LUGAR LANG| PAB, you are beautiful

I HAD MEANT to write about poetry for this column because I was giving a lecture for the staff of the Ateneo de Davao school paper this week. I imagined I was going to write about how we must use poetry today for more important purposes than “hugot” about unrequited love. I thought I would write about the protest function of poetry. Then I saw the posts of DSWD Assistant Secretary Lorraine Badoy against Jover Laurio, a.k.a. Pinoy Ako Blog (PAB), and I was enraged.

 Pinoy Ako Blog, which is maintained by Maria Josephina Vergina Laurio, or Jover, has only a few thousand followers (compared to other more controversial blogs or blog-alikes), but last week, she became a sensation because of the cyberbullying she experienced from self-proclaimed “Thinking Pinoy,” RJ Nieto, pro-Duterte administration “social media influencer” Sass Sasot, and ASec Lorraine Badoy. As Laurio herself admits, she is an ordinary patriotic citizen who wants to express her indignation at the impunity of the Duterte administration. She is not a writer, nor any kind of authority, but as her blog suggests, she is every Filipino who has been failed by this government, which promised change but delivered death: “Makikita mo si PAB sa mga taong umasa ng matinong pagbabago at nabigo na madugong pagbabago ang nagaganap.”

 And now that the Duterte troll army is attacking her systematically, she is indeed every Filipino who is swimming against the current and refusing to be borne along by the force of populism and harassment. It’s not that she has not been affected by all the bullying that began when her identity was revealed. Laurio admits that she even filed a leave of absence from work due to the threats she has been receiving. Amidst all this, she turned to her adoptive mother, who told her, “Laban lang,” keep fighting. I admire her for carrying on. I myself have wondered to what extent I will keep up the fight even though I have not been bullied as much. (I don’t count being “unfollowed” on Facebook or in real life as bullying. Go ahead.) I must admit that the recent Facebook “buyboy” rants of both the Davao mayor and vice-mayor against persons who “owe” the Duterte family (whether personally or politically) have made me shudder. “Watch out,” my partner warned. But I am such small fry, I think I have no reason to be afraid. Also, I don’t owe them a thing.

 That’s the thing with being self-made. I don’t have to worry about my benefactor disapproving what I do or write. I don’t have to repay anyone’s largesse. I can be true to what I believe in. And I hope principles last longer than terms of office.

 I wonder though about some people who work for the Duterte administration. I wonder if the vitriol they spew is really what they believe in or if they’re only doing it because they are in the payroll, or in the waitlist for an appointment. Take for instance, this Lorraine Badoy, whose recent posts about Jover Laurio are not only ad hominem but so crass one wonders what neighborhood she grew up in and what qualifies her to be in the Department of Social Welfare and Development. In her own words: “her ugliness is extraordinary…the dirt in her pusod is extraordinary, and so is the libag in her kilikili.” What is the relevance of the dirt in one’s navel and armpits to the issues at hand? Clearly this Badoy has reached the limits of her logic.

 In addition to that tirade about ugliness, the good Assistant Secretary has also unearthed photos of Laurio in a swimsuit and went on to lambast her for her less than perfect body, even comparing Laurio to herself. Then she preempts those who would accuse her of body shaming by calling them “ulol” or idiots. This was what made me furious. Our taxes are paying for her salary and she is spending her time insulting and bullying a woman for her physical appearance. So many years of feminist efforts to convince women that they are more than their bodies, and that they should cultivate their brains so that they could aspire for more than catching a man have come to naught. Here, in this golden moment in Philipppine government.

 Part of me wants to strike back at Lorraine Badoy, as others have done, and say, “Have a look in the mirror. You are not so hot yourself, Lola.” But what would that make me? Instead, I would rather rush to defend Laurio and tell her to carry on, that she is beautiful, as her mother assures her, because of the courage with which she asserts what she believes in.

 Dissent is beautiful, especially in the face of a concerted effort to silence it. Protest is beautiful, whether in blog or poetry or placard form. It’s not the size of your belly that you shall be judged by; it’s by the size of your heart. And paid hacks just don’t have it in them.

 Follow or message me on Twitter @jhoannalynncruz

Posted in Opinion