Posted by: Jae | August 24, 2007

Before we write finis to the Malu Fernandez Issue

After the apology and resignations over the news last night, I of course realize that we must write finis to the whole Malu Fernandez brouhaha. This is just by way of a quick rejoinder to a statement made by blogger Sassy Lawyer in her blog entry which I just read yesterday.

As a preliminary point, it is incorrect to assert that “Every publication and every network will do anything to retain its audience. And that includes humor, even the kind made at the expense of others, if it will translate to readership/ audience.

The fact is that there are regulatory mechanisms in place, both in penal provisions and in various Codes of Ethics of Journalists. And perhaps more important than that, basic universal standards of good taste and civility. I really do not see the Philippine Daily Inquirer cracking politically-incorrect jokes against Muslims for the sake of readership (even the premise is wrong, actually: that the vast majority of readers find insensitive and off-color remarks funny). And one certainly cannot excuse Isagani Cruz’s homophobia by saying, “well, he writes for a certain demographic, let him be.”

But I think what is in greater need of rebuttal is this statement —

The sadder truth is that we, migrant workers and non-migrant workers alike, are all part of this twisted culture of cracking jokes at the expense of others. Haven’t you laughed at and disseminated Erap jokes via SMS and e-mail? Don’t you watch Bubble Gang and guffaw at the impersonations of politicians and media personalities? Don’t you giggle at the local version of Candid Camera hosted by Michael V. which victimizes unwary people on the street, subjecting them to embarrassing and humiliating situations all for the sake of entertaining the show’s viewers? See, everything is funny until we find ourselves to be the subject of the jokes. Then, it isn’t so funny anymore.

No. No. No. No. No. No.

On the surface, it sounds reasonable enough. And indeed, some people do a good job out of appearing reasonable (James Jimenez, the COMELEC spokesperson is one of them..) and that actually makes them more dangerous than, well, self-proclaimed divas who dish out ludicrous out-of-this-world remarks.

The statement is wrong because the comparison is false. There is a difference between the scenarios she mentioned above, i.e., the Erap jokes, bubble gang impersonations, Wow Mali stunts, and making fun of overseas foreign workers.

The Wow Mali stunts are characterized by a certain degree of randomness. It has a man-on-the-street flavor. The situations themselves are funny. I sometimes wince when I see people subjected to too much humiliation or are put in compromising positions, but unlike the People Asia comment, they are not made fun of because of who they are, or because of a perceived built-in characteristic. There are no power relations involved; and one is a victim only by happenstance.

Impersonations of politicians and Erap jokes are likewise incomparable with the Malu Fernandez quotes. Again, there are no embedded and implied power relations between sender and recipient. In fact, impersonations of political leaders may well be considered an “everyday form of resistance” (to borrow from, and slightly alter James Scott). There is subversion, albeit oftentimes subtle, in political parody — wherein humor is used a “weapon of a weak” (another James Scott) against a deeply-entrenched hegemony, wherein laughter is an activism all its own.

Parody is power inversion, plain and simple.

On the other hand, the Malu Fernandez articles smacks of a bigotry that not only reinforces the class arrangements but gleefully slaps it in the faces of those against whom the “arrangements” are tilted. To call them loud, uncouth, smelly, is to call them — quite simply — poor. And the system that keeps them poor, the structures that keep them “loud, uncouth, smelly”, are exactly the same system and the same structures that nourish the class to which Ms. Fernandez belongs and assure the continued hegemony of her and her kind.

They whose personal hell is nothing more than a few hours in economy class have no right mocking those whose personal hell is a dingy jail in Iran, a drunken and lascivious employer, a fly-by-night recruitment agency, or more simply but just as sadly, being forced to take care of children not their own while their own children grow up alone.

Wow Mali talaga yon.



  1. *Nods. nods. and more nods.*

  2. Amen… my god, AMEN!

  3. […] articles to get published? At mukhang nagpapalusot pa nga yung dyaryo niya! Buti na lang at hindi pumayag ang iba na palampasin lang ang ganitong mga […]

  4. the difference are:
    in those tv episodes mentioned were researched, rehearsed and all the actors/actresses were identified with the masses and comes a time that they will be bullied a certain person will act as a barrier and explain that its only for the TV (in our episode we were more ridiculed rather than comforted)

    as for erap jokes everybody knows how erap portaits his character in his movie days and his english carabao antics so the basis is that its already widely known before the age of the sms

    now for the “acerbic wits” she wrote is not the same as those mentioned since she has no idea (not even researched) what is the true meaning of an OFW (aside from the acronym)

    let me tell her this
    OFWs are the friendliest people since they will assist you if your a newbie (that is the reason they asked if she is also a DH so they can offer any help), and they will not leave you in the air if you are lost, they will speak/assist to the authorities (mind you in their foreign dialects) if you have problem with the immigration, they will also offer you a ride if you dont know where you will be billed or call for a cab and tell directions if only she knew this (but ofcourse she jumped into conclusion first and slashed her wrist) her travel might be eased

  5. eh. sassylawyer is a snob anyway. ganoon talaga ang ibang tao.

  6. Thanks, Simoun Plaridel, for the support. Well, it was not meant to be a personal attack against Sassy lawyer. I don’t know her at all. I just think some arguments need to be refuted, that’s all. Lalo na when they sound reasonable and benign.

  7. Malu’s elitist snobbery equated as bigotry?

    Kindly take a second look. Tagalogs are making fun of Bisaya. Manilenyos are making fun of Kapampangans. Bisayans are making fun of Boholanos. When did this snobbery became bigotry?

    Malu’s resignation did not change anything nor will it has any effect on the system and machinery that you are talking.

    Please prove me that I am wrong if you can stop people being snobbish like Malu.

  8. No one’s contending that her resignation will put an end to snobbery and elitism.

  9. D0d0ng,

    The problem with Malu’s bigotry is, it was published in a magazine being read by ASIANS. A Pinay discriminating Pinoys, who actually had done nothing wrong to her, and publishing it for all and sundry to see is wrong. That has caused the mass outrage. Had she kept her thoughts to herself and just shared it with her elitista friends, she would still have her job and her reputation as a Lifestyle whatever.

    And D0dong, I haven’t read one article written by a Manileña making fun of a Kapampangan published in a major broadsheet. What Malu wrote was inexcusable.

  10. I hope we can learn to forgive Malu Fernandez. I wrote an entry about her article and I hope you can find time to read it. It’s entitled “One Voice (An OFW’s reaction to Malu Fernandez’s “From Greece to Boracay”)” and I posted it here:

  11. And D0dong, I haven’t read one article written by a Manileña making fun of a Kapampangan published in a major broadsheet. What Malu wrote was inexcusable

    it’s not only in broadsheets. Take the entire media as whole. Those Tagalog movies depicting as if people not from Manila are ‘better’ people than from in any other places in the Philippines.

    Don’t be blind. Malu is just a product of our culture.

    Oh, back when the sitcom Richard and Lucy was still aired in ABS, one of of the SCRIPTS that Lucy said that ‘Ang pangit mo naman, Igorot siguro parents mo”.

    Well, reasearched?

    What about Miachel V’s DJ Bumbay which depicts AS IF Indians are mangogoyong “retailers”?

    Are we not being hypocrites? Come on don’t tell me, you don’t think of other Filipinos as being “lowly”? The problem with Malu is she “broadcasted” her stereotype, personal opinions in a place where it should be objective. Isn’t it that calling her “pig”, “bitch” is equally bigoted, and it published all over the internet directed towards her?

    Don’t we love teasing dark skinned people as Ita, negro….??

    Kaya walang nangyayari sa Pilipinas, hipokrito mga tao.

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