Red carpet for Paris Hilton but daily torture for the Great Unwashed

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Paris Hilton, a wealthier (and fairer) version of the Porsche-driving, Hermes-toting Janet Napoles kid, was recently in town to boost the sales of a pricey development. At the very least, that was a sad commentary on the values of the country. In the US and elsewhere, there is considerable fatigue on the things she represents, especially in a context of stagnant wages and a vanishing middle class.

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And the welcome emergence of inequality as the top issue in the economic conversation.

In Manila, a city oblivious to serious conversation and issues outside of its shallow confines, the red carpet was rolled out for Paris Hilton, an heiress to a hotel­based fortune, whose mission in life is to promote herself. Between Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, it is a toss­up on who is the true and reigning queen of self­promotion.

Paris thrives in the context of the “selfie” ­ she is perfectly at home here but questions have been raised on how relevant her self­promotion plot lines are in an environment of America’s re­examination of its failing social safety nets amid the pull further upwards of its plutocrats.

Here, in our Royally Pretentious and Callous City, Paris sashayed without a pushback and a tug of conscience. The place is, after all, a haven for phone­toting selfies. And  the local glitterati promptly swooned with every pout of her Hilton lips.

Paris Hilton’s triumphal entry into the cream of Manila’s society was perfectly timed with the Forbes report on the global billionaires – and on how the number of Filipino billionaires on that list has been increasing. Not only that, we have this awesome report that a Filipino is worth more than $13 billion. The next listing, unless the Forbes magazine brand is sold for scrap and is re­directed to serious business journalism, would probably include the family (a major player in real estate), that signed Paris Hilton to the endorsement contract.

With the forecast that the Philippines would not falter on its growth trajectory, and may perform better next year despite the gloomy environment elsewhere, everything seems to be heaven and bliss in the country. Best of all, it has enough amenities and offerings to suit the tastes of Paris Hilton.

Yet the trinity of Paris Hilton’s visit, the projection of sustained GDP growth and the increase in the number of Filipino dollar billionaires does not square off with the news items buried in the inside pages of newspapers.

The opposition to the privatization of the state­run orthopedic hospital, which for generations have mended fractures and took care of orthopedic problems on the cheap, is buried in the inside pages but its significance cannot be understated.

Here is a country with a faulty and meager health care for the poor. The best bet to get quality treatment is at the state­run specialty hospitals that are segmented according to services rendered.

There is one for cardio problems, one for lung diseases, another for kidney and so forth and so on.

What preceded most of these specialty state­run hospitals was the orthopedic hospital, which is located at the Quezon City­Manila boundary.

With the privatization of the orthopedic hospital, the choice piece of real estate where it currently stands will now belong to one of the Top 5 wealthiest dollar billionaires, who, like the Paris Hilton sponsor, made big in real estate.

We will have another mixed development of condominiums and malls, all built at the expense of the limbs mended and the lives saved by the orthopedic hospital. You might want to ask: What kind of priorities are these, in which saving lives and limbs of the poor and the low income classes, take second fiddle to spread of condominiums and malls. As if the metropolis were not already drowning with steel and concrete.

The other news is the govern-ment­sponsored jihad on cargo trucks, on buses, on small motorcycles called “ underbones.”

Cargo trucks are the engines of commerce, buses are the only form of viable mass transport in the country and the “ underbones” are the ride of choices of the poor and the very poor – which can’t buy any other form of fossil­ powered transport.

Daily, the government has been finding ways to keep them off the roads. The war on cargo trucks, this is the cruelest cut of all, is sponsored by “Erap Para sa Mahihirap.”

Can you find another country in which a politician who built his entire career on supposedly protecting the poor and the powerless initiate cruel things such as banning trucks from city roads during peak hours? If he were truly for the poor, he should have banned the SUVs favored by his family and his cronies, not the trucks with the drivers and the pahinantes.

One Sunday just a few weeks back, a loose group called Motoring Rights Organization jammed EDSA with their “underbones” to silently protest the massive police operation against those riding in tandem.

This was the message of the EDSA gathering of a thousand underbones: We are responsible citizens, though poor, but we are not criminals. Anger is building up within their ranks as they totally resent the link to criminal activities.

It is also true, as they have alleged, that Harleys and Multistradas, are not flagged down by the police because the owners are millionaires who are above suspicion.

Why do our leaders hate the poor so much? This question, had it not been for Paris Hilton’s triumphal return into our Royally Pretentious and Ever­Callous City, was the original headline of this piece.

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6 Comments

  1. you are very right, how could the mayor for the masa banned the bus and allowed suv’s and private vehicle in manila city, in US they encourage people to ride the bus or car pool to save energy and avoid traffic congestion.

  2. This RP Gov’t, for many, many years has a reputation of, proven and syndicated anti poor, and oppressive policies towards its poor constituents.

    This is tantamount to brazen callousness, thus the impunity of pervading culture of Corruption. RP’s trademark in global commerce. — Japan has Toyota’s, Hondas,
    Sony, etc; Korea has Hyundai, Samsung, Kia,; America has Ford, Boeing, Honeywell; the Europeans have their BMWs, Peugeots, Fiats, Rolls Royce…the Philippines, just plain CORRUPTION, HYPOCRISY, and HUMAN LABOR export looking for jobs overseas because the Govt can not even provide for, for her burgeoning and bloated population of 100 Million., just take a look at how Singaporeans are complaining about Pinay household/nannies, jostling and elbowing their way to ride the bus in Singapore. ISN’T THE FILIPINO CULTURE OF CUTTING YOU OFF THE LINE? You see it and experience it in a daily life routine in the Philippines. And on the road, always.

  3. A coming natural catastrophe will leave the rich begging the great unwashed for shelter in their shanties as their abodes of concrete and steel will be leveled.

  4. Marlen V. Ronquillo this is brilliant that you are speaking up on so many relevant things. I agree with you this country is obsessed with glitz, the poor look up to them as in the past rich & powerful were looked on as sort of gods & to get out of that mindset is just so difficult. I read about the oscars & ost other awards & i can say i never watch them. I hate the way all they do is praise each other, ” yes hes the best director to work with “, then for their nest film just the same ” yes hes the best director to work with “.
    Now the traffic, i totally agree with you on this. Why on earth they stopped the buses going to lawton & terminate at coastal mall is beyond me. One bus carries up to60 or 70 people or something like that. You get to just pay one fare & it takes you all the way there. Now you have to terminate at coastal mall & find alternative transport to lawton ( Or any other place you might go ) which puts the cost up, makes life more difficult than it already is & makes it more expensive. Its cars that need to be curbed in manila but they wont do that as it makes it more difficult for their friends & themselves. Also it could lose them votes as people who have money want to use their cars & not public transport so will vote for others so it needs everyone to be of the same mind, but as in the glitz of show business its also hard to change peoples mindset on travelling.
    Next the lorries, the one thing you didnt mention is by limiting the hours of these trucks to move will increase the cost of transport for moving goods & will filter down to price increases for the consumer.
    But well done keep on writing like this & i hope many more supoort what you say as i have done on these subjects.

  5. Sad that a person like her is the face of America to poor pinoys. There are thousands like me that sponsor Philippino children and families in schools and their daily lives. We build houses, give money to start sarisari stores and other small businesses. Put kids in school and college, even pay toward funerals. But we dont get recognized by the press. Bob Floodeen, http://www.Cortical Foundation/studentfund Henderson/Las Vegas Nevada.