Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Explore Philippines

I've been working mostly night shifts this week and was really anxious that I'd be missing my primetime TV favourites such as Wednesday night's new episodes of Grand Designs and I have to admit, the nightly one whole season pre-final showdown of singing newbies in... (cringes) American Idol. A guilty pleasure. I know it’s cheesy TV but ever since I've seen Quentin Tarantino in the show, I don't care what people think.

Boy, I'm so glad to find out that we actually got a Digital TV Receiver collecting all sorts of crumbly stuff beneath the coffee table sitting comfortably between old books and other scraps of paper. The beauty with these set-top boxes is the huge hard drive and the ability to receive and record freesat TV. It took a while to muster how to play with the toy but after going through the rather tedious orthography that comes with the machine I was ready for my first ever recorded TV program I could watch the next morning coming off work.

So I didn’t miss watching BBC’s exciting new 'Explore' series featuring the Philippines: Manila to Mindanao. Great. The crumbling Rice Terraces. Masses of humanity in a throng of religious fervour. A mysterious $987 billion treasury note by the Marcoses stashed somewhere in Brussels. Human Rights Abuses. A cityscape that could give Danny Boyle further shedloads of Golden Globes next year. It stirred all the mushy parts of my tired brain that I couldn’t sleep so I ‘Googled’ and found out I wasn’t the only one gripped by the program. In typical bourgeois fashion, most people are horrified by the Beeb’s showing of the crass images of impoverishment.

I made sensible comments in some of the blogs but nobody seem to like it posted. Tough. I’ll post it here instead. This is my blog and it looks like it needs a fresh entry.

Sorry, I couldn't find a photo of me in front of Quiapo Church. I hope the Vatican will do for now.
Anyway, I found the feature really interesting if not thought-provoking. I wasn't really hoping to see lovely tanned lissom beauties vegging out in lush florae you'd expect in a tourism campaign. It's a well informed documentary for chrissakes. What an eye-opener. I didn't know that people can live in a cemetery and was quite touched by the prudence and mental soundness of the ordinary people that were interviewed - those that don't speak English as opposed to those that speak with American accent.

The young lady who declared she doesn't believe in ghosts as she hasn't seen one - contrasts the quite ironic naiveté of a former first lady who said that 'they' only found beautiful shoes instead of skeletons in her closet... is funnily enough, quite daft. Either that or she’s quite lost in translation. She has perhaps a more literal meaning for ‘a skeleton in the closet’. Those shoes may well be the metaphor of her cronies’ scandalous massive gory larceny. Every sole of those finely crafted pairs of shoes is tainted by the poor Filipino's sweat and blood sodden flesh and bones.

And I figured a few more dichotomies... The quiet honesty and dignity of the way the poor people live in spite of their conditions (still smiling and happy to pose for the camera) and the hypocrisy of the establishment: The Church, the Military and the deceitful politicians.
I do agree (and proud of it ) that there are a lot of beautiful things in the Philippines and you get glimpses of it in the program i.e. the people, the countryside, the fragile wildlife etc... But sadly, the overwhelming poverty and corruption are grim realities which we all can't deny. A testament and the raison d'etre of the Filipino diaspora.

Thanks BBC for quite honestly, a poignant program.

For the very upset Pinoys… Don't worry, your typical tourist may find it really boring and would tediously flick channels like he would brush aside a bland pudding off a supper plate.
BTW. We also have the most astonishing and most pristine gated communities and golf courses in the world. But this is how the upper classes behave. Thanks Tala for the link.

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