Vlogger Nas Daily on Thursday defended his portrayal of the Philippines, as he lost thousands of followers in the wake of a controversy involving his online learning platform and legendary tattoo artist Apo Whang-Od.
Data from CrowdTangle showed his page losing over 70,000 followers in the last two days. Also on Thursday, a Filipina social entrepreneur went viral for her personal accounts on what it was like to work with the Israeli-Palestinian content creator.
On Facebook, she told her experience of working with the content creator when he came to her home town, San Fernando, Camarines Sur in 2019 to feature her work.
Having been recognized by the United Nations, Forbes, and National Geographic, Mabulo said Yassin asked if she could share the work she's been doing -- addressing the food insecurity problem while helping local farmers -- through a one-minute video, which he's best known for.
"My family took him and other content creators in as welcome guests— with typical hospitality we are known for," she said, noting she and her father were huge fans.
However, as soon as he arrived, she found out that the man she "looked up to for years was not the bearer of good news he’d misled his followers to believe he was." Her post has gone viral, with 85,000 shares and 82,000 reactions in three hours.
"I watched him imitate and mock the local accent and language, vocalizing Tagalog-sounding syllabic phrases saying it sounded stupid. He repeatedly said that the people of my hometown 'poor', 'farmers are so poor!', 'why are Filipinos so poor?'"," she said.
Having figured the project did not live up to his expectations, Mabulo said Yassin told her "no one wants to hear about farmers or farms, it’s not clickable viewable content."
Despite being "fully transparent" in their phone call that her work still wasn't ripe for his one-minuter videos, the vlogger insisted to come still, and in the end "blamed his lack of presentable click-worthy content" on her.
"Blatant discrimination of my people, no regard for local customs or cultures, and he’d built a story in his mind without meaningfully understanding the context of what he was going to cover. As a result, he was disappointed that my work wasn’t the perfectly packaged story he’d pre-determined and imagined," she said.
Mabulo said that to Yassin, it was all about getting views from Filipinos, noting he even joked that all it takes to rack millions in views and a flood of comments is to "put 'Philippines' in the title."
Having received no greeting or thanks and told they only wasted "his time", Mabulo said she should have known that Yassin was "exploitative and fueling a neocolonialist narrative using our need for foreign validation."
"I’ve stayed silent because I knew that I would face backlash for calling out on this man— after all, it’s easy to take Nusseir’s word over mine. And I’ve been haunted with the knowledge that he could manipulate years of my work with a single carelessly misinformed video— I chose to stay silent about it. I would not risk my hometown, and the farmers here who benefit, over an affront by some influencer," Mabulo said.
But now that he has "overstepped and had the audacity to do the same to Apo Whang-Od and the Butbot Tribe" of Buscalan, Kalinga, Mabulo said decided to speak up, commending the tattoo artist's granddaughter, Gracia Palicas, who spoke up on the matter.
According to Mabulo, what people like Nas Daily is trying to do is part of a "new wave of colonialism", reminiscent of how colonizers used to "mislead indigenous people to sell off their land" except instead that it was now data, content, and tradition being sold.
"Filipinos should stand together on this. We are not content to be exploited. We are not culture to be capitalized. We are not people to be romanticized," she said.
Early Thursday, Nas Academy issued a statement in relation to the Whang-Od Academy controversy, denying claims of cultural exploitation as their company "have been champions of the Philippines from Day 1".
"40% of Nas Academy is made up of Filipinos. So for us, this is personal. We care deeply about the Philippines and respect the many cultures and traditions that exist across the country. And we have all come together to make the world a better place," it said.
Nas Daily's Response
Late Thursday Yassin, via his Nas Daily page disputed Mabulo's revelations. He said the reason why they had to leave was because the social entrepreneur's The Cacao Project "is not as truthful as the media says it is".
"Once we arrived at your plantation, once we saw the village and talked to the farmers, we came to the conclusion that there is no story here. That the awards on the Internet are just that...awards," he said.
"Our investigation has made it clear that your story in the media is false. And that there are no '200 farmers' that you work with, and there are no Cacao plantations that you don't personally profit from," he said.
Yassin told Mabulo not to share "online falsehoods", which he said was "borderline illegal", as his team supposedly has "five years of evidence to back that up."