Friday, October 10, 2008

The Filipino Stereotype Abroad

This particular clip from a BBC comedy show called Harry and Paul. It caused an uproar because it portrayed a Filipino maid in a bad light. Representative Risa Hontiveros even asked the BBC to issue a public apology.

On the one hand, the racist claim against BBC is a serious charge. BBC itself reports that one of its own calls the broadcasting corporation as "one of the most racist institutions in England."

On the other hand, maybe we should have seen this coming. Filipinos are being stereotyped as maids and sex workers because we do send ourcitizens around the globe to be maids and sex workers. Yes, it is sad to realize that other people see us in such a way. But if people of other nations encounter Filipinos only in the maid's quarters and brothels, can they really be blamed if the stereotype is being reinforced?

In one column tackling the Desperate Housewives incident, Conrado de Quiros offers a way on how we can go about a situation like this:

Just as well, I don’t know that we can’t do with some serious self-examination and look at the quality not just of our education but our lives today. I myself found Danes’ description of Manila tremendously inspired. It’s brilliantly surreal: “The people have nothing—no arms, no legs, no eyes.” It’s almost like Dante talking about one of the circles of hell, to which, if we still have at least the eyes to see it, we now find ourselves in.

There are two ways to treat a messenger’s bad news. One is to shoot the messenger and hope the message goes away. Two is to change things so that there won’t be any bad news. Japan didn’t just do the second, it turned the bad news into good news. Shortly after the War, Americans also had a field day making fun of the label, “Made in Japan.” Today, well, Sony owns a great deal of Hollywood. We can either spend our time lodging diplomatic protests in defense of our diplomas or produce brilliant doctors. The choice is ours.


  1. sangayun ako dito kapatid. ang nilabas ng bbc ay manipestasyon ng pagtingin nila sa filipino -- na hindi naman nalalayo sa nagaganap ngayun.

    bakit tayo nagagalit (agad) sa mga programang nagpapakita ng mga filipinong sex workers samantalang di natin kinikibo ang mismong sitwasyong lumilikha ng mga sex workers.

  2. I agree that stereotypes of Filipinos exist, but I think the west also has very detailed histories of slavery and abuse as well.

  3. @ pasyon, emmanuel c. and paolo: Thanks for the comments.

    Yes, the west is notorious for its racism, and it should not in anyway be condoned.

    However, we should not solely blame the west for the racist remarks. Now is a good time for introspection, a time to ask ourselves why exactly the west thinks of us in that light.


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