Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hoy! Galit na si Yolly Ong! Tahimik na tayo ha!

Pilipinas, kay pangit!
By Yoly Villanueva-Ong (The Philippine Star) Updated November 27, 2010 12:00 AM

My protective family and friends have advised me to steer clear of the contentious subject at least until the furor blows over. They warned that since my company was involved in the controversy, it would be safer to sit this one out. That whatever I say may be considered defensive or worse, prolong and intensify the attacks.

With deep gratitude to those who expressed genuine concern, I would rather be stoned, flayed, crucified and burned at the stake, than be cowed into condoning travesty. I would rather stake whatever reputation, credibility and success I may have, than shy away from laying bare the aggressive metastasis of a cancerous psyche afflicting some Filipinos. In spineless silence, we abet ignorance and envy, the lynch mob mentality and orchestrated demolition.

Never has such coordinated online outrage been more violently expressed, eclipsing the anger over the Maguindanao massacre, Morong 43 or the unresolved murders of journalists combined! One friend accurately described it as mass hysteria over a test logo! People screamed, why was it in Pilipino when we’re talking to tourists? Actually, the logo included an English translation and pronunciation guide. Blinded by rage or possibly other motives, they didn’t see it. Or didn’t want to.

In a democracy everyone is free to express his opinion. But not all opinions carry equal weight, not all reactions are intended to help. Not all objectives were about national branding, but aimed to achieve more sinister results.

Right after the DOT event, a dyed-in-the-wool ex-cabinet member of the past regime called to “console” and probe me about the controversy. I immediately knew that the Gruesome Malicious Army will seize this golden opportunity to wreak havoc on the new, popular government. I was needled: Do I still support this “incompetent, weak and indecisive leader”? You mean will I always be on the side of an honest and incorruptible President? Absolutely YES! But my antenna was up. I knew a tidal wave of malevolence was about to hit.

And so it did, all the way to New York. A certain Senen Antonio (email wrote the Grey Global CEO about the controversial logo, then requested anonymity. It created a brief stir but was eventually dismissed by our partners as a malicious attempt to smear us. Ironically, our partners became even more supportive. A big thanks to the coward who is too stupid to know that even a fictitious email address can be traced. Pray that karma doesn’t catch up with you.

In the advertising business, rejection is par for the course. Recommendations get turned down everyday. It’s a client’s prerogative to follow the execution he deems best suited for a product that he knows best. It’s also a cutthroat industry. A thick hide and Pacman resilience are necessary survival tools.

But the bile that gorged out of faded advertising luminaries was too toxic even by industry standards. One accused us of being irresponsible for allowing the client to make us party to supposed plagiarism. That could have passed as a high-minded comment if his own brother wasn’t sued by a leading ad agency and ordered by the Adboard to cease and desist from airing a TV ad that was judged copied from Coke!

Then there was a former Creative Director for an airline account who mocked my Harvard degree as ironic under the circumstances. How quickly he forgot that he was fired by his Agency for allegedly receiving kickbacks from production suppliers!

Much of the indignation was spurred by lack of consultation with stakeholders. In May 2009 now Cong. Gloria Arroyo signed the Tourism Act that replaced PCVC with the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB). After three attempts, Cynthia Carrion, GMA’s aerobics buddy, was voted COO in March 2010. But Secretary Lim wanted a fresh start and terminated her, creating enmity between DOT and TPB. As one senator confided, the fight is not about who should lead the marketing effort, but who will disburse the marketing monies.

Then there are the opponents of the Open-Skies policy that Secretary Lim has been advocating since he was with the Civil Aeronautics Board. Even then, those with threatened business interests immediately mounted a well-funded vilification campaign complete with trumped-up charges of corruption that didn’t stick.

It’s easier to detach and be amused at the degree of passionate global engagement that ensued. Imagine, a leading publication violated its own masthead just to thrash a logo study! Bad news must really sell more newspapers! But what finally made me decide to write is this last item of iniquity.

When Undersecretary Vicente “Enteng” Romano exited with grace, he demonstrated a miracle of public office never witnessed in this country: a government official taking full ownership of a tempest-in-a-teacup-blown-up-into-a-Category-5-hurricane. Although his heroic gesture was praised by many, a malicious text immediately circulated: “Enteng Romano commissioned a company for P5M for the grand launch of the new DOT slogan. The company has reported ties to Enteng’s son. This is accdg to some sources in media.” I got this SMS three times.

What makes this so nauseating? First, the information is fundamentally wrong. Enteng has no son. Second, all the Media who attended the event said it was too lavish to be considered a “preview”. Therefore if P4.7M was really spent, every centavo must have gone to food, drinks, fireworks, talents, staging, etc. It didn’t line anyone’s pockets, much less an imagined son’s. Would a thinking man risk criminal jail-time to steal a paltry $105K? Were these braying critics just as indignant when “BurjerBen”, FG and cohorts were allegedly skimming $130M from NBN-ZTE?

Enteng cut a few corners because he instinctively saw what must be accomplished quickly. Last year, there were 3M+ tourists. Twenty-six percent were North Americans (60 percent of whom are FilAms), followed by the Koreans (20 percent), Chinese (13 percent) and Japanese (9 percent). Forty-two percent don’t speak English and couldn’t care less if the themeline was written in Aramaic.

If God gave the themeline in tablets, it still wouldn’t be accepted by the likes of net-dicts who fancy themselves divas of righteousness, but neglect to issue receipts for a lucrative pasta sideline. A Damaso-morality and a pathological need for attention? True, it’s all about you.

Majority of 8000 tourists who were surveyed said they visited the Philippines for its beautiful scenery, good food, shopping and above all the hospitable people. Sometimes, it’s hard to see our innate kindness. Vileness overwhelms virtue. Tearing down is more fun than building up. Detractors impact more than supporters. Pilipinas, kay pangit!

Then we received many uplifting messages from beautiful people. I dedicate this particular one to Enteng Romano.

“The path to the right direction is always replete with challenges, mistakes and failures. We, who have cast our lot to the struggle for the good of our country and people, shall always be in that situation.

Let President Roosevelt be a source of inspiration for you whose heart is always for a greater cause:

‘It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust, sweat, and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly — so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.’

I choose to see beauty. Like Enteng, I believe in Pilipinas, kay Ganda!

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