Boxers, Beauty Queens and Bugaw na Gobyerno

We need to struggle against the prostitution of our nation. All this preposterous government is doing is to sell our people out. In the diversion of psychic ping-pong, our morale is at the losing end.

By JPaul Manzanilla

In the rare times that I am able to watch primetime news there is always the struggle between the same things being churned out by the tube and the uneasiness over things to come after all the catastrophes.

Good News: World-class Filipinos!

I was watching GMA 7’s 24 Oras evening of Oct. 3. News of a Filipina beauty queen who has quenched the nation’s thirst for another title dominated the broadcast. Miss International Precious Lara Quigaman arrived from competition and the local press was on a rampage. There she was beaming with pride, simultaneously boosting testosterone levels and goading envy of male and female viewers.

The recent victory of boxers Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, Brian Viloria and Ray “Boom Boom” Bautista in different boxing competitions followed the beauty pageant report. It was a rare feat this time so the Manila city government paraded the three warriors on the streets outside the city hall on the way to Malacañang. At the Palace grounds, Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo praised Pacquiao, Viloria and Bautista for once again raising high the Filipino morale in these trying times.

Both tales dramatize the labor to win. We see how athletes and beauty queens stand to represent the nation in their great battles abroad. Making the best out of the human body, Quigaman, Pacquiao, Viloria and Bautista are on a voyage to beat the odds. And they have endured.

Bad news: The losing story

For what else can be taken to mean by all these images?

For the past few months, there is a general feeling among the people that all is lost. The President cheated her way to electoral victory and was able to maneuver herself out of the crisis for the moment. Oil prices have continually risen that it has become routine for public transport drivers to ask for fare increases and the poor majority to protest in anger. A de facto dictatorship is in place in the guise of the calibrated preemptive response policy. Hindi lang talo. Ligalig ang mamamayan, ‘ika nga. This type of bad news initially tops ratings but later on become losing stories of a corrupt republic.

What do these images want?

I think the sense of loss and failure is what is being evaded here. Television capitalizes on dramas of competition, triumphs, failures, and endurance. After all the mishaps, the Filipino spirit has to be soothed by episodes of victory. Bad news and good news are being broadcast simultaneouslyto neutralize events, and thus, to defuse the tensions confronting the social order. More than this formula people are coached to recognize skills, talents and labors after our fellow countrymen have won abroad. Isn’t it fitting to reward hard work not there but here, in the midst of all the efforts to survive? Do we have to wait for outsiders to appreciate our kababayan before we give credit where credit is due? Aren’t we becoming master mimics of this world when we triple the praise for those who have won the master’s game? More importantly, is success possible here in our very country?

This is reactionary. We need to know the real story.

Unable to provide decent jobs for poor rural folks, young men from the countryside resort to boxing in hope that an agent might discover and bring them to the capital and finally build their careers up for boxing superstardom. Boxing contests are brutal; many die because of unprofessional game conduct. With regards beauty queens, it is common knowledge that many become hapless victims of sexual harassment. The modern Filipina women being sent as representatives in pageants – pretty, sexy and witty – are effectively, if political correctness be told, anti-modern. They are, despite and because of high social stature, exploited to strengthen and not demolish patriarchal standards of femininity. And we all believe that Filipina women have gone a long way from being servants and sex objects. As Filipinos adore such images, becoming ideal citizens of this spectator republic, television and the rest of the profit-driven media benefit from this racket.


These are not new – or more precisely – not news anymore.

We need to struggle against the prostitution of our nation. All this preposterous government is doing is to sell our people out. In the diversion of psychic ping-pong, our morale is at the losing end. And the rhetoric of “good news” in popular consciousness must be countered by critical reception. What needs to be examined are the means with which the people work through the hardships of everyday living – skills, talents, intelligence, hard work, innovations, ingenuity, small acts of kindness – that are to be reworked from token appreciations to collective heroism. The myth of the human essence beating against the odds must be rebuked for this can only mean that the Filipino triumphs because he is simply Filipino. “Winning” stories are after all stories of endurance.

Amidst the failings in this nation of boxers, beauty queens and a bugaw government, our daily struggle to survive should be a movement toward a far better order we stake to inherit.


JPaul Manzanilla teaches in the Department of Arts and Communication of the University of the Philippines Manila. (

Share This Post