Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Appraised or Exploited?

Appraised or Exploited?

(Notes after the lives behind the
 Carrot Guy from Benguet,
the Bajau Lass from Zamboanga,
and the Old Tattoo Artist from Kalinga)

"I think it’s partly because of how underrepresented people are represented, and how their narratives are framed. Many people were surprised with Badjao Girl’s beauty (even if she’s more of a Zamboangena.) Many people were surprised at Carrot Man’s looks despite his job. After their photos went viral, they were given opportunities to work and to study, and many people said they should be “grateful” for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to pursue their dreams."

"Whang Od has become a sensation and people from all walks of life come to get a tattoo from her. She says that tour guides exploit Whang Od, tourists were not disciplined, hundreds line up to get a tattoo from Whang Od and she feels that she will die of exhaustion from this as she cannot even take a good break to eat her meal."

Reading those notes makes one would feel a sense of unease.

That, amidst praising their beauty or their contributions in culture, it seems that most people sees them as a trend, of making a person, particularly from an indigenous tribe and yet appeared as handsome or pretty be deemed impressive and hence be given a taste of "Civilisation" reminiscent of Worcester's exploits, of fame to appease the people, be it in one's country or even the world in case of Elizalde and his discovery of the "Tasaday", or even the Human Zoos of long ago, being shown to the people for a curiosity. That their culture as but trend to be paid for a few bucks, or that their beauty as one of the examples of tropical exoticism being featured all from the papers to the internet.

It may find it interesting to see these personages as examples of trying to uplift from hardships, of recognising their culture, of being part of those that molded the Filipino identity like Tagalogs, Moros, or Visayans. But as the concerned remembered the past wherein the indigenous being used as an object of curiosity with all of its exoticism, where the so-called "civilised" could inspect the "primitives" that represented the counterbalance to "Civilisation" justifying Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden", does it translate to help or upliftment? Elizalde's "Tasaday" exploits once showed that there are tribes that were not been reached by civilisation. Of course he provided "help" but those times he has benefited in allowing them to be "displayed" as any other tribespeople whose communities being exploited as such.

And perhaps in reading those notes such as those featured in the page "When in Manila" would somehow made the concerned asked if there should be artsy-like pictures and seducious faces coming from these communities in need of help and empowerment be deemed prerequisites to have so-called "sustainable and pro people" development for these dispossessed people not just these familiar faces? Of having them first be in magazines or various pages all garbed with modernity before providing them what they yearned based from their statements. No wonder this country is been treated by its inhabitants as a third world meme. The concerned pity the ones called handsome yet repressed. The Carrot guy represented those who desired for land to till if not communities to be sustainably improved, the Bajau lass wanted education.
When people fetishise that Bajau lass, Carrot Man, or any other personages coming from displaced communities, of profiting people like Whang Od and its crafts, while casually overlooking the issues behind these beings, people rather leave behind the systemic oppression against Indigenous Peoples and minimum wage earners.

Such nonsense brought by the system through commodifying the dispossessed made the concerned ask: are they really helping these displaced and repressed? They simply yearned for help on behalf of their kind, but people focused heavily in their beauteous appearances and thinking about short-term careers far from their initial long-term desires.
In other words, Non penetrated porn as they looked at the pictures of those folks as if they are being ripped off their clothes, and negated their dreams and aspirations in life and be replaced by a cosmetic impressions. Or in case of Whang Od, be exploited without consideration of her age, of having their heritage be reduced to a mere aesthetic.

Anyways, soon, there will be another viral story of another photo of another Internet celebrity coming from the dispossessed sectors of the society. Be it from the Indigenous Communities to the Undocumented settlers in the cities, of old aged personages trying to keep their heritage to young yet fresh faces yearning for simple yet serious desires for upliftment, Here’s to hoping that people should be more reflexive with their reactions especially in seeing such faces or crafts, more sensitive to others’ struggles in life and its desires for social justice, and more critical of the complex politics of representation, knowing that these people are like all others in a goddamned country: exploited and disenfranchised by an unjust socioeconomic and cultural order.