One Beauty Queen & Eight Dead Tourists

by Ninotchka Rosca

If one question were to define the character of your people and if two events were to be pivotal in defining the character of your nation – what question and what events would you choose? Maria Venus Raj, 22-year-old Miss Philippines contender for the Miss Universe crown, likely did not anticipate she would be at the center of the above-mentioned situations. The question that became a character definition, not only for her but for her entire country mates, was whether she had committed a big mistake and what she did to correct it. Ms. Raj replied candidly that she’d never had a major, major problem and thanked her family for guiding her – not in perfect English, granted, but neither unintelligible nor incomprehensible either. I’ve heard worse from winners and losers alike.

Ms. Raj placed fourth and thereby became the object of intense criticism, and a cause for a general self-abnegation on her country people’s part, as if she herself, not the judges, chose Miss Mexico for the title. Or as though this was and will be the only chance at a beauty title for the Philippines.

Worse, ex-cop Rolando Miranda decided in the same week to hold hostage a busload of Chinese tourists and allegedly killed eight of them before offing himself. I say allegedly because with all those bullets flying, I prefer to wait for the forensics.

One beauty queen and eight dead tourists then merged into an absurd symbol of the character of the entire nation called the Philippines and an entire people called Filipinos – to wit, that they are flubbers, fumblers, incompetent, corrupt, stupid, murderous, etc.

And now there are rallies in Hong Kong with the Chinese demanding apology, compensation, etc., etc. It shouldn’t surprise us when, at some point, there’s a demand that the Philippine government reinstate the ZTE broadband project, which was scuttled for corruption under the previous regime.

Filipinos themselves are adding fuel to the fire by blaming Ms. Raj (in lieu of the judges who, btw, were never asked why they chose Miss Mexico), not even understanding the source of their own anger, which in my view is our common perspective on OFWs: bring home the bacon or else… Ms. Raj was born overseas of an OFW mother and an Indian father, hence by legacy is cloaked by the same expectations of OFW women. Give those of us at home what we want or die trying.

Filipinos as well add to the fury over the eight dead Chinese tourists by immediately blaming one another, passing the buck, falling to their knees and smashing their foreheads on the floor in self-abnegation.

Get a grip, people. The Philippines has had and will have beauty titles galore. Beauty contests are judged on the basis of (1) how close to Western beauty models a girl is; (2) how appealing she and her country are to those looking for product endorsers; and (3) whether there’s a political and commercial advantage to recognizing her country.

Get a grip as well, people and P-noy, re: the eight dead tourists. While it is proper to apologize for this unfortunate end to this murderous madman’s actions, enough already with the kowtowing and feeling bad and blaming yourselves. Hong Kong never apologizes for the cruel and sometimes murderous treatment of Filipina domestic workers; nor did Beijing apologize for the crazed guy who hacked Filipino father and daughter tourists. If the Chinese feel it’s too dangerous to go to the Philippines, then tell them to go elsewhere.

For the sake of the nation’s self-respect, stop acting like the country with its 100 million population is a beauty title contestant and/or a Chinese suzerainty. –

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