Saturday, April 30, 2011


LET'S FACE IT: Filipinos love gaming in social networking. It's primarily one of the reasons why Facebook became so popular suddenly in the Philippines (and sealed Friendster's fate forever in cyberhell). In fact, I'd bet that of 10 people reading this post right now, 9 are gamers in Facebook. Whatcha playin'? We played it all, right? We couldn't agree more -- Friends for Sale, Pet Society, FarmTown, YoVille, Farmville, Mafia Wars, Texas Hold 'Em Poker, Cafe World -- we've been there, done that. But one game that's been taking over the gaming world in Facebook is Cityville.

Yes. Since it was launched in December 2010, Cityville skyrocketed in popularity with 100,000 users worldwide in its premiere day and 84.2 million users in just one month. Included in this number are millions of Filipinos who operate and maintain their own community in Cityville. I admit being addicted to Cityville since December last year but for good reasons. Somehow, it's popularity has some societal implications which interested me that's why I kept on playing the game to find out what these implications are.

Cityville allows you to create and supervise your own city like a mayor. You get to be in charge of the means of production such as farms and factories. You get to control trade through trains and shipping. As mayor, you can also decide which business establishments to establish and operate so that you can have continuous source of income for your community. You get to approve new housing units and where they will be built and how they will look like. Of course, are bad characters too. There's the Meowing Marauder and Billy the Bandit; but as mayor, you can take them down by providing security courtesy of the police. You get to keep your city safe and attract visitors and tourists to spend their coins in many of your city's sites and shops. Amazing isn't it? Indeed.

FILIPINOS: Ditching these scenes for Cityville.
Which is contrary to what Filipinos face in their daily lives.

Everyday, Filipinos put up with bad news in the community: rampant crime, high prices of commodities, corruption of government officials, etc. We look around and see the grim reality of the life in our locality -- people living in shanties, crowded schools, squalid surroundings. These are things that are being courageously faced and resolved by a few, brave Filipinos. However, I could say that most of us would like to live a fantasy rather than face the harsh realities of life. That's why after a day's work, we log on to our computer and make ourselves the mayor of our own fantasy world in Cityville. Here, we are our own boss. Here, where strawberries grow in 5 minutes and traffic is almost a myth, we could savor a few ours of good community living and forget about how hard our own lives are. I wonder if this is a good thing? Could it be?

I'd hate to say this being a Cityville gamer myself, but this is the truth. We'd rather spend our time living a fantasy than pour the rest of our day to things bigger than ourselves. In this day and age where we need more active citizens than passive ones, we need to be doing the opposite. For a change, let's keep our hands off the PC and read a storybook to our child about heroes of the past, or pick up the broom and sweep the trash on our sidewalks. How about calling or visiting our neighbors and organizing a potluck on Labor Day? Is it really that hard? I don't think so.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not forcing everyone to quit playing Cityville. All I'm pointing out here is that it shouldn't be our life. While we waste 12 or 24 hours of our time asking for donuts, harvesting corn or collecting goods, our whole life is passing by behind us. In the end, you may have reached level 80 of Cityville but you'll never reach a higher level in your life being a sociopath, Cityville addict. An hour or a half would be enough. Being a citizen in real life requires even more. TSS

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I saw in the news today that fastfood giant McDonald's pulled down their new ad after receiving flak from Church leaders, particularly, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The advertisement (as shown above) shows a young girl asking a young boy if she is his girlfriend, to which the boy answers, “Ayoko nga. Hindi pa ako ready. Demanding ang mga girlfriend. Gusto ganito, gusto ganyan (I don’t want to. I’m not ready. Girlfriends are demanding. They want this, they want that)."

In a statement from Caloocan Bishop Deogracias IƱiguez, he said that “[the commercial gives] the wrong message to children that it’s all right to enter into courtship, and it could pave the way for the very young to be lax and carefree.". The CBCP, through its spokesperson Father Melvin Castro, said in an interview over Radio Veritas, that the ad must be replaced because "it plays with kids’ emotions and cheapens relationships."

Now, I've watched this commercial for the nth time and everyone would agree that the commercial is really cute. Who wouldn't chuckle at the sight of two kids mirroring in a cute and cheeky way what adults find difficult to talk about? But from a moral perspective, the Church does seem to have a point. A young girl asking a young boy if she is his girlfriend does promote entering into early relationships which the Church finds as a dangerous precedent for young kids. From a gender sensitive perspective, it also connotes that women are demanding when it comes to relationships and that men are afraid of commitments.

But, reading between the lines, the advertisement also sends a more positive point -- a point which I think the Church and other detractors of the commercial seem to be missing out. “Ayoko nga. Hindi pa ako ready. Demanding ang mga girlfriend. Gusto ganito, gusto ganyan." Could it be that the young boy is also promoting physical and emotional readiness before entering a relationship? Could it be sending a message to young kids like them that they shouldn't enter in a relationship when they are not yet ready? Could be. But the point has already been missed and the ad is now off-air.

What complicated the matter for McDonald's is that the storytelling of the advertisement itself is misleading. It wants to impart a good message to kids, but the ending imparts an entirely different one. If the commercial could've ended by showing the two kids, all grown-up and now in a relationship, sharing in a heap of McDo fries, it could've have been a happy ending for the company and for the CBCP. The message they'll be sending therefore is that true love waits. The message would have been entirely consistent if closed in a such a way.

But another interesting matter in this issue is the Church being vocal all of a sudden when it was entirely quiet throughout the recent Janjan Controversy in TV5's Willing Willie variety show. It's also surprising that Church is speaking out against early relationships and yet continues to disapprove the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, when the latter is also against early relationships through promotion of sexual education. I am aghast at this somewhat double standard on the part of the Church. It's good that the Church spoke in this issue -- and made a point -- but looking back at their stand against the RH Bill, do they really have the credibility to make such point?

In the end, an advertisement, no matter how short, can convey a variety of values to its viewers. As I've said in my previous article, the responsibility of extracting values from what we see on TV does not only lie on the viewers and their parents but on the producers themselves, who must ensure that they are conveying the right message on air. TSS

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Willie and child/TV Grab
Variety shows have been part of our lunch time since the boob tube became a popular way of spending pastime here in the Philippines. It’s multi-million dollar entertainment industry that has become popular to both the poor masses and rich advertisers. It has built up the careers of many stars in the limelight today and remains one of the foundations of income for the major television networks.

But more than these, imagine what one or two hours of your daily variety show can do to someone’s values? You might think its simply entertainment, but that sort of statement would likely come from the more discriminating mind. For the common person, whose mindset has been filled with a gooey mess of oil price hikes, corruption scandals, low salaries and family crisis, it could do a lot – big time in fact!

Take the case of Janjan, the kid who’s making headlines this week after he appeared teary-eyed in Willing Willie while give his best macho dancing stunt on national TV to the coaxing of his parents and the show’s charismatic host. To the discriminating mind, what Willie Revillame did was outright child abuse. No wonder why the flak of bad press came from no other than the experts, scholars and the educated masses. But to people like Janjan’s parents, the immediate response was in support of the embattled show and its host. People, whose only hope for little boost in livelihood is variety shows, will definitely become instant apologetics of the industry. And that is a result of daily values formation from shows like Willing Willie, Eat Bulaga and the likes.

Imagine what variety shows are teaching us. If you see scantily-clad women dancing vigorously and provocatively on live television, what does this teach to our not so discriminating minds? Precisely. That its okay for women to show off their bodies on public in a malicious and temptuous manner. That’s its okay for women to make a living out of exposing their bodies. And if children are being asked to dance the same way, with a promise of a sumptuous reward after, what does it teach to their not so discriminating minds? That its okay at a young age to dance provocatively and earn a living from it. That kid could possibly think of becoming a macho dancer at age 18 and forgo plans of taking vocational courses and become a productive welder or sales manager. That kid could end up becoming a pimp at age 38, forcing other male teens to do the same as he did.

Imagine what variety shows justify in our already damaged values system. That it is okay to have plenty of children since they can always work for us and I don’t have to worry about getting a job at 40, that its okay to exploit women and children, and that its okay to queue in variety shows everyday instead of loaning funds for a small, profitable business or to apply for job.

Variety shows justifies beggar mentality and human rights abuse.

But don’t get me wrong. Variety shows weren’t supposed to be this way. They are supposed to help people help themselves, not help people exploit themselves and others. In the end, it was just a matter of a wrong values system both for the parents of Janjan and Willie Revillame. The show’s suspension and possible cancellation does not change the system. Variety shows will still be in question, and will still affect our values, just as everything we see on TV. The challenge now lies with the producers of these variety shows: what kind of values would you like to impart to your viewers? You cannot simply show anything you want and leave to your viewers the task of extracting whatever values they can get from behind the “parental guidance” label. Remember that majority of your viewers do not a have a very discriminating mind and do not always receive parental guidance. The bulk of responsibility in censoring and screening your content lies greatly in your hands.

Despite its glitz and glamour, the variety show industry could use some substance. I’ll be hoping for a positive response as the Janjan issue rests its case. TSS

Monday, April 4, 2011

Deja Vu: How Ondo Perez could be another Rolando Mendoza

Manobo clan leader Ondo Perez/AP
The Aquino government hasn't even reached its first anniversary in office and yet it is being taken hostage once more, this time by a group of armed Manobo tribesmen. On Friday, the group abducted 14 people including two minors in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. The group is demanding the release of their leader, Ondo Perez, who himself was involved in the hostage-taking of another 79 people back in November 2009.

This fresh hostage-taking incident is a test case in the Aquino government's response to such crisis. One wrong move and this could end up like the fatal Quirino Grandstand incident which killed 8 Hong Kong nationals and strained Filipino-Chinese relations. The action which I am most concerned about is the government's reliance on the same group of negotiators who mediated the November 2009 hostage-taking incident. Negotiators didn't keep their promise by arresting Perez and his followers after they freed the hostages. With the same group of crooks mediating this crisis, we could expect more trouble than solutions.

What I hope the Aquino government could look into is a genuine, long-term and sustainable response to the demands of the hostage-takers. Obviously, the hostage-taking in 2009 and now stemmed from the rivalry between Perez's clan and that of Joel Tubay, another Manabo tribal leader, over ownership of ancestral lands reported to be rich in wood and mineral resources. I think both tribes are being pitted against each other thereby benefiting mining and logging companies who have interests in the area. A sincere approach to this crisis would be to ensure that the Perez and Tubay clans as well as other stakeholders are represented well in talks about a possible land distribution deal. Once each clan is given its fair share of land, full pledge assistance should be given to these families so that they can make a profitable and sustainable livelihood out of these lands. Their interest should not be given up for the sake of scrupulous mining and logging companies and the dynasties which support them.

In the end, I hope for the safe release of the hostages who are mostly teachers like me. It sickens me to hear that teachers, with simple lives and meager salaries are being used once more as bargaining chips in this kind of gunpoint diplomacy. I hope the hostages could reason their way out of this crisis and use the law to their advantage instead of putting it in their own hands. I hope the negotiators would have the heart to reach out genuinely to these poor, afflicted people.

Nothing is resolved through the barrel of a gun.

Sources: The Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Daily Tribune and GMA News Online
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