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At Large

No hiding—or disguising—domestic violence

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Makeup covers a lot—blemishes, age spots, pimples, and also bruises, black eyes, welts and wounds.

The winning entry in the recent Avon “Speak Out against Domestic Violence Public Service Ad Competition” builds on this idea. “Makeup covers blemishes…not abuse” goes its tagline, focusing on a woman survivor of violence who attempts to cover up the physical evidence of abuse on her face and body but eventually realizes the futility of her efforts.

Perhaps the fact that the contest sponsor is Avon, a leading world authority on makeup and beauty products that are marketed mainly through direct selling, had something to do with the jurors’ favor. But the decision may also have been influenced by the creators’ use of irony to point out the contrast between the “beautifying” effects of makeup and the ugly impact of domestic and partner abuse.

Even more noteworthy is that the winning PSA and the other finalists were all created by groups of college students and young professionals, indicating a growing awareness of the issue among the next generation. One entrant explained: “I grew up with an abusive father, so I know intimately what domestic violence is all about.” Others spoke about basing their campaigns on the stories of friends, relatives, classmates. Indeed, when you live with domestic violence or accounts of it, research is no longer necessary.

The winning entry was created by “Team Tiwala” of Ateneo de Manila University. Second place went to the entry of “Storm Troopers,” also of Ateneo, that had as its tagline: “Every Filipina Deserves a Beautiful Life.” Third place went to the group “Be Heard,” whose members are all nursing graduates, with the entry focusing on the contrast between the beautiful appearance of brides and the ugly marks of the partner abuse they were trying to hide. The “People’s Choice Award,” culled from the number of “likes” gathered through Facebook, was “Peel the Pain,” an interactive entry created by the group “JuClauki” from the Lyceum of the Philippines, that asked the public to “peel away” the signs of abuse to create a happier life for survivors of abuse.

* * *

“Let me share with you which of the entries is my favorite,” said Avon Philippines president and general manager Kanwar Bhutani at the opening of the award rites. “They are all my favorites.”

Indeed, all the 12 finalists, including PSAs created by students from the University of the Philippines Manila and De La Salle University, were compelling, if not heartbreaking. “Abuse only stops when the public gathers the courage to finally stop the silence, break the cycle, and speak out,” says Bhutani. “And with Avon, everyone, including the youth, is empowered to make their voices count and be part of the change that can help save lives and families.”

Avon launched the “Speak Out against Domestic Violence” campaign in 2009, building awareness of the issue, especially among women and girls who are the main market for the business, and raising funds for NGOs working on the issue to sustain their programs. “Speak Out” provides support for the telephone hotlines, through which survivors can seek help, support and advice, of NGOs Women’s Crisis Center in Manila, Gender Watch against Violence and Exploitation (G-Wave) in Dumaguete, IMA Foundation in Pampanga, and Legal Center for Women and Children (Luna) in Davao. Also present at the award ceremony was Ruffa Gutierrez, the spokesperson and ambassador of the “Speak Out” campaign, who built on her personal experience of violence to make people aware that silence and shame only perpetuate the social evil that is domestic violence.

* * *

Still vivid in my memory are images of the havoc wrought on that old standby, Aristocrat Restaurant on Roxas Boulevard, which was inundated by floodwaters caused by Typhoon “Pedring” in September 2011.

Although it has branches all over the metropolis now, for many Filipinos, Aristocrat is synonymous with the original location facing Manila Bay, the site of many a late-night rendezvous after a movie, a show at the CCP, or just a night on the town. Many families I know have made the original location a regular Sunday destination, as much a weekly ritual as Sunday Mass.

Which is why it is good news that the “old” Aristocrat will be relaunched soon to better serve customers old and new. Portions of the restaurant were opened to the public just a few days after the cleanup by faithful staff members, but I expect the resurrected restaurant to be up and running and back to its old standards very soon.

It seems you can’t put a good place down. Over at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, “Spiral,” the renowned buffet outlet, which was in ruins after floodwaters from Manila Bay, also a consequence of Pedring, inundated the pool area and broke the picture windows, was recently reopened to the public. True, the refurbishing took all of $55 million and more than a year, but the redesigned “Spiral” offers new features and an “open kitchen” layout to entice its loyal clientele once more.

* * *

Clara Reyes Lapus, of the Reyes family behind Aristocrat and founder of “Mama Sita,” a line of bottled and canned condiments named after Clara’s mother, reports that at the recent international food festival “SIAL” in Paris, Mama Sita sauces and mixes earned rave reviews from foreign visitors.

“[They] loved the taste of Mama Sita’s tinola, lumpiang shanghai, mango compote, and bistek,” recounts Lapus. “Europeans now appreciate the authentic flavors of the Philippines. This is good news for our farmers.”

From a resurrected restaurant along the boulevard to home cooking abroad, homegrown flavors are winners!


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