(Part 12 of the “In Defense of the Filipino” series)
THERE was a local entertainer who said on television that she and her family would already immigrate to the United States—after making much money in the Philippines.
Why did she choose the U.S. as her place of retirement? She claimed that the U.S. had no gossips and that it was far from Filipinos, who she claimed were unmatched in the world as gossip makers. She was unbearable. After accumulating money (Filipino money) here, she was already spitting on her native land and her fellow Filipinos.
Gossips are everywhere. They work in humans very naturally because humans have eyes and ears. What is seen or heard travels into the mind. The mind accommodates it. The hoarded thought is brought down the tongue. The tongue will get itchy if what the mind has deposited is not spewed out of the mouth. When the mouth does, everything spreads. Human nature causes it all.
Gossips may be true or false. If true, then “if there’s a smoke, there must be a fire.” If false, it is saddening because the character of the involved person or persons is assassinated.
Tabloids make up most of Britain’s newspapers. Their favorite topic is the royal family, for the British love to know things about their monarchs.
United Kingdom Queen Elizabeth II described 1992 as an annus horribilis (horrible year) for her country because the British press feasted on the royal marriages’ embarrassing secrets.
Paparazzi (social photographers) secretly took pictures of the wife of Prince Andrew (the queen’s second son) while relaxing topless in a beach with her two young daughters and with her new lover. The photos got headlined in many parts of the world. The media also dug up the marriage of the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, and his wife Princess Diana. Their exposed extra-marital affairs led to eventual divorces of these marriages.
Anti-Filipinos argue that while there are gossips in other countries, such are always accompanied by photographs to authenticate them, unlike here where gossips are just gossips.
In 1996, Princess Diana got negative publicity again when she was caught in a video having an illicit affair with another man in an apartment. They were seen through a transparent glass window. She was embarrassed once more, and so were her sons and family. But months later, it was found out that the woman in the videotape was a fake Diana, just a look-alike hired with that man by paparazzi eyeing for big money (by selling the tape to the tabloids).
Because of the cravings for royal gossips, the tabloids and paparazzi always follow almost every move of the royal people. When in need of privacy, the royals sometimes flee from them.
On August 31, 1997, Princess Diana, already divorced from Prince Charles, perished in a car accident together with her new lover and their driver. Those primarily blamed were the paparazzi who, when Princess Diana’s group left the hotel, zoomed after them and even photographed her while she was bleeding inside the wrecked car.
The British mourned her death and also blamed Prince Charles and the queen. They did not realize that they were also liable for it: Had they not been so fascinated with royal gossips.
In the United States, publishers have been convinced long ago by the age-old belief that people are interested to know about people, whatever their race, sex, social position, or education is. They have interpreted it as a profit-generating industry.
Today, dozens of daily, weekly, and monthly publications in the United States capitalize on talking about the backgrounds, lifestyles, romances, and secrets of the rich and famous in politics, entertainment, royalty, business, sports, religion, and other arenas. Those publications have elevated gossip to dignified status through stylish writing and top-quality printing.
To know the extent of gossips in the U.S., WordsCanHeal.org commissioned Luntz/Lazlo to survey 800 adult Americans on August 17-21, 2001. The numbers of Americans were calculated based on U.S. Census figures.
The survey found out that 117 million Americans listened to or shared gossip about other people at least once or twice a week, 51 million admitted that people said something hurtful behind their backs at least once or twice a week, and 63 million admitted that people said something untrue about them at least once or twice a week.
Only 13 per cent said that no one ever said anything hurtful about them behind their back, and only 7 per cent said that no one ever said something untrue about them behind their back. 31 million said something about someone behind their back that they regretted later at least once or twice a week, while only 25 per cent said they never said anything about someone behind their back that they regretted later.
As to how much of a problem was gossip, 69 per cent of adults said that it was a somewhat or significant problem in schools, 79 per cent said it was a problem in the workplace, 80 per cent said it was a problem in politics, 84 per cent said it was a problem in reports given by the news media, and 88 per cent agreed that it was important to reduce gossip and verbal abuse in schools, places of work, and within families.
If such things happen here in the Philippines, anti-Filipinos would cheer that gossip is the national pastime, that Filipinos are good only as gossipers, and that the Philippines is the world’s and Asia’s capital of gossips. They are shocked if they hear that even in affluent countries—despite all the wealth and sophistication there—gossips are also common.
There are times when we should be careful with people who claim that they are being pulled down because of gossips.
Example: A new movie star secretly pays a reporter a huge sum to write about her, quite scandalous but not harmful to her aspiring career. They also agree that they would fight in public to gain more attention. In that way she thinks she can move up the popularity ladder. Off they go. They fight, exchange accusations, and get what they want. Then she claims, “Ah, you know Filipinos, they love gossips. And when they see someone going up, they’d pull him down.”
Another example. A public official is stealing public funds, he is charged in court, and he tries to save his face by saying: “Ah, this country is a country of gossips. It’s a Filipino culture to pull down one who is achieving successes.”
We should be suspicious with people making such statements. They are using a shield—insulting the Filipinos—to hide their anomalies.
Some gossips are really true. Example: One resident knows his city mayor and the mayor’s wife; then, one day, he sees the mayor flirting with another woman. His eyes see, his mind processes what is seen, his mouth gets itchy, and the news spreads. The gossip will remain a rumor only, if the sole witness has no solid evidence for it (like a photograph or footage).
Gossips, true or not, will always be part of our lives. If not true, they should be refuted, and the ones concocting them should be charged in court and compelled to pay those they harm. If true, then people concerned should no longer deny and just reform if they have to.