Father, forgive me for my blasphemy, but I never bought into the Manny Pacquiao hysteria that happened a few days ago.
But everyone else, it seemed, did.
As a people, we Filipinos are so desperate for heroes that we hastily upgrade to myth any narrative that appears, on the surface, to bring us glory on a national and international stage.
We embrace uncritically the narrative of a poor boy triumphing against the odds, the street urchin-turned-world boxing champion, the troubled youth who used his fists to amass wealth on a scale he’d never dreamed of, expanding his entourage, bedding women, and allegedly siring children in and out of wedlock along the way.
And, of course, he found God in the process, because that is the Filipino way.
We are the Eat Bulaga society so dazzled by celebrities, so consumed by superficialities, and so easily slighted by offenses real and perceived, yet so unwilling to examine with any depth all these things we worship and abhor because we don’t want to confront the truth about who we are as a people.
Manny Pacquiao does deserve to be lauded for his pugilistic prowess. But in our haste to canonize him, we turned him into a demigod, the embodiment of all that we ostensibly value as Filipinos. So we canonized not the man, but the myth. And elected him into public office. Even when it was evident that once you take away the boxing, he wasn’t exactly the smartest cookie in the room. Sincere, perhaps, yes. Humble, sure. Generous, apparently. But intellectually rigorous, analytical, even commonsensical?
We conveniently overlooked his history as a self-confessed womanizer, his propensity to keep dubious company, and his dismal performance as a congressman, during which he voted against the RH Bill, the very thing that could assist in liberating women from crushing poverty.
Thank goodness many of us, including Nike, refuse to overlook this one staggering and unforgivable display of not just his idiocy, but his utter lack of empathy and yes, humanity. Because Manny, the man of the people, actually thinks that some of his fellow Filipinos, not to mention his fellow brothers and sisters in creation—to put a theological spin on it—are sub-human. He is referring to the members of the LGBTQ community, those who are not hetero-normative, those who have sexual relations with their own sex.
They’re worse than animals, he declared. Because there is no homosexuality in the animal kingdom, he claimed. Because the Bible says so, he asserts.
If we ever needed a reason to implement the RH Bill and the K-12 educational system with emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects in their entirety, this is it. To make a statement so spectacularly inaccurate and so offensively wrong on so many levels is to devalue the human essence of those who choose not to identify as straight, and to disrespect their right to love and marry and sleep with whomever they want.
Newsflash: Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers are humans, too and homosexuality does occur among animals, even among our closest zoological relatives, the chimpanzees.
Why is the idea of same-sex marriages so abhorrent to Manny and his ilk that he denounces it in such atavistic terms? Seriously, it’s 2016. Such regressive statements have no place in the civilized world where even the US Supreme Court in a landmark decision last year upheld marriage equality for all, regardless of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
But if Manny does indeed represent the “people,” let’s examine what his statements really reflect about us as a people.
Apart from the obvious—a lack of discernment and enlightenment and a blind reliance on biblical texts that in themselves are laden with contradictions, not to mention a complete disregard for scientific facts and human rights—Manny embodies all the festering hypocrisies that lurk in our psyche.
Despite the fact that we are a society that appears to welcome gays— Manny actually has in his team a publicist who happens to be gay—our acceptance of their “other-ness” is shallow, not substantial. We love the gays, and we tolerate them, not as people, but as entertainment. We love the gay man trope in popular entertainment: He’s amusing, he’s witty, he’s bitchy, he’s hysterical. We allow him to be overweight or reed-thin, to prance about in his pokpok shorts and tank tops and gladiators and fake eyelashes. We even allow him to dress us, decorate our homes, cook our food, and make us beautiful and glamorous. Sometimes, we’re happy to make him the breadwinner or caretaker of our families, as evidenced by the movie Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros.
But heaven forbid that he find a partner that he would like to be legally wed to or start a family with someone of the same sex. Because that forces us to see them not as entertainment, but as humans with dreams, hopes, desires, and sex lives. The reality of a partner forces us to reckon with the fact that they do have sex, just like straight people do. That we shudder at the images that come to mind—and be honest: Who doesn’t wonder, however fleetingly, when meeting a gay couple, how they fuck? Who is the top and who is the bottom, who is the femme and who is the dyke?—belies our innate homophobia.
Why do the unrelenting bigots among us further reduce them and define them solely according to their sexual proclivities? According them, equality in all aspects of life including marriage, inheritance, property ownership, health benefits, and the like does not automatically translate into them actually having sex in public or sticking their tongues down each other’s throats. Oh, for fuck’s sake. Do they really think that once our society accepts same-sex marriages, the gays are going to march en masse to Luneta and host a 24-hour orgy in the Quirino Grandstand, dress code pink, feather boas optional?
Oh, and yes, gay men may have anal sex, but so do straight men and women. Lesbians eat pussy, but so fucking what? There are straight women that experiment with bisexuality. Big deal. Does that make them less than human?
On the contrary, it makes them totally human and totally deserving of respect and the right to live authentic lives with whomever they choose to love and marry.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published earlier this year by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online.When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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Art by Dorothy Guya