Ellen Tordesillas

Confronted with brutal realities, what do Filipinos do?

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Forty-four members of the Special Action Force, the elite group of the Philippine National Police, were killed by the rebel Muslim group the Aquino government has signed a peace agreement with. Yet, social media denizens are in an impassioned discussion over Philippine Miss Universe pageant candidate MJ Lastimosa’s “cake gown.”


Last Jan. 26, Direk Joey Reyes posted this in his Facebook wall: “Dear Janet, Now you can be at ease. There is another woman more hated than you in the Philippines. Take care.”

Janet, of course, is Janet Napoles, the pork barrel queen through whom senators and congressmen robbed billions of the people’s money.

Thinking it was Social Services Secretary Dinky Soliman, who rounded up almost 500 destitute families in Pasay and Manila and brought them away from the sight of Pope Francis and the foreign press during the Papal visit two weeks ago, I commented, “Korek, Direk.”

Reading the other comments, I realized the subject of the post was Stella Marquez-Araneta, head of Binibining Pilipinas Charities, organizers of beauty pagents in the country to select candidates for the Miss Universe, Miss International and other beauty pageants.

Marquez-Araneta was being bashed for preferring a Colombian over Filipino fashion designers to do the gown for Philippine candidates to the international beauty pageants.

Binibining Pilipinas Mary Jean Lastimosa, she with the perfect body and the “bomb walk”, made it to the Top Ten but not to the Top Five. A big disappointment for beauty-contest fanatic Filipinos. Blame was heaped on the national costume designed by Colombian Alfredo Barraza, which was dubbed as the “cake gown” because it was festooned with what looked like flower cake icings. The gown was really ugly.

The discussion was spirited and amusing.

The media headlines last Jan. 26 was the massacre of members of elite SAF in Mamasapano, Maguindanao by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which happened the day before, early morning of Sunday. They were in a mission to capture Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias ”Marwan” and Basit Usman, a Jemaah Islamiyah bomb-making expert, in Tukanalipao village.

Marwan and Basit Usman are among the most wanted terrorists by the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation. Marwan has a $5 million price on his head and $1 million for Basit Usman.

On Jan. 27, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas gave an update: a total of 392 SAF men participated in the operation. A total of 44 SAF men were killed while 12 others were wounded in the clash with Moro rebels. The 336 SAF men who participated in the operation are alive and have been accounted for.

It’s the worst tragedy in the history of the country’s police force.

But people would rather discuss about MJ Lastimosa’s cake gown.

That’s our coping mechanism. Confronted with harsh realities, we escape to fantasyland. That’s why the movies of Vic Sotto and Vice Ganda are box-office hits.

That’s why our suicide rates are not as high as that of developed countries. That’s why we don’t have incidents of people on a shooting spree.

This is the third day since that condemnable incident. There has been no word from the President of the Philippines.


President Aquino is into his own coping mechanism.

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