Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

You Tube Highlights

I have about an hour to blow before playing basketball -- I try to arrive at the Barangay around 10:30 a.m., when it's officially too hot for any sane individual to be running and jumping, juking and jiving, etc. -- and that's not enough time to do any real writing, so here I am!

Although I have no demographic information about the Manilla V. audience, only a few hints from comments left by readers (most of which I suspect are Pessoa-like heteronyms created by my father), I'm pretty sure that most of you are Americans or non-Filipinos. That may be changing slightly, but how many Pinoys really need to read about basketball and life in the Philippines? So, in the name of exposing the world at large to some of the finest examples of local culture, I figured a little tour of Philippines-related YouTube videos would be instructive.

The country has enjoyed a bump in Internet popularity in recent months, mostly thanks to some zany YouTube videos that caught the eye of millions of people online and eventually garnered international media attention.

The valedictorian of this group are the dancing prisoners from the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center. They do these giant, North Korean Mass Game-style synchronized dances of songs like "YMCA," the Black Eyed Peas' "Bebot" and my favorite, an innuendo-laced Tagalog song called "Jumbo Hot Dog" by the Masculados. Of course, their most famous performance is a near exact reproduction of the dance moves in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, which has been viewed more than 9 million times. I'm going to embed a medley they performed in front of the Cebu provincial Capitol in August. Once you view one of their videos YouTube will throw up links to all the others with hardly any prodding. It's impressive and hilarious stuff, but one or two videos is enough for most viewers.



Then there's the Weng Weng Rap! Who was Weng Weng? Thanks to Andrew Leavold, an Australian documentary filmmaker who has devoted years to researching the 2-foot-9 actor's life (keep up the good fight, bro. You're not the only one obsessed with the minutiae of Philippine culture!) and who has also written this ridiculously thorough biography of Weng Weng on IMDB, we know that Weng Weng starred in a handful of spy/action spoof films, two of which are available through Netflix. The obvious and sole gimmick of these films is that the shortest lead actor in the history of film was out there kicking ass and taking names. My favorite piece of Weng Weng trivia is this wickedly ironic tidbit: His first hit, "For Yu'r Height Only," was the only film from Imelda Marcos' uber-notorious 1981 Manila International Film Festival to be picked up for major distribution. Instead of showcasing the best of Philippine talent and culture, Imelda exported a freak show, which, in some ways seems appropriate. Weng Weng, who died in 1992, has been reborn on the popular YouTube video "Weng Weng Rap," which was recently highlighted by Will Ferrell on Funny or Die. I think we can all agree that the "tiny human being" line takes the cake.



Let's keep the Little People theme going and look at another clip, "Bayot Basketball," which points the spotlight at an exhibition game that has taken the Visayas by storm over the past few years, Aksyon Radyo Cebu's Unano-Bading Showdown. The game pits midgets (unano) against gays ("bading" in Tagalog and "bayot" in Visaya) in a choreographed, Harlem Globetrotters-style game. I have been to this game, and let me say, as a fan of lowbrow entertainment, this stretched me to my limits. I heard from Peace Corps Volunteers in Cebu that this video was shot by an American friend of a PCV who was vacationing in the Philippines. That explains the goofy commentary and intertitles, which just drip with mean-spirited superiority complex. Then again, foreigners can live here for years and never know better, so I won't make too many excuses for the videographer. It might be hard for some to watch, but there's no point in denying the footage exists, so here it is.



We have time for one more: Bakekang. Americans who watch Ugly Better may have some understanding of the Telenovela, but that show is really novela-lite. Multiply the love triangles by 10, square the tear-filled reaction shots and remove any sense of responsible broadcasting, and you have the straight dope. I would need a crack team of intellectuals, including Henry Louis Gates, Toni Morrison, UP Anthropologist Michael Tan and Cornel West to parse the multi-layered racism and post-colonial decay in this clip, but man, the acting is FANTASTIC.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Progenitor said...

Yo, Jim. I only went to youtube once to watch Bakekang. It's so bad it's good, and another 9999 fools must have got to it by word of mouth. I got better things to do, believe me.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Prosecutor said...

Poor Michael Vick. If he can't play ball when he gets out of jail in a couple years, we can have him organize an American version of the midgets/gays game, take it to Las Vegas, dress 'em up right. This game must mean something significant about the popularity of bball in the Philippines, but I'm not sure what.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Andrew Leavold said...

Heya,

Just found your blog while googling "Weng Weng" (as I do with disturbing regularity!). Have spent a good while crawling through your blog with the same kind of wide-eyed awe I experience wandering around Malate or Quiapo!

I wrote the bio on IMDB, and am finishing up a doco called THE SEARCH FOR WENG WENG (see www.andrewleavold.blogspot.com).

As you'll see from the picture on the top post, it's not just crazy white boys who are obsessed with the Wengster - the creators of the song "Bebot" are too!

It's a twisted, twisted world...

Cheers, Andrew

1:24 PM  
Blogger PAK MUS said...

saya mengucapkan banyak terimakasih kepada KI HADAK yang telah menolong saya dalam kesulitan,ini tidak pernah terfikirkan dari benak saya kalau nomor yang saya pasang bisa tembus dan ALHAMDULILLAH kini saya sekeluarga sudah bisa melunasi semua hutang2 kami,sebenarnya saya bukan penggemar togel tapi apa boleh buat kondisi yang tidak memunkinkan dan akhirnya saya minta tolong sama KI HADAK dan dengan senang hati beliau mau membantu saya..,ALHAMDULIL LAH nomor yang dikasi KI semuanya bener2 terbukti tembus dan baru kali ini saya menemukan dukun yang jujur,jangan anda takut untuk menhubungiya jika anda ingin mendapatkan nomor yang betul2 tembus seperti saya,silahkan hubungi KI HADAK DI 085=259=457=111 ingat kesempat tidak akan datang untuk yang kedua kalinya dan perlu anda ketahui kalau banyak dukun yang tercantum dalam internet,itu jangan dipercaya kalau bukan nama KI HADAK
BUKA INI DANA GHAIB TOGEL










saya mengucapkan banyak terimakasih kepada KI HADAK yang telah menolong saya dalam kesulitan,ini tidak pernah terfikirkan dari benak saya kalau nomor yang saya pasang bisa tembus dan ALHAMDULILLAH kini saya sekeluarga sudah bisa melunasi semua hutang2 kami,sebenarnya saya bukan penggemar togel tapi apa boleh buat kondisi yang tidak memunkinkan dan akhirnya saya minta tolong sama KI HADAK dan dengan senang hati beliau mau membantu saya..,ALHAMDULIL LAH nomor yang dikasi KI semuanya bener2 terbukti tembus dan baru kali ini saya menemukan dukun yang jujur,jangan anda takut untuk menhubungiya jika anda ingin mendapatkan nomor yang betul2 tembus seperti saya,silahkan hubungi KI HADAK DI 085=259=457=111 ingat kesempat tidak akan datang untuk yang kedua kalinya dan perlu anda ketahui kalau banyak dukun yang tercantum dalam internet,itu jangan dipercaya kalau bukan nama KI HADAK
BUKA INI DANA GHAIB TOGEL

11:02 PM  

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