Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Despair and liberation

This is my column today.

If we are to believe the daily dose of bad news issued by the Department of No Labor and Unemployment, we are still losing a lot of jobs every day and a lot more will be lost in the next few months. Oh, they do go through the motions of assuaging our fears and frustrations by saying that some jobs are available. And then they go back into prophet-of-doom-and-gloom mode by declaring that the number of jobs that will be lost will far outnumber the available jobs, so far.

I have already ranted about this kind of defeatist attitude in the past. Difficult times like these require transformational leadership. Instead, we seem to have leaders who may as well be progenies of Ziggy, the cartoon character with the “We’re not gonna make it, we’re going to fail” mantra.

Fortunately, we still have the likes of National Economic Development Authority Secretary Ralph Recto who seems to be the only Cabinet member in this administration with something else between his ears other than a pretty face. Recto has been almost singularly deflecting the doomsday scenario that’s being put out there—not necessarily by looking at things from the proverbial rose-colored spectacles, but simply by embracing a more positive attitude.

In one press conference, Recto adroitly deflected the usual pessimism of the media people by asking if anyone among those present were harboring fears of losing their jobs anytime soon. No one answered in the affirmative. He then stressed what should be obvious to everyone: The layoffs are not as pervasive as what many would like us to believe. The number of layoffs does not comprise a sizable percentage of our workforce.

Of course, if our leaders continue to think that their job description is to simply count jobs that are created and lost on a daily basis rather than do something proactive about them, the layoffs will continue. It’s the basic phenomenon called self-fulfilling prophecy at work.

***

So what if former matinee idol Rustom Padilla now wants to be called BB (pronounced Bibi) Gandanghari? Exactly what is he taking from everyone else, what hurt, or offense is he inflicting on the rest of the world?

I ask these questions on account of the rather virulent reaction from the usual hecklers who also incidentally self-identify as the guardians of morality in this part of the world. I trawled the Internet recently for reactions to BB Gandanghari and found that while there were indeed a sizable number of people whose opinions can be summarized in the phrase “if that’s what makes him happy, so be it” there were also quite a number of people whose reactions ranged from hostility, scorn, disdain, and even derisive mocking.

I suspect though that most people in this country simply gave the matter cursory attention, perhaps found something amusing in the whole thing, and then shrugged it off as just one of those things that happen in the real world. Unfortunately, these people, the ones that comprise the majority, aren’t vocal about their reactions. Thus, as in most anything else in this country, the ones that are noisy and have access to a megaphone go to town with their hatred and prejudice.

I was also initially taken aback at the circus that attended BB Gandanghari’s grand entrance a couple of days back. I think that the event merited better media coverage than, say, the President’s trip to Davos, or for that matter, the series of salvaging that rocked Metro Manila and even Cebu in the last few days.

To be fair to media people, it does seem as if BB Gandanghari has this penchant for making herself the object of media attention as if she needs it as some kind of validation. (The keen reader will note the deliberate use of the pronoun “her” when referring to Gandanghari. That’s how she self-identifies now and I choose to respect her choice). She could have made her return from New York a little bit unobtrusive and unremarkable instead of turning it into a spectacle. She could also have avoided the gossip shows and the paparazzi if she wanted to. It looks like she invited the attention and it seems she has reasons for doing so.

So yes, the story does make for a good human interest piece. It is not something that happens everyday, that’s for sure.

Here was a former matinee idol, from a relatively prominent political and showbiz family, with brothers renowned for the kind of, uh, mischief associated with alpha males of the animal kingdom. Here was a really good-looking guy, the object of the sexual fantasies of many women and yes, gay men, and who married one of the prettiest actresses of her generation. And then one day, he decided he’s had more than enough of the duplicity and decided to out himself in a grand way. He joined the celebrity edition of the local franchise of the television show Big Brother and in a rather lugubrious turn, confirmed what has apparently been whispered about in show business circles for so long: He was gay. It was soap opera material.

I just wish that people do not lose sight of the important issues in this particular soap opera. This is not just about the way she behaves or dresses up now that she has decided to be who she is. It is sad that many people are stuck with the gross exteriors of her make up, or the clothes she is wearing, or the way she flicks her wrists or pouts her lips. It is first of all a story of personal liberation and of the painful and often brave personal choices and decisions we make in our lives.

Many people are stuck with the lurid and the dirty insinuations of who she has slept with in the past, the state of her anatomy, etc. They forget that while those things are an important aspect of a person’s identity, they do not solely define her.

Bb Gandanghari's pic filched from http://www.kablogie.com/2009/01/bb-gandang-hari.html

5 comments:

Joan said...

Hi Bong, I like your insight into the whole BB brouhaha. It's more balanced and rational than most comments I've seen so far.

By the way, have you seen his panel with Fr. Robert Reyes during the Asian Human Rights Conference? They discussed the prejudice and alienation a gay person in the Philippines feels. Maybe there's a deeper reason why BB is choosing to make such a fuss about herself?

Blogie Robillo said...

Interesting read, this one!

I'm afraid I form part of that majority you spoke of. I wish I'd blogged about BB Gandanghari myself back then, but I found out about it too late. Oh well...

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Bong C. Austero said...

thanks joan. will check out the link.

Bong C. Austero said...

Blogie,
kamusta? not too late, my friend. am sure she will get entangled in more controversy in the next few days. hahaha. i just read about ricky reyes' not so politically-correct commentary on BB Gandanghari. hahaha.