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Vicarious celebration of Fil-Am victories


By Susan Palmes-Dennis


ROCKINGHAM, North Carolina—It would probably be more than a week by the time this column gets printed or comes out online whichever comes first but I’m sure a lot of Filipinos will still be basking in the afterglow of victory by Filipino-American R’Bonney Gabriel as the 2022 Miss Universe—she being considered a 2022 winner even if the pageant was held this year 2023 since there was no pageant due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That being said, not a few Pinoys will also bat a cynical eyelash at those Pinoys who cheered on Miss Gabriel’s victory even if she did technically represent the US in the (arguably) longest running and most well known beauty pageant in the world. Among those who voiced their cynicism in social media is Nef Luczon, a Cagayan de Oro City-based bureau chief of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) and local filmmaker/professor who described the Filipinos fawning over Miss Gabriel’s Miss Universe win and her Fil-Am roots as ‘Penoize’, probably a play on ‘Pinoys’ and ‘noize (noise).

While I may agree with his points—he did guest in my program ‘Susan Live’a few episodes back discussing about the planned ban on Korean drama—there is very little he or anyone else can do about the tendency of many Pinoys to look for anything remotely Pinoy in any celebrity who made it big abroad. Whether it be an actor, athlete, doctor and so on, the discovery of a celebrity’s Filipino roots fills any average Pinoy with a sense of pride and vicarious satisfaction from that Fil-Am’s achievements.

For starters we can all thank our media outlets for doing the research and looking for any signs of a celebrity’s roots to see if he or she has Filipino blood. And to be fair, these stories make for good viewing and reading. I mean, while we celebrate the boxing victories of now former senator Manny Pacquiao or the showbiz career of a Lea Salonga, it somehow gives a sense of awe and glee to discover that Mr. or Miss Celebrity is part-Filipino regardless of how small of a percentage the genes and familial roots were.

Even if that celebrity is all-American or European, Asian or what not, the discovery that Mister or Miss Celebrity has Filipino friends or co-workers—yes, a nanny or yaya will also qualify–=can still be a source of pride and bragging rights for our celebrity obsessed Pinoys. Ever notice how, during press junkets of tentpole film releases, the Filipino reporter, usually TV, would squeeze in a question like, ‘have you ever been to the Philippines?’ or some such line?

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I don’t blame these reporters for doing so because they’re trying to connect the celebrity with their intended audience. At any rate to their credit the foreign celebrities in question are game enough and even express genuine interest in the Philippines and as a Filipino transplated in the US for sometime now, I still appreciate the value of interconnecting with different cultures. Bisan asa ta mabutang sa kalibutan, mogawas gud ang atong pagka-Pinoy.

Speaking of which, it’s also instructive to know that audience attention had also been afforded to the Philippine bet to the Miss Universe, Celeste Cortesi. She’s probably to my recollection one of the more recent Philippine beauty pageant representatives with mixed blood, the other being Catriona Gray. But I’m not going to stray too far and talk about her or the other pageant candidates with foreign parentage.

Suffice it to say that whatever one’s sentiments on Miss Gabriel’s victory in the Miss Universe pageant is and the resulting ‘Penoizing’ afterward, it’s just that, a vicarious celebration of one’s achievement even if that celebrity doesn’t know squat about Pinoy fans. At the time when we are still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the war between Russia and Ukraine and the escalating prices of food stuff, a Miss Universe victory by a foreigner with mixed Pinoy blood is a balm on the senses.

And so Filipino-Americans like myself cheer Miss Gabriel on while wishing that more full-blooded Pinoys make their mark in the global stage. As a former official and active member of the Filipino-American Community of the Carolinas Inc. (FACC) here, I also do my part In promoting and developing a sense of pride and kinship between the Fil-Am community here and their families back home. This effort is also critical for current and future generations of Fil-Ams who need to embrace both their ties to the Philippines and their US roots.

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