• Nutribuns, lies, memes and clueless millennials



    “THE nutribun is a lie,” said one placard.

    And with this the credibility of the anti-Marcos rallies may just have taken a hit.

    After all, how can one deny the existence of the nutribun?

    Nutribun is a type of bread whose formula was developed by nutritionists at the University of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and was later used as part of the campaign during the term of President Ferdinand Marcos to combat child malnutrition. Using ingredients donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the PL 480 Title II food aid program, this healthy bread was mass-produced, and delivered daily to public elementary schools all over the country. Because of this program of the Marcos administration that started in 1972, severe malnutrition in children was reported to have declined drasticallyfrom five percent to lower than one percent. As the incidence of malnutrition declined, the program was phased out in the mid-1980s.

    The existence of nutribun coincided with the martial law period, which lasted from 1972 until 1981. And for many, it is a ubiquitous reminder of something that was positive about what otherwise is presented as a reign of terror. No one whose early education was in the public school system can ever deny, more so forget, its existence.

    It would have been plausible to imagine that to many who lived through that period, whose relatives or parents were not involved in the anti-Marcos struggle, and whose lives were unaffected by the abuses, the nutribun may have been the most vivid image of what martial law may have meant.

    The statement “the nutribun is a lie” is actually a recasting of the meme “the cake is a lie” which is associated with a video game called “Portal” played mostly by millennial gamers. The game uses the image of a cake as a motivation, a reward after solving a puzzle, which in the end turns out to be a lie.

    Thus, this meme is something that only video gamers would understand. Being a meme about deception, one can only surmise that the appropriation of it in an anti-Marcos rally, using the nutribun to replace the cake, was an attempt to taunt the Marcos regime, with the hope that the message of deception and lying would be read by the crowd.

    But the opposite occurred. Instead of indicting the lies and deceptions of Marcos and martial law, the placard bearing “the nutribun is a lie” has become the indictable lie.

    This faux pas is symptomatic of the predicament of the anti-Marcos forces. Older generations of activists have no choice but to transfer their political activism to the millennial generation. However, many in this generation rely only on the narratives of horror that they have been told about martial law, by parents, teachers and authority figures who lived through the horrors or are sympathetic to the causes of those times, who tend to impose rather than allow them to make their own independent conclusions. These millennials mostly come from elite schools.

    Unfortunately, the martial law narratives are not organically rooted in the worldview of theseelitist millennials,where the culture of Starbucks, happy Thursdaysand the video game “Portal”have all taken residence. Martial law remains as a tale of horror that they are asked to understand, but can never authentically relate to.

    This is the worldview of a generation that when forced to become the torchbearers to continue the anti-Marcos struggle, and embed themselves in mass mobilization which older generations of activists know very well, will be lost in translation.

    This is a generation whose image of a crowd is defined in concerts and rave parties.

    Their anger will be expressed not in political slogans, but in personal slurs. Theirs is a culture of appearances and simulations. They think that insulting the physical appearance of Sandro and Imee Marcos is equivalent to condemning the structural oppressions which the surname Marcos implies. Their coño language is one that does not embody an ideology for social change, but one that appropriates memes that only they would understand, like “the cake is a lie,” to be the signifier of their resistance, which in the end reveals them to be detached and clueless.

    This generation of elitist millennials may be adept with the shift in engaging in political warfareaway from the streets and into social media.One just has to read the placards they carried at the Luneta and EDSA to see that these are extensions of social media bashing, where they have practically “memed” politics. Yet they do not have the stamina and the savvy to wage street warfare.

    Meanwhile, the masa that the elitists demean, the one subsisting on free internet, are still very good in street battles, even as they have now also invaded social media, and are as good in waging a political war there. This is the masa many of whom would probably still vividly remember the nutribun.

    In this scenario, the elitist millennials would lose.


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    1. good job manilatimes for filtering out opposing comments, my previous comment was filtered out. If this does not appear, then you are clearly biased. Is that democracy? As for you Mr. Contreras, you are a hypocrite, taking shots at an opposition’s placard when you yourself is silent when it comes to mocha uson’s fake news. While implying that you speak only of truth, you allow lies to spread from your side. You are either living in your own bubble or playing deaf. I’m guessing just like your pro-marcos columnist, manny pinol, you have ambitions politically. I wouldn’t be surprised if you become a cabinet official. Another yes man. You are better than this.

    2. As a skinny 6th grader back in 1972 this nutribun was given to us public school students in Manila.
      A little testament to what FM has actually done for this nation.

      Did you people witness the same in the glory days of Cory Aquino and even the more glorious days of Nonoying Aquino?????
      Yellow hypocrisy reigns.

    3. The problem of these people , all LIES spread by the yellow elitist to their minions become their SLAVES …Poor people, they were SLAVES of their own leader……we will not allow ourself to become slaves of this yellow minions.

    4. I lived with my uncle who is the district supervisor and his wife a school teacher in Bulusan,Sorsogon all sacks of wheat are with signs of USAID which are made to nutribuns. How can it be a project of Mr. Marcos?

      • Engot mo naman, the author mentioned that ingredients were donated by usaid, sino ba nagluto at nag distribute, usaid din ba?

    5. Antonio P. Contreras thank you! Now I understand well those placards, which has left me dumbfounded what the students were saying? Am now 71, you know.

    6. I am also a beneficiary of Nutribun, though I need to pay ‘labinlimang sentimo’ to compensate the bakery who baked the bread, but it worked and we benefited considering I lived in farthest town of Zambales. Nagpapapansin lang ang mga kabataan natin ngayon, sana matauhan sila habang meron pang panahon.

    7. everything is obviously orchestrated…the truth will come out…i’s just a matter of time…people will soon find out who the real good guys are

    8. Former student on

      Mr Contreras, you and your articles are also symptomatic of a political s*ckr or in laymen’s terms, “sip sip” just like mocha uson and sassot. You find fault in one placard yet you don’t react to the fake news spread by mocha uson and her cohorts. It’s very hypocritical of you to stay silent on them while implying that you broadcast truth.. It’s either you are living in your own bubble or “nagbubulagbulagan”. I think the latter. You are magna cum laude yet you are only good with being a sucker for the marcoses and dutertes. I am so sure you just like your co s*ckr friend manny pinol have political ambitions. I will not be surprised if you become a cabinet member, another yes man. You are better than this. -your former student

    9. I would imagine some of them probably thinks the martial law years was like a movie set from Hunger Games and Marcos is like President Snow without the beard.

    10. My house was beside a pubic school in the 1970’s and there was a regular ration of nutriban and oat meal for the students there. My wife says confirms it was the same in her provincial school in the Visayas, so from those who lived it, the Marcos feeding program was not just in MM or a revisionist lie as claimed by millennial zombies.

      So why do these millennials think the way they do, first and foremost because during the past administration corrupt politics crept into the student bodies, students were recruited as force multipliers during the last election campaign. The result is that they created these mini-me leftist elitist being groomed by the yellow trapos who control the strings on campus campaign funding/grants.

      I hope the MT will write an expose on campus yellow political indoctrination of our youth one of these days.

    11. How can a dead marcos for no less that 27 years be the reason for divisiveness and, for that matter affects our modern society? I strongly believe that he wanted to unite the nation as it transcribed in his “isang bansa, isang diwa” policy. Noone but the catholic church should be blamed for this nonesense street cry and division because instead of teaching unity and love, it teaches hatred, division, and uprising, which deviates from the very norm of its existence. This church supports the elites the way the elites supporting the church with benevolent donation. Well in other words they use each other for their common interest.

    12. I have also seen them use slogans taken from a song in the Broadway musica “Hamilton” – ” I will not waste my shot”

    13. But if my memory serves me right, we were given nutribuns in the mid 60s while I was still a pupil in the elementary grades at Legarda Elementary School in Sampaloc, Manila. In addition to the nutribuns, we were given trigo which my mom would cook for our champorado and we were also handed cornmeal which my mom would use to make pancakes. The packages would read that they were donated by the US with that ubiquitous logo of a handshake of an aremikan and a Filipino palm. It is to Marcos’ credit that he was able to get the US to provide the schoolchildren like me with the daily supply of these goodies which were a big help for nutruition.

    14. Yes, true . . . masarap ang nutribun by itself, di kelangan ang palaman. Dahil sa nutribuns palagi kaming busog at nakakapag-aral ng mabuti sa school during the Martial Law period. Thanks Mr Contreras for writing about the nutribuns as one real positve face of the martial law years. Hindi siguro talaga ito maaappeciate ng mga elite millenials na detached sa sikmura ng ordinaryong Pilipino ang lifestyle. But please keep the truth alive by letting it surface through your writings. You’re doing this generation a genuine and meaningful service.

    15. Bacause of $$$$$ kaya yang mga yan ay nagsa-sayang ng oras sa rally. Kung genuine yan mga yan dapat sana yung mga millenials ang nag-ra-rally hindi yang mga bayad na tao na yan. Also too focus on the bad side of martial law ang mga mentalidad ng mga pinoy, kinalimutan yun good side.. Bakit hindi magsabi ng totoo yang mga biktima ng martial law (kuno) kung ano ang kasalanan nila at sila ay naparusahan? (dahil kaaway nila ang gobyarno sa ilalim ni Pres. Marcos.) Ganun din ngayon sa kasalukuyan, ang mga dilaw parin ang hindi maka-tanggap at against na naman sila sa bagong presidente.(DU30). $$$$$$ ninakaw sa bawat buwis ng Pilipino at aid ng ibang bansa yan ang gamit nila ngayon. Gisado tayo sa sariling mantika. Kalokohan na gamitin nila ang sarili nilang pera.

    16. Why do we insist our ways in to the new generation? Why do we dismiss them as the new people who doesn’t know any better and as people who can never amount to the things that we, in our generation, has done? Isn’t that in itself a form of elitism? Shouldn’t we be glad that they express interest in things that matter?

      Help them, don’t dismiss them.

    17. The Communications Sec. Andanar aptly called these ‘children’ brats. I wouldn’t take them too seriously relative to their “activism.” To them, it is the cool thing to do, a fad if you will. Something that makes them belong…an activity that allows them to flaunt their self-perceived elitism….”Look at us, we’re brighter than you pedestrian thinkers. Besides, we look good rallying compared to you”…would be what goes on in their minds.

      They are only betrayed by their limited understanding of a very complex situation.

    18. Sir Contreras, you obviously have no idea of the concept of “trolling.”

      The cake in Portal actually exists. Why are you trying to change this narrative of the game? Grabe ka naman sir, pati Portal ginawa mo pang reference sa historical inaccuracies at revisionism ha.

      Why would you use a reference that you “can never authentically relate to” ?

      U Mad Bro?

    19. Involvement in mass actions forms part of the process of immersion which projects to allow millennials to eventually formulate their own opinions and insights based on their “new” experience. Going out to a rally under the blazing sun or cold showers could prove bewildering to those aircon-living and Starbucks-snacking young people. At first, that is. Many of the Martial Law victims and antagonists lived lives of comfort and security before, yet later braved the elements and bullets after they got xposed to the process. Your theory, Mr Contreras, might hold for some but not for all. A good percentage of these millennials will come out carrying on the fight against threats to our democracy, including the Marcoses and Du30 diehards.

    20. Alexander Demetria on

      The placard holder probably did not go to a public school at that time. Not only “nutribun” was distributed at the but also powdered milk. These “yellowtards” are really full of lies and deception. Same goes to some members of the Catholic church. I hope mainstream media would just tell the truth…Stop peddling stories that Ninoy is a hero and Cory a saint……These people claiming to be victims of human rights violation now, were the activists marching and shouting “Makibak Huwag Matakot” and hurling “molotov” bombs during those days. Went underground got caught….when the PC subjected them to physical punishments, they would claim human rights violation..what would the state do?….you are enemies of the state of that time..move on….

    21. I am a product of public elementary school. Nutribun, bulky equivalent to 2 monay bread, delicious and very nutritious, was sold for ten (10) centavos each. My baon was only fifteen (15) centavos everyday then. So, I can save five (5) centavos everyday. And there was free milk for public school pupils. That was how President Marcos cares for the poor pupils. Yes, I missed the good old days.

    22. wow!!! 1 placard hits credibility of whole anti-marcos rallies?!? what happened to critical thinking? what happened to critical thinking??? “…few of mine whom I endeavored to teach critical theory and research methodology every Tuesday and Thursday for the past three trimesters.”

      article deadline blues?

    23. Historically, the elite, whether baby boomers or gen x, will only take side when victory is at hand (remember Edsa). And I think, the elite millennials will also not disappoint. So one is better off herding cats than trying to politically organize the elite millennials at this time.

    24. these activists of the 60s have developed expertise in crowd mobilization. they started in small fora, worked on their old cohorts from the catholic church, academe and started providing propaganda materials to unsuspecticting millenials and voila! they were able to gather a small crowd. look at how the yellowstried very hard to blend with the deceived crowd!!!

    25. Very good, Prof. Contreras! How true! How could we, the masa, forget the nutribun that we fed on in school during the marcos years. There was powdered milk also because I was too light for my age according to our elementary nutritionist. Oh…millennials…research and research well if you really want to know the real stories during those years.

    26. Very perceptive article. I always find it so unsettling how we Filipinos seem to mimick the American style of politics. There as in our country, the elites who have been defeated in an election will still try to cling to power and do all their best to unseat the elected officials in whatever means and at all costs. The only difference is that there is less blood spilled in our spot of this island we called earth.

    27. Cesar A. Llorente on

      Very good Doc. This only show the need to teach younger generations the true history of our nations, be it good or bad, we have to tell the correct narrative.

    28. The cake is actually not a lie. The protagonist/player is led to believe it is lie. After the end credits, we are shown a real cake surrounded by copies of the antagonist.

      Does this count as historical revisionism?

    29. “clueless millennials.” madali silang utuin. hindi siguro sila nagbabasa ng Manila Times kaya hanggang ngayon ay nabubulagan pa rin sila. nabola na din ako rati ng critics ni Marcos pero ngayon ay naliwanagan na ako.

      • Millenials believe that they are God’s best gift to mankind. Ah, but sooner or later, they’ll grow up.

      • true…basically because they did not exist in that time…however, sana mag-research sila nang mabuti, di yung isang side lang…the mass media kasi controls what will be made known to the public eh, filtered according to what sells

      • oo nga field. baka hangang ngayon ay naniniwala pa ang mga clueless millennials na si marcos ang nambomba sa miting de abanse ng LP sa plaza miranda at si ninoy ay hindi ibinenta sa malaysia ang plano ni marcos to infiltrate sabah to get it back from malaysia and most probably they believe that the so called jabidah massacre na invention of ninoy