— or the life and death of critical discourse.
so carlos celdran takes jim paredes to task for being, in gay lingo, a negatron, i.e., a nega, a negamall, about the philippines. what paredes had said seems irrelevant now, because what came to matter as far as ANC’s Media in Focus panel that included celdran was this: can you blame media for showing just the bad news? isn’t celdran mouthing government rhetoric that says we must see the positive in all these? and was celdran, praytell, correct in saying that there’s something good in GMA, and that well, it’s worth the news? and for the more exciting part, does paredes’ migration to australia matter in any form or manner?
THE GOOD — or why i was with team carlos for a while there.
between celdran and paredes, it is the former that has me listening. this man just has the balls, you know? he publishes what’s on his mind, then takes responsibility for it regardless of the outcome. which is really what made for fascinating viewing as well, of the twitter exchanges and that fateful MIF show.
it’s also quite refreshing to hear someone from the same social class dishing it against his own, and well, not minding being at the receiving end of it. i mean of course it’s easy to dismiss celdran as just a konyo boy, at the same time, he is one who seems more involved than his kind, seems more daring in terms of taking stands and having convictions, and really, he seems to have a better sense of his limitations at the same time that he lives his freedoms.
and so yes, he will critique government at the same time that he will openly campaign for gibo; he gets angry at lisa macuja for saying no to the RH Bill campaign, and celebrates lea salonga for being on his side; he will keep the fire going — as many middle and upper class netizens did — throughout the ondoy tragedy and aftermath, even as he has gone on to talk about other things that are more current and well, that are a little happier.
which is why it’s no surprise that he will say, there must be something good to write about the philippines, here and now, right? we must not want to be negatrons, and instead start building a pinoy identity that’s more positive. we must consider what it is that so many in the world think about us, given what it is they know (or not) about the philippines. so he demands for a balance between the bad and good. he also says there must be something good about GMA, even if it’s just that spanking new train.
but here is where celdran’s limitations become clear.
THE SAD thing isn’t so much that we must even thank GMA for the good news of a train that is her responsibility to renovate to begin with, it’s really that as we thank her for you know, the elevated u-turn on C5 or the highway to Subic, we cannot but imagine who was marginalized in these processes of “development”.
how must it feel to deal with that elevated u-turn, when you are the commuter who’s public transport isn’t allowed to pass on it, and instead must contend with thetraffic it creates beneath it? how must it feel to be the farmer or worker who now has to contend with destroyed mountains and land, plus a highway that’s impossible to cross, in order to maintain a living?
and yes, how do we imagine the train being a fantastic thing when the impoverished that exists in its immediate vicinity are blamed and ostracized, made to feel unworthy of its existence given it’s new beauty?
carlos conde, who was also guest at the MIF panel, has it right: much of the good news we do have is premised on something sad, if not altogether bad. efren penaflorida‘s success is really about poverty and the sad state of education in this country; manny pacquiao‘s athleticism is based on the fact of necessity, and so is charice pempengco‘s singing style and success.
these successes are plenty true, and there are tons of good news, but context — the bigger picture — is all encompassing. the sad truth is that where we do come from, there is no escaping the sadness. and maybe there is no reason to. because the moment we do, then we might forget. and i imagine that forgetting is also the last thing that celdran wants to happen. or paredes for that matter. regardless of whether they live with it everyday or ehem, have it in theirhearts, as filipino-migrant-apple-picker-and-writer Carlos Bulosan already said decades ago.
THE UGLINESS of this all lies really, in the way things were resolved between celdran and paredes. the catfight via twitter was exciting to say the least, but for it to have been resolved beyond the confines of the online world where it had happened, and then for it to just be concluded without explanation or further discussion, seemed like a cop out. it seemed like the quickest life-and-deathof critical discourse as we know it.
it would’ve been great to get the discourse going, on many things that the celdran-paredes argument had raised. there’s media responsibility, the fact that news are chosen, and yes, that there are certain kinds of news that appeals to the international audience. there’s also the question of tourism and world perception and filipino identity. there’s the question of citizenship and migration, and the right to complain, as well as the need to do something about it.
butmaybe the ugliest thing to come of this is the fact that in the end, as spectator, i am made to realize that there is sameness here. both celdran and paredes are actually in the same boat, and when celdran says at least he’s doing something about changing the philippines even as he complains about it, maybe he only thinks himself better than paredes.
because while there is value in celdran’s daring, his limitations are very clear: the status quo is where he’s at. systemic change, making sure that the problems that create a pacquiao and a penaflorida and a pempengco, an ondoy and extrajudicial killings and an impoverished majority, is not his point here. his is a band-aid, a way of making the healing of wounds a little faster and a little less painful, which is noble in itself. but this won’t keep the wounds from not being inflicted again, won’t make for real change at all.
in that sense, while he is no negatron like paredes, and while he has stayed in the philippines instead of making a big deal about migrating elsewhere, and while there is value in the ways in which he wears his heart on his sleeve, celdran doesn’t seem to be any different from paredes when and where it matters.
maybe that’s good enough for him. and maybe that’s not ugly after all. it’s just downright sad.