Ms. Malu Fernandez’s travel columns “From Boracay to Greece” (People Asia, June 2007) and “Am I being a diva? Or do you lack common sense?” (Manila Standard Online, July 30, 2007) continue to draw negative reactions from Filipinos here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
While we, the Filipino Press Club in the UAE, believe in press freedom and the wide latitude given to writers in expressing their conscience, we believe that Ms. Fernandez and her editors overstepped the bounds of responsibility with these stories.
The incident recounted in her flight via Dubai to Manila in which she berated fellow Filipinos (who had already endured the misfortune of working away from their families) on board Emirates for wearing “cheap” perfumes had no significant bearing to her story.
This particular anecdote did not provide any form of entertainment, learning opportunity or even delightful trivia to the readers. To suggest all Dubai-based OFWs smell awful because they are unable to afford expensive perfumes like the one she’s wearing is high-brow snobbery.
It is the same snobbery stamped on the psyche of some members of the Philippine society’s elite that has caused the yawning gap between our rich and poor, and the economic exodus of which millions of us Filipinos have now become a part.
To enlighten Ms Fernandez and her editors, Consul General Maria Theresa Taguiang from the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi cited unofficial estimates (as of December 2006, submitted to the Philippine Congress) that there are now 250,000 Filipinos in the UAE. Of that figure, 24 percent are professional workers, 35 percent are skilled, 24 percent unskilled and 16.89percent household workers (housemaids, personal drivers, nannies, cooks, tutors, gardeners, among other household staff).
More local as well as foreign companies in the UAE are employing Filipino workers because of their proficiency in English and admirable work ethics.
A print medium that aspires for relevance in today’s competitive media world cannot hide under the skirt of press freedom for its licentiousness to insult a group of people. One’s freedom to poke her fingers begins where someone else’s nose begins.
Ms Fernandez’s unrepentant response to the barrage of angry reactions from OFWs and their loved ones (“I obviously write for a certain target audience and if what I write offends you, just stop reading”), simply adds fuel to the fire.
A nation like the Philippines that aspires for renewal and regeneration needs a responsible press with a high level of sensitivity to all sectors that comprise it.
We strongly demand that the publishers of People Asia and Manila Standard Today to take full responsibility and do the right thing: give Ms Fernandez and her editors a disciplinary action and apologise to the people insulted by these articles.
THE FILIPINO PRESS CLUB-DUBAI
(A mutual support group of Filipino professional journalists from the print,
broadcast and web-based media in the United Arab Emirates)