Much ado about 50-50
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-06-19
When the clothing brand Bayo “What’s your mix” controversy went viral, your Chair Wrecker expressed consternation on my Facebook wall over how the most inane issues seem to attract and waste the time and energy of some of our fellow Filipinos. It’s as if we Filipinos aren’t facing more serious and life threatening problems.

The Bayo ad controversy stemmed from the company’s ad featuring Jasmine Curtis-Smith, which carried the headline: “50% Australian, 50% Filipino.” Some called it racist. Some said that it promoted Western beauty standards as the bases for gauging beauty, to the detriment of native features. From then on, so many other commentaries flooded the social media. From then on the brouhaha expanded to satirical renditions of the Bayo ad campaign, a demonstration of the Filipino genius for finding the humor in everything, even when the laugh is on them.

When you consider that we’ve long adjusted to the reality that ours is a mixed race, then you’ll have to conclude that these reactions resulted from a totally misplaced sense of nationalism. Is it possible that the fear of being exposed as a 50% nationalist and 50% colonial was what triggered these reactions?

Not only do these commentaries on a non-issue reflect a waste of time and energy — it demonstrated the shallowness of a person’s sense of nationalism. If those who engaged in this controversy felt nationalistic for registering their “pro-Filipino” sentiments, then they’re dead wrong. Nationalism isn’t skin deep, which is what this Bayo ad controversy is all about. Nationalism is what throbs in a Filipino heart and not the pigment of a Filipino’s skin.

Come to think of it, that’s where the problem with our nationalism lies — it’s more skin deep and less heart and soul. You’ll see an explosion of nationalism in Filipino hearts when Manny Pacquiao fights in the boxing ring but hardly any before and after a Pacquiao fight. So what happens now after Manny Pacquiao had lost to Timothy Bradley — no more nationalism?

Bayo, through their vice president, Lyn Agustin, eventually apologized for the unexpected reactions their ad elicited: “We at BAYO deeply apologize for the message our campaign — ‘What’s Your Mix?’ — has unintentionally conveyed. We would like to express our regret to those who have been offended or felt discriminated against. Our company and our partners have always taken pride in being pro-Filipino as we continue to celebrate our uniqueness and achievements. We believe that being a Filipino will always make you 100% beautiful. It is unfortunate that this message got lost along the way. We thank everyone who has shown support for our thrust of promoting Filipino beauty, talent, and creativity.”

In context, this questionable “upsurge” of Filipino nationalism has reared its head many times in the past when a perceived slur on our country or our image is made, as in the case of an episode of that Desperate Housewives television series. Protesting these incidental put downs only attract more attention to those negative aspects of our society if we don’t do anything to address the social conditions that planted the negative impression.

By all means, let’s protest and register our outrage if what’s being associated with us is a pure fabrication or an unjust magnification. We should grin and bear if it happens that the negativity was caused by our own acts of omission or commission. How can we blame foreigners for perceiving deplorable living conditions that we’ve allowed to fester here? This is also a reflection of the thickness of the hypocrisy in our society — pretenders to being Christian but are actually heartless to the least of our brethren, crooks preaching on the code of ethics, to name a few.

Remarkably, the Filipinos who are now based overseas because of economic realities seem to be the more nationalistic ones. They’re proud to wave the Filipino flag every chance they get and still support us in many endeavors. Those who live here tend to take their nationality for granted. If it’s any consolation, that was also said about the overseas Scots. There are more Scots now overseas than in Scotland. The overseas Scots are known for maintaining connection with their roots.

Like many of our countrymen, Scots have migrated to many far-flung corners of the world. A MacGregor, my clansman, spawned several generations of MacGregor Apaches. General Gregor Macgregor was a hero of the Venezuelan War of Independence that was led by Simon Bolivar. There were two MacGregors at the Alamo. Those are just some of my clansmen who have fought for their adopted country. Other Scottish clans have their fair share of contributions to world history. The Scots and their Irish cousins have produced the most number of American presidents.

Nowadays, we’re seeing many Filipinos overseas rise to celebrity status in their chosen fields and are proud to acknowledge their Filipino roots. They’ve managed to keep their sense of roots alive through several generations without lacking in performing their duties to their respective adopted countries.

Race should be an inspiration for becoming a good citizen, not an impediment. For our country to thrive, we can only have room for 100% nationalism.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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