Explore: Manila to Mindanao

At 9.20pm on Sunday, 15th February, BBC2 screened a programme titled ‘Manila to Mindanao’ as the final episode in the ‘Explore’ series from broadcaster and New York Times best selling author, Simon Reeve. The prior three episodes had taken him to Argentina, East Africa and Turkey. He was joined in the Philippines by young journalist Seyi Rhodes and BBC correspondent Katya Adler
As with all programmes seemingly documenting the Philippines, there was a lack of positive images and stories. Not to mention the random oriental sounding music which was offensive. After watching the programme, you would feel like the country is in freefall! BUT we have to remember, this was not a tourist holiday programme!

They did discuss relevant issues from the modernisation of the country affecting the traditional way of life both in Luzon and in Palawan, the Catholic doctrine that still dominates our country, they touched upon the political tension with regards to killings and kidnappings, the long-running conflict between the Communist NPA (New People’s Army) and the Philippine Army and then went to southern Mindanao and spoke to a Muslim teacher on their struggle for independence for the Bangsamoro Nation. They even interviewed Imelda Marcos! We have to admit as Filipinos that the truth hurts and we need to understand these issues!

These are all issues we are all aware of but rarely discuss and sometime dismiss…BUT WHY?
The biggest reason is that we do not really know what the details are. If we want to know more and make a difference then we should discuss and research the issues affecting our country and then register to vote and make a difference by electing a new Government…if that is what you believe it will take. Dual-Citizenship entitles you to vote in the Philippines, although you cannot run for office as a dual-citizen!

Going back to the issues discussed in the programme, modernisation is a problem every country face and is why indigenous peoples such as the Aborigines, Maoris and Native Americans fight hard to maintain their traditions and culture, it is no wonder the same thing is happening in the Philippines. Spain grouped over 7,000 islands as the Philippines and expected us all to become countrymen, this is why Wales and Scotland have a degree of Independence within Britain and why India was split into India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka when the British left. To a certain degree this tribal history still exists, with people from Ilocos, Pampanga, Manila and Visayas, to name but a few, having distinct differences and separate associations and community groups.

The situation in the southern Mindanao region, which should not dominate the country’s news is one that is very complicated. You have an Islamic ethinic group claiming persecution, with a country and nationality thrust upon them, claiming that their people are being killed, this could be Sarajevo or Gaza. The Bangsamoro Nation believe they were never conquered by Spain and have had their land taken from them and so want it back. However this would open up a can of worms. In a previous article, Philippine Generations wrote about a movement to rename the Philippines, thus erasing our dependent history to Spain and establishing a new independent identity. Should the Islamic southern Mindanao region be made an independent state, what is stopping the Ifugao, Igorot and Aeta people’s caiming the same? The country would be in an even bigger mess!

The political tension in the Philippines is taken for granted by those of us in the UK. Many of us do not know what life was like under Marcos’ martial law, or how now after liberation, military coups and corrupt presidencies, journalists and left-wing thinkers still fear for their lives. This is a major issue when countries in the west raise questions on safety and freedom in the Philippines.

There have been more political and Islamic killings in Thailand than the Philippines in the last 5 years, yet Thailand is still held up as a paradise holiday destination. So perhaps all we need is good publicity as their political situation is in worse shape than ours! Even after the demonstration at the Thai airport stopping flights and disrupting western holidaymakers people still believe the Philippines would be more dangerous to visit!

With regards to the issue of contraception, this is a major stumbling block with regards to the development of the country. More children born into poverty increases all the negative stereotypes you can imagine, disease, lack of education, crime, prostitution, death, starvation, to name but a few. It is somewhat irresponsible to discourage the use of contraception. The argument is that outside of marriage people should not be having sex, but part of the problem is married couples having too many to afford. The thinking of the Church is that it will create an atmosphere and culture of free and easy sex as pregnancy can be prevented although they also believe it will encourage abortion, something that could not happen if contraception is used. This is not an issue of religion, but more of education and one that is very much needed in the Philippines. At least we do not have an AIDS epidemic as in India or Africa, otherwise the lack of condoms would be disastrous.
Okay they talked about the people living in the Cemetery, it was featured in the Times last year, so they must have felt it was in the public interest. At least they didn’t show Smokey Mountain again or the Manila sex clubs! We should take this as a positive step as they are dealing with bigger issues. Let’s not forget they profiled the rice terraces, described as the 8th wonder of the world, the Church in Quiapo and the Black Nazarene procession which was positive. Not to mention the Tarsier preservation and the Eco-tourism development. At the end, they did say despite the problems, the Philippines is one of the most beautiful places you can visit.

At the end of the day, if you feel positive or negative about the programme, we should discuss the issues more, but as some might say the truth hurts. If we really want to change the perception people have of the Philippines we should get involved in the decision making process by voting on issues in the Philippines, we should get involved in community and not for profit groups and organisations like Philippine Generations, FilmeFilms, New-Manila, the Philippine Community Fund, Philippine United FC, PNA-UK, Philly4Life, PinoysfinestUK and Phil-UK to name but a few. We should also advertise the Philippines to non-Filipinos we know and we should support positive examples of the Philippines and positive Filipino events. We should also promote positive role models providing a positive face of the Philippines, such as Manny Pacquiao, Allen Pineda AKA apl, David Medalla, Mutya Buena.

How brilliant would it be if Myleene Klass came out and said she was Filipino and proud??!!!!!

There are so many comments and views being contributed on facebook and the Internet. This shows people have an opinion and people care, but we should not be embarrassed of what people think of the Philippines, we should be trying to change what people think of the Philippines.

The episode can still be viewed and downloaded from the BBC website. Below is the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00htg7d

If you have any views or would like to discuss anything written in this article, please do not hesitate to leave a comment.

By Adrian Williams


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Embassy of the Philippines

Press Release

October 2008

BBC apologizes to the Philippine Embassy in London

In a letter dated 10 October 2008 to Philippine Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s Edgardo Espiritu, BBC Director General Mark Thompson apologizes for the offence caused by the episode of the UK comedy series Harry and Paul.

The letter, which the Philippine Embassy received only on 20 October says, “…please accept my sincere apologies, on behalf of the BBC, for the offence that this programme caused you.

The apology came following a letter of 3 October from Ambassador Espiritu to BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons expressing the former’s dismay over an episode of Harry and Paul, initially shown on BBC on 26 September and replayed on BBC 2 on 29 September. The episode made an insulting reference to Filipino women, typifying them in a dual role as domestic workers and sex toys of their British employers.

Ambassador Espiritu also wrote a similar letter to the BBC Complaints Centre, copy furnished Mr. Mark Pritchard, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group –Philippines and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Sir Trevor Phillips, head of the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission; the Office of Communications (OFCOM|), the independent regulator of the UK communications industries; Sir Christopher Meyer KCMG, head of the UK Press Complaints Commission; London Mayor Boris Johnson; and the Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman MP, UK Secretary of State for Women and Equality.

The episode angered a large number of the 200,000-strong Filipino community in the United Kingdom and led to some leaders of the community to put up an online petition where Filipinos could lodge their protest against BBC and the show’s producer, Tiger Aspect Productions. The online petition gathered more than 2,000 supporters within three days.

A silent vigil was also held simultaneously on 17 October in front of the BBC Office in White City, just outside central London, and Tiger Aspect Productions in Soho in central London.

Tiger Aspect Productions Chief Executive Andrew Zein, issued an apology before the members of the Filipino community who joined the Soho vigil.

“We’re sorry to anyone who was in any way offended by the programme. This certainly was not our intention,” said Zein.


The Philippines and the BBC


There will now be a protest calling on the BBC and Tiger Aspect Production to make a public apology to the Filipino community and to undertake action to ensure that nothing of anything similar in nature will happen again with respect to every multicultural community in the UK.

Date: 17th October 2008

Time: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Venue: Tiger Aspect Production – 7 Soho Street, London W1D 3DQ

(nearest London underground station: Leicester Square, Charing Cross)

This protest will be held simultaneously with various community groups and concerned Filipinos around the world presenting their own demands to the local British Embassy for an apology from the BBC and Tiger Aspect Production.

Let us make this successful and show the world that Filipinos are united as a people and as a culture. Together let us all demand for respect and dignity for all ethnic and minority cultures.


I’m sure most of you have heard about or even seen the “disgraceful and distasteful” sketch in a recent episode of the Harry and Paul Show, featuring hugely successful British comedians Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse.

For those that haven’t, the sketch itself is centred around the running joke of a northerner being made fun of by a southerner. In this installment the southerner is trying to get the northerner to ‘mate’ with is friend’s Filipino maid. The maid is then seen dancing provocatively in front of the northerner with the southerner telling him to mount her, to no avail. He then tells the Filipina maid to go away.

This of course is a shocking indictment of what British society feels is an acceptable way of portraying the Filipino, and especially the Filipina. Let us not forget our only representation on prime time tv soap operas in the UK is a mail order bride on ITV’s Emmerdale! Let us also not forget the running joke on BBC’s ‘They Think It’s All Over’ where they implied Cricketer David Gower had a young Filipino boy under his desk.

It has created a diplomatic situation not seen since the ‘Desperate Housewives’ insult to overseas Filipino medical workers. Both the Philippine Embassy here and the British Embassy in Manila have been forced to comment.

There are of course two sides to this argument…

The first is the British right to satire. As Anthony from Phil-UK points out “It was not the Filipina maid who was being mocked. The target was the British class system and culture. The skit ridicules stereotypes of the dim-witted Northerner and the pompous upper middle-class Englishman. What you see in the ‘Harry and Paul’ comedy series are typical examples of British self-deprecating and satirical humour.”

The second is the “disgraceful and distasteful” portrayal of the Filipina domestic worker in the UK. As Loline from the Overseas Womens Club states “Filipinos have come here to work, aspire to become a part of the British communities and be accepted as equals. Our culture, like other Asian cultures consider our women as honourable and worthy of esteem. The show portrayed a Filipina in a vulgar, sexist way, “to mate a Filipina maid to a Northerner” is sick! These actions in the sketch cannot be excused as a comedy joke.”

Both very valid points. Have a look at the sketch an make your mind up: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00dnf21/

We as Philippine Generations support the petition as the majority of our parents and the parents of our friends came here as Filipino domestic workers. They have lived through many hardships to get us, our generation and future generations the opportunity to live and work as equals here in Britain.

We have come so far as a people that we cannot stand idly by and continually let ourselves be negatively stereo-typed any longer. If some positive stereo-types were thrown in from time to time, maybe it would balance out!

For more coverage also visit:

the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7656578.stm

the Times:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article4898603.ece

Make your own mind up and send us your thoughts.