my digital camera, while one was taken with my cell phone), but they do the job.

This first video features just one minute out of a five minute parade of cars that passed in front of our site, all of whom sported posters and balloons, while supporters wore pink T-shirts to promote their favorite candidate.

This second video is a another, more flamboyant parade that happened some time after the first video, featuring loud sirens and high school students playing the drums to attract the attention of potential voters.

The third video (obviously the one taken with my cell phone) shows a candidate appropriating a Britney Spears song to tell voters why she is the right person for the job. Her first name is Baby, which may explain the song choice.

Scenes like these have been going on all over the city and the country, including my own neighborhood, in anticipation of Monday’s elections. In addition to the entourages and the loud music, there are also posters and banners lining the walls, phone lines, and, soon, the bins, gutters, and burning piles of trash in every street all over the Philippines.

While all of this fanfare was going on, I couldn’t help but wonder: What would make me choose any of these candidates? Each parade had several candidates trailing one another, all featuring the same pink balloons, the same pink T-shirts, and the same smiling, waving, hard-hat sporting candidate hoisted at the back of the same pick-up truck. You have to possess basic reading skills to be able to tell each candidate apart. As far as I could tell, there was nothing that made a candidate stand out. This is exacerbated by the fact that I have no recollection of any running candidate taking the time to talk to voters about the issues. I haven’t been employed that long, so I would have been around in case someone came by or announced a forum to discuss barangay issues. Even my mom, who is currently not employed and little more knowledgeable about what goes on around here, has no idea who any of the candidates are and does not intend to vote on Monday. It is a little disappointing and frustrating to be faced with the responsibility to vote for someone when you have no idea what they can do for you.

I also find it disingenuous how candidates seem to think that making noise, wasting paper, and covering pop songs somehow makes them worthier of my vote. That doesn’t really tell me anything, except maybe who you are friends with and how creative you can get by inserting your name into a Top 40 hit. It is also insulting to voters, who deserve to know what they are getting into, instead of being manipulated by people who are supposed to serve them.

Then again, what do I know. I have not had the chance to participate in Philippine politics since turning 18, due to the fact that I was away and living far from the nearest embassy. Perhaps I just don’t know enough to understand that this is how it works here, or that I’m still so out of the loop that I’m missing some of the different ways that voters are getting their information. In a way, I still feel like a foreigner here, still trying to learn even the most basic aspects of life in the Philippines. I am sincerely asking anyone out there to enlighten me on the mechanics of the upcoming elections, if you find my thoughts too uninformed or offending.

This is what I do know, though. I was also the foreigner when I was living in the U.S., but for someone who couldn’t vote, I was still fairly informed about U.S. political affairs. My social circles ran the full spectrum, from deeply involved activists and people employed by presidential campaigns, to the uninformed or otherwise apathetic. All of these people have at least heard of candidates running for office (local, state, or national), and even friends who would be considered members of the so-called Sex and the City demographic can give brief talking points or soundbites given by candidates after simply talking to friends or tuning in to the evening news for a few minutes. Basically, I thought that it was not hard to be informed about politics there, as the media does a decent job of reporting what is going on and sticking to the issues. On the other hand, I am hard-pressed to say anything truly insightful about Philippine politics, besides the occasional quip about how “corrupt” it is or maybe a comment on the usefulness of the phrase “legal gobbledygook”.

This is not meant to be biting political or social commentary, but just my reaction to some things I have seen and am truly baffled about. All I am saying is that, as a citizen and someone who does make an effort to stay informed, I don’t feel like I know enough, and I think that future and current politicians and the media in the Philippines aren’t doing a good job of informing all people about what is really going on and why they should care about it. All the rhetoric about being patriotic and doing things to uplift the fellow Filipino doesn’t mean a damn thing until people — who, by the way, are supposed to be part of this “democracy” — are properly informed and educated about the issues. Until things change, unfortunately, there is nothing all the Britney Spears songs in the world can do to help us become a more engaged and politically functional community.


Scene in the City: Open 25 Hours

25 HoursApparently, it pays to defy logic.

Since I came back to the Philippines, I’ve seen more than a handful of restaurants around and outside the city that claim to be “Open 25 Hours.” While it appears to be GoodAh!!!‘s motto, I have seen it on mom ‘n’ pop type carinderias along the way to the provinces as well.

I don’t get it. Does this mean to say that they are open 25 hours a day? While obviously breaking the laws of science, I also fail to see how this can work with people. Most people are quite aware that there are only 24 hours in a day, especially those of us who have had to live with deadlines or lack a decent night’s sleep. So, how does one successfully get away with advertising something so blatantly false and contrary from common knowledge?

It reminds me of how, just this morning, I was reading the side of my Langers Cranberry Grape juice bottle (as you do), and found myself won over by the charming tale of how the owners of the company grew up drinking and tasting fresh juice squeezed from “firm, juicy cranberries” by their dad, the “head juicer”, while the owners were his “official tasters”. When I switched to the other side of the juice bottle, I was very disappointed to find out that my delicious and “fresh” Cranberry Grape juice was only 27% juice and contained high fructose corn syrup. I continued to feel disappointed as I gulped down the rest of my glass and poured myself another to drink with my brand new pile of lady pills. I mean, really, if they were going to lie — badly, at that — they should have just completed the circle and sold me a crappy product. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt as bad for adding to my already chemical-ridden body.

I guess this goes to show that it doesn’t really matter what you say in your advertising, as long as it gets people to buy your product. This is no longer about how good your product is, but how well you are able to spin it nicely enough to catch people’s attention. After all, we are living in a time where a series of insurance commercials featuring cavemen can be turned into a TV sitcom. It looks like counter-intuitiveness is the way to go.

Perhaps NGOs could pick up a few lessons from the private sector. No more need to air commercials with images of rail-thin, disease-ridden, starving children in far away countries. We can stop pretending people care when they attend worldwide concerts centered around giving aid to Africa. Instead, I propose they utilize new, sexy slogans that have absolutely nothing to do with their causes, but, at the same time, promote them with their paradoxical catchiness. I already have a few ideas of my own: “I Like Big Butts and I Cannot Lie — Join National Action Against Obesity!” or “Open 25 Hours! — The Minuteman Project.”


A Petition to Bring “The Colbert Report” to the Philippines

Stephen ColbertAdmit it, nation. You are hot for Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report. You love the way he pokes fun at TV pundits with his deadpan comedic delivery. You think there is absolutely nothing wrong with introducing a guest by watching shots of Stephen prance about on stage from several different camera angles. You may even think he could be the right father for your future children after watching him adopt a baby eagle. And, of course, watching him do tumbles and outsing Barry Manilow totally makes you want to touch yourself. (Don’t hate, I know some of you have at least thought about it.)

What’s that? Don’t know what I’m talking about, you say? Of course, you wouldn’t. Because, horror of horrors, The Colbert Report is not shown in the Philippines.

For the uninitiated: The Colbert Report is a U.S. satirical news program in the same vein as The Daily Show, from which it is a spin-off and counterpart. Like TDS, TCR discusses and critiques current events and the media using satire, parody, and caricature. Unlike TDS, TCR is character-driven, focusing on Colbert’s fictional character, Stephen Colbert, and parodying personality-focused pundit programs, most notably, The O’Reilly Factor. Since its debut in October 2005, it has become one of the highest-rated shows on Comedy Central and has managed to influence U.S. popular and political culture.

I obviously don’t need to tell you that this is one of my favorite shows. I will tell you, though, that it was definitely heartbreaking to come back here to the Philippines and find out that I would not be able to catch it on TV. Currently, you can catch clips from the show on iFilm, but I maintain that it does not compare to seeing the whole show in one go and logically following TDS.

So, if you live in the Philippines and are a fan of The Daily Show, or simply want to know what all the fuss is about, here are my top 5 reasons why Philippine TV must bring The Colbert Report this side of the Pacific.

  1. We can finally know who that Stephen dude at the end of The Daily Show is. Does it bother you that Jon Stewart sets you up for another 30 minutes of comedic bliss by having a hilarious conversation with one of his former correspondents, only to be disappointed when you see the opening credits for David Letterman (no disrespect to Letterman, of course)? It bothers me, too. If we had The Colbert Report here, we will finally understand what the hell is going on and stop being cheated by the cableNazis. I’m looking at you, JackTV.
  2. Stephen Colbert wants more Filipino friends. Fans of the show know about Stephen’s ongoing quest for a new Black friend. In Episode 123, Stephen reveals that, according to his Friends Exchange Rate, “one Black friend equals two Filipino friends.” He wants your friendship, nation! Get The Colbert Report here and give him some love!
  3. Stephen Colbert is a go-getter. What Stephen wants, the Colbert Nation gives. Stephen has managed to give his name to a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor, a junior ice hockey team in Michigan, and a bridge in Hungary, with the votes of the Colbert Nation. Stephen has also convinced his fans to vandalize Wikipedia entries and create YouTube videos with his image for the Green Screen Challenge. He has also just released his new book, I Am America (And So Can You!). The Colbert Report has managed to penetrate U.S. popular culture by engaging and utilizing people and their mass power to influence the show with technology. Kind of like our own People Power here in the Philippines. Coincidence? I think not.
  4. WikialityStephen Colbert is changing the English language. Anyone who can get millions of people to mispronounce “report” has got to be legit. One of the most popular segments on TCR is “The Wørd”, where Stephen discusses an issue using a key term or phrase. Often, Stephen will feature a neologism that ends up being used in everyday language. The words truthiness and Wikiality are two such words and, according to Wikipedia, have both been honored as the top television buzzwords of 2006 by the Global Language Monitor. Call center agents in the Philippines, take heed! You never know when these new words can come in handy when handling an irate customer, especially one that tells you to “Learn some damn English!”
  5. Stephen Colbert has guts. Perhaps one of the most defining moments for Stephen Colbert, the actor and the fictional character, was his speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, where, in the presence of celebrities, politicians, members of the White House Press Corps, and President George W. Bush himself, he (as Stephen Colbert the character) gave a biting satirical performance and indictment of President Bush’s administration and the media. To be able to do what he does every night in front of the big man himself takes a lot of balls and talent. Watch the entire thing here. Perhaps the Philippines can pick up a hint or two for how to address our own political troubles?
  6. Stephen Colbert is a fox. Yes, I know 6 is one more than 5. But let the record show that Stephen is not at all hard to look at. Jane Fonda and even feminist Gloria Steinem will agree with me here. Stephen Colbert can tip his hat and wag his finger for me anytime. Of course, it’s a little hard to do this when he is not being shown in the Philippines.

There you have it, nation. I encourage you to check out some clips and see if you are as rabid for The Colbert Report as I am. I also call on you to join me in my petition for more Stephen on our TVs. Whether by sending letters to our cable channels or getting the Catholic Church to intervene, if we can overthrow two presidents by coming together and blocking major roadways, we can definitely bring in a TV show that is more Filipino-friendly than Desperate Housewives.

Until then . . . Philippine TV, you are ON NOTICE.


Overrated or Underrated: Slut Slur on “The Daily Show”

. . . annnnnd, hot on the heels of the Desperate Housewives controversy comes more outrage regarding a skit on the popular satirical news show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This time, the Filipino community is angered over a Daily Show skit called “Is America Ready for A Woman President?” During one of Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee’s monologues, a photo of former Philippine president Cory Aquino is inscribed with the word “Slut!”

The skit in its entirety can be seen here:

While the response has not been as large as the one that met Desperate Housewives, many Filipino bloggers have expressed anger about having its first female president be labeled with such a sexist and untrue label. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has put in a request to the Department of Foreign Affairs to forward a complaint to the creators of TDS. Feminist NGO Gabriela has spoken out and condemned the use of comedy that demeans all women. I have read in a few places that Jon Stewart has issued a statement, but have yet to find a reliable news source to link to.

Unlike Desperate Housewives, I am a huge fan of TDS. When I was still living in the U.S., I watched it very religiously almost every night, along with its partner show, The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert. I watch the delayed telecast here in the Philippines (at least until Jack TV changed the broadcast schedule unannounced), as well as sometimes catching the condensed Global Edition on CNN International. As a result, I am very familiar with its style and sense of humor, and I usually find it side-splitting hilarious.

I would encourage the Filipino community to please view the skit in its entirety, rather than focus on the three seconds it takes to show the photo in question and thereby stripping it of any context whatsoever. First, even if you are a first-time viewer of TDS, I think it’s quite plain that Samantha Bee doesn’t mean to take herself seriously. The whole segment is a parody of Sex and the City, for crying out loud. Samantha Bee gets splashed with a bucket of water while wearing a TUTU, and we see her trying to sip the remnants of her spilled Cosmo off of her laptop. The scene with President Aquino’s photo has Samantha Bee at the gynecologist’s office, with her legs spread open. Come on. If that doesn’t scream exaggeration or comedy to you, then I don’t know what will. Second, the gynecologist’s scene had photos of leaders other than President Aquino, including a “photo” of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in a panty-less shot very much in the style of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Both photos were also a parody of popular gossip blog Perez Hilton, who is popular for defacing paparazzi photos with crudely drawn penises and sarcastic comments. Ultimately, parody does not reflect any malicious intent, but instead has a purpose or statement. In this case, like many TDS skits, many people’s irrational fears and beliefs are skewered and even debunked. By mentioninPerez Hiltong Cory Aquino and saying that she “faced down dictators” as one of the world’s first “girl leaders”, TDS is paying the Philippines a compliment by saying that we are actually more progressive than the U.S. because we have had female leaders while many Americans still have a problem even thinking about electing one. I believe that thinking critically about this skit is actually much more revealing than paying attention to one line that was delivered with irony.

I will add, however, that there is something to be said about differences in context. I will concede that the greater Filipino community has a much more logical basis for complaining about this skit, simply because there is no way that all Filipinos are going to pick up the references in what would otherwise be an obscure TV show.

For one, in the Philippines, TDS is only shown on cable TV channels, already limiting the viewership to a privileged handul. Furthermore, within the demographic of cable TV subscribers, those who don’t have Jack TV will have to catch the heavily edited, weekly TDS Global Edition on CNN International, which only shows highlights of the week’s shows and edits out any profanity or otherwise controversial segments and skits. That already dilutes the TDS style and can understandably cause confusion for those who may have been stunned by the nature of the Samantha Bee skit. This is just in the Philippines alone. I can’t even speak for the rest of the global Filipino community, who may not have even heard of the show or have access to channels that show it. All I know is that the show does not have the kind of impact on the larger community the way that, say, the movie A Walk To Remember did. Already, we have a community who, as a whole, would not understand where Jon Stewart and the rest of TDS are coming from. This is also exacerbated by the numerous U.S. pop culture-specific references, such as Sex and the City (also a cable show) and Perez Hilton’s blog, that would also fly over the heads of those who have never been exposed to it. So, it makes sense that many people would not get the humor and would consequently react with outrage.

In the movie Looking For Comedy in the Muslim World, Albert Brooks’ character asks [paraphrased], “Can’t we find anything that we can all laugh about?” Personally, I don’t know if there is an answer to that. What I do know is that there are some things that some people will find funny, while others will not. That is a social fact. Context can be summed up by saying, “You had to have been there to get it.” It can be as small as an inside joke between two friends, to a TV show that sets up a joke that only their devoted audience will understand, while casual listeners may not. The greater Filipino community may get outraged by a couple of U.S. TV shows, but has it ever thought about how its own comedic works are affecting other groups of people? Why does no one feel any anger or outrage towards Michael V.’s song “DJ Bumbay“, whose video is of a hyper-cartoonish Indian merchant?

If the same people who condemn Jon Stewart are the same ones who patronize these videos, then it would be safe to say that the outrage over TDS is self-serving and hypocritical. I think it is also safe to say that some comedy is not meant to be understood by everyone, and that part of what makes it so funny is because it is a reflection of contexts that only insiders may understand. The only time it should matter is if there are concrete repercussions to comedic performances, such as Blackface and the exclusion and ostracization of Blacks and Black performers in the U.S. And I highly doubt that the majority of Americans are suddenly going to go around believing that Filipino leaders and, by extension, all Filipinos are slutty just because some comedy skit said so.

In the wake of the Desperate Housewives controversy, it is getting more ridiculous and, quite frankly, embarrassing how much the Filipino community is ready to go to battle over a few TV shows. Again, I wish we would re-focus our priorities and show the same kind of anger and proactive-ness towards helping the poor, the unemployed, or the exploited find justice in an increasingly unstable environment. If we are going to continue nitpicking overseas entertainment for every mention of the Philippines or Filipinos, we are never going to be satisfied. So, we might as well focus our energies towards something that can actually be productive.

Final verdict: OVERRATED