been living under a rock, or just in the midst of book production and thesis writing, that i only realized people were finally angry with Bench for their darn sexy ads when the Philippine Volcanoes’ images (the National Rugby Team for you) were removed from the Guadalupe northbound stretch of billboards. Now know that on this stretch I have seen too much of Kris Aquino, strangely photoshopped Calayan beauty clients, and recently fully-clad Bench boys doing pretend-dancing, that when i saw photos online of the Philippine Volcanoes’ billboards i was overwhelmed with regret: why oh why did i NOT see that when it was up?
yes i am exaggerating (sort of), because really, from afar (and i mean zoomed out on my computer screen) those billboards looked no different from the other fictional men i’ve seen top naked, o sige na nga, bottom na rin kung naka-brip lang. i mean at this point we’ve seen them all topless: Piolo, Dingdong, Aljur, Derek, and the question could only be: what was wrong with the Volcanoes? or the Azkals for that matter. before the uproar, there was that Century Tuna billboard of Phil Younghusband, topless; and the Ally Borromeo billboard on southbound Guadalupe, about which all i thought was: baket naka-pucker ang lips ni kuya?
but the straight men in government weren’t looking at these men’s faces, and for the Philippine Volcanoes it was their lower halves that was reason for offense. when i say straight men i mean Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos, Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian who covered his nieces’ eyes when they passed through EDSA lest they see the men in briefs, as well as MMDA chair Francis Tolentino. which does beg the question: bakit ngayon lang? not even related to all the skimpily-clad women in billboards, but in the context of all those other men we’ve seen in briefs before?
ah, the truth of the matter is in MMDA assistant general manager for planning Tina Velasco’s words:
bulging crotches! voluptuousness! the straight men in government might not have wanted to articulate it, but they knew of it enough to take offense. and in which case it seems that they don’t mind bulging (augmented and otherwise) boobs, or the woman’s crotch since walang bulge ‘yon? they don’t mind women’s and men’s come-hither looks no matter how voluptuous, as long as walang bulge? got it.
that this reeks of gender politics is the foregone conclusion, but the more important assessment has to take into consideration the gay gaze, the one that the liberated men of the Philippine Volcanoes and the Azkals, and every metrosexual man in between, have ceased to mind. if all i saw in the Borromeo billboard were his puckered lips, and if all i thought when i finally saw those boys of the Volcanoes in their underwear is: ang babata naman ng mga ito! then i obviously ain’t its market, as it might be every kafatid, vekz, vekla who passes through EDSA.
call me a girl but i will swoon at a man’s eyes on a billboard (Derek Ramsey’s), and his moreno smile (Jericho Rosales’), and his silliness (John Lloyd Cruz) fully clothed as he might be. kebz sa kung may abs siya o wala.
oh, but Mayor Gatchalian insists that his goal is to:
Regulate everything regardless of gender. Again, it’s for the good of the general public… I will push for stronger regulation and censorship of billboards. Gov’t should regulate ads irregardless of gender.
sige sir, lagpasan ko muna ang paggamit mo ng salitang irregardless, i want to know if you cover your nieces’ eyes when you pass billboards of skin whitening products and boob jobs. no seriously, sir. because that is our little girls’ enemies if the goal is to bring them up confident in themselves, with as little superificiality as possible, comfortable in their own skins. whitening in the land of morena skin, beauty clinics in the the third world? that is what’s ultimately problematic about our billboards; celebrities who are white to begin with selling whitening products? that is the lie little girls will grow up believing.
at least with a real man’s body on a billboard — bulge and all — they won’t grow up afraid of the crotch. unless those are the kinds of little girls we want to bring up: afraid of men, afraid of her own brown skin, afraid of being themselves? que horror.
meanwhile let me end with this: if we’re against bulges and suggestive images here let’s be clear what the rules are. because the ad board is right: if we’re selling briefs, then damn it show me the body that will wear them! so dear straight government official, pray tell: how big is an acceptable boob? because you know a D-cup looks obviously augmented, but so do C-cups in the land of Asian women. and how big is the acceptable bulge, given the fact it would seem strange for bulges to be missing, in tight fit jeans or board shorts, and i’m sure you don’t want your kind to look castrated, yes? and while we’re at it, how seductive can the eyes be? are puckered lips now disallowed? how about men’s hands? because you know i find those sexy.
and then there’s this question, one that i truly wonder about: should we remove men’s feet from billboards altogether?
because you know what they say about big feet.
all photos via benchtm.com.