My partner has greenlighted me, despite my misgivings. “Blogs are for rants.”
His comment is in response to my hesitancy to write about the most recent coverage of Filipinos, and the Philippines. It’s the time of year for mainstream media outlets to hype the group of Filipino men nailing themselves to wooden crosses. Each year, around Easter, the story appears in countless news cycles (the previous links are only a sample of more than 300 news reports). Each year, the story exoticizes Filipinos for Western audiences. Each year, the same “Gee whiz, what kind of crazies are over there?” thoughts flash across ignorant minds who do not recognize the story as a small, extreme band of worshippers.
The trouble with the story is not in the faithful worshippers themselves; it is in the annual coverage of the event and the lack of balance in reporting non-sensational Philippine issues. Why doesn’t Reuters or The Huffington Post cover the ongoing problems of sex workers in the Philippines (and the inherent relationship to Western tourists), rather than the twenty-three extremists who “crucified” themselves in the Northern provinces of Pampanga? How does a feature about Imelda Marcos running for office (again) trump coverage of Philippine poverty and abhorrent conditions, created in part by its Amerian imperialist roots?
A quick search of the BBC News found at least one image to balance the incessant sensationalism of the Filipino men who nailed themselves to crosses: this photograph of activists in Makati, the wealthiest area of Manila, raising awareness for the more than 27.6 million poor. According to the UN, the human development in the Philippines has remained stagnant under current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This, it seems to me, is more distressing news that affects millions and millions of Filipinos more than a handful of religious extremists.
The perpetuation of the Philippines, its ongoing exoticism and othering, is clear in its coverage of Philippine outliers like these men–or even a recent viral news story of these Philippine prisoners dancing to pop songs (not to mention the exoticization of champion boxer Manny Pacquiao).
When will mainstream news outlets weigh the national issues of a country more heavily than its entertainment value?