by Alan Robles
originally published in FilGlobe 2007
We all know how hard it is getting overseas Filipino workers to agree on anything. Last month, socialite Malu Fernandez achieved the inconceivable: she united OFWs across the globe. Against her.
Of course, she needed to try hard, the poor dear.Fernandez, a society writer for an inconsequential daily, led off with a column in April mentioning how, flying to her vacation in Greece, she had to share the flight with OFWs: “When you are trapped in economy class …filled to the brim with migrant workers, the smell gets a bit funky.”
In June, she followed with a glossy magazine article detailing that trip. Among other things, she said the thought of being “trapped” with OFWs in a plane made her want to “slash my wrists”.
When complaints started pouring in, she responded with a column basically inviting critics to ponder her derriere.
Specifically, she wrote “if any of these people actually read anything thicker than a magazine”, they’d actually see her article was “very funny”.
Wait. She also said: “Although it may sound elitist to you, the fact is this country is built on the foundation of haves, have-nots and wannabes. One group will never get the culture of the other.” Can you hear it? The abaniko flapping?
Helpfully, Fernandez pointed out that her story was “hilarious ”and full of “acerbic wit”. Just in case, you know, you needed reminding. Or in case the steam coming out of your ears was clouding your judgment.
Her articles generated so much enthusiasm among OFWs who read it, they couldn’t decide whether to form lynch mobs or hunting groups.
There were calls to boycott the newspaper and magazine, which failed because both hardly had any subscribers to begin with (“hello, ‘Daily Whatever’? I’d like you to know that if I were a subscriber I’d have cancelled by now”).
Things got ugly. When somebody posted pictures of Fernandez in a bathing suit, it turned out the socialite wasn’t so lite. In fact, if forced to look at the alarming visuals, military historians would probably be reminded what Winston Churchill called the disappointing Allied landing at Anzio in 1944 (“a stranded whale”).
OK, so perhaps circulating the photos was an unkind cut. As in cold cut. But then Fernandez had put down Filipinos who’re doing more to sustain the country than she is. The reason the economy is afloat is it’s sailing on the sweat of OFWs.
Anyway, after becoming the biggest thing on Pinoy cyberspace (right up there with Osama and the Antichrist), Fernandez realised she might have goofed. In hindsight, perhaps she shouldn’t have written how the cheap perfume of the OFWs on the airplane extinguished her own expensive scent (Eau de Balyenne).
I’m guessing the death threats had something to do with it, but eventually, Fernandez apologised and said she was “resigning” from the newspaper and the magazine.
I’m a bit suspicious. I’d swear she was just a contributor, not a staff member, which meant she resigned from publications she didn’t work for. But that’s OK, because her critics were calling for a boycott of a newspaper nobody subscribed to anyway.
Moral of the story? For Fernandez, it’s pretty clear: next time you travel economy, bring enough perfume to cover your body. Say, three gallons.