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.
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.