Philippine Contemporary Culture (Lit170)

Maine Mendoza and Alden Richards (left); and President Rodrigo Duterte (right)

The Filipinos are an odd species. What makes them tick is not always what foreign people usually think. They value entertainment so much that they take it seriously – even at the expense of national concerns. The Filipinos are as simple as monkeys: give them a boy with dimples named Alden Richards and they will shriek and squirm like they are being fried alive; give them a presidential candidate that curses, trash-talks, and makes people laugh and they will seriously make him their president even if it may mean that they will have another dictator in their Philippine history. That’s why it is more fun in the Philippines! Even the shallowest and stupidest things can make Pinoys happy, and I am one of those “shallow” and “stupid” Pinoys. Because I love Aldub and President Duterte! *swoon*

The Filipino contemporary culture is multifaceted; but I will focus on the Aldub love team and the presidential campaigning and election that recently happened. The horrible national incidents that happen like the Mamasapano incident and the Kidapawan Massacre can shock the Filipinos and evoke negative and violent reactions from them but they only have a three-year-old’s attention span for those things. What stays in their hearts and minds, however, are the things that can make them scream and fantasize like the many love teams that we have today (Kathniel, Jadine, Lizquen, and Aldub) and the public personalities that they can make fun of (Jojo Binay, Mar Roxas, Grace Poe, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and Rody Duterte). Filipinos are happy-go-lucky like that; they somehow deny the existence of the more important things like national issues for they would rather focus their attention on funny or relaxing things instead. With this, I am somehow reminded of one scene in the Film “Heneral Luna”, wherein the Philippine forces badly needed the train for their fight against the Americans, while the “indios” or the common Filipinos back then rode the train that was reserved for the Filipino fighters, ironically looking serene despite the war, with only their roosters and farms on their minds.

Aldub has undeniably reached the peak in terms of touching the hearts of the Filipino masses and being iconic in the history of Philippine showbiz. Well, some people may still argue that Aldub is “mediocre” or something like that, but I deem it illogical to judge celebrities or love teams or shows just because of prejudices in TV channels. I can still see that in most Filipinos, especially the people around me. Some people would deny their love for Aldub because of the fear that they would be judged by the society since the said love team belongs to GMA. That reasoning is absolute BS. A good love team is a good love team, regardless of the TV channel that it belongs to. One evidence for this great achievement of Maine Mendoza and Alden Richards is that I know some couples who call each other, “Alden ko”, or “Yaya Dub ko”. I am also guilty of calling men with dimples as Alden Richards, and they would be flattered for having been compared to him. The Aldub phenomenon is so great that it has become a place for escapism in many ways – for example: single Pinoys, especially the women, would rather live their empty love lives through Aldub; stressed students would rather watch Aldub than study; Pinoys would rather watch Aldub than be overwhelmed by negative national incidents, etc.

A few months before the presidential elections, the five presidential candidates were the talk of the town. However, we cannot always expect so much from the Filipino masses. They criticize the candidates’ personalities and other trivial qualities other than their capability for public service and their possible evil connections for corruption! We can all find satirical memes and photos of them all over Facebook, the presidential candidates being compared to Dragon Balls Z characters, Philippine mountains, etc. The “mountain” post about these candidates is very interesting: Miriam is Mt. Mayon because of its perfection although sometimes it can erupt from rage; Duterte is Mt. Pinatubo because of the many lives it took in the past but now the view is very beautiful; Grace Poe is Mt. Jambo because it is a new mountain and the “Jambo” name is American; Mar Roxas is Mt. Batulao because it is for newbies and it can be easily reached; and finally, Binay is the Chocolate Hills because of his chocolate-brown skin, and the fact that it is expensive to get there as if Binay had stolen your money. Where are the criticisms of their public service? Why do they only see the rude mouth of Duterte? The American citizenship of Poe? The cancer of Defensor-Santiago? And the dark skin of Binay? From where else can you see voters like that? Only in the Philippines!

By just observing two of the recent phenomena that make up the Filipino contemporary culture, we can already see the Filipinos’ indifference regarding serious national issues. Most of us aren’t even aware of our Philippine history – take the instance, for example, of a person who watched “Heneral Luna” and asked why Apolinario Mabini was always seated. (During the first grade I am sure that most of us were told that he had polio and he is the "Dakilang Lumpo".) This is the manifestation of the Propagandists’ and the Katipuneros’ struggles for the freedom of our nation. Or is it? Is the contemporary Filipino culture far from what we used to be, or is it just a reflection of what we were before? If you would ask me, I’d say that our culture nowadays is just a reflection of our historical idleness regarding our country’s future. Until now, this archipelagic nation can’t still be united. The only things that probably unite us today are Aldub and the way we make fun of our presidential candidates. But seriously? Is this who we really are? 

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