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At Large

Thank you, Isabelle

/ 05:12 AM December 19, 2017

We face serious problems as a nation: the continuing spate of drug-related (or so authorities say) killings; the threatened impeachment of the heads (all women) of all the independent bodies created to check presidential abuse (and the continuing detention of a woman senator); “creeping” martial law and noises about its expansion; and the “generosity” of the man in Malacañang to Chinese territorial ambitions.

And yet the issue that gets many netizens foaming at the mouth involves a 17-year-old (though her real age is the subject of dispute) who, prior to celebrating her debut, had the audacity to pose in a series of pricey gowns at the presidential palace.

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Isabelle Duterte may be right in asking, in her post, why her pictorial had gotten the ire of so many strangers when so many other problems — and personalities — deserve people’s attention. And she’s right: There are far more serious problems deserving of our bile and bluster.

But the thing is, hija, you can’t dictate to the public what (or who) it should react to. Some things just so naturally get the goat of others that they can’t help but sound off on their sentiments. And there is such a thing as propriety, too, and someone so brazenly defying the bounds of decency and delicadeza — replying tartly to her critics to “get a life” — is bound to reap the “rewards” of social media infamy.

Someone has even done the country a favor by toting up the total expenses involved in your vainglorious exercise. The figure he ended up with, somewhere in the vicinity of P1 million, is not just shocking or scandalous, it is downright sensational! As far as debutantes go, I’m sure you’re going to land in some “list” of abusive birthday celebrants soon.

Still, it must be asked. Even as we try to squeeze out every second from our days, every last bit of our energy, every effing centavo still left in our wallets — just to stage the holiday feasting we’ve gotten used to — why are we obsessing about a young woman’s gowns and chutzpah?

One part of the explanation may lie in envy. Who can afford such a mind-blowing budget just for the preliminaries of what promises to be the debut to end all debuts? But then, other extravaganzas involving celebrities and their friends whooping it up in foreign climes have likewise assaulted our senses. Why don’t we get a similar deluge of catty remarks and angry ripostes?

Well, for one thing, the big social to-dos in Paris, the French Riviera, New Zealand and other exotic locations were all paid for with the celebrators’ own money. Isabelle and her family and defenders may argue that the family’s funds were used in this pa-inggit photo session. Even so, where would her family, all of them public servants for many years, find the wherewithal for such luxurious celebrations? Unless … You can insert your favorite supposition right here, though the one I favor goes like this: unless we the People of the Philippines are picking up the tab.

What likely gravely offends, I might add, is the attitude of contempt, arrogance, abuse and shameless self-promotion displayed, not just by the debutante-to-be, but by all the personages surrounding her, including and especially her grandfather.

The hypocrisy also plays a part. Proclaiming to be born of humble stock and aspiring for nothing more than a good night’s sleep under a kulambo may have gone over well with the masa voters, but it flies in the face of a son’s propensity for wearing expensive watches (while refusing to show off an allegedly breathtaking tattoo) and a granddaughter’s privileged
pictorial at the very seat of power.

Really, by this time of the year, a few days before Christmas, our thoughts should be turning to more sublime (or at least nationally urgent) concerns. But in keeping with the season of frivolity and fun-making, it’s much more pleasurable to indulge in nitpicking and cattiness.

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Thank you, Isabelle, for giving us something to chew on even as we watch our Christmas bonus dwindling into nothingness. Now at least we have someone to blame.

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TAGS: At Large, Isabelle Duterte, Rina Jimenez-David
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