I WISH this wonderful play on the word “independence” were mine, but alas, I’m only taking from the placards and slogans I’ve seen from our ever-dependable activists who were out on the streets for Independence Day rallies.
I, meanwhile, was watching the online response to the Lea Salonga tweet, because Pinoy social media is always a fascinating display of the level of discourse of a particular public, and well, I thought it took balls to put up something like this:
“Our country is not yet debt-free, poverty-free, crime-free, or corruption-free. So what are we free from exactly and why do we celebrate it? @MsLeaSalonga, 11 June.”
Balls, I tell you.
But of course Pinoys don’t react well to this kind of balls, especially from a woman, and a woman celebrity at that. In a country where the opinionated woman has become just another tagline for a Kris Aquino commercial, you know why discourse is at an all-time low.
And why the reactions to this tweet ranged from notions of how Salonga is just being a perfectionist, looking for that “perfect country,” to her being bastos. There were those who talked about independence to be about her freedom to even post that tweet, and the idea that she can be jailed for it (!???).
This limited vision and lack of real engagement with what Salonga had said in 140 characters is classic Pinoy social media. It seems that of the many things that get us all riled up and which get the kuyog going, it’s being served a truth about the nation that we would rather not hear.
But of course these are truths we’ve heard militants and activists assert often enough, the truths that we dismiss as mere activist rhetoric. Hearing Salonga dish it made all the difference. Suddenly a public was listening, and with their perceptions of her in tow, wanted to engage with what she tweeted.
Because the moment they started talking “perfectionist,” and bastos, and mayabang, you know that they were already talking about their perceptions of her as a person, and not what she had said about Independence Day. They were judging her based on what they knew of her, probably as the stricter judge on The Voice PH? Maybe as that Inglesera still, the one that remains removed from the masses? Maybe still that one who dared put Anne Curtis in her place about singing.
And where the tweet itself revealed a vision of nation larger than we hear any popular celebrity speak about as possibility, the reaction to it?
The Philippines, ladies and gentlemen.
But of course this is not to say that Salonga also knew to respond. As activists and like-minded individuals shared the tweet and liked the same status on Facebook, and a majority of people took it against her, she herself ended up conceding to a reply that said Independence Day was about celebrating the fact that we are free of colonizers.
“Yeah,” Salonga said. “But I’m still not celebrating.”
Uh, no. We are not free of colonizers. Colonial America has just become an invisible hand dipped in our policy affairs. It is why President Aquino crammed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) down our throats, never mind that it is unconstitutional. President Obama was coming; we needed to give him something!
It is why the Philippines is always at the losing end of agreements with America. How else must we read the kind of treatment that Nicole received from the public and media, versus American soldier Daniel Smith, brought here by Balikatan Exercises under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US? And then recently, how the media absolutely failed at treating Jennifer Laude with respect, by using the name she gave herself; how the public’s tendency was to think she deserved to die allegedly in the hands of yet another American soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton.
And why do you think the issue of Charter Change is something that’s always hanging in the air regardless of what government and which President? Because that part of the Constitution that disallows the foreign ownership of local businesses and companies, the US is one to gain most from that, given our oft-lauded relationship with them. Never mind that it would have locally-owned small and medium enterprises folding for sure, in the face of “foreign investment.”
One could go on and on. But the wish might be that Lea could’ve known to answer in this way, too. No, we are not free from colonizers, she could’ve replied, and then give an explanation that would put all of us to shame.
Salonga could have raised the level of discourse, push a real clear agenda for a truly independent Philippines. She could have, for example, used this hashtag, or talked about the end of dependence for us, and how the struggle against the more powerful nation that is America is not over. She could have put up links about how it is still this neo-colonial relationship with the US that keeps as indebted and poor.
Then, she would have become that celebrity – that world class Filipino – who also becomes the yardstick of nationalism. That one who knows of our relationship with the US and takes a stand against it. Or at least calls for a Senate-revised and -ratified EDCA? Takes a stand against ChaCha?
Then the Tweet would have carried more meat, and Salonga would again reveal that she is in a class all her own. Haters notwithstanding.