2/09/2016
Off to battle, hopefully, perhaps, in heavily-gentrified First World neighborhoods

I have just gotten my hands on the latest issue of Monocle, wrapping up a possibly misguided bid to collect an entire volume of the magazine - and by that I mean all ten issues in one year, plus the two special issues that are not sold here. (I know that reads like a brag, but I just got lucky I was in countries that sell those issues in months those issues are sold. But yeah, a brag.)

Now, yes, call me a hipster. I'll allow that. The magazine is decidedly international in perspective, definitely artisanal in orientation, and very much a creature of multiple paper stocks and the particular scents they give off upon opening. I'm not necessarily a fan of their escapist travel recommendations - after all, the magazine, the whole project, is aimed at jet setters who earn a hundred times more than I do - but I find the topics they cover interesting. Monocle articulated my views on how a city should work, for one; funnily, it wants its cities a little bit gritty and not too polished (ahem, Singapore), but then it features yet another heavily-gentrified First World neighborhood. It also tends to feature oft-overlooked players in world affairs, too, although it will almost always be followed by some entrepreneur from Japan, or Turkey, or Scandinavia.

In short, it is very white.

This month's issue focuses on hospitality. Knowing Monocle, it will talk about the Japanese - and indeed, it does. I haven't read through the issue yet, but the table of contents is, well, depressingly predictable. Scandinavian letter makers. German beer brewers. Spanish language teachers. And, well, Japanese manners. I did say the whole purchase is a possibly misguided thing, right? Why would I want to buy ten issues of a magazine that costs a thousand bucks (well, it used to) that claims to be international and yet focuses on the same places over and over again? Well, again, the news-y parts are an exception, but most of the non-artisanal world is covered only in briefs. The Philippines is mentioned in this issue: one paragraph on Bongbong Marcos. Earlier in the volume it did one paragraph on Manny Pacquiao.

I've been planning to do some media criticism-y thing and do some proper content analysis, of the sort with spreadsheets and percentages, but I'm keeping that for when I have the time, of which I absolutely have none of. So that's a useless tangent. Anyway.

I'm not exactly frustrated that we're not mentioned more often in the magazine, though. Internationalist claims aside, there really is nothing worth writing home about, unless they're doing a feature on how not to build a city. And besides, we can't measure our worth as a country on the basis of whether a magazine with a particular worldview - informed, elitist, perhaps frivolous - has something to say about us. All this is to me, really, is a collection that will line a bookshelf; an indulgence, if you may.

And yet, as I said in the toilet reading through the opening pages of the magazine, I wondered if the Filipino's supposed hospitality will be mentioned. That's been drilled down in my head since childhood. The Filipino is hospitable. This will often be accompanied by stories of a Filipino family letting a complete stranger in and offering him refreshments, or even lunch. We are gracious and welcoming, so the narrative goes.

Of course, now, if you let a complete stranger into your house you're begging to be robbed, raped, or even massacred. Also, Filipinos? Hospitable? Gracious? Welcoming? Bullshit. You have servers at McDonald's getting your order wrong and then acting like it's your fault. You have doctors who treat you differently once they learn you're using health insurance instead of paying in cash. You have baristas in third wave coffee shops just leaving you without giving you your order. You have red tape in government, even. You call to ask for your plates until you give up on it completely, because they'll never have it, and besides, why are you still calling? You're clearly wasting their time!

I flicked through a page, and, well, there it was. A solitary paragraph on Filipino hospitality. "Hospitality is part of the national brand," it goes, and I'm paraphrasing. "Few countries export as many service-sector workers. Since the 1970s, the country has offered training and active encouragement to Filipinos who wish to work in the hospitality sector."

Surprise - a vaguely positive write-up.

It isn't the first. One of the special issues I mentioned earlier had something about our military buying a boat to beef up its territorial claims, but again, that was in the context of a wider geopolitical story. (Side mention: Monocle looks classy but tends to really fuck up its layouts, like someone fell asleep while laying the pages down. This is not the grit they should be advocating.) But, still, this is something. This is a magazine that, so they say, spots opportunities around the world. Here's one: the Filipino as a maven in the service sectors. Of course we all know this to be true. We all have family or friends who went to other countries to work in coffee chains in Amman, or cruise ships in the Caribbean - you get the idea. It's always been portrayed as slightly dirty, definitely thankless, but very much dignified work, work that keeps the whole country afloat. And suddenly we're an opportunity for the jet set.

And then I thought, who pulled what strings so we'd get a write-up here? They wouldn't otherwise notice us because, well, we are not a heavily-gentrified First World country. Or at least not yet. Right now, though, we're a country with nothing to write home about - unless, well, it's about how terrible cab drivers and fastfood servers and (sadly) doctors and (of course) government workers and, well, everybody else is.

In short, I have become very cynical.

And your responses...

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