PH: The epicenter of selfies and trivial pursuits

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The Time magazine number-crunchers who did the ranking of the selfiest capitals of the world—and ended up ranking Makati City and Pasig City as top in the planet—failed to make a category for small cities, which, like their famous, more populous and cosmopolitan counterparts, are just as passionately engaged in shooting and posting selfies.

Definitely, there should have been a category for “The Selfiest Capital of the World, Small City Category.”

Had they done so, they would have found out that these small cities are in the Philippines archipelago and they shoot more selfies than the more sophisticated, tech-savvy, small cities in the OECD economies. There will be more amazing findings had Time investigated deeper: There is a relentless passion here for shooting the self and posting the photos despite, this is important, the great handicaps and real hurdles.

The handicaps are identifiable. The Internet presence in these small Philippine cities is spotty at best. The P999 monthly fee charged by most Internet providers in the cities outside of Metro Manila gives the providers the license to provide lousy service. The mobile Internet service that is delivered via the cards is lousier in quality and speed.


Most often, waiting for the Internet service to pop out and materialize outside of the metropolitan areas needs the patience of Vladimir and Estragon—the Beckett characters in Waiting for Godot. Many a network engineer who have sneaked into their native cities with the hope that they can do their work as efficiently from there because of decent and uninterrupted Internet presence have been shell shocked by the inefficiency of Internet service outside of the metro areas.

Yet, the lousy/spotty Internet service in these small Philippine cities has not been a deterrent to the torrents of posted selfies. No at all. The lemon broadband is a small roadblock to the determined effort of a broad cross section of Philippine society to passionately shoot and post photos of themselves. Passion for self-gratification overwhelms the most difficult of technological hurdles.

Of course, having Makati and Pasig as the global leaders in shooting and posting photos was not the first for the PH in the technology use scorecard. We are also recognized as the “texting capital”of the world, and, per capita, we send more SMS than any other country in the world. We have bested the UK and Singapore in that department without a strain on our texting fingers.

We were proud of that distinction. Most Filipinos, except perhaps for a few Luddites like myself, are prodigious texters, from the high and mighty to the basurero on the street corner. We will be prouder with the latest feat – that two Philippine cities have bested the known capitals of culture, media and entertainment in the selfie posting department.

The self-gratifying exercises of texting and shooting and posting selfies blend well with most pursuits in this country—the shallow, the vacuous and the superficial. While other societies have exploited the technological revolution to the hilt, such as using technology to plan voyages to other planets, or develop gadgets that are useful to society, we are gloriously stuck in the text and post stage of technology. And we are proud and blissful about that, unconditionally.

Even the development of thriving technology enclaves, which can develop apps that are potentially worth billions of dollars, is practically non-existent in the country. The inspirational stories about technology giants being born in garages have not gained traction here and how can these inspire where the passion is for texting and posting selfies.

Have you noticed this? That even in the area of BPO service that we are tops, in the voice area, is something that we can be proud of but with some caveat. That the former leader—India—has gone past voice to render breakthrough BPO services such as editing newspapers, doing accounting and legal work, and other sophisticated computational work.

Why are the meaningful, substantial and economically life-changing things always trumped by the superficial and instantly self-gratifying exercises in our sad sack of a country? A concerned Filipino asks this question to himself over and over again. And he will be tempted to do hara-kiri before he can get a coherent, cogent answer.

Ok, here is the brutal short answer. We are tops in trivial pursuits.

We have this sense that winning is winning beauty titles, boxing championships, and we bask in long, interminable parades to honor our “champions” and our “queens.”

If our boxing champs are in the mold of Vitali Klitschko, fine. We have this confidence that even while they box, they think about the future of their country in a profound and epoch-altering manner. We have a boxing champ who is a politician. indeed, but the best thing that can be said about his political philosophy is this: he is a butterfly floating from one political camp to the other.

Like our politically spineless boxing champs, the unbearable pliability of our beauty queens, is the other sad story of the country.

A beauty queen who gained much media mileage for her supposed humanitarian work is now the public face of a major bank. You know what her pitches are? “Personalized service, no queues, the treatment of a queen.”

The ease by which she has transitioned from a global do-gooder to a promoter of “personalized service” has been amazing, but from an amazingly negative way.

But what do we expect?

Our contemporary history is one unblemished by seriousness.

We are the “selfie capital” and we are truly proud of that self-gratifying feat. A nation, truly, of three pronouns, namely, “I, me and myself,”and trivial pursuits.

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