Thursday, October 11, 2007

ABC/ Desperate Housewives' slur on Filipino medical education

(See for a backgrounder on this.)

I agree with Tony Abaya's post below, but the cultural wars here in the U.S. have made each ethnic group more politically sensitive and ready to defend their rights. I posit that the neoconservatives attacks on "illegals" and "illegal immigration" to detract from the Iraq debacle and economic impacts of NAFTA have triggered defensive stances from ethnic groups. Am-Fils and other other Asian Americans will not, in this day and age, accept or tolerate widespread and institutionalized discrimination again (such as the attacks on Filipino labor in the U.S., the Japanese-American WWII internment camps, the Chinese exclusion act, the almost 300 racial attacks after Sept. 11, etc.). Asian Americans and Hispanics are organizing themselves. There have been many protests and campaigns launched against racist media personalities. The Asian Media Watch and the Asian American Journalists Association are organizations that monitor ethnic slurs in media. They have good track records. Let us also not forget the ongoing suffering of Dr. Chua. See:

Good Men Deserve To Have Their Day In Court: Dr. Noel Chua's Case

The other point is that Am-Fils and Filipinos are increasingly spending a lot of time online. Their presence and membership in online communities can only but increase over time. This is a phenomenon that should be noted and studied. With their talent and available online time and their how they are connecting with one another, their online presence will be something to contend with in the future. The Malu Fernandez saga, the online petition and the e-bombardment of are clear examples.

Third, we need to encourage more Filipinos and Am-Fils to be more aggressive in defending their rights as an ETHNIC COMMUNITY. Meekness in this day and age, especially when other groups, are pushing their agendas to our detriment, can be disastrous. This is a good exercise in demanding governance, which can and should be replicated in the Philippines.

Lastly, if we consider Filipino doctors/ medicine as a brand, the DH slur has economic and professional implications. As Rodel Rodis noted, the Philippines is promoting itself as a medical tourism destination. The slur undermines this global effort. ABC and its Marc Cherry should not get off lightly with an apology and an offer to "explore" ways in which Filipinos can enter show business. Let some economists and lawyers calculate the damage in dollar and lost opportunities terms. That should be the starting point of negotiations. Let us be prepared when we meet with ABC.

Yes, we have the Recto diploma mills, the nursing scandal, and the occasional grumpy/lazy medical person, but that is nothing compared to the tens of thousands of competent, dedicated, and nurturing Filipino doctors, nurses, and medical technical staff all over the world.


Antonio Abaya wrote:

Our Image

By Antonio C. Abaya

Written on Oct. 15, 2007

For the Standard Today,

October 16 issue

A country’s image abroad is created by a combination of fortuitous events and how its people react to those events, and deliberate efforts to enhance or destroy an image that has been created.

In the past 20 years or so, the most positive image that the Philippines and the Filipinos have projected of themselves abroad was the People Power of February 1986, in which hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians stared down the tanks and machineguns of a two-bit dictator for four magnificent days AND WON.

It was a watershed event in modern world history and contributed immensely to the triumphs of other unarmed peoples around the world in their confrontations with their tormentors, principally the largely peaceful collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989, the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa in 1991, and the implosion later that year of the ‘evil empire’ that was the Soviet Union.

In 1986, Filipinos basked in the adulation of the rest of the world. We were proud to be Filipinos and we held our heads up high as we have never done before, or since. Those of us who were privy to the information were confident that our beloved Cory Aquino was on her way to being formally recognized by the world community with the most sought-after honor on the planet, for which she had been nominated..

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988. Mrs. Aquino freed from detention the communist leader Jose Ma. Sison in 1987, over the objections of the military who had spent countless lives and treasure in hunting him down.

Mrs. Aquino no doubt followed her Pollyanna-ish gut instinct that if she were nice to Joma and his communists, they would in turn be nice to her and wind down their Maoist revolution.

Nothing like that, of course, happened. Joma showed his gratitude by going into exile in Europe and, from his base in Utrecht (Holland), waging a campaign among Europe’s generally leftist media to depict Cory in the most despicable terms as a human rights violator and, being the most visible part-owner of Hacienda Luisita, a holdover of feudalism.

It was a formidable demolition job and not all the novenas and supplications on bended knees of her Prayer Brigade saved the day for Cory, and she lost out to some relative unknown in Costa Rica.

The point of all this is to demonstrate that we Filipinos are our own worst enemies. We have a bad image because our political leaders, from Marcos to the present, have given us so few pluses to be proud of, and so many minuses to be ashamed of.

After the highs of People Power in 1986, it was downhill all the way. Consider the images that we have projected since then: Imelda’s 3,000 pairs of shoes; 30-push-ups punishment for coup leaders in December 1986; Gringo’s coup attempts against Cory in 1987 and 1989; Smokey Mountain as an iconic image of the country; ten-hour daily power outages in 1991-1992; massive electoral cheating in 1992, 1995, 2004 and 2007; a criminally inclined ignoramus as president; the only country with two (Marcos and Erap) “most corrupt leaders’ in the Guinness Book of World Records; cheating over age-limits in the Little League softball championship in the US; the ‘Hello Garci’ tapes in 2005; Joc Joc Bolante in 2006; cheating in the nurses’ exams in 2006; “most corrupt country in Asia” in 2007; the ZTE scandal in 2007; etc.. Is there no end to our humiliation?

It is in this context that I bring up the battering that our image has suffered in American pop culture in recent days.

While I agree with the 85,000 Fil-Ams and Filipinos who signed an internet protest demanding an apology from ABC for the slur against Philippine med schools that one of the characters in ‘Desperate Housewives’ uttered in one episode, I am surprised at the vehemence of the protest.

Only three or four years ago, two American radio jockeys - one of them Howard Stearn, I do not recall the other’s name – broadcast some really vicious and nasty remarks against Filipinos: Filipinos are good-for-nothings, unlike the Japanese, the Koreans and the Chinese, whom Filipinos try to pass themselves off as their ‘fellow Asians.’. Or many, many more words to that effect. Compared to which, a snide one-liner about our med school seems petty. Yet there was no massive internet outcry against it. Was it because it was ‘only’ on radio, not on primetime TV?

Not having watched a single episode of ‘Desperate Housewives,’ I cannot vouch for the counter-argument that the show has also made digs at Chinese, Jews, Blacks and other minorities. As if two Wongs can make a White. If this is so, then mainstream US TV may be rebelling against the prissy cult of political correctness, a trend long noticeable in the routines of stand-up American comedians outside primetime TV.

I have a sneaking suspicion that that snide remark was inserted by a Filipino or a Fil-Am writer or researcher in the producer’s staff. Implicit in that remark was some familiarity with our very own University of Recto, where one can buy a diploma for any degree. Most Americans would not know that. Most Filipinos and many Fil-Ams would.

As for scrawling the word “Slut!” on Cory Aquino’s portrait, this was unforgivable, not only because it was offensive, but also because it was not funny at all. I do watch John Stewart and ‘The Daily Show.’ And I do enjoy the clowning and ribbing against George W, Uncle Dick and the other neo-cons. But sometimes, the humor is flat, forced and not worth a fiddler’s fart. This was one such case.

In the context of the episode – Is America Ready for a Woman President? - Jon Stewart seems to be saying that it is not, and does so by mocking three women leaders: Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Cory Aquino.

Scrawling ‘Slut’ on Cory’s portrait is the comedic equivalent of scrawling ‘Genius!’ on George W’s portrait, to emphasize the opposite of the word as it applies to the subject. Using the word ‘Slut’ on Cory Aquino, however, reveals a poverty of comedic imagination, and the writer should be sacked for his failure to be funny at all. *****

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