Friday, June 8, 2012

Being Filipino -- Ang Bagong Harana, Bayo, Freeway x Levi Celerio, Havaianas Filipinas, Corona, Jessica Sanchez and other musings

It's been a while since I wrote post on this blog despite me considering this as my main blog. I was tempted to just write a long status message on Facebook instead since that's where my biggest reach is. But I think what I'm about to write deserves a proper blogpost.

June 2012. A few days from celebrating Philippine Independence Day, and aptly (or maybe intentionally) the Filipino concept of nationalism has been the buzz on the internet the past few weeks. 

Funny how after the season enders of US shows -- Glee, Smash, Games of Thrones, you name it -- marks the beginning of their summer season on the other side of the world, these have left Pinoys on withdrawal mode, scrambling for what to watch and entertain them. It's a new world where we find ways to access American TV shows almost as soon as they're aired -- either on local TV, or via other means. Heck, I even have friends who have figured out how to get Netflix on their TV sets. 

All's good with the globalization of entertainment into people's homes through the internet; but somehow you start feeling detached from local forms of entertainment. I even had my cable subscription cut since all I was using it for was to watch American Idol on Star TV. Now I don't even have access to local channels. Not even ASAP or The Buzz on Sundays. But I don't really mind. I've practically sworn off watching local news and soaps on TV. As long as you're on Facebook most of the day, you catch the filtered local happenings shared online. It is a very different world.

And so, as a Facebook netizen, I was able to somehow follow the Corona case online, even watched the passing of the verdict on livestream, and form my own opinion about the proceedings from what people were sharing online. That's how I keep connected nowadays -- news filtered by word-of-mouth or word-of-mouse (a term we sometimes use to describe online buzz).

Last night, I finally spoke up about the BAYO campaign that has polarized Filipino netizens, but at the same time brought about a new internet meme that's as "campaignable" as the It's More Fun in the Philippines meme. A lot of funny ones are circulating online now, but I particularly like the ones that bring out the underlying issue that have both plagued the campaign, but also has created so much unintentional buzz (even some positive sentiment) for the brand. Kudos to the Pinoys who found the humor and came up with very creative executions. 

And then they issue a public apology which I thought was unwarranted. I've explained enough on my status post last night. They had the guts to come up with such a controversial campaign, but disappointingly succumbed to mob rule. Disappointing that I saw some of my advertising colleagues, some being the same people rooting for the half-Filipina Jessica Sanchez on American Idol turning into self-righteous hypocrites dissing the campaign. Heck, you have foreigners and half-breeds (translation 50% Filipino) heading your agency!
Some PR agencies may recommend such a retraction, but there's a digital marketing lesson to be learned here: Negative buzz from noisy trolls need not count all the time. After a few days of negativity, I was starting to see people come around and find the positive in the campaign. Agree it may have been crafted better, but eventually people started to understand the campaign. The negative knee-jerk reactions shouldn't have been the end of the campaign. But being cowardice about it was not the way to proceed. If the brand had better social sentiment tracking, maybe it would have decided differently. Or maybe the same team who had created the flawed yet buzz-worthy campaign did not have the guts to follow the campaign through. It just reinforced negative Filipino traits we still need to hurdle: crab mentality and hypocrisy.

But enough about that. This week, I was treated to some classic Pinoy entertainment that felt refreshing in this time of globalization. I was able to drop by one of my clients' launch event of their new collection: Freeway x Levi Celerio -- a tribute to the National Artist for Music. Freeway has been paying tribute to our national artists for a couple of years now, and their launch event was one of the classiest press/blogger events I've been fortunate to attend. Pilita Corales singing Levi Celerio songs is something you don't see enough of anymore.

I have more videos from the event on my YouTube channel, although I'm not quite happy about the audio quality of the videos.

Then last night, I was treated again to a wonderful night of Filipino music by the Philippine Opera Company with their Ang Bagong Harana re-run @ the Carlos P. Romulo auditorium @RCBC Plaza. It's also rare to see such talented opera singers doing classic Filipino songs, from traditional folk to 70s-80s Pinoy pop. It was a beautiful stroll down Pinoy memory lane that delivers on its promise on being "a musical journey every Filipino should take." Try to catch this limited run this week.

Even my former client, Havaianas Philippines, has recently launched their yearly Havaianas FIlipinas 2012 collection in time for Philippine Independence Day. Despite being a brand from Brazil, the local distributor, Terry SA, is committed to bringing in that Pinoy twist to the brand. The designs are locally made then produced in Brazil and imported here for sale. Mixed-breed ba, ika mo? Eto, 50% Filipino, 50% Brazilian. And I'm sure this will sell like hotcakes as with their past releases.

So what does it mean to be Filipino today? My humble opinion is that it doesn't matter whether you consider yourself pure-breed or mixed. In fact, we're practically a hybrid of different races, ever since we got colonized by Spain centuries past. Labels are labels, but we don't need to be overly politically-correct.  What makes us Filipino is our inherent talent and creativity -- whether by music, design, fashion or social media memes. Every time a Filipino roots for another, every time we poke fun at our idiosyncrasies, and every time we're able to express ourselves creatively to the world then the Filipino spirit thrives.   

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