Put to task by senators over state auditors' findings that the Department of Health mismanaged P67 billion in pandemic response funds, Sec. Francisco Duque said the controversy left him sleepless with his reputation in tatters.
His defense went viral and birthed a new meme on the internet: don't pull the "sad boi" card when you're a government official who is being held to account. In Duque's case, quite literally by the Commission on Audit.
"Winarak na ninyo kami eh. Winarak na ninyo ang dangal ng DOH. Winarak ninyo ang lahat ng mga kasama ko dito," Duque had said, addressing COA.
But what is a sadboi?
For the benefit of those who don't know, or old enough to not know, the term "sad boi" is pretty straightforward: it's an alternative to the compound term "sad boy", which is a mix of two simple words "sad" and "boy".
But the change of "y" to "i" is pretty telling of how modern the rather old behavior has become, as gen z redefined the millennial term to accomodate the young generation's highly nuanced internet culture.
According to the Urban Dictionary which is the internet's number one resource on modern language, the sad boi is "gen z's version of the emo".
As defined in Western culture, sad boys are usually 15 to 20-year-old depressed white kids who usually have a sharp sense of style, generally wearing black and white outfits with bucket hats. They are stereotyped for their taste for alternative hip-hop music, particularly as fans of artists Tyler the Creator, Drake, Rex Orange County, and Yung Lean.
But for all the specificity in these descriptions, the definition of the sadboi has become vague. Typically used in the context of online dating, the term is often confused with the "fuck boy" and "soft boy". However similar, they are actually different.
The soft boy is like the fuckboy but with a less cocky attitude and goes for the heart and emotions rather than just the body, which the latter is known for.
The sad boi, on the other hand, has but one defining characteristic as the name suggests: they glorify negative emotions and depressed mental states to gain sympathy. In Filipino, they use what some call the "paawa effect".
Often seen as a fetishization of men's vulnerability (or lack thereof), sad bois have become the butt of jokes on the internet. In recent years, young Filipinos have had their fun creating memes out of the sad boi persona's manipulative tendencies as seen in the following examples:
A quick Facebook search easily led to this 11-thousand strong group of sad Filipino boys who are either self-confessed or who just want to make fun of sad bois. (Note: based on the posts, it's honestly hard to know.)
Need a more specific example? Some say John LLoyd Cruz's character in the 2007 blockbuster film "One More Chance" invented the sadboi.
So what about sad boi culture?
But beyond memes, the sad boi culture warrants deeper discussions.
For one, on the part of those being tagged as sad bois themselves: don't hide behind the fact that you need to seek (or are seeking) mental health help to excuse predatory and manipulative behavior.
In the interest of fairness, if the health chief was right about something, it's that "we're not operating under normal circumstances, we’re operating under a state of public health emergency". Point is, it shouldn't be used to evade accountability, especially if you're a government official.
There should also be a question for society at large: on how it is partly accountable for having cultivated an environment where being a man and having (sad) emotions don't usually go together. The sad boi shouldn't also be confused easily with those whose mental health is actually suffering.
In the end, if only these young men had better role models and better access to mental health services, then perhaps, we wouldn't be here discussing this.
Back to the big question: was Duque really being a sadboi?
Well the internet, dominated by young people who know the term best as inventors of it, seems to be in concensus that he was.
To support this further, some pointed out, Duque was trying to appeal to the emotion.
One can remember this from high school English: the logical fallacy of argumentum ad passiones which is "characterized by the manipulation of the recipient's emotions in order to win an argument, especially in the absence of factual evidence."
So to DOH, and all other agencies flagged by COA for questionnable use of public funds, to avoid becoming a meme should serve as a pretty good motivation for holding yourselves into account. Aside, of course, from the fact that to begin with, it's how the job should be done.
[Author's note: Admittedly, the author of this story has had quite a fun time laughing at this realm of internet culture in recent years as a zillennial herself. So, if you're interested in knowing more, check out this Instagram account dedicated to (shaming) soft boys for some (hopefully) harmless laugh.]