More than the crown

“That matters more than awarding her a crown with a shape reminiscent of Manhattan skyline made up of 311 pieces of diamonds, 5 pieces of blue topaz, 198 pieces of blue sapphire, 33 pieces of crystal and 220 grams of gold.”

UNLIKE SO many Filipino fanatics who watched the whole Miss Universe 2016 coronation last Monday, I watched only the Q&A portion in the replay out of curiosity. I chose to protect myself from getting hurt because days before the event, I had a pulse, after keenly observing her answers to interview questions, that the Philippines’ bet will lose for failing to provide a satisfactory and impressive answer in the Q&A portion. I hoped like former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz that I be proven wrong.

Since I did not watch the event on live TV, I learned of the outcome when I logged in on my Facebook account. Barrage of comments and posts of netizens stunned me on how Maxine Medina should have answered the question: “What is the most significant change you have seen in the world in the last 10 years?”

“Nasa huli ang pagsisisi” as the saying goes and we proved time and again how debilitated we are in accepting defeat. For a country that long craves to be recognized in the international scene, 7,107 islands – strong, another failure is a no-no.

“Sana, nag-tagalog na lang siya” one of my FB friends said. “Ang bobo ng interpreter. ‘Pangyayari’ ang sinabi imbes na ‘Pagbabago.’ And worse, another one commented: “It should have been Kylie Verzosa (the reigning Miss International 2016). She’s way better than her!” Have you ever wondered how we became this harsh online?

When Manny Pacquiao fought Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time and tasted another loss in his illustrious career, we were quick to wear our boxing analyst hat to declare that he should retire to not have his record tainted and to preserve his legacy. But how did we react when it has been announced that his “The Fight of the Century” bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been inked? We were thrilled and exuberant. Some of us even watched the fight in pay-per-view in malls and bought pricey tickets.

Some of the most common answers to the question for Maxine Medina that have been shared by netizens range from the growth of social media, to advancement in technology, and to climate change. But what did they miss as they brag their wit online? What did they forget when they suddenly personified the character of the most prolific pageant expert in the world, the universe rather when they posted their status updates on what Maxine should have uttered? It’s that they shared those thoughts while they were in the confines of their room, in their home, with their family and friends or in some other place where pressure was nonexistent. They were not on stage, with millions of people watching and cheering from different parts of the world. They were not in a chaotic situation. No drama. No one to compete against. No judges.

Can those people even speak in public to share their thoughts given that they are as graceful as Maxine?

In a way, answering the question in Q&A portion in Miss Universe is a form of public speaking which is one of the top fears of the human race, alongside heights and bugs. It is no surprise that all the rational thinking of a person vanishes when in front of a huge audience. But like other skills, it can be harnessed. The mastery of the skill is not obtained overnight or in a few months, but this fact is something that we have forgotten. It is not a walk in the park. Miss Universe is a competition which requires its candidates to be confidently beautiful and to possess deep grasp of what’s going on; to be socially and politically aware as ambassadors for change and meaningful advocacy. It’s not just about what to say but how to say it.

And again, how did we become harsh online?

Alain de Botton, a Swiss-born, British author, observed that due to the increasing popularity of social media, people have shifted from keeping secret diaries inside their locked cabinets in which no one else has access to online bashing and bullying. It’s convenient. In just one click and a few brain cells, instant exchange of ideas of people they know and do not know happens. Internet is a free space for now. Unlike the real world, people treat their actions in the online world as an independent dimension with no direct impact into their lives which is scary. People experience relief after expressing their disappointments. The profane, degrading words that we see in the comments section of an article or at the homepage of social media accounts of different people like bobo, tanga, walang isip are just on the surface of what’s really going on in the psyche of some Filipinos.

At the end of the day, we should debate not what went wrong in the pageant, or what the perfect answer is to the Q&A portion, or what the correct translation is to the question but what’s happening on the ground to our Filipino women. Some of them are being raped, abused, and butchered. Even at this point in our history, we still hear news reports of sexual violence to our women in public spaces and public transport – jeepneys, buses, and taxicabs. We should direct our energy instead in addressing these issues and help preserve the purity of our women in which we Filipinos have been known in the past. Let us instill and strengthen the culture of respect to them which has significantly been overlooked in the past few years.

I know we have changed a lot as a nation. But is it too much to ask to treat every decent, classy, and dignified woman as Miss Universe? That matters more than awarding her a crown with a shape reminiscent of Manhattan skyline made up of 311 pieces of diamonds, 5 pieces of blue topaz, 198 pieces of blue sapphire, 33 pieces of crystal and 220 grams of gold.