What do Clare Danes, Teri Hatcher, Justin Bieber, Dan Brown and the Beatles Have in Common?
Answer: They’ve all incurred the wrath of the Filipino collective conscious…
I’ve been doing quite a bit of research and talking to Filipinos about some aspects of their cultural identity, specifically that of hiya (“embarrassment/shame”), amor propio (“love of self”) and utang na loob (“debt of inside/internal debt”). While doing this, I can’t help but notice that Filipinos seem to be a bit sensitive when it comes to certain things, specifically doing or saying anything that can be seen as an insult not only to an individual Filipino, but – to an even greater extent – saying anything perceived as a slight against the nation and its people as a whole.
Before I get into amor propio and hiya, let’s take a look at some of the more extreme examples of what happens when these concepts are violated by outsiders. All of these are examples of foreigners who have been publicly condemned and/or banned from the country due to negative comments they made about the Philippines. Here’s some examples from past years:
Claire Danes created quite the stir back in 1998 when shooting “Brokedown Palace” in Manila. Danes publicly stated that she found the King City of the Philippines “ghastly and weird” and “ smelled of cockroaches with rats all over.” The government was mortified by these statements and her movies were banned in the nation and they later went on to declare her “persona non grata.” Then-President Joseph Estrada (an actor himself) personally got involved with drama by stating “She should not be allowed to come here. She should not even be allowed to set foot here.” Her public apology for those comments fell on deaf ears, and she was never to return to the Republic again.
The Beatles – yep, those The Beatles – brought shame upon the Philippines when they declined an invitation to dine with the then-First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos (she of the Many-Shoes fame….) way back in 1966. Bomb and death threats soon followed, the young, mop-headed musicians had their security, hotel and “roadie” gigs pulled, and they were forced to carry their own instruments to the airport. Along the way, they were assaulted by a few hundred angry Filipinos.
Justin Bieber – Speaking of mop-headed youth, the international singing sensation stirred it up in 2012 when he had the audacity to Instagram some Photoshop-jibes at Manny Paquioa after he lost a boxing match to Juan Miguel Marquez. Congressional indignation flared and seven Filipino lawmakers filed a resolution demanding that the diminutive singing star make a public apology or face being declared “persona non grata.” The Filipino people were not pleased, and about a 100 million additional people joined the ranks of Folks Who Hate Justin Bieber. Paquioa – on the other hand – was a bit more forgiving, stating that he would pray for Bieber. Finally, after being declared the aforementioned “persona non grata,” Bieber staged a press conference in which he tearfully expressed his remorse for making fun of the Filipino boxer’s loss to Marquez.
Teri Hatcher – The lovely actress incurred the wrath of the Philippines government during the “Desperate Housewives” premiere episode back in 2007. During that episode, Hatcher declares during a gynecological consultation, “Can I check those diplomas, because I want to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines……” The spokesperson for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary to the Philippines Eduardo R. Ermita stated “On the face, we can look at it as a racial slur. We are looked down upon too much, considering the number of our medical professionals in the U.S.” He also called out for the support of Filipino’s in the States to “call the attention” of the Desperate Wives’ production team (and Hatcher in particular) to the “racial slur.” The producers and Hatcher later issued a public apology and the scene was edited out of the future syndicated showings of the series premiere.
Dan Brown – In his novel, Inferno, the protagonist describes Manila as the “gates to hell.” Once again, the government leapt to action with a member of the President’s Cabinet, Francis Tolentino, wrote a letter to Brown stating that he had it all wrong, and that Manila would be better served being described as an “entry to heaven.” Filipinos also blew up over social media over that slight, with Facebook and Twitter postings decrying this declarative blow to the national consciousness
Jimmy Sieczka or, as he is more commonly referred to, “The 20 Things I Dislike About the Philippines Guy.” Jimmy created quite a stir back in 2012 when he published a video about 20 things that he didn’t like about the Philippines that later went viral. And while most of the things he mentioned in the video are actually true, the tone and manner in which he recounted them created a serious backlash from Filipino viewers. How serious, you ask? Serious enough for him to be declared “persona non grata” by the Cebu City council. You can see the video that he and his partner put together here – I would give the YouTube link, but it seems that they (or he) have pulled it down from that site.
So, as you can see, there is a bit of sensitivity in the Filipino collective consciousness that results in rather heavy responses to negative comments made about the country by non-Filipinos. Also keep in mind the defamation laws in the Philippines, where a person can be successfully civilly sued for making negative comments about another person, agency or corporation even if those comments are 100 percent true!
As we continue to see, things are different here in the Philippines. And if you are planning on staying for any length of period, it’s a good idea to try to understand and come to terms with some of these differences.
Because ultimately, no one wants to be declared “persona non grata,” right?