A few things hipon-related

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By Mags Z. Maglana

The Point Being

Saturday, August 23, 2014


AND so it came to pass, entertainer and endorser Ramon Bautista was declared persona non grata by the Davao City Council last August 19 on the grounds that during the August 16 Kadayawan Invasion show, Bautista had “willfully and arrogantly intended to propagate a culture of sexism and male chauvinism that promotes rude and disrespectful behavior against women”.

This was, as many of Dabawenyos and Philippine showbiz followers are well aware by now, the offshoot of the “ang daming hipon dito sa Davao” comment publicly made by Bautista, who was among artists from Manila invited to grace the Kadayawan events. Hipon is reportedly street-talk about women who are viewed to have sexy bodies but are adjudged as lacking in the looks and smarts department.

Advocates like Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad pointed out that Bautista’s sexist remarks were in breach of two of Davao’s hallmark legislations: the Women’s Development Code and the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance.

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As expected, the reactions of members of the showbiz community and netizens were divided. A few said it was to be expected in the spirit of comedy and fun; others took issue with the action of the Davao City Council. A group called Bakla Offensive even commented “sa Davao, ok lang murahin at gulpihin ang kababaihan, huwag lang silang tawaging ‘hipon’” obviously in reference to a recent video uploaded on the Internet involving the chief of the Davao City Police Office. Senior Supt. Vicente Danao Jr. was filmed shouting at and hitting his wife. Danao later claimed that the incident was a private matter; that no one was hurt; and that he was merely set up. The Davao City local chief executive, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, was subsequently interviewed about the incident and said that “for as long as he functions well in terms of the city governance, ayaw ko makialam diyan”.

It is unfortunate that in all the hullaballoo, a few very vital things got missed.

First, the slang “hipon” is a derogatory term pure and simple, and should not be used to describe women anywhere, and not just to women in Davao. I have seen Dabawenyo friends post pictures of beautiful women from the City and challenging viewers to see for themselves whether those featured were “hipon” women. Although well meaning, the posts unfortunately fell into the trap of dignifying the stereotype–that women can be categorized into “hipons” and “non-hipons”. The point is, there are no hipons because women cannot and ought not be stereotyped. For that matter, it can even be argued that the sexist slur can potentially extend to men as well—that some men are more attractive neck down only. And with that realization, we should all the more resist the tendency to make this an affront solely against Davaoeñas—it is an insult to women everywhere, and men can be victimized by it, too.

Second, this ought not to be a case of focusing on one gender-biased behavior and turning a blind eye to another. The City Government has to take a second look at the actuations of the local Chief of Police with respect to the video. To dismiss it as “a domestic problem” is to unwittingly and ironically endorse domestic violence, which the City has long been trying to address—even the local 911 system can be used to report cases of gender-based violence. Physical harm or threatening to cause physical harm to women or children, including battery and repeated verbal abuse, are among the acts of violence penalized by the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 or RA 9262. If the City does not take effective action on the matter, it will reinforce the message that some people are exempted from abiding by the law, and that those privileged enough to be exempt are the ones involved in matters of the law.

Third, despite initial successes Davao City has a long way to go in terms of battling with discrimination. We have a landmark legislation against discrimination, Ordinance 0417-12 passed in December 2012, which is grandly titled “An Act Declaring Unlawful, Acts and Conduct of Discrimination Based on Sex, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Race, Color, Descent, National or Ethnic Origin, and Religious Affiliation or Beliefs and Penalizing the Same”.

The ordinance defines discrimination as “any act, or conduct which withholds, excludes, restricts, curtails demeans human dignity, or otherwise impairs the recognition, enjoyment and exercise of human rights and basic freedoms in the economic, labor, social, cultural, educational or any other field of public life based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, and religious affiliation or beliefs”. However, the effective implementation of this piece of local legislation requires the formulation of a set of Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) within 60 days from the approval of the ordinance. The status of the IRR, and progress in the implementation of the Ordinance are not known at this point.

Let it not be said that there is a dearth of efforts to bring to life the values of inclusion and celebration of diversity in the city despite the unknown status of the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance. For instance, the St. Joseph Technical Academy of Davao City has a policy that does not discriminate against--and is in fact welcoming of--lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered persons, and respects cross-dressing as a practice. Born out of the conviction of the owners and administrators to promote and respect human rights, this initiative is an example of the many ways in which the spirit of the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance can be lived out in all facets of public life in Davao with the support of the different sectors.

And yet one need only tune in to radio stations in Davao City to be bombarded with sexist jokes on-air, some even delivered by children (or perhaps adults who pretend to speak like children). I remember that the local media community once had an effort to convene a mechanism—a Board—so that it could precisely police against acts of discrimination by and among its members. It would be good to look into the status of that mechanism now and to reactivate it. Mass media is a major arena in the fight against discrimination, and media actors can play key roles as champions and initiators. Local media reportage on the hipon comment in Davao rapidly raised it as an issue in the eyes of the national public.

Which brings me to my fourth point, back to hipons. I think we people of Davao should take back the term and not lose it to sexism. In re-appropriating it we can continue to remind ourselves that the fight against all forms of discrimination is not just confined to protecting Davaoeños, but that we Dabawenyos can lead the effort dramatically. I am thinking of a Hipon Festival in the tradition of the Mardi Gras but hopefully not ending up a photocopy of it.

Why a festival? Well, why not? The MassKara Festival of Bacolod originated at a time when the city and its citizens had to deal with the economic pressures and mass poverty that came with the sugar industry slump. Why not a Hipon Festival in Davao directed at poking fun at those who discriminate at the expense of human rights, and at the same time unmasking the many forms of discrimination in our day to day in a fun and disarming way? We will not feel it as imperative that we have to invite celebrities from Manila to host the event, but we can do so as an act of solidarity.

Then we can truly say, battling against discrimination: more fun in Davao.

Email feedback to magszmaglana@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 23, 2014.

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