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Theres The Rub
Naked truths

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:32:00 05/24/2009

Filed Under: Celebrities, Entertainment (general), Politics, Women

Two things took the country by storm last week. Such was their import for national life they drew the attention, and energies, of Malacaang, the Senate (at least a couple of senators), some congressmen, the media, and sundry miron. Those two things were Alec Baldwin?s comment and Katrina Halili?s travails.

Baldwin?s comment, made to David Letterman, was that he had gotten so alone and lonely he was contemplating ordering one of the Filipino mail-order brides. Halili?s travails on the other hand had to do with a video of her making whoopee with a doctor which ended up doing the rounds of the video pirate lairs. The first had Jinggoy Estrada vowing mayhem on Baldwin. The second had Ramon ?Bong? Revilla Jr. calling the doctor, Hayden Kho, sick, and threatening mayhem as well on him, if of the legal kind.

First, Baldwin?s comment. He has of course already apologized for it, but what?s worth commenting on is far less his comment itself than our violent reaction to it. I grant it?s not entirely harmless, unlike Chip Tsao?s satire. (I maintain the latter point, notwithstanding that many Filipinos are still incensed by it.) But it?s not as harmful either as that comment by Teri Hatcher?s character in ?Desperate Housewives? about checking first to see that the doctor didn?t come from some Philippine medical school before consulting. That one bodes ill for the practice of Filipino doctors?and nurses?abroad. Baldwin?s comment is somewhere in between.

True enough, it does tend to disparage Filipino women by harping on a stereotype. But do we really have to mind every irreverent barb that comes our way, however public the venue and however prominent the personality? Surely it can?t help that we do have mail-order brides, students from obscure medical schools who top the licensure exams en masse and are a nation of servants. In the end, all the prissiness is an exercise in shooting the messenger. And unfortunately in this case, you can?t kill all the messengers, there are just too many of them.

Malacaang did say before Baldwin apologized that there was no need for an official complaint; we could simply get back at Baldwin by boycotting him.

Seemingly wise, the problem with that suggestion is not just that it is not going to make a dent in his viewership, it is that most Filipinos, including the residents of Malacaang, do not watch Alec Baldwin anyway. They watch Steven Seagal. Baldwin?s TV show with Tina Fey in particular, ?30 Rock,? has the supreme vice of being intelligent.

From the other end, my sympathies do go to Katrina Halili. I saw her the other night on TV, and I have little doubt those tears were not feigned. Either that or overnight she has transformed into an awesome actress. She has been deeply wronged, and deserves justice. Of course why people like having themselves video-ed in compromising poses is another story altogether which will spark no end of snide remarks. But as the counselors, legal and psychological, rightly point out, what people do within the confines of their bedroom is their business. What they do outside of it is the only thing that?s the world?s business. The recording isn?t the issue, the distribution is.

Halili has taken a bold move?no pun intended?in admitting tacitly to appearing in the tape. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to insist it is fake, digital technology being able to do wonders in that direction. That was how other personalities in the past handled it, and came away unscathed. Well, different folks, different strokes. The good news at least is that the fate of the Canadian-Chinese show-biz personality in Hong Kong who had a similar scandal happen to him is not likely to happen to Halili. The former lapsed into obscurity. Not to trivialize Halili?s anguish but merely to state a fact, that will not happen to her. Quite the opposite: She does a movie now, and it will be a blockbuster, still no pun intended.

Halili does deserve admiration for her courage and sympathy for her plight. What she?and we?however do not deserve is a circus. Which her turning to Bong Revilla for succor guarantees. Revilla is not just a movie star and her friend, he is also a senator. Either that or he too has transformed into an awesome actor overnight and is able to simulate it. The whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

Which brings me to my point about these two incidents: That is our astonishing capacity for making a mountain out of a molehill and a molehill out of a mountain. We do not lack for prominent people who pimp for us, turning us if not into a nation of whores at least into a nation of servants. We do not lack for prominent people who daily insult us by lying to us, by cheating us, by treating us like fools and clowns and idiots, even if they do not call us so. We do not lack for prominent people who turn us into the very things other people laugh at. And we mind that Baldwin and Tsao and Hatcher do?

Just as well, at least Hayden Kho can always say he believes in transparency and parading the naked truth. Not so the prominent people who screw us by pocketing our taxes and hide the evidence by screwing the whistleblowers some more. Not so the prominent people who get caught in tapes, even if they do not make those tapes themselves, plotting to screw the voters and who apologize later but not for the crime, only for being caught. Not so the prominent people, the emperors and empresses, who like to believe they are wearing the finest clothes in the world when they are in fact running around stark raving naked. And Revilla calls Hayden Kho the sickest man alive?

T.S. Eliot must have meant the Philippines when he said the world ends not with a bang but with a whimper.

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