Things that are sort of a big deal

I always check the comments section on news sites that have them. They help give me an arbitrary and unbalanced peek at how your average Filipino thinks.

One of the big stories over the long weekend was the plagiarized commencement speech delivered at the Ateneo by Philippine Long Distance and Telephone Co. chairman Manuel Pangilinan, and the reactions are more of a story than the actual story.

Beat It!

People have called his offer to resign from the university’s board out of propriety ‘silly’, with one commenter adding that everyone knows that Filipinos are copycats, and that it shouldn’t be a big deal.

That there is debate on the issue is in itself rather troubling. The sentiment seems to be that a. it was wrong, but not that wrong (he didn’t steal government funds, for example) or b. it was wrong, so Ateneans shouldn’t be so high and mighty about themselves, or c. what’s wrong with that?

There is an honor system at the Ateneo, and unless things have changed since I spent 12 of my formative years there, plagiarism is wrong.

True, MVP did not try to pass of some doctorate dissertation “on my travels to Egypt with Dr. So-and-so” as his senior-year research paper, but copying is copying. He did the right thing by manning up and offering to resign.

Trying to rationalize it as a Filipino cultural thing, or as some sort of minor sin trivializes both the act and the supreme act of ballsiness that MVP did in reaction to it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in double standards, patriots everywhere have been tearing into comedian Adam Carolla (who used to have girls jump on trampolines) for slighting the Great Brown Hope, Dr. Manny Pacquiao, PhD, and by extension, the Philippines.

How we can jump at some podcast poking fun at our absurd adoration for a boxer, but not really care all that much about someone using someone else’s words without permission or acknowledgment  is pretty puzzling.

Is it okay, for example, for a Filipino to excuse plagiarism because, you know, that’s just who we are? Is it not okay for some comedian to make a big deal about the big deal that we make of Pacquiao even if, you know, that’s who we are?

Let me tell you, not even on my travels to Egypt with Professor Edward Said, have I ever seen a people so into contradiction.


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