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August 24, 2010

The Extremes of The Philippines

Within the span of 24 hours, we saw two sides, both at the very extreme ends, of the Philippines. We saw how a hostage taking in Manila became a national shame and we witnessed how a beauty pageant in Las Vegas became almost a national pride. Both stories have so many "what ifs" but they practically speak of two sides of the country, if not of its people.

The hostage taking of a disgruntled former policeman was witnessed by the entire world, thanks to the indiscriminate aiming of the media's lenses. It started quite well, with 9 hostages released unharm and the rest of the day almost uneventful. Then the cover of night made things turn for the worse. The downpour of heavy rain added to the drama like it was a scene from a familiar Hollywood movie. But in this case, real bullets, real blood, real lives were before us.

I would not even dare analyze how I think the situation was made worse. I leave that to the experts in such matters. What I feel though is that this could have been handled much better than what we have seen.

We can blame the media for having chosen to continue the live broadcast, including the actual shooting of the gunman.

We can blame the police for having the lack of "expertise" in their tactical approach from step one until the final minutes before the gunman was killed.

We can blame the hostage-taker for having resorted to such a desperate measure in search for a resolution to his problems.

We can blame the brother of the hostage-taker who allegedly added more wood into the fire during the negotiations thereby agitating the hostage-taker to open fire into the remaining hostages.

We can blame anyone and any group. The fact of the matter is, at least 7 are dead and these are tourists from another country.

The Quirino Grandstand Hostage Taking was just the tip of the iceberg, the surface of everything gone wrong in our society.

Meanwhile, a bright spot was spared for us in our dark skies and this bright light came from Venus. Despite the odds, Venus Raj, the Philippines' representative to the Ms. Universe beauty pageant, came through all the way to the top 5 finalists.

She was as far as I can recall the only Asian to belong to the top ten. Her beauty was totally different from what I would describe as stereotypically cover-page magazine models. Almost everyone in the top fifteen looked "similar" except Venus, whose kayumanggi skin and Filipina features albeit "tainted" with foreign blood, were made obvious and attractive against a background of "typical" models.

We can blame Venus for bungling the final question. Perhaps she was just being plain frank when she said she could not recall anything "major major" mistake in her life. After all, of the five top finalists, Venus's question from William Baldwin was more of a personal question, unlike the four others which were more "political" or "social" in nature (death penalty, religious freedom, internet, etc). So, a personal question perhaps requires a personal answer. Maybe Venus was just saying her truth they way she would recall it.

Nevertheless, her 4th runner up place gave us all a respite from the "bad news" we have been watching on TV.

We are definitely a country with extremes. We can be a bunch of idiots and at the same time a league of beautiful and intelligent people. Perhaps, it is also a matter of choice. We can choose which side of the extremes.

Hopefully, we will have the capacity to choose wisely.

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