Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Bebot Videos: Feminist Critiques
Bebot Videos: Feminist Critiques
by erin pangilinan and krystle ignacio
In July, Allen Pineda Lindo a.k.a. apl.de.ap of Black Eyed Peas fame, helped make a huge contribution to the Pilipino community. Funded independently of their record label, Interscope Records, the music group embarked on making not one but two videos for the song "Bebot" rom their 2005 album "Monkey Business." The lyrics of "Bebot" are completely versed in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines. Bebot translates into "beautiful woman" or more loosely "hot chick." With Pilipino American (PilAm) director Patricio Ginelsa, who has directed music videos to tracks like "The Apl Song," "The Debut," and "Lumpia," the videos are meant to introduce a positive representation of Pilipinos/PilAms into the mainstream and instill PilAm pride.
Unlike with most tracks, there are actually two music videos for "Bebot." The videos showcase the generation gap for PilAms. The first video, called "Generation One," is set in historical "Little Manila" located in Stockton, California, during the 1930s. The story depicts the average day of Pilipino asparagus farmers who work hard during the day and party for a night on the town. Elaborate costumes and backgrounds give viewers a sense of what life was like as a Pilipino immigrant during that period. The video also intended to raise awareness of the Little Manila Foundation, which is in need of $1.5 million to build a museum for recently restored buildings of the historic town.
The second video, "Generation Two," also celebrates Pilipino pride, but primarily appeals to a more modern crowd. In effect, it fits in with the majority of popular hip-hop videos in the mainstream media with sure-hit selling points: glamour and sex. This is where the controversy begins and some people start getting upset.
In September 2006, a month after the release of the videos, an open letter criticizing the videos for perceived cultural shortcomings was put in circulation for people to read. Other academics requested to add their signature to the open letter. The open letter is directed to the artist apl.de.ap, director Patricio Ginelsa, and Xylophone Films, the group who helped produced the videos.
The open letter claimed that the video utilized restricting stereotypes of Pilipina women like "the whore and the shrill mother." An excerpt from the open letter reads, "The mother character was also particularly troublesome...She seems to play a dehumanized figure, the perpetual foreigner with her exaggerated accent, but on top of that, she is robbed of her femininity in her embarrassingly indelicate treatment of her son and his friends. She is not like a tough or strong mother, but almost like a coarse asexual mother, and it is telling that she is the only female character in the video with a full figure."
James "Slim" Dang, a Vietnamese American dancer and a participant in the video, does not agree with the signatories’ comments, noting the difficulties to encapsulate ethnic identities: "The open letter discusses the exaggerated [Pilipino] accent of the mother. What if they replace it with a perfect English accent? I know some people are proud of their accents. By getting rid of your accent, you might be destroying part of your cultural identity."
"[You] can’t expect a short music video to represent a whole culture—just a subset of it," Dang added. Ginelsa did not direct the mother (a comedian) to use an accent. The entire scene was improvised.
The signatories of the letter expressed that they were "utterly dismayed by the portrayal of hyper-sexualized Pilipina ‘hoochie-mama’ dancers, specifically in the Generation 2 version, the type of representation of women so unfortunately prevalent in today's hip-hop and rap music videos. The depiction of the 1930s ‘dime dancers’ was also cast in an unproblematized light, as these women seem to exist solely for the sexual pleasure of the manongs." Elisa Estrera, UC Berkeley student and dancer in the Bebot videos, emphasizes that "…some people fail to see that this is just how people (more specifically the girls) were acting and depicting themselves. There wasn’t some higher authority telling us to think and be sexy for the video or else we wouldn’t be in it…There was no wardrobe person, all the girls came dressed on their own. The girls weren’t told to do anything perverse like strip or freak a guy...the director just told everyone to have fun and act as if they were really at a party."
The open letter also expressed problems with representing Pilipina women on a global scale. "While this may sound quite harsh, we believe it is necessary to point out that such depictions make it seem as if you are selling out [Pilipina] women for the sake of gaining mainstream popularity within the United States. Given the already horrific representations of [Pilipinas] all over the world as willing prostitutes, exotic dancers, or domestic servants who are available for sex with their employers, the representation of Pinays in these particular videos can only feed into such stereotypes. We also find it puzzling, given your apparent commitment to preserving the history and dignity of [Pilipina/os] in the United States, because we assume that you also consider such stereotypes offensive to [Pilipino] men as well as women."
In response to other critics pushing for accurate representations of Pilipinos on a global scale, Ginelsa replied, "That’s throwing a lot of responsibility [on] a music video. You gotta understand that this is just one example."
Joanne Rondilla, letter signatory and UC Berkeley graduate student in Ethnic Studies, thought that the video portrayed no positive roles for women. "The women are just so absent. You can’t [have] women in the video [and] not [have them] play substantial roles there. Women can’t be decorations. And that’s what we were trying to point out. As we go towards the road to trying to get more coverage or more exposure in making culture, it has to be men and women coming into this together. It can’t just be men and then women [who] fall behind." She also thought that more Pilipino men were able to relate to the video because of the broad range of Pilipino men in the videos and that correspondingly, there should be broader representation of Pilipina women. "I don’t think it’s such a huge demand for having different skin tones on Pilipinas, different body types…[With the video] it’s almost like you’re watching import models," Rondilla argued. "That’s one very specific type of beauty or one type of aesthetic. I don’t think what we were asking for was completely unreasonable. I don’t think it’s wrong to be who we are in the multitude of skin colors and body types we come in...It’s a very specific kind of woman in the video."
Ginelsa’s initial reaction to the open letter was one of shock and pain. "Because it is coming from the community anyone who knows me knows how much I care about the community. [The criticism within the PilAm community], it hurt because these are the same issues that I was wrestling with for a full year, it was the reason why we went back and forth." Ginelsa was replaced as director and originally wrote 5-6 different versions of the video.
Ginelsa laments, "People are misreading this open letter and they want to make sure that in my future projects I’m aware of the issue. I am aware of this issue. [I’ve] always been aware of this issue... By putting [the letter] in the public first you’re already now open for other people to misread the letter. That’s the problem…The open letter killed any chance for this video to be on MTV. It denied other people to see it."
Rondilla says that the signatories of the open letter did not know about the VH1 campaign to air the video during the time it was written and circulated. The intent was not meant to affect the movement for the video. "If there’s anything people misconstrued [it’s that] people think that we waged war on them (the creators of the "Bebot" video)," Rondilla noted. If signatories really would have intended to hurt the "Bebot" video campaign, Rondilla argues that the signatories would have expressed language reflecting that such a motion. "We would have called for a boycott (of the music video), we would have read the [letter] more widely." Now that the letter is public, Rondilla claims that the letter will only help publicize the "Bebot" video. "Far more people are going to watch [the] video and take interest in this," Rondilla states. "I still don’t see how [the letter] may have hindered the campaign."
Others feel that the "Bebot" video, originally meant to unify the PilAm community will only end up tearing the PilAm community apart internally.
It is easy to use apl.de.ap as a scapegoat for flawed representations of PilAms, because he is a prominent figure in the mainstream eye. Rondilla claimed that the reason why she did not call out other PilAm artists like hip-hop artists Cassie or Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls was because "they’re not running on the platform of I am Pilipino, running on platform of Pilipino pride." Ginelsa claims that apl.de.ap becomes an scapegoat because "it’s so rare [to have] representations of us, so anything in the mainstream, anything that comes out that represents our culture, they’re very protective of it. As I am." He says this influenced his drive to create the video. "I was obsessed in getting this project because I wanted to get the burden of representing this video as I saw fit. In my eyes, I’m glad the video came out. I’m proud of it. I’m not going to sit here and say’ oh I only like generation one [only]’ because both videos were done by me and it has my name on it."
The open letter signers were puzzled with the Bebot videos, given the quality of previous releases from Xylophone Films, a community organization that creates videos for other independent PilAm artists. What is needed in the mainstream media are more types of representation for PilAms. It is difficult to balance out the demands of the community with the demands of mainstream popularity. The "Bebot" videos facilitated discussion over what roles and stereotypes might be relevant to Pilipino Americans. Apl.de.ap and Ginelsa deserve credit for attempting to show the generation gap within Pilipino culture. At the same time, people must remain cognizant and (continue to) participate in future discourse concerning the state of the PilAm community and the importance of media portrayals.
With a greater number of PilAm artists hitting the mainstream airwaves, it is crucial for current and future generations to realize that images go a long way towards advancing - or stigmatizing- an entire group of people.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
[INQ7] Patricio Ginelsa speaks up on ‘Bebot’ controversy
Patricio Ginelsa speaks up on ‘Bebot’ controversy
LOS ANGELES—Get ready Hollywood, another Filipino has arrived. In three years, Patricio Ginelsa has helped create three landmark film projects that highlight the Filipino experience in America and knocked at the door of mainstream success.
In 2003, he wrote and directed “Lumpia” which was featured in the 2003 Hawaii International Film Festival and the 2004 Toronto Reel World. Patricio Ginelsa was also one of the young Filipino Americans behind “The Debut,” an award-winning film that peers into the realities of a Filipino American Family and its three generations of males, played by Eddie Garcia, Tirso Cruz III and Dante Basco.
In 2004, Ginelsa unreeled “The Apl Song” video that explored another, more tragic strand of those realities—the Filipino American World War II veteran.
Three successful projects with mature themes by this Filipino American director in his 20s, makes him one of his community’s most promising tastemakers.
His parents hail from Cebu, but Patricio was born in San Francisco and was raised by his mother. He says the environment he grew up in felt like the Philippines because he practiced the values of his homeland and was raised a Catholic.
Patricio began filmmaking at 13. “Being a kid who grew in Daly City, making films with my friends became my hobby and my mom thought it was just a fad that will later go away.” She always wanted him to be doctor.
“By my junior year in high school, I figured out my career,” he continued. “I wanted to be a filmmaker and study in my dream school, USC Film School where many great directors went (Steven Spielberg among them,),” he revealed. His mom gave him a dose of reality: “Even if you pass there is no way you could afford it and so I applied in USC without her knowing,” Ginelsa recalled.
He was considering the prospect of city college as a fallback until one faithful day. “I received a letter from USC saying that I was accepted in film school and the feeling was unimaginable,” he recalled. “After that, I told my mom that getting accepted was fulfilling enough” and he was willing to go to city college.
But Mercedes Ginelsa had seen the light. “The next thing I know, my mom hustled and lobbied with (USC) school officials. I don’t know what she did but she came away with a big financial aid package for me,” he shared. Today, Mercedes is her son’s number one fan.
Four years later, Ginelsa graduated from USC with a BA in cinema production. He worked part-time as a segment writer for an American-based Filipino show, “Pinoy Pa Rin,”featuring Filipino community leaders and entertainers.
By 2002, he became the associate producer of “The Debut.”
“This movie opened my eyes to the Filipino community,” says Patricio. He would drive cross-country to distribute the film, from L.A. to Houston, New York and even Washington DC. “It was there that I met Filipino community leaders and was exposed to every [Filipino American] pocket in the [United States],” he said.
By 2004, he was directing music videos for Filipino independent musicians like the Pacifics, Inner Voices and 6th Day. Then came his first big project—the Black Eyed Peas’ “The Apl Song,” written by Peas member Allan Pineda Lindo (a.k.a. Apl de Ap), a musical love letter to his uncle, Marlon, a Filipino war veteran.
“We shot the video at the nursing home [in Los Angeles] where he stayed so I decided to cast him as the main actor, who played a World War II veteran in the video.” Patricio’s uncle died soon after the video was shot.
“At his funeral, I found out that it he was a veteran himself and he was one of the guerillas who fought during the war,” Patricio recalled, with emotion in his voice. He was happy to have been able to edify his uncle’s memory through his work. To this day, this director still finds it hard to watch the video of the “The Apl Song.”
Meanwhile, both song and video resonated strongly on both sides of the Pacific, getting heavy rotation in Manila radio and TV stations, and almost making it to the MTV top sweeps in America—the first song with Filipino lyrics.
Opening with a haunting, heraldic refrain—sampled from “Balita,” by the influential Philippine folk-rock group Asin—this song is Allan Pineda Lindo’s tough and tender ode to the old country of his childhood. Lindo, the son of an American serviceman, was raised by his mother up in a dusty, impoverished town in Pampanga. In his teens, he was adopted by an American couple who brought him to the U.S.
Two years later, the Ginelsa-Lindo team-up is attempting to break through with another Filipino song —“Bebot” from the Black Eyed Peas’ latest album “Monkey Business.” “Bebot” the video is actually two videos—Generation 1 and Generation 2 that’s generating even more airplay than The Apl Song. “Because of its beat, a lot of people in America love it even if they don’t understand the lyrics,” Ginelsa explained.
How was it directing the two videos instead of the usual one? “It was not easy,” he said. It took a year to get the project off the ground.
While both videos continue to do well both in the States and in Manila, Generation 2 featuring scantily clad women dancing, struck a nerve among Filipino feminists and scholars They say “Bebot”-
Tagalog slang and the Filipino equivalent of “chick”—exploits women.
An open letter critical of the video was released last week, signed by several scholars and educators in the Filipino American community. This letter was spread electronically. This bothered Patricio all the more because the letter was drafted by colleagues he respects, who didn’t even bother to communicate with him directly before going public with their concerns.
“I feel hurt that they put all this out in the open without speaking to me or Apl,” he said. It was like being invited to a party at the last-minute, he said. He was shut out of the discussion and, it seems, was the last person to know about it. People assumed that it is very hard to get hold of him, he said. He also asserts that it was never his intention to present women as “exploited.”
“They have to realize that in this business, it’s very hard to make a video that will make the band and label happy—especially the label,” he said. Since the video isn’t owned by the label, he said, Lindo and he shelled out their own money to realize it.
There’s some good dialogue happening as a result, he says, but would like to say that was he was hoping for was really “to bring out a sense of pride” in Philippine culture. He also acknowledges that the success of “Bebot” and his past projects have put him under a microscope.
If this is the price of achieving something bigger, like unifying the Filipino American community, he appears to be ready to submit to scrutiny. As for the other achievement of getting Filipino material to Hollywood’s doorstep, he says, “It is hard to say that four-minute videos will spark the entertainment industry’s awareness of Filipinos but I can say that we should take it day by day, like taking baby steps,” he said. “Nothing comes easy in this business and I am still struggling.”
“Unpredictable,” says Ginelsa, is the best description of his projects. “If somebody came up to me five years ago and told me I would be directing videos for a very popular band like the Black Eyed Peas, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
But seeing people enjoy his work keeps his passion for his craft burning brightly “It shows that I’m doing something right,” he said. Would he ever stop directing? “I will only stop making films when I ran out of stories to tell.”
You can watch both “Bebot” music videos at http://kidheroes.net/bebot/videos.html
- Emailed by firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, September 11, 2006
Positively No Filipinos Allowed?
Positively No Filipinos Allowed?
Black Eyed Pea Apl.de.Ap and director Patricio Ginelsa's latest Tagalog video "Bebot" gets the cold shoulder from its label and MTV.
Booty shorts. Slinky halters. Flashy rides. Break dancin’. DJs scratchin.’ And an emcee rappin’ about hot chicks to some fine hip hop ‘til you don’t stop beats. Normally, it’s a fool-proof formula for earning heavy rotation on MTV. That is, until the video’s main posse rolls up in Jeepney (a colorful bus popular in the Philippines) instead of Benz and the only graffiti that flashes the screen is “I love the Philippines.” And well, there’s just a whole lot of Filipino faces in the crowd and OMG, they’re not speaking English, are they? Suddenly, you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore and this isn’t your average greased up girls and bling bling rap video.
The video is the Black Eyed Peas’ latest project, “Bebot: Generation Two.” And it’s one of two videos for Philippine born rapper Apl.de.Ap’s Tagalog dance track “Bebot” [“Hot Chick”], off the 2005 multi-platinum album Monkey Business. “Inspired by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t Nuthin but a G Thing,” “Bebot: Generation Two” begins with Apl.de.Ap being picked up by his Peas bandmates for a night of tasty barbeques and hot house parties. The only problem is that Apl’s mom forces him to take along his little sister, American Idol finalist Jasmine Trias. “I wanted to portray APL not just as your big superstar, but as your big brother,” said “Bebot” director Patricio Ginelsa. “I call him Kuya [big brother in Tagalog] Aps.”
“Generation Two’s” counterpart, “Bebot: Generation One” pays homage to parties in 1930s Little Manila. The video follows Apl.de.Ap, an asparagus farmer, as he leaves the toil of the fields for a night of diversion at the Filipino Rizal Social Club. Inside the club, well-dressed Filipino men in snazzy suits swing dance with a diverse crowd of beautiful women in cocktail dresses and pearls while other men gamble at a rowdy taxi dance hall next door. “In a sense, nothing has really changed, everyone’s still trying to, after their 9-5 gigs, put on their best clothes and meet ladies,” remarks Ginelsa. Like “Generation Two,” “Generation One” also brings in some familiar Filipino artists such as Next Phaze, the Speaks, as well as DJs E-man and Icy Ice.
Independently funded, both videos mark “Bebot” director Ginelsa and rapper Apl’s attempt to push Filipino culture and music out from under the rug and into the mainstream.
Unfortunately, both videos are currently confined to Internet play, at least in the United States. Ginelsa, with the blessing of the Peas, released “Generation One and Two” on August 4th on YouTube—an internet haven for homegrown and indie videos. Since then, the videos have only been requested by MTV Canada and MTV CHI, according to Ginelsa. In fact, although the Black Eyed Peas website boasts of a MTV news exclusive about “Bebot,” watching the actual news clip reveals that the presentation was specifically an MTV CHI exclusive – even if American VJ Sway delivered the news.
While American MTV usually welcomes projects from the Grammy winning Peas, with TRL premieres and guest appearances —think the massive airplay (and sometimes overplay) for hits like “My Humps” and “Don’t Phunk with my Heart”—, they haven’t given a single shout out to either of the “Bebot” videos. American MTV audiences might be used to seeing the occasional Latin music video, but those videos tend to be predominantly in English a la Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca” or Enrique Iglesia’s “Bailamos.”
So what happens when the video, though mainstream in motif, has completely non-English lyrics, and a predominantly Asian cast? Is America ready?
America wasn’t ready when Ginelsa and the Peas released “The APL song” video in 2003. ”The APL song” (Elephunk, 2003) is Apl.de.Ap’s Filipino love ballad and its video focuses on the plight of an elderly Filipino War veteran. Dante Basco and Joy Bisco, whom Ginelsa met while producing the Filipino American flick The Debut, acted in the video alongside Chad Hugo (The Neptunes).
Although “The APL song” was funded and distributed by the label unlike “Bebot,” it still got very little mainstream exposure. The label only released the video in Asia, where the Peas were touring. In America, Ginelsa’s independent campaign to get the video on TRL earned “The APL song” a few precious seconds on MTV, but that was pretty much it. “Vanessa Minnillo gave us props in front of MTV, so for three or four seconds, we were on national TV. And what people don’t know is that the following week when the Black Eyed Peas were guests on TRL, they showed ten seconds of the video.” In the end however, Ginelsa admits, “the video never got any American airplay except for independent channels and online. It became one of the most viewed videos online, but it never got any play on MTV or VH1 or BET.”
And three years later, history appears to be repeating itself. Interscope, the Peas label, still doesn’t think America or MTV for that matter is ready for Filipino music videos. So even though “Bebot”’s videos are undoubtedly more mainstream than the “APL song”’s video, the label has refused to front any money towards the creation or promotion of “Bebot.”
“What does MTV-friendly mean?” questions Ginelsa. “Christina Aguilera has her videos that are set in the 1930’s. Is it because of all the social commentary in Generation One that gets people all scared? But all the best hip hop videos you remember from Wu Tang Clan to Public Enemy always had social commentary. That was always the root of hip hop. Is it because it’s Filipino?”
However, it’s hard to say that “Bebot”’s absence from mainstream is solely racial. Yes, it’s unusual to see Filipinos plastered on U.S. T.V. screens, but even Ginelsa admits, “It’s really a market thing.” He explains, “Right now, our community has never been established as a market that can make a lot of money. It’s a game of people’s agendas and right now the agenda is Fergie.” Fergie, whom Ginelsa calls “the eye candy of the Peas,” has a new album, which is leading the Billboard top 100 charts. And let’s face it, “Bebot”’s album Monkey Business is already a year old.
With the Black Eyed Peas busy on tour, Fergie pushing a solo project, and their label turning a cold shoulder, Ginelsa is almost single handedly promoting the “Bebot” videos. Grassroots style, he began an online campaign to get the videos on VH1. Ginelsa has also screened the projects at various festivals and club events, marketing the projects mainly to “the core” or rather the Filipino and Asian American community, before reaching out to the mainstream. “The thing is for me to get as many companies asking the label about it so hopefully they understand that there’s an audience for this,” Ginelsa said.
“In reality, I’m not even supposed to be doing any of this pushing stuff, but I want to make sure that the video has a life outside of YouTube because you have to watch it the way it was created. You watch it on YouTube and it’s crappy resolution or it’s off sync,” Ginelsa said. “This video has to air on TV. I think it’s time that people see it for what it is, and see our culture.”
Is it a realistic request though? Ginelsa believes that the video boasts universal stories, even with its Filipino cultural focus. “No one who watches Boyz in Hood goes in there saying, ‘I have to be black to watch that,’” he told me. But as much the director would like to see the video on the small screen and as much as he has spent the last couple of weeks worrying about the video’s reception, he is still sensible in his expectations of the label and mainstream media. He admitted, “I knew already that I was going uphill because if you don’t have the label’s backing, there’s no way they’re going to push it.”
And Ginelsa knew this from the moment he fought to make the project.
One year ago, the Black Eyed Peas’ label planned to make a video for “Bebot” using Ginelsa’s original treatment— a socially conscious video that reflected on 1930s Little Manila in Stockton, California. They even offered him a small budget. However, just a few days before the film shoot, the project didn’t receive the greenlight necessary to continue. “Because people had other ideas of what to do with the video, we got shut down to the point where they told me, ‘Oh we’ll get back to you,’ but no one got back to me,” Ginelsa said.
Someone else had offered a more mainstream treatment for the “Bebot” project—presumably with more skin and more booty shaking. “Sex sells,” as Ginelsa bluntly admits. “What’s the main goal with a music video? It’s to the sell records.” So the label chose the more marketable version over Ginelsa’s. However, this version fell through as well.
When Ginelsa realized that that video didn’t go through, it became his obsession to snatch the project back. “I’d rather be responsible and do this project my way than have someone else do it a more exploitive way,” he explained. “I don’t care if I take the burden of doing it because I know what I’m getting myself into.”
At this point however, the label had lost interest not only in Ginelsa’s original treatment, but in the entire “Bebot” project. A determined Ginelsa still urged the label to reconsider letting him direct the project. He struck a compromise between his idea of a historical video and their request for a more mainstream treatment in hopes of convincing them. “Basically I told them I was going to do both versions of the video for this certain amount and they were like “Really?’ and they didn’t have to pay anything. I told them I was going to get the sponsorships to pay for it. I hustled it. I played the game.”
One year after the 2005 debut of the Peas’ album Monkey Business and the original shooting date for “Bebot,” Ginelsa finally completed the videos under the restraints of a small budget and band requirements.
Originally, Ginelsa envisioned a much more socially provocative video for “Generation One.” Little Manila in1930’s Stockton was a site of anti-miscegenation and anti-immigration laws and the director wanted to capture this oppression with images of cops swarming and shutting down the Filipino dance party. However, come shooting time, Ginelsa had to scale down his plans to an opening shot of a sign that reads “Positively No Filipinos allowed,” and a pair, rather than a swarm, of cops infiltrating the party. He stressed that he had to keep some remnants of this repressive reality in the video. ”I wanted to establish what the mentality was like back then socially,” said Ginelsa. “Even though you’re in this space where Filipinos are accepted, this is their private place, there’s still some sort of outside influence that tried to keep them at check.”
“It’s common for music videos to always talk about the 1930’s and the style, but I always thought that was just an excuse for Usher to put on the best clothes that he can. I like to do that too, but also give some sort of historical structure to it that people don’t necessarily know about it,” Ginelsa said. “And even though it’s not historically accurate, as long as it gets at least one person interested in trying to learn more about it, then I did my job. I mean that’s where the whole social responsibility of my filmmaking comes in.”
Ginelsa also found his creative freedoms restricted by the Peas’ request for a more mainstream treatment for “Generation Two.” Although Ginelsa knew he had to follow the band’s request for hot cars and hot girls, he made sure that there was no alcohol in the video. In fact, his actors hold chicken adobo and presumably soda in plastic cups in their hands rather than flutes of cristal. He also told the girls to dress up like they normally would to go to a house party. “Bebot” might mean “hot chick” in Tagalog, but the director wanted the girls to be more than just “eye candy.”
Furthermore, Ginelsa didn’t want to restrict the significance of the term “Bebot.” “I wanted to make sure that word wasn’t just a Filipino thing, that it also meant all kinds of races, but not just about females, but to make it like a hip word, like cool—Like it means hot, crazy, cool.”
Ultimately, Ginelsa wanted to send a greater message about diversity through the video. “The only scene that I really imagined from the get go was the scene in the backyard where it becomes this celebration of culture,” said Ginelsa. The scene presents a youthful crowd in colorful hip hop gear, pumping their fists in unison as Apl.de.Ap’s shouts “Sige!” “If you look at that scene carefully,” Ginelsa told me, “There’re blacks, whites, Hispanics in that one crowd. For me, that was the statement of the whole video.”
But as much as Ginelsa wanted the videos to reach audiences inside and outside of the Filipino community, he still faces a lot of obstacles in doing so. For one thing, he might have completed the videos, but he hasn’t finished paying for them. “You can’t even tell me I sold out,” he said. “I’m still in debt.” Ginelsa even admitted that he contributed funds that Apl doesn’t know about.
Of course, the golden question now is, did it all pay off?
While Black Eyed Peas fans and Filipino Americans have bombarded internet message boards with praise, particularly for “Generation Two,” Ginelsa hasn’t heard much from anyone out of his niche audience. Then again, that’s because “Bebot” remains absent from their TV screens. But mostly, Ginelsa has been particularly bothered by the recent criticisms of his videos’ portrayal of women from members within the Filipino community. A group of prominent Californian Asian and Filipino Studies professors wrote a public letter to Ginelsa after the “Bebot” videos premiered on August 4th, stating that Ginelsa reduces Filipinas to “hoochie mamas” who are objectified by Filipino “playas.”
Ginelsa defended his videos saying, “I’m just glad that ‘Gen Two’ turned out the way I wanted to rather than what I know it could have been. So people can misread it and say this and that and it was my intention to portray them as negative or as whores or whatever. I’m always aware of the responsibilities I have as a filmmaker.”
However, Ginelsa remains distressed over the snappy online debate provoked by the letter. “Even though there’s a lot of healthy dialogue, people start getting defensive and people start attacking each other,” said Ginelsa. “So now it looks like now this video is provoking this internal thing within our community that I didn’t want to begin with. Why couldn’t we have a more controlled and healthy dialogue about this?”
Perhaps Ginelsa can rest assured that any publicity is good publicity, even if it is bad, especially considering the lack of attention from the label and every other major music channel. That said, Ginelsa is trudging ahead and continuing to promote “Bebot” in spite of the obstacles he faces inside and outside of the Filipino community.
“It’s all baby steps,” Ginelsa said. “We got the video made, that was an important step. What else can I do? I’m a small player.”
For now, Ginelsa plans to independently release the “Bebot” videos on DVD, but he’s not entirely sure yet. What he is sure about is that he’s going to need a lot of consumer support to show the label and the mainstream world that these videos do have importance in America.
“I always joke around, ‘Bootleg a movie like Glitter,’ but when it comes down to independent Asian American films, even a movie like Harold and Kumar, buy it,” says Ginelsa. “In the end, investors want to see returns on their films, and if we live in this mainstream mentality of waiting for DVD or bootlegging, then it really defeats the purpose.”
“Buying a ticket to our movie is like voting, like telling Hollywood, ‘Hey make more videos about our community,’” said Ginelsa. “That for me is a more powerful statement. Face it, we do live in a Caucasian world.” Or perhaps he meant a corporate one.
Date Posted: 9/7/2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Public vs. Private
hey man I know I don't really know you, but I wanted to chime in with this bit of support because man, I know what it's like to get this letter. Not the same content but the same tone and the same kind of things.
The folks who sent you this letter work real hard to create change in our cultural discourse and they have a lot of important shit to say. Hell one of them is the whole reason I wanted to become a spoken word artist. And the points they bring about in the letter is very necessary to consider as we are approaching new ways of retextualizing our social and cultural mileu, so it's not fair as some others have stated to dismiss it as them making a bigger deal out of it than necessary or getting on a soapbox or whatnot (not saying you're doing this as you seem to be very receptive but these comments have been made)
But the approach was kind of messed up, and regardless of the compliments it gives you it more or less presents itself as a public berating and that ain't right. This kind of thing alienates and creates resent when I believe that they had the best intentions in doing this, it's just messed up how it was done.
Y'all put in good work to make this project happen, and probably had lots of stressfull hours and you can see that there is care taken in your work. We all want to do something positive for the community. And y'all deserve a better invitation to discussion, or at least an invitation as there's not much invitation in the letter. I mean hell we're community we should be able to approach each other better.
Sometimes I feel like there ain't nothing that can be done that someone's not gonna get upset about, but ya know there's also an artistic challenge in that and worth mulling over as to how to find a compromise without compromising your vision. But then sometimes you just got to do you. Just want to say congrats on getting this video made and great work and I look forward to seeing more.
hugs and kisses
Jason Bayani - Relief Counselor/ Larkin Street Youth Services
Jaylee Alde - Waiter / Pasta Pomodoro
Mesej 1 - Truck Driver / Fed Ex
Luke Cage - Hero For Hire / New Avengers
Unicorn - mythical creature
Optimus Prime - Robot in disguise/ Autobots
First of all, the sign off is freaking hilarious. But more important, I'd like to explore the anger over the fact that the Open Letter was posted in a public manner and that some take issue with its "tone." Feel free to comment. Every opinion is welcome; every opinion will be respected.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
more from KidHero
So I was planning to post my first batch of answers today to some questions from the public. The truth is that NO ONE has emailed me any questions. It seems internet folks are more interested in blogging and making their arguments based on the open letter alone than asking the source. While I think some of the dialogue in these forums sparked by this is enriching, it bothers me to see personal attacks made on others based on their grammar or background. I never made these videos to see my community fighting from within and it hurts. Brother vs. Brother. Sister vs. sister. Sister vs. brother. I had hope to have a more controlled and healthy platform for this dialogue, but I feel its out of control. People are misinterpreting the letter. Haters are created. This whole thing is now on TV. And in the end, im on the outside looking in, unfocused, confused, and my spirit broken... Imagine how much more powerful this open letter would have been if we had addressed this letter "elsewhere" as a united front.
For a letter addressed to me, AJ, and Apl, I feel we should have addressed this first before it was made public. I see professors I respect and one whom I actually fought for signing this letter. I see younger sisters of people I know on this. Yet not one of them bothered to communicate with me beforehand. Even after my private response to them, only 2 of the authors replied. Is anyone curious why there are 2 versions of the video? Why did it take me over a year to get these videos made?
Talk about the issues and express your opinions. But if you actually believe myself and the producers were out there to intentionally promote a negative representation of our sisters, then you really need to do your research first...
from Christina DeHaven
As one of the producers on the BEBOT and APL Song videos, I would like to respond to the recent comments circulating about our work. If only the writers of this 'open letter' knew how hard Patricio and his team worked to make even ONE version of the video come to fruition.
People in our community are notorious for expediting their criticisms about one another, usually before knowing all the facts and what lies beneath the surface.
First off, our efforts with this video are over a year in the making. When we first pitched this project to the Black Eyed Peas, Patricio had one treatment in mind, "Generation One", based on the historical manongs of 1930's Stockton, California.
Since it is a pop-dance song, the suggestion was to create a more contemporary alternative. Something shiny and sexy, typical of other videos and similar music. What people do not know is that he initially passed on the project because he could not find it in himself to objectify Filipinas, by doing your average 'booty-shaker' video.
Patricio was able to strike a compromise by doing two versions: his 1930's period-piece, and a contemporary dance video done with as much subtlety as possible.
Nevertheless, people are bound to criticize our work, especially for the things that it lacks. As a member of the community, involved with a non-profit organization that seeks to promote the positive image of Filipino/Fil-Am women (newfilipina.com), I do not take offense to the video and its supposed portrayal of Filipino women as 'highly sexualized'. I just don't see it. Have these people really seen the true definition of 'highly-sexualized'? Have they seen MTV lately? These videos performed by artists of color (I won't single out just one), singing about their 'ethnic pride', while standing in a sea of greased-up, bikini-clad women. And while we haven't come close to mimicking these videos, why are we being criticized for exhibiting even a drop of sexuality?
Though I understand some of the argument posed in this complaint, I think that most of these comments can be aimed at all men and women, and not just Filipinos. In fact, I don't see anything in this video that can be classified, by a mainstream audience, to be just 'Filipino'. Why can't we argue that the behaviors in this video can be applied to all people? Or is it just because the faces are our own?
Anyone who is familiar with our work has seen our dedication to Filipino American History. Not only are we comprised of artists and musicians, but we are also active participants in the community; serving as educators, activists, and in other leadership capacities. But while we strive to be a voice for the community through our work, we still have an equal amount of loyalty to our personal endeavors as artists, and as filmmakers.
If anyone sees this video as an example for the community, then they have completely misunderstood our purpose. It is a music video for a popular dance song called BEBOT. We chose to use an all Fil-Am cast because the song is spoken in Tagalog and it involves Filipinos. It was not our intention to make a statement or representation on behalf of the entire Filipino/Fil-Am community. If it were to serve this purpose then it would be a completely different project.
I doubt that a mainstream audience will view this video as an explanation of our culture as a whole. I also don't think it is right to put that responsibility in the hands of one filmmaker. Perhaps if there were more artists putting out an abundance of work for the mainstream, then we would have more out there to compare and contrast all the different aspects of our community.
As artists, criticism comes with the territory. But I can't help but find some of these accusations to be unjustified. I hope that the people who wrote this statement are not making their life's work out of criticizing each and every Filipino artist. Because if they are, then let's go after other artists for their supposed exploitation of Filipinos and the hyper-sexualization of Filipino women. How about Nicole from the popular burlesque-show-turned-pop-sensation the girl thingycat Dolls? She's Filipino. How about 19 year-old Cassie, who sings that song with actual lyrics that boast "...They heard I was good, they want to see if it's true...". She's Filipino too.
Here's a project: I would like to see these academics write a dissertation that compares and contrasts all Pinoy artists that are out there today, and see what they come up with. I think it is unfair to single out the efforts of one person, like Patricio, who has done so much over the years to support this community.
Their criticism is heard, but not supported by me.
a KidHero discussion
Re: My opinion...
2006-08-29 02:46 am UTC (link)
It's amazing to read all of this in blogs and sites that i find just by typing in my name on Google. The dialogue is rich here but honestly, do people think I'm hard to contact at all? I'm not Steven Spielberg. I'm just an email away. On the BEBOT website and on my mailing lists, I have invited everyone FROM DAY ONE to ask me questions because I knew even before this open letter was created, exactly what I was getting myself into. There's a problem when I see so much discussion here about our work and yet I've only gotten only 3-4 emails with questions. It's like a party you were invited late to but everyone's already talking about you even before you arrive. It really makes me not want to share my experiences and just shut up. Was there ever an open letter created about our work on THE APL SONG 2 years or any help to use the video as a tool to educate folks about the Filipino veterano and their equity? That was an even bigger struggle! No, because its only the negative stuff that makes for a worthy discussion and public spectacle.
(Reply to this) (Parent) (Thread)
Re: My opinion...
2006-08-29 10:43 pm UTC (link)
"It's like a party you were invited late to but everyone's already talking about you even before you arrive. It really makes me not want to share my experiences and just shut up."
I'm not completely convinced that the last response was from the director or one of the producers. It seems pretty misguided to think that the discussions about the "Bebot" videos are solely about the artists' creative merits or personal efforts.
I'm happy to see this dialogue occur. As a Filipino American artist myself, the territory we're all working with here is plagued by histories of misrepresentation, racism, and explicit sexism. All of which, are not at the responsibility of an individual artist. Rather, progressive artists (particularly those within popular culture) are always negotiating hegemony.
The dialogues I find most interesting to me, are the honest comments on whether the absence of tackling the exploitation of Filipina women worth breaking into the mainstream.
In no way do I think the letter or most of the criticisms were intended to discredit the artists' abilities. The video obviously displays amazing work, tremendous organizing, professional character, and a clear progressive effort. Rather, this is going to be a perpetual dialogue as long as the art of Filipino Americans (and Americans in general) feel the urgency to challenge patriarchy, racism, and heteronormativity. All of which, I believe, are bigger than "Bebot".
"It's bigger than hip-hop"
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
On the meanings of "bebot"
Showbiz Lengua 35: Bebot
Posted by: "Pete Lacaba" [...]
Mon Aug 28, 2006 9:35 pm (PST)
Jose F. Lacaba
When the American hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas came back to the Philippines in July for a concert at the Araneta Coliseum, the media were quick to point out that their most recent album, Monkey Business (2005), contained a track titled "Bebot."
That's right, bebot--as in girl, woman, the female of the species. And it isn't just the title that's in Tagalog. The entire song is in Tagalog!
Sample lines, from the rapped refrain:
Be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Okay, it's not exactly Balagtas, but "Bebot, bebot" does have a hypnotic bebop beat to it, like "Hello, Garci."
As everyone in these parts knows, the songwriter and one of the founding members of the Black Eyed Peas--apl.de.ap (a.k.a. Allen Pineda Lindo, a.k.a. Allan Pineda), on whom Malacañang has bestowed a Presidential Medal of Merit--has a Filipino mother and takes commendable pride in his Filipino heritage.
But the dude left the Philippines when he was 14, sometime in 1988 or '89, so I can understand why he sounds a little bit retro to me, using a slang word that I haven't heard in a long time.
Words, as the poet T.S. Eliot once put it, "slip, slide, perish, decay with imprecision." That's especially true of slang, which is, by definition, ephemeral.
The word bebot obviously derives from babae, which probably began as reverse slang, ebaba, and has since undergone various slang permutations: ebubot, babong, bobits, bobitski. (Maybe even babe comes from babae, the way pussycat and mother hen are supposed to have evolved from pusa and inahin. That's a joke, okay? Not everything the Lenguador says in this column should be taken as gospel truth.)
Lalaki underwent a similar transformation, though it produced fewer variants: kelolot, kelot.
Bebot and kelot, unlike the other abovementioned variants, are probably still understood by today's generation, but they're hardly ever heard in actual usage nowadays. At least, not where I hang out.
So what's the word today's tambays and phrasemakers use in place of bebot? Take your pick: chick or tsik, chickababe, girlylet, tita, lola, kawimenan. To cite just one example (from the FHM Bullboard webpage, www.fhm.com.ph/board): "Aba... pag na-try ng mga tsik dito ang mga bullboys, wala na silang hahanapin pa."
Of course, by resurrecting bebot and passing it on to the worldwide audience that buys Black Eyed Peas CDs by the hundreds of thousands, apl.de.ap just might make the word current again in the home country. Then maybe we can ask the Pussycat Dolls, whose lead vocalist has Pinoy blood, to do the same for kelot.
And a reply:
Re: Showbiz Lengua 35: Bebot
Posted by: "Ramon Sunico" [...]
Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:12 pm (PST)
Senyor and fellow kelot--
Just want to check if your experience of *bebot* (the word, the word) is similar to mine. I still use it with my contemporaries who went to various high schools (Lourdes Mand., Ateneo, San Beda etc) during the 60s. In fact, I even have an aunt who used to be a mean silkscreening hippie from the university belt whom the whole Sampaloc branch of our clan calls Tita Bebot. It's her nickname after all, and for us, it evokes coolness rather than hotness. Now even her apos call her Lola Bebot.
Did it have connotations that the female it was applied to was "hot" or "cheap" i.e. paka?
I ask because I just received an email query (perhaps you did too) about the word, adding that it is being translated in the States as "hot chick" which I think is an ummm overenthusiastic translation.
I'm aware of course that a word's meanings and connotations change over time just as Tommy Eliot says but am just curious when the "hotness" attached itself to the term.
I wonder if apl.d.ap's (and his critiics') usage of it constitutes a case of Fil-ams re-establishing the word's currency but, at the same time, changing its original meaning. Sort of like how words like titi, suso and puki acquired vulgar connotations after the prayles had their way with us. (Thank God for karpinteros, kanteros, mekanikos and tuberos who still use titi as a neutral term [that part of a hardware assembly that goes into a corresponding butas].)
Nothing is more beautiful than a word fitly spoken.
-- Harold Arlen quoting Marcus Aurelius
PS. one other variation is bebits.