The importance of being ‘VIP’

Or, how Filipinos look down on fellow Filipinos who don’t have the word ‘VIP’ written on their foreheads.

What was an otherwise awe-inspiring and uplifting experience started on a very sour note when two green-shirted ladies (sorry, ladies, you gave great disservice to the ‘fairer’ gender with your regrettably un-called for brashness) tried to turn me away from the precious VIP seat gallery assigned to important guests and blow-‘em-away personalities with “famous names” at the Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando, Pampanga on December 19.

It’s not that I pushed myself to a space that I was not supposed to occupy. I might look plebeian, even unwashed, but social climbing is not in my resume. I was only following the person who brought me to the occasion to their seats, together with another person in our group, when I was accosted by this bureaucrat with a not-so-happy face telling me that the monoblocs were reserved for VIPs only.

The friend who brought me to the “one-of-a-kind event in the whole world” beckoned us to where they were seated, and so we approached them. Turns out the green-shirted organizing committee member called another green-shirted organizing committee member to inform the latter of the existence of intruders to their realm. Turns out the latter was apparently having worse than a not-so-happy face. She announced to no one in particular but loud enough for the whole city to hear: “Pag dumating ang mga uupo diyan, patatayuin ko kayo!” And then she marched condescendingly away.

I told my companion that I can sit on the grounds or stand somewhere else, if that would spare me the embarrassment of being made to remove my ass from the plastic contraption in favor of the one whose name was pasted on it, in full view of everybody else. I preferred the grounds, anyway, so I could take more detailed pictures of the lanterns in all their resplendent glory. But I was told to stay put, and my Waray temperament which was by then starting to simmer cooled down.

The name attached to the chair that we “invaded”? DoH Region III. Yup, unnamed government functionaries are considered VIPs in this country.

The disparaging incident, however, failed to dampen my curiosity and enthusiasm about watching the still-evolving product of Filipino artistry and craftsmanship known to the indefatigable Kapampangans as Ligligan Parul. The giant lanterns of San Fernando are simply amazing, to say the least, and mind-bending, to put it gently. The time, effort, ingenuity, skill and creativity, not to mention expense that the building of one giant lantern entails is an immense credit to the Filipino spirit of community and resourcefulness.

But that’s another story. The making of those truly world-class giant lanterns should not be diminished by some people’s fixation with VIP and celebrity. Putting down another person – even publicly humiliating them, whether intentional or “part of the job” – because they look pedestrian or are simply anonymous is an absolute test of character in which people like you and me are often an ‘epic fail’.


The view from the so-called VIP gallery.



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