Editorial note: The Philopino is Crisologo’s column on society and how it works. Read more of Crisologo in the following articles Oblation Titi-llation: An Analysis of Nudity, Napaken-vote ka ba?, Christmas: A Note on Hope
In a country that has colonial insecurity tightly knitted into the psyche of its general populace, DOT’s new campaign has a bright future ahead of it. In my own assessment, the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is generally a spin-off of another of DOT’s campaigns, “More than the usual”, which I remembered because the video was actually nice.
The appeal is generally the same. We have a country, nay, a government campaign, that insidiously relies on a notion of superiority through a comparison to the “other”. If there’s more here, then with the principle of duality, there is less somewhere else.
Then let’s ask, if “it’s more fun in the Philippines”, or it’s “more than the usual”, then where is it less fun or unusual?
I admit, I do like the campaign. I get the appeal and how it can work for the country’s tourism industry and I think those who are aware of the campaign feel the same way. It’s pervasive, to say the least, because all you have to do is attach whatever activity, or some gerund or noun before it and it will sound wittily proud of itself. It’s practically a meme now. However, that doesn’t mean that everything it is and will be contingent to is or will always be positive. When something is in meme-status, oh God help it, it better get ready for the creative bashing of dry and cynical internet humor. Or 9gag, to be simple.
So here’s my deal. Pretend that you’re me or one of my self-admitted cynical relations and you’d immediately nitpick through the less tasteful implications of the campaign. First for me is the idea that it perpetually compares some other place to the Philippines. It has to do with equilibrium, at least in my head. If it’s more fun here then logically, there’s a less fun place somewhere, Malaysia for example. “Hold on,” you might be thinking, “it’s all in good humor. At least no other place is directly mentioned in the official campaign.”
It’s mayabang, aminin natin. To a certain extent, the humor is petulant. Though no manner of humor is or will ever be perfectly politically, racially, or in whatever context correct and inoffensive, the rationale behind wanting to be superior makes me peevish.
At the urgency of the need to feel superior, can’t it also be possible that the deeper we reflect into ourselves, we discover, horrifyingly instead, that we are profoundly insecure as a nation?
What is it with superiority anyway? Why can’t the Philippines just be what it is and the rest of the world would just love her for it? Why do we always have to prove something that we don’t really have to? And why, on an off-note, do so many Filipinos cling onto each of Manny Pacquiao’s boxing wins as if they had something to do with any it? Fiiiine, the guy says he’s motivated by his countrymen, but it’s not as if we can prove that collective will is a factor in his skill at boxing. If that were true then Pacquiao’s abilities are like fairies. They die when you don’t believe in them.
Hey, maybe I’m dragging this further than it’s supposed to be. After all,”superiority to compensate for insecurities” doesn’t automatically pop-up in the mind of the general sanguine when he or she reads the campaign and if it’s mayabang, well, why the heck shouldn’t it be? But sue me if my notion for real pride is a quiet one, doubtless and divine, something I learned from Garfield where he never needed to prove to Jon that he was smarter than Ode, because it can’t even be a matter in question What I mean is, even if it IS more fun in the Philippines, do we really need to gloat about it? Yes, I’m asking because I’m THAT mature and boring.
But assuming that my argument that the campaign rides on a syndrome of national insecurity is totally bullocks, the campaign still has another chink to make it a degree less perfect- it’s neutrality.
It’s neutral because it’s almost an empty canvass, therefore it’s versatile as well. As mentioned earlier, you can precede it with anything, be it “swimming”, “breakfast”, “falling in love” or “moving on”. The merit of the precedent dictates the merit of the tag-line, or simply put, if people like what comes before it, it becomes an effective campaign. It’s like a dress that fits everyone- it only makes sense when somebody actually wears it.
But if you attach a distasteful precedent to the line, say “Pedophilia: It’s more fun in the Philippines” or “Scavenging: It’s more fun in the Philippines” or “Piracy: It’s more fun in UP Dormitories” (oops), it is still structurally correct but the message becomes altogether different. Even if “Pedophilia”, “Prostitution”, “Where Nurses Come from”, “American Neo-Colonialism”, “Poverty” or “Abortion and Balut” will obviously never become campaigns (I hope), the ultimate truth is that they can still be written that way in memes, tweets or in any other means. At the end of the day, DOT cannot completely control this campaign. Any insensitive troll, hipster or just some run-in-the -mill gago can get creative and send out the “wrong” message because he thinks it’s funny, whether or not DOT gets the joke.
So does this mean that it’s a bad campaign? Actually, not necesarily. Because and as much as pwede siyang gaguhin, it is still ultimately an ad that people can engage. Given the prevalence of social media currently in our lives, more people can react to it and make it their own and given Jimenez’s background in marketing, maybe, in spite of the ad’s vulnerability to trolling, he and his team approached the initially stagnated tourism campaign by stirring public opinion and manipulation. From the fundamentalist patriotic to the analytical and cynically discerning bitch or comic, the campaign becomes his own and it becomes more publicized. Whether it’s good or bad publicity, it’s still becoming viral. Heck, I’m even writing about it now.