This op-ed is in response to the social media reaction to Lea Salonga's post. Rappler covered it here.
Dear Lea, please don’t apologise. You didn’t do anything wrong. On behalf of all of us who love the Philippines but constantly frustrated with the state of the nation, we know exactly what you mean.
I understand that as a famous celebrity and venerated ‘original Kim’, she’s held up as a role model. I don’t believe this was her first skirmish on social media but I can’t help but feel she is being unduly penalised for what is technically a favourite pastime: swearing.
The debacle was not so much that she cursed but that she cursed ‘at’ the Philippines. How dare she criticise her own nation, which had so many ‘pasaways’ during the lockdown, terrible human rights track record and never had a decade without a brown out? I’m just sayin’.
So is it okay to be frustrated about the system in the Philippines as long as a) you’re not a public persona or b) if you are, that you keep it to yourself?
In her social media post after the backlash, Lea clarified that she didn’t say ‘p—i—ka!” (swearing at something, in this case, her country) but ‘p—i—’ (swearing at no one in particular). I almost fell off my chair when I saw this post because, yes, there's a difference but, two, did it need to be spelt out?
People on social media are quick to react and take things literally, without pausing to think, evaluate and respond. It also feels like they’re entitled to criticise and judge without realising that they are bashing real people. Words sting ... even if they come from a place of stupidity.
There, I said it. Okay, stupid has evolved into a loose term that it has lost its true meaning. Perhaps ‘ignorant’ is a better term. Thoughtless? Inconsiderate? Or maybe just trolling for the sake of trolling?
There’s so much to love about the Philippines. Filipinos, no matter where they live around the world, will always be devoted to their birth country. It’s the umbilical cord that you can never cut off.
But there’s so much to hate about it, too. Like the fact that it allowed itself to be subjugated for more than 350 years; that it chronically abused the rights of its indigenous peoples and systematically destroyed its natural resources through a litany of inept governments.
Here’s a thought? What if Lea was a man? Would social media react the same way? What if it were the country’s head of state swearing on national TV? Is it okay then?
Dear Lea, it's okay to swear. This won't be the last time you'd be misunderstood and what a heavy price to pay for being in the public domain. But honestly? Your bashers and haters can just go f—k themselves.