Meloto’s War With Words

July 14th, 2015 · No Comments

melotoTony Meloto’s name is synonymous with Gawad Kalinga, the foundation he started to stomp out poverty.  His charity work has exalted him to hero level and has brought him high praises and awards including the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award.  He’s been seen as battler for the plight of the poor but last month he was faced with a war on social media – the netizens and facebookers.

The problem erupted after Meloto’s speaking engagement in April for the 40th Anniversary of University of Hawaii’s Center of Philippine Studies (UH-CPS).  The audience included the academe from all over the world and Meloto was the special guest.

It was alleged that his speech was sprinkled with racist and sexist comments which some in the audience felt offensive.  And social media went on overdrive. It was unbelievable, unthinkable that a man of his stature could have made such statements, but as a witness claimed “It is for real!”  For as many as there were of his disciples defending him, twice as many slammed him.

In his speech, Meloto stated that the “greatest asset of the Philippines is our beautiful women and that the future of the nation can be advanced by using them to attract the ‘best and the brightest’ men from the West, and enticing them to invest in the Philippines.”

“Equally offensive, Mr. Meloto went on to share his views on the need for Filipino women and their white husbands to produce what Mr. Meloto (apparently humorously) called “cappuccinos,” and appeared to present such a policy of seduction and reproduction as a solution to the problems of economic development in the Philippines.”

The University of Hawaii – Center for Philippine Studies issued a statement in May disavowing Meloto’s controversial comments and “apologized to those who were offended by his views.” CPS Director, Dr. Vina Lanzona said that it was a collective effort of the Executive Council “after serious discussions and deliberations.”  The letter remains posted on their face book page.

Meloto’s gaffe brought to surface others who claimed to have heard the same content spoken at other events but have failed to rattle the social media.  Dr. Jade Sibyl Pena, alleges that she heard it all before. She claims to have been in the audience at an event in Paris when Meloto urged “men of quality to come to the Philippines to serve as a model for Filipino men.” In fact, she said, Molotov “asked the Frenchmen and Germans — white men — to inspire Filipino men.”

On 24 May, Meloto sent out a cryptic tweet “When bad things are said about you, just do more good. It’s love for God, country & the poor that gives me the strength to move on.”  On May 26, Meloto broke his silence and said:  “This is the first time I’ve been called a ‘sexist,’ ‘elitist’ and a person with ‘colonial mentality,’ which definitely I am not. I may have offended some who did not agree with me or appreciated my humor and I can respect that.”

Meloto felt the audience was enthusiastic and did not sense a negative response.  “I am saddened that my statements were taken out of context and my metaphors given a negative interpretation, and I was not prepared for the massive bashing I received from social media after because of this.”

Meloto defended the accusations thrown at him – being a racist – a sexist  – an elitist – but he did not deny having said what he said.  He stressed that he did not disrespect women with his comments.  To do so would be like disrespecting his own daughters, who are incidentally married to foreigners.  (His full statement may be viewed on the GK website.)

According to a GK spokesperson, “Tony’s speech was taken out of context. It was his term of his endearment.” The “cappuccino” term may have been a term of endearment, although in bad taste.  However, his comments urging Filipina women to marry foreigners were inexcusable.  The GK representative went on further to say that the University of Hawaii letter circulating in cyberspace was not an official sanctioned letter. It was written by somebody else and the issue was “currently under investigation.” However, all the reputable media outlets carried the story, covering  every angle and the same quotes run through the pages. No one has mentioned the validity of the letter released  by the Center of Philippine Studies which remains posted on their facebook page.

Every story angle is carried on the internet. But I especially like Katrina Stuart Santiago’s column “Meloto’s Meltdown” in Manila Times.  She sums it all up. We really are not free from our colonial mentality and women are still subservient to men.  Meloto should perhaps change his speech writer and tone down his humor.  His racist and sexist remarks, wrapped in Filipino humor no longer fly with today’s politically correct audience. No matter how you look at it, it is not only disrespectful and insulting to women but also to men.

Meloto was in Australia early in June. What was more surprising was the little community reaction to such a sensitive issue.  Perhaps, nobody cared.


Tags: Grey Matter