May 2018
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Honeylet and Leni

Cielito Avanceña croprepresent the two major parts of Philippine society – not Mocha and Leni, who are both daughters of judges. One with a tragic twist early in her biography, the other later. Honeylet was a nurse in the United States for four years (link), and women’s names with suffixes as -let or -lyn will almost never be found among the children of the traditional Filipino middle class from which Mocha Uson and Leni both come from. And like many from simpler backgrounds who have come to money, there is a certain initial hunger for conspicious consumption (link) which is not surprising – I have observed this in Filipino migrants when they earn their first bigger money. Doesn’t have to mean that it will go into endless greed like that of Imelda, which I think could have been born more out of narcissistic injury (link), defined as:

“vulnerability in self-esteem which makes narcissistic people very sensitive to ‘injury’ from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack.”

Although this description also fits many aspects of Duterte and Mocha. What do they have in common with Imelda? Imelda was the poor cousin of a rich family, often looked down upon. Duterte was the black sheep – of a rich and powerful family. Mocha is a bit of an outcast from her original background, with or without her dancing.

Filipinos and Pilipinos

The traditional middle class can personally relate to the Philippine Republic. Many of them, looking at Facebook, are either friends or friends of friends. Many of them have had parents or even grandparents or ancestors who worked for the government – or were public figures. So there is a maximum of 2-3 degrees of separation between them and nearly anyone important now or before. The identification with the legacy built by so many is personal. Not so with the many -lets or -lyns of the Philippines.

Often they will be (children of) migrants or OFWs who themselves were from simple peasant or working-class families, maybe with an enlisted soldier or a policeman in the mix, who now have a little more. If they have some degree of connection to the traditional middle class, it might be through having worked for one of those families – if these families remember them which not all do. I have seen on the Internet that Raissa Robles’ post about Honeylet’s shopping has generated some angry reactions – which do not really surprise me. It is like “why don’t you let our kind have a share of things also, you rich people”? In his book “Motherless Tongues”, Prof. Vicente Rafael mentions the simple people of the Philippines as  being “acknowledged only to be dismissed” (Page 95, The Cell Phone and the Crowd, Postscript) and mentions the EDSA 3 battlecry as being “Nandyan na kami! Maghanda na kayo!” (we are here, now be prepared). Pilipinos warning Filipinos, two major subcultures often clashing.

The outcast Filipinos

It is outcast Filipinos (with F) like Mocha who are angrier at Leni than anyone from the simple people (Pilipinos with P). Or has anyone heard Honeylet rage against Leni? The destructive, narcissistic rage of outcasts (not all outcasts have that, notably I did not see any of that in Erap for all his faults) tapping the desire for acknowledgement and respect from the simple people is dangerous. This is why it hates the real acknowledgement and respect that Leni and those like her give to the people, calls it “plastic”.

The outcast Filipinos will destroy the entire Philippines, burn the house down if only to take revenge against those that they feel have slighted them. A corrupt President Binay, who represents Pilipinos (with P) moving up, would have been less dangerous to the Philippines than Duterte is now. Now if Filipinos are in general able to acknowledge and respect Pilipinos like VP Leni sincerely does, a lot can be won, the forces of darkness can be dispelled. Yet I do not yet see this point in time reached yet.

The Pinoy Ako Blog (link) delivers the point in a way more common people understand: Dear Honeylet.. Kumusta naman po ang experience sa pagsakay sa private plane na ang pera ng taong bayan ang gumastos? At least nakatipid kayo sa pamasahe sa pagshopping nyo. Shopping money na lang ang nagamit niyo. There is Miyako Isabel (link) from Davao, whose education is UP Anthropology but whose thinking bridges “F and P”, proudly part Lumad in ancestry. More of those are needed.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 14 May 2017


6 comments to Honeylet and Leni


    ..MANILA – Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella could not say for sure if President Rodrigo Duterte’s common-law wife Cielito “Honeylet” Avanceña paid for her trip to New York, where she was invited to an event hosted by United States First Lady Melania Trump.

    In a press briefing Friday, Abella said he can only “assume” that Avanceña was invited in her personal capacity and that she may have paid for her expenses while overseas..


    A year into his presidency, with nearly 8,000 extrajudicial killings linked to his war on drugs, polls showed that around 80% of Filipinos approved of Duterte — this authoritarian strongman executing criminals, cleaning out corruption, cursing like an uncle, joking about rape, reviled by the West yet beloved by his countrymen.

    Over my two weeks in the Philippines in April, hitting more than a dozen big and small cities from the northern tip to the southern edge, I spoke to scores of people — vendors, farmers, professors, drivers, politicians, cops, writers, business owners, lawyers, dentists — and nearly all of them, even those who voted against him, said they believe that their president is making the country better.

    I struggled to understand his popularity. From the start, I thought Duterte was a madman. Under his rule, the Philippines would revert to a police state, I feared, a return to curfews and crackdowns on all who opposed. Murder as official state policy. Hadn’t the country moved past this? It was only a generation ago that its people toppled a dictator, and now this new president would burn to ash the democratic freedoms established in the three decades since.

    I assumed my family agreed with me. Our kin were on the front lines of the 1986 revolution, when the streets of Manila filled with protesters and dictator Ferdinand Marcos fled into exile, his 20-year rule ending without a shot fired. “People Power,” we called it, as homemaker-turned-heroine Cory Aquino stepped into the presidency, restoring order to the nation that had been the birthplace of modern democracy in Asia.


    I felt for those squatters. In a country with astounding economic inequality, and with very limited resources for the have-nots, you scratch for everything in reach. And if you find a patch of unoccupied roadside land, with trees bearing fruit you can sell, you jump on it and build a home.

    Several of my relatives in the Philippines told me that this mindset is more like a guiding principle — an ethos of taking all you can get away with. People might complain about squatter camps popping up near their neighborhood and politicians skimming off the top, but they have little faith that the rules of engagement will ever change — so what else can you do but play along?

    The way I began to understand it, these were not acts of deception, but of tacit understanding, an ongoing state of negotiation beneath the surface of Filipino society. I saw it most clearly every time we drove through chaotic streets crowded with buses and cars and motorcycles. Lanes were meaningless, every inch of space an opportunity for advancement. Drivers zigged and zagged, hustling, but when you cut somebody off, you warned them with a quick honk-honk and they acknowledged you with a honk-honk reply that seemed to recognize that it’s all part of the game. There was none of the shouting and steering-wheel slamming so common in America. There was no pretense of courtesy on these roads, no expectation that everybody else would follow the official rules.


    My grandfather’s law practice ran into a blockade of corruption. Money did not always guarantee that a judge would rule in your favor, but the court filings submitted with an envelope of cash were slid to the top of the docket, ensuring indefinite gridlock for the rest. Having mostly represented poor clients, my grandfather made his living through commission from monetary verdicts, which slowed to a trickle. He refused to pay the bribes.

    He tried to start various business, but a business permit also required a bribe. So he turned to ship salvaging, investing his savings in boats and equipment he needed to prowl for sunken vessels to sell. The family’s money dwindled. My grandparents had sent their older children to the most expensive, elite private schools in Manila. But there was not enough to fund the same education for their younger kids.

    They transferred my mother midway through high school. Later, she dropped out of dental college because her parents could no longer afford the tuition. They sent her three younger brothers to live with an aunt and uncle in Dumaguete City, where education was cheaper and they wouldn’t be exposed to the stress and bitterness that now filled the big house on Scout Reyes.

    … this story by a Fil-Am with Mindanao roots is worth reading in its entirety… it is a pageantry of the country from a personal and family view..

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico

      Criminals fear Duterte.
      Intellectuals do not fear Duterte because they have done nothing wrong.
      Intellectuals find Duterte a violation of what is right.
      Intellectuals are mostly wealthy, well-connected, powerful people. They are untouchables.
      Criminals would think thrice to touch intellectuals.
      Criminals would not even think once to violate the working class.
      Working class are tired of intellectual snobbery and Criminals impunity.
      The middle class has spoken so are those down-on-their-luck many.

      These intellectuals are not intellectual in reality. They can argue on the esoteric side of the law they can only understand but in the end, these intellectuals only think of themselves and the criminals because big-time corruption are done by intellectuals hiding behind technicalities of the law.


    By: Ambeth R. Ocampo – @inquirerdotnet
    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:22 AM May 19, 2017

    People are talking about “My Family’s Slave,” the Atlantic Monthly cover story by the late Alex Tizon. It is powerfully written, hits the gut, but the reaction differs from reader to reader.

    It opens with the author bringing the ashes of Eudocia Tomas Pulido from the United States to her lahar-blighted birthplace in Tarlac: “She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us. No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived. Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been. So many nights, on my way to the bathroom, I’d spot her sleeping in a corner, slumped against a mound of laundry, her fingers clutching a garment she was in the middle of folding.”

    The woman was definitely abused, and many employers in the Philippines are rightfully shocked at the story because kasambahay are paid (but not as much as they should), plus SSS and PhilHealth contributions. The woman in the Tizon story was treated like a slave, while kasambahay are treated like poor relations.

    Tizon’s story reminded me of the old house help in my grandmother’s house who had been with the family for two or three generations. I am happy to note, though, that bondage ended in the third generation for those diligent enough to finish high school or college and seek better jobs elsewhere. Some took the shortcut: getting married to leave domestic service. Tizon grew up in America and missed out on one little detail: Eudocia Pulido was known as “Lola,” which might have been her nickname, but “Lola” is more than “grandmother”—it is a term, a relation, of respect, with many shades of meaning in Philippine culture.

    The grade-school Araling Panlipunan describes social structure in pre-Spanish Philippine society as a pyramid with the top occupied by the “Maguinoo,” whose names were preceded by honorific titles: Guinoo, Ginoo, Gat, Panginoon, or Poon, which mean “Lord” (the feminine form was “Dayang”). The 19th-century dandy Pedro Paterno claimed ancestry in pre-Spanish nobility and fashioned himself as the “Maguinoo Paterno,” the Prince of Luzon.

    In the 9th-century Laguna Copper Plate Inscription is a reference to Dayang (Lady) Angkatan. The Catholic prayer to the Virgin that opens with the angelic salutation “Ave Maria” or “Hail Mary” has been translated as early as the 16th century as “Aba Ginoong Maria.”

    Textbook history obscures so many nuances, but generally the Maguinoo was a nobleman—the top of the social pyramid. A Datu, Raja, or Lakan, as in Lakandula, was a Maguinoo who controlled a community. When the Spanish arrived in Manila, they met Rajah Matanda (Old Rajah), different from Raja Mora/Mura (the Young Raja aka Soliman). The “vassals” of the Maguinoo were called “Timawa,” who were free (not slaves) or commoners who cultivated their own land and did not need to pay tribute to the Maguinoo but were asked to work his land or fight his battles. The other “vassal” was known as “Maharlica,” a member of a warrior class who provided military service to the Maguinoo. Contrary to popular belief, the Maharlica were not Maguinoo or nobility, but they could buy their freedom and become Timawa.

    Lower down are the “Alipin” (Luzon) or “Oripun” (Visayas)—both loosely translated as “slave.” These were not free like the Timawa and Maharlica; their status was dependent on debt, and they had to buy their freedom. There were two kinds of Alipin: the “aliping namamahay” (those who literally lived in the home or land of their master) and the “aliping sagigilid” (literally a slave who lives at the edge or the margins of a house or land). The aliping namamahay were above the aliping sagigilid; some had their own dwellings and lived outside the home, unlike the aliping sagigilid who textbook history makes out to be the lowest in society because it doesn’t want to teach about the “bulisik” or “bulislis,” who were slaves indebted to or owned by slaves. Bulislis literally means seeing the exposed genitals of someone whose skirt is held or lifted up. Things are more complex than textbook history makes them out to be.

    Comments are welcome at

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico

      “Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly.”

      This is the living working condition of the house slaves in the Philippines. When I am forced to go to Pinoy parties in the U.S. they talk about “how good life is in the Philippines with one or more maids”. “Here in America we have to work hard!” These are the common arrogant complaints of Filipinos. I just wonder why they are in America in the first place if their lives were good in the Philippines. What are these Filipinos trying to prove?

      I seethe and fume hearing this. These fake-American Filipinos’ living condition and lifestyles is not even at par to average real-Americans. What I can surmise from these American-wanna-be Filipinos they love slavery. Enslave their own brown-skin Filipinos and adore the colonists idea of “Don & Dona”.

      I see girls in their teens toil from sun-up to sun-up for their fanatically religious Roman Catholic brown-skin Filipino slave holders. They cannot even watch Al Dub.

      Are Filipinos worthy dying for?

  • Mariano Renato Pacifico

    In the Philippines, Filipinos and Pilipinos are outcasts. They are like the untouchables in India. Bottom of the pile. Pilipino as language is not spoken but English. English is measure of intelligence in the Philippines by Filipinos. Beauty is measured by the color of the skin: If they are white they are beautiful if they are brown they are ugly. Vying for beauty contests they have to be white enough to sashay before ogling racist brown-skin Filipinos then they come to me asking why Filipinos are not patriotic and nationalistic.

    Whenever I go to restaurants, they open the door for me. They bow their heads. No! No! No! They bow not with their heads only but down to the waist like I am a dignitary. Usher me to the best table. Sit me down. I saw brown skin Filipinos that were sat down close to the CR (Comfort Room) or to the kitchen.

    No wonder I hear patriotic and nationalist jingles on Filipino TV to make Filipinos love themselves and love other brown skin. Patriotic jingles is to promote patriotism to non-patriot Filipinos. This is totally absolutely wrong. No amount of jingles can make Filipinos patriotic if their brown-skin is not glamorized and adored. No amount of jingles if spoken English is language of class. No amount of jingles if Filipinos are not respected by Philippine Press. No amount of jingles if Philippine columnists are hired-wired and hard-wired to political anlaysis as if politics were math and science.

    It is time for Filipinos to rise up. Snob those beauty contests. Speak their language. Burn newspapers. Protest against political analysis.

    To this day Philippine columnists have not written a single column why judges allowed road-rage Chinese David Lim to go on cruise with his family. Well, David Lim is Chinese. Brown skin truck drivers languish in jail.

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