Friday, March 19, 2010

As usual

This was my column last Wednesday. Sorry for the late post. This has been a really crazy week - my schedule is so hectic I feel like I am spinning out of control.

Last Sunday wasn’t supposed to be an ordinary day for Filipinos.

Philippine boxing sensation Emmanuel “Pacman” Pacquiao was scheduled to beat the daylights out of Joshua Clottey in Texas, USA. In this country, any day Pacquiao goes up the ring is an occasion for national chest thumping. Of course we already know that such a day is also marked by low crime incidence as most thugs also go on some kind of a holiday. Too bad, really, that Pacquiao cannot fight everyday.

But as things would have it, last Sunday was actually like any other day. It was a day marked by the usual display of behavior—many of them annoying and unsavory—that we have come to associate with ourselves as a people.

As usual, the television network that cornered the exclusive rights to broadcast the Pacquaio-Clottey fight shamelessly milked the occasion to ridiculous heights. The time devoted for advertisements was obviously longer than the actual broadcast of the fight itself. Mercifully, the station reduced those annoying plugs during the actual broadcast of the fight itself—you know, those annoying voice-overs that announced at the start of each round that the particular round was brought to us by this or that product. Also, the screen size of the television broadcast was not reduced by product placements. In the broadcast of Pacquiao’s previous fights, almost half the screen size was taken up by product placements!

Still, the broadcast was interrupted many times by advertisements. As I wrote in this space last Monday, we had just moved into a new house and the process of settling in was at its peak last Sunday. We watched the Pacquiao-Clottey fight in between hanging up paintings, fixing cupboards, and arranging the various flotsam and jetsam that we have accumulated through the years. Needless to say, we actually got most of the work done as we had lots of time—lots and lots of time in our hands—to do chores in between watching the fight. To illustrate just how long the advertisements were, a nephew actually got to finish cleaning our aquarium between round one and round five. By the time the fight got to round 12, the fishes in the aquarium were already swimming merrily once again.

As usual, the way the Philippine National Anthem was sung before the fight became a hot topic of conversation afterwards. This thing about how the national anthem is performed every single time Pacquiao fights has become an embarrassing tradition of sorts for Filipinos.

I have written about this in a previous piece but I will repeat what I said then, here and now. If the National Historical Institute really wants to do its job, it should stop thinking of itself as some kind of a watchdog whose main role is to castigate people or file cases against them for violating the law. The NHI can become just a little bit more proactive by actually reaching out to the people behind the broadcast. Instead of just passively waiting for the crime to be committed, they can actually prevent it. How difficult is it to arrange a meeting with the people behind the broadcast of Pacquaio’s fight, sit down with the artist that has been chosen to sing the national anthem, and give pointers on the correct way to sing it? Unfortunately, it does seem to me that the people at the NHI cannot be bothered to teach or influence others positively—they’d rather prosecute, thank you very much.

What a waste, really, because we all know that the case the NHI will file—should it make good its threat—will not prosper. While I agree that national symbols such as the flag and the national anthem are important components of who we are as a people and should therefore be treated with a little more gravitas, there are just too many other cases that deserve more attention from our courts.

I also dread the kind of uproar that will be generated if and when someone of Arnel Pineda’s stature is actually put behind bars for coming up with his own interpretation of the national anthem. If we come to think about it, Pineda’s interpretation of the national anthem is also protected by the constitution in some way—there is after all that very important provision in the Constitution about freedom of expression, which, by the way, specifies “artistic expression.” Pineda and company can argue that their interpretation is also their way of expressing their nationalism. Who can say that one version is any less patriotic or nationalistic than another version?

As usual, there was lots of armchair analysis about the fight. It was very amusing to hear supposedly respected sports commentators droll on and on about what they surmised was going on inside the heads of Pacquiao and Clottey —as if reading minds had become a skill readily available to many.

As usual, media just had to do some sleuthing around Texas to find out who among the government officials were there, where they were billeted, and how much they were spending on the trip. There were reports that the First Gentleman and the Speaker of the House were there along with the usual coterie of local government officials who moonlight as Pacquaio’s groupies.

Fortunately, Pacquaio won. As usual.

And to complete our Sunday experience and remind us once again that we’re still living in this country and at the present time where the mundane and the trivial can be spun off as matters of national significance, she who must not be named in this column, the garrulous sister of the Presidentiable from Tarlac, addressed the nation once again to whine about yet another injustice done to her and her family. Of course she turned on the waterworks, which should have been a source of comfort in this season of drought, where it not for the fact that she was basically whining about something so petty.

At any rate, what this woman needs to be reminded of is that she actually signed up—nay, fought—to be where she is now and to do what she does now. She has no right to complain of being the subject of gossip and for being picked on because she brought these upon herself. That is the nature of local show busines. Besides, she also does the same thing for many other celebrities—right in the same show where she let loose her diatribe last Sunday. She also picks on other celebrities and spread gossip about them, for crying out loud. And lest she forgets, she gets paid lots of money for it—yes, she even got paid for whining on television.

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