Thanks to bashers who are quick to poke fun at Senator Nancy Binay’s skin color, the 45-year-old legislator probably has the most effective political ad among her opponents in the coming elections.
Titled “Uling,” the Filipino word for charcoal and often used by netizens to describe the reelectionist senator’s complexion, Binay and her team ingeniously used the imagery in a dramatic expression of her very intention for the Filipino people.
Si Nancy Binay daw ‘sing itim ng uling. Pero ang uling ‘di ba ‘pag nag apoy, ang laking pakinabang sa atin?
Ganyan din si Nancy Binay. Nag-aalab ang puso niya sa mga nangangailangan. Mainit ang pagtanggap niya sa bawat lumalapit. Kaya ituring mo nang uling si Nancy Binay. Damdamin naman niya’y nag-aalab sa pagsisilbi.
Now that — simply on the level of awareness — can easily bag another win for Binay this coming May according campaign spinners, while also demonstrating how the political scion rationally used negativity to empower her public persona, rather than feel insulted or seethe with anger.
For what voter can ignore the senator’s poignant message amid a mound of blackened wood, coming to life with fiery red embers all symbolizing her passion to serve?
Then there are the endless memes that have become a given in Binay’s public life since she first became senator in 2013. Memes that keep the name and face of Nancy Binay permanently etched in the minds of Filipinos, most recent of which her curious and somewhat awkward expression beside Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray at the beauty queen’s courtesy call at the Senate.
By the way, a quick search on Google will actually unleash more flattering photos of Binay beside Gray, but no. Her online bashers — add mainstream media to the fray — would have nothing of a nice Nancy Binay photo on their websites and publications. It has to be that lone and “lucky” snapshot sure to draw the most laughs that is always picked from the pack.
“I actually don’t remember what I was thinking at that moment when I was caught on camera looking at Miss Universe,” Binay chuckled good-naturedly when The Sunday Times Magazine asked what was going on in her mind to merit the now infamous expression.
“Ang natatandaan ko lang habang nakaupo ako doon, ang daming cameras in front of us and ano nga kaya yung itsura ko, kasi baka nga makunan ako doing something I’m not conscious about—just like they always do at the [Senate] sessions.
“Ang dami kong candid shots na ganun ‘di ba? Na parang I’m making faces when I’m actually not,” she laughed again.
“But I guess I just have to accept na given na ‘yun sa akin, na ‘pag may camera they’ll always be on the lookout for those kinds of shots,” Binay declared with a casual shrug of the shoulders. And believe it or not, the lady legislator did not seem the least bit affected by this pointless and unconstructive routine around her, even when many observers already deem it bordering on disrespect.
She is after all a duly elected Senator of the Philippines, well-educated and a mother and wife too.
Yet come to think of it, Binay was just as cool and sport when The Sunday Times Magazine met her after she wore the now infamous “Hot Air Balloon” gown to the 2014 State of the Nation Address (sona). A Randy Ortiz couture in fact, which the senator admitted she wore the wrong way, the modernized terno instantly became the butt of jokes on the Internet and mainstream media the moment she set foot in Batasang Pambansa. It was the gown that set off a tradition among her critics, and to a certain extent the general public, to go on a Nancy Binay Fashion Watch SONA after SONA, spawning meme after meme.
But six years on, with bashers ever relentless in watching her every move, expression and outfit, and tirelessly calling out her unchanging skin color, when will she finally say enough is enough?
For Binay, she is confident she will never reach the tipping point when it comes to public ridicule on her physical appearance. Again, the Uling ad is proof of this woman’s remarkable attitude, patience and understanding when she is practically a victim of what other nationalities would even consider a shameful trait among Filipinos.
“Unang-una, I know myself so why should I get offended? Nakakatawa naman po talaga eh. And why shouldn’t I be entertained kung entertaining naman yung memes? Because beyond all that, I know who I am and I also know that I have shown the public my worth as a senator,” explained the once political greenhorn whose experience as chief of staff during her father former Vice President Jejomar Binay’s tenure as Makati City mayor was absolutely belittled when she first ran for senator.
“Yes, they all laugh at the memes and the candid pictures that go viral about me, but — and I say this as a person who doesn’t like talking about myself or what I’ve achieved [in the Senate] — I know that I have helped people, I know that’s what they see at the end of the day, and I know that’s what I want to continue to do.”
To be sure, in winning a second term, combining Binay’s online fame with a more substantial awareness on her notable performance at the 16th and 17th Congress would be more potent than just the Uling ad.
As the Philippine Senate’s records make public, “Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy Sombillo Binay [chairperson of the Senate Committees on Tourism, Cultural Communities, and Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, among others] remains true to her promise to be the ‘Nanay de Pamilya’ in the Senate. During the 16th Congress, she filed 119 bills and 151 resolutions advocating the interests of women and children, the youth, the elderly, and housing for the poor.
“In the same Congress, three of her bills became law: An Act Repealing the Crime of Premature Marriage under Article 251 of the Revised Penal Code (R.A. 10655), Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015 (R.A. 10659), and An Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of Persons with Disability (R.A. 10754). As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, she sponsored the passage of the Centenarians Act of 2016 (R.A. 10868).
“In the ongoing 17th Congress, Sen. Binay co-sponsored the Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2017 (SB No. 1305) which grants 120-day maternity leave to female workers regardless of civil status; as well as The Filipino Sign Language Act (SB No. 1455), which declares the Filipino Sign Language as the National Sign Language of the Filipino Deaf and the Official Sign Language of the Government in All Transactions with the Deaf.
“Other measures that Sen. Binay championed are the Expanded NIPAS Act of 2017 (SB No. 1444); the First 1000 Days of Life Bill (SB 1145); and the amendment to the Local Government Act providing for permanent positions to tourism officers (SB 1565).”
Oblivious to The Sunday Times Magazine’s ready research on hand, Binay expressed nonetheless, “When I talk to people, I’m really not the type to trumpet what I’ve achieved [as legislator in my first six years]—alam mo na, yung magbida sa mga nagawa ko? Kasi for me, trabaho namin ‘yun eh, so we shouldn’t brag [about our accomplishments] because it’s part of our work and what we’re expected to do. So when I go out there, like on this campaign, tulong pa rin is top of mind while I ask for their support.”
What Binay likes to talk about these days is how to empower those like her who experience social media bullying, especially since the senator is well aware of the psychological effects this negative phenomenon alarmingly has on the young.
During this meeting with Lifestyle and Entertainment media, in fact, she walked the talk and brought copies of her very timely book titled “Make Love Not War.” Unknown to many, the very millennial paperback published by ABS-CBN is actually a co-authorship between Binay and incognito social media personality “Senyora Santibañez”—the senator’s most rabid basher on the Internet.
Binay engaged her in the book [though never personally meeting still] not with the intent of putting the widely followed Senyora in her place, but rather to help victims of cruel posts like herself. As the senator wrote in the foreword, “You need this book to arm you with the basics of surviving in social media. Senyora and I collaborated to help you save your sanity and credibility in dealing with social media bashing. You can have it my way (cool and calm) or Senyora’s way (tough love with care). This time, we’re BFFs promoting love and not war.”
Elaborating on her advocacy, Binay continued, “In the book, I talk about how I can’t control what people post and say about me, and share with readers that what I can control is how to react to them and take them.
“In other words, talagang hindi ko mapipigilan yung bashing pero yung how to deal with it, that’s where I can help, kasi ‘di ba yung iba, konting bash lang nagkakaroon na ng depression? They feel as if it’s the end of the world but what I tell them is that there’s a world outside social media that’s more important and meaningful. So the book gives 10 basic online rules which I hope will ultimately help netizens realize that our worth is not based on the number of likes on our pages and posts.”
Prodded by The Sunday Times Magazine if on the flipside, she still believes, if not hope, that Filipinos will one day realize it is essentially wrong to talk about the color of one’s skin, or be quick to laugh and make fun of appearances, Binay avoided getting preachy and instead determinedly albeit simply replied, “As a mom [she has four children with husband Jose Benjamin Angeles] first and foremost, dapat maituro yan sa next generation. And if I am given the opportunity to return to the Senate, maybe we can also find more concrete ways of teaching the young, and more importantly to encourage them to refrain from social media bullying.”
Happy for the moment to be able to give her advice on dealing with the worsening effects of social media through Make Love, Not War, interviews like this and lately on her sorties, Binay revealed there’s more from where it came from.
“I’m coming out with another book nearer my 46th birthday which is the day before the elections in May. Like my age by then, it will be 46 additional tips still on the topic of surviving social media and ang title niya, ‘Charcoal Confessions’,” the senator smiled.
“Hopefully it’ll be done in time kaya sabi ko pa-birthday ko na rin yung book sa mga tao, win or lose. Pero sana rin, pa-birthday gift na lang nila sa akin yung boto nila,” she added laughing.
And in rounding up the interview in a perfect but ever unaffected way, the empowered woman and netizen that is Nancy Binay finally requested in all good humor, “Sana hindi nila kalimutan na maitim tayo, para ganun din ka-itim ang pag-shade natin sa number ng balota.”