MINDANAWON ABROAD: What’s a UN ambassador against hunger doing in a calendar endorsing liquor?

CANBERRA, Australia (MindaNews/30 Nov) — I am Sarah, a Filipina now based in Australia and mother of a 5 year old girl.  It is my role as a mother that makes me unable to resist the urge to write this piece.

Like millions of Filipinos my age, I have seen KC Concepcion grow up through print media and TV. The media painted a picture of her as a talented, bright, independent, charming, well-mannered person with a heart for the disadvantaged, especially for the children. I believe most Filipinos never questioned these and simply adore her.  As a result, she gets plum projects in all forms of media. Her face is seen everywhere.  I have not been to Manila for a long time but I can imagine her face on one or two of those big billboards. In the Filipino psyche, having your face on a billboard, especially in Metro Manila, is a testament of how big a name you have become.

I know that fairly recently, the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) named her Philippines Ambassador against Hunger –  a role that is bestowed on people committed to using their high profile status to increase global attention on the plight of the hungry  and how WFP is addressing the issue.  Such UN ambassadorial positions are given to distinguished and renowned individuals carefully selected from various fields. This role has taken KC to places and poor communities, many of them, children.  I remember her being photographed with children from Pikit, North Cotabato and she said how uplifting it was to make a difference in the lives of the children.

Last Saturday, over breakfast, I chanced upon an interview between her and Boy Abunda.  Apparently, she has been causing a stir in the showbiz world for doing a calendar for a local liquor brand.  A calendar for a liquor brand in the Philippines traditionally features women  photographed in sexually suggestive postures at best (and this is how she may have appeared) and bare bodies, bordering on pornography, at  worst.  In this interview, she claimed that it is a huge ‘honour’ to do the calendar as an endorsement of a locally made or truly Filipino brand.  I was appalled that Boy Abunda, who is known for his frankness and intelligence, would let this pass without probing more.

Since when is endorsing a liquor brand an honourable thing to do?

Alcohol is potentially socially destructive. Over the last decades, scientific research, health agencies and universities have been able to demonstrate a correlation between alcohol beverage advertising and alcohol consumption. Of course the alcohol industry has been taking advantage of this positive correlation, even targeting young people.  Of late, alcohol advertising in some parts of the world is tightly controlled, even banned in a few countries.  The European Union and World Health Organization (WHO) have both specified that the advertising and promotion of alcohol needs to be controlled. In September 2005, the WHO Euro Region adopted a Framework for Alcohol Policy for the Region. Foremost of the five  ethical principles which states that “All children and adolescents have the right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative consequences of alcohol consumption and, to the extent possible, from the promotion of alcoholic beverages”.  I am sure there is similar legislation in the Philippines.

I would be forgiving if it was a neophyte nameless star claiming honour in doing such endorsement, but I cannot do the same with KC. I am not sure if it was simply naivete or irresponsibility that drove her to agree to endorse a liquor brand.  Or was it the fee?  Whatever it is, as a citizen of the world with a Filipino heritage and mother, and considering the status that she enjoys especially among the young population and her ambassadorial role, I am shocked at her seemingly lack of ethics.

KC is against stereotyping?

In the interview with Boy Abunda, KC appeared to be seeking space to explore the unknown’ after supposedly living in a cloistered life and raised her displeasure against stereotyping. These are concepts I personally support but I find it confusing that she is up against one type of stereotyping but reinforces the alcohol industry’s stereotype of women.  The alcohol industry is known for using female bodies and portrays women as sexual objects to sell their products which an intelligent lady like KC should find demeaning and questionable. Whether it is naivete or irresponsibility, ultimately, KC should get real, think again and think hard!

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ way of linking with fellow Mindanawons abroad who want to share their experiences in their hometown in Mindanao or where they are currently based abroad. Sarah Bernasor Holdsworth is from Davao City, Philippines. Now a resident of  Canberra, Australia,  she works part-time at the Australian National University)