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Kiss kiss bang bang

Kiss kiss bang bang

AFTER kissing a married woman on the lips in public, what will Chief Executive Digong do next? I didn’t get the details when I first heard of that “historic kiss” over the radio, and so I dismissed it as just another Du30 gimmick. He was probably fishing for approval from the OFWs during his visit to South Korea, so what’s new? But when station after station rattled on about “the kiss”, and I learned soon after that the kiss was on the lips, and that the woman was married, and that our showman-of-a-president demanded the kiss in return for a scandalous book, I thought, “Uh-oh, that’s a material for my next column.”

And then came the videos, and the blasts from social media, pro and con. I had to watch the video before I could judge the act (without being judgmental). I saw the lady’s reluctance, the president’s insistence, and the kiss which, truth to tell, wasn’t intimate enough to spread a virus, but why did it go viral just the same? Why did CNN, BBC, Time, CBS, Washington Post among others think it was newsworthy? The head of state who is known for getting into hot water because of his mouth has done it again—this time not because of cussing but because of kissing; caused not by a joke, but by a joke of a kiss.

The uproar was like thunder rolling from east to west, north to south—why? Because—as the song goes, “You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh… The fundamental things apply, as time goes by…” A kiss is a kiss is a kiss, and a kiss on the lips is big time in our culture. See how a lips-to-lips kiss caps our wedding ceremonies, where the groom waits until the priest/minister says “You may now kiss the bride” before lifting her veil and kissing her lips? Suddenly you have this mischievous president soliciting a kiss from somebody else’s wife. What the ….! That would have constituted sexual harassment in the corporate world!

But besides the fact of the kiss, it’s the public reaction to the president’s intention that needs examination. The audience shrieked and hooted their approval of the act—why? Was it okay that their country’s leader turned a kiss into live entertainment? Is it more important to be “made happy” than to be made proud of your well-mannered president? True to form, Digong said of his critics, “Inggit lang kayo!” while his spokesman said that kiss is an “act of endearment” to show the president does love the OFWs. (OmG, roll your eyes and chuckle, it’s Mediocrity Unlimited.)

I’m sorry for the lady—Bea Kim, married to a Korean national, mother of two—who seemed to think she had no choice. There were two Filipinas on stage reportedly; the first one offered her cheek which the president kissed without a fuss. But Bea, upon Digong’s insistence, relented and allowed him to do as he’d wanted. That’s what’s pathetic. Well, maybe she is not old enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with the president. She could have said, smiling, “No way, Mr. President, my husband will divorce me! Sapisngi na lang po!” Or she could have given her hand to be kissed instead. I wonder what Mr. Kim feels now, or how that viral video of his wife being kiss by a notoriously womanizing president will affect their marital life from now on. I also wonder what Sarah Duterte or Honeylet or ex-wife Elizabeth think of it? Or what Kitty feels among her schoolmates talking behind her back. What’s even more regrettable is how Mrs. Kim apparently felt obliged to defend the president’s temerity by telling media that there’s no malice in that kiss which “didn’t mean anything except to entertain and make other Filipinos in the gathering happy.”

Okay. “no malice” then. But is anyone asking about the choice of the book the president gave away to Overseas Filipino Workers in South Korea? “Altar of Secrets: Sex, Money and Politics in the Philippine Catholic Church”—a pathetic rehash of the author’s previously published articles which didn’t quite make the cut due to its glaring lack of depth. Why did the president choose to spread this “book” instead of giving the overseas Pinoys something really useful and constructive? Like maybe a coffee table book about the beauty of the Philippines to show off to their non-Filipino friends. Or maybe a volume on Workers’ Rights to educate and empower the OFWs. Or perhaps an Etiquette Book that may help them deal smoothly with their employers and other people they meet abroad? Why of all books, this one? No malice? Giving that book to people and then asking for a kiss in return—hello, presidential advisers, do you love your country? It’s like giving rotting fish for people to eat and then ordering them to pay a steep price for it. All in the name of “making them happy”?

And so the fuss over the kiss went on, overshadowing much more important issues. On the same day of “the kiss”, June 6, Beijing must have bristled as a US military ship—the USNS Milinocket, which can transport troops, boasts of a helipad and has loading ramps for military vehicles—was reported to have docked in Palawan, which faces the South China Sea. On top of that, two nuclear-capable US bombers flew near Spratly Islands, in the wake of the accusation by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis of China’s “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea. Do Pinoys care about that?

On the same day, a 64-year-old Catholic priest, Fr. Rey Urmeneta of St. Michael the Archangel parish in Calamba was on his way to a church meeting when two would be assassins shot him. He sustained two gunshot wounds but survived the attack. More shootings: also on June 6, police gunned down two suspected robbers in separate incidents in Cavite—the first was one of two motorcycle-riders who tried to steal from a convenience store in Silang; the second was a trespasser in a subdivision in Tagaytay.

Because we Pinoys love circuses, we have become deaf to the gunshots around us, or even to the threat of war. A kissing here, a shooting there—made me title this piece “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, although this has nothing to do with the Hollywood black comedy bearing that name. I’d like to echo the women’s sentiments during their Independence Day march last June 12. Enraged over the kissing incident in South Korea, the marchers—bearing a huge streamer that said “Babae Ako, Lumalaban!”—protested Duterte’s “misogynistic” ways, recalling his unabashed admission of his womanizing, his rape jokes, and his ordering soldiers to shoot rebel women in their private parts, the over a thousand women said “We have had enough”. For your own good, Mr. President, enough of kiss kiss bang bang—and do be careful. Next time you kiss a woman in public, they might just take you down with a bang. And that’s the truth.