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Yearender 2021: Everything We Stood For and Against

A year in culture.
by Ara Eugenio
A day ago

As the world (somehow) started getting used to living in a pandemic this year, headlines delivered to us stories that allowed us to look to ourselves more as a society.

The things that made us laugh, angry, crythey all taught us a lesson or two about the values we hold dear as a collective, what divides us, the ways in which we imagine a better future. 

Here at Reportr, our coverage is tied to the the promise of a more equitable and just society for all social classes, genders, and identities. To cap off another year that passed, here's a rundown of everything we stood for and against in 2021:

The curious case of Christine Dacera

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The year started with the mysterious death of a flight attendant that got everyone talking. 

Authorities and netizens took part in the sleuthing that was fueled by hasty conclusions from authorities. In the process, one important aspect of the case was violated: privacy rights of those involved.

Dacera's death (later found to be of natural causes instead of a homicide) exposed how a lack of SOGIE understanding, as well as pervasive rape culture, robs people of due process.

Who should run the world? Women.

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Like the years that passed, 2021 still had no dearth of male privilege. 

This was highlighted by how three men went viral in the same week for offenses that displayed the sense of entitlement they share because of their gender. 

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on several occassions made headlines for his attempts to undermine women's power (an all-too common behavior under the current administration), but his attempts were shut down by empowered women who know better than not fight back.

Broadcaster Pinky Webb hair flipped her hair way out of his mansplaining, while a pageant candidate corrected his sexism on TV and said women are very much capable of leading the country regardless if they have children to look after. 

On the second year of the pandemic, it became more evident that gender does indeed matter in leadership. However, instead of the default setup of men leading, it should be women, as revealed by how female leaders across the world have been on top of the crisis. Still, we maintained that as with men, it matters to elect not just any woman but the right ones—something "benevolently sexist" Philippines has struggled to do.

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As we reported on women's triumphs, we also looked at their struggles, including how the pandemic jeopardized gender equality in the Philippines. The lack of access to sexual health and reproductive education, for one, is affecting young Filipinas.

How strong women can really be if given the right opportunities? They can lift an entire nation, as shown by Hidilyn Diaz who smashed the highest glass ceiling for any Filipino athlete this year when she became the first to secure an Olympic gold medal. 

Understanding SOGIE 

Boxer Nesthy Petecio being the first openly-gay Olympic medalist showed how big 2021 was in terms of LGBT representation.  

Filipino style influencer Bretman Rock made the cover of Playboy Magazine, which he described as a milestone for the LGBTQIA+ community and brown-skinned minorities.

Comparing himself to an inanimate object, Bimby Aquino-Yap, 14, told his mother Kris Aquino in a recent vlog that he was "as straight as one of [their] iPads", hoping to end the public's assumptions that he was gay. The Philippines' queen of all media responded progressively, offering support that is rare for a Filipino parent for all of social media to see and setting a good example. 

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The country also saw its first openly LGBTQIA+ Miss Universe queen in Beatrice Luigi Gomez, who finished in the top 5 while flaunting her tattoos, helping redefine womanhood at the Miss Universe stage that only saw an openly transgender woman participate for the first time in 2018.  

Even with these triumphs, the 21-year long struggle to enact the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) bill is proof that there's still so much work to do. In this country, queer love remains elusive and fragile as seen on Tiktok, and transgender people continue to get violated and killed.

Respect Filipino culture

Beatrice Gomez proudly showing off her tattoos at Miss Universe meant a great deal, especially towards the end of a year in which among the biggest issues in culture was the supposed exploitation of Kalinga's oldest mambabatok (tattoo artist) by a foreign vlogger. 

Nas Daily paused his academy in the Philippines after his dealings with Apo Whang-od stirred conversations on how foreign content creators like him feature Filipinos. "Pinoy-baiting" has long become a thing and it's very much real in today's attention economy, where culture easily becomes commodified.

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So if you're a foreigner who wants to say something about Filipino culture, don't do it for the clicks and please, don't ever commit rice slander.

The pandemic changed our bodies and that's okay


An advertisement advocating cosmetic fix-ups for bodily changes Filipinos are going through because of a so-called #PandemicEffect sparked a social media firestorm, igniting conversations on how we should be kinder to our bodies. When so many of us are dying, the last thing anyone needs is have their pandemic-induced body image struggles reduced, again, into a beauty problem.

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Diet culture has never been busier at work than during a pandemic. As so, in a sea of #WeightLoss and #WhatIEatInADay content on social media especially on Tiktok and Instagram, we amplified voices of those who chose to empower us to honor our bodies. 

Vaccine Year

From a medical breakthrough to a political and social issue, "vaccine" defined 2021, according to American dictionary Merriam-Webster which annointed it word of the year.

Seen as the best shot at ending the pandemic, vaccines dominated headlines throughout the year, from the public hesitancy spurred by social media misinformation to the problem of unequal access between rich and poor nations. Like vaccine hesitancy, vaccine envy was also real, given the limited nature of COVID vaccines in the Philippines, the same reason why the country was listed thrice by Bloomberg as worst place to be in during the pandemic.

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It's 'West Philippine Sea', not South China Sea

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As tensions simmered between Manila and Beijing over reefs and outcrops, the Philippines this year saw President Rodrigo Duterte backtrack on his campaign promise: "retake" the West Philippine Sea (not South China sea; the difference matters) even if it would mean riding a jet ski to the Spratlys Group of Islands.

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Having likened the Philippines' win against China before a UN-backed arbitration court to a mere "piece of paper", Duterte disappointed not just the fishermen who depend on the body of water for their livelihoods, as however far the disputed waters are, it's much closer to all of us than we think, to the stomach even. The West Philippine Sea is a gut issue, as shown by the vanishing of the Galunggong (round scad), which is also known as "the poor man's fish".

Diplomacy is serious business. It will take more than "get the f*ck out" to get China to stop dumping poop on our waters , as upholding a landmark ruling requires a more consistent and coherent foreign policy, which the Duterte administration has failed to do in the last five years. 

Social media as battle ground

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Still asked to stay at home as much as possible for the second year, Filipinos against spent most their time on social media this year. As effective distractions from the wrath of COVID, many turned to celebrity gossips to cope. 

The online art scene was also booming, with many works going political, as led by the #Tumindig movement.  We also featured a thesis project that questioned why Filipinos like poking fun at misery in the name of much-vaunted resilience through satire prints on how hard it is to commute in Metro Manila. Also, who could forget the wave of "Warak na Warak" Duque memes that showed how Filipinos know the language of pain so well?

In a year that precedes a crucial general elections, perhaps it was most necessary to discuss why fact-checking is essential. Like it was in 2016, misinformation is again very rampant, as seen in how Marcosian propaganda are thriving in platforms like Tiktok. 

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It's 2021, and we're still living through the trauma Ferdinand Marcos left behind.

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