The case for ‘cal­i­brated mod­esty’ —whyyou must tell your story


Our Lifestyle staffer ex­pressed what must be a one-in-100-mil­lion opin­ion about the lotto with the P1­bil­lion stake: “Why should I (buy a ticket)? I have beauty and brains. To have P1 bil­lion more is a bit much. God won’t like that. Leave that to oth­ers.”

We­didn’t ask if she was se­ri­ous; we pre­sumed she was—not car­ing to join the long lotto queues when gas, food (even veg­etable) prices were up, and the peso is ex­pected to dip some more. She clearly keeps stock of what she has—beauty and brains. That will do for now (per­haps un­til the peso goes down to P58:$1).

She and I be­long to the “sand­wich gen­er­a­tion” which, wedged in be­tween par­ents who sur­vived the world war and our Gen Z and mil­len­nial chil­dren who must cope with the “af­fluenza” of “peace­time,” has been there-and done that, ex­cept per­haps win­ning the P1-bil­lion lotto. But that’s a mi­nor de­tail.

Beauty and brains—I like to think that un­like our par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion which loathed self­pro­mo­tion (un­less they were politi­cians) and un­like the selfie gen­er­a­tion, our gen­er­a­tion knows cal­i­brated mod­esty.

We know how to share a bit of our­selves on so­cial me­dia, but we also know how and when to hold back.

I like to think that I be­long to a gen­er­a­tion whose shar­ing on so­cial me­dia is strictly cal­cu­lated—we can share break­fast and din­ner, but not re­stroom breaks; we can share out­fits of the day, but not a midrib that’s a tell-all of our per­sonal his­tory.

The point I’m lead­ing to is—the post­war gen­er­a­tion that’s still around and which has ex­pe­ri­enced the high and low points of our his­tory must be forced to tell their sto

ries. They must over­come their dif­fi­dence and mod­esty to talk about their lives. As our Se­nior sec­tion writer Vir­gilio Yu­zon wrote on our Se­nior page, when it comes to re­cent his­tory, “We are the front­lin­ers, even be­fore the school or the me­dia, in guid­ing the young in the pur­suit of truth. We can­not es­cape re­spon­si­bil­ity for this role.”

Truth­ful nar­ra­tive

In this era of fake news, when low-grade, if not out­rightly de­ceiv­ing, in­for­ma­tion is fed the youth, and when nowhere in his­tory, as now, has main­stream me­dia been see­ing the ero­sion of its cred­i­bil­ity and moral as­cen­dancy, we must pass on the truth­ful nar­ra­tive to the next gen­er­a­tion. Our chil­dren are the “af­fluenza” gen­er­a­tion we’ve pam­pered and spoon­fed, but we must now stop shield­ing them from the harsh, un­sa­vory truths of our his­tory.

Tech­nol­ogy has spawned a gen­er­a­tion of know-italls—but not crit­i­cal thinkers. Our chil­dren are fan­tas­tic multi-taskers—mean­ing they can drive, text, take a selfie all at the same time—but are not crit­i­cal thinkers. They weren’t made to de­velop the rigor of men­tal dis­ci­pline needed to ac­quire knowl­edge and to de­velop logic.

They learn only what they want to learn. Ev­ery­thing is cu­rated for them, even their juices and socks.

Shap­ing crit­i­cal think­ing is a task for­mal ed­u­ca­tion seems to have sur­ren­dered to dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy. This holds true ev­ery­where, even in the First World. One only has to watch CNN’s man-on-the-street in­ter­views of Amer­ica to know this.

But then, how does one nudge on the older gen­er­a­tion to tell its story now (aside from En­rile)?

In an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, a prom­i­nent nona­ge­nar­ian so vividly re­called his life and strug­gles in the last world war and dur­ing mar­tial law—but it came with ex­plicit in­struc­tion that it should be pub­lished only af­ter his death, ap­par­ently be­cause he doesn’t want to call at­ten­tion to him­self now.

An­other prom­i­nent mem­ber of so­ci­ety, when asked why he didn’t want to be in­ter­viewed by me­dia for a pro­file, said, “My (gen­er­a­tion) would be sur­prised. That’s not us, that’s not how we were brought up.”

Let’s not go far. Our very own Eg­gie Apos­tol and Letty Jimenez Magsanoc were, are, so that way, so that they never got to tell their story about the fight for press free­dom and against mar­tial law, their war of at­tri­tion against the ills of so­ci­ety. Their opt-re­peated view was that “we’re not the story.”

But then to­day, me­dia is the story, its daily evo­lu­tion in­ex­pli­ca­bly linked to the ups and downs of gov­er­nance.

I re­mem­ber the night we broached the idea of her writ­ing her mem­oirs, Letty didn’t say an out­right “no,” but only, “Let Tita Eg­gie do it first.” (Letty, we’d find out later, kept a jour­nal.)

How­ever, as we all know, that didn’t hap­pen, with Letty’s sud­den death in 2015.

Ano­ma­lies and in­equities out­live peo­ple.

Now if the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion over­comes its mod­esty and be­comes em­bold­ened to write its story—in­deed to write about them­selves—so that the fu­ture generations will be guided in their think­ing and not be slaves of dig­i­tal trash—then per­haps truth could have a fight­ing chance.

By the way, our good friend and In­quirer colum­nist Am­beth Ocampo may yet spring a sur­prise soon: he has the “Mar­cos Di­aries.”

Eat-all-you-can buf­fet

The col­lec­tion of Rajo Lau­rel last Oct. 27 was like an eatall-you-can buf­fet—it was that fill­ing and the range of looks over­whelm­ing.

Staged by the Red Char­ity Gala of Tessa Valdes and Kaye Tinga—the big­gest ben­e­fit event of the year—Lau­rel’s “Ar­chi­pel­ago” marked the de­signer’s 25th year in fash­ion de­sign. Per­haps this was why Lau­rel gave it all he’s got.

He made good his prom­ise to show­case his ex­per­i­ments with in­dige­nous fab­rics and other de­sign ex­plo­rations. How­ever, he should have edited fur­ther his close-to-100piece col­lec­tion, and fo­cused only on his ma­jor de­sign state­ments: the mod­ern­iza­tion of in­dige­nous fab­rics, the ar­ti­sanal graphic im­agery (the “Ali­bata” sheaths were fab­u­lous), the dig­i­tal im­print and metic­u­lous em­broi­dery of the maps of the provinces on evening wear, and the acrylic ter­nos.

They would have yielded a co­he­sive show.

But as Rajo said, he let out his pas­sion in this col­lec­tion.

It will be great to dis­play the core of his col­lec­tion in an ex­hibit so that the pub­lic can see it up close.

Ben’s birth­day

No mat­ter that Ben Chan is out of the coun­try a good part of the year—how he sus­tains the en­ergy to travel in­ces­santly is a won­der—he makes it a point to be in town to cel­e­brate his birth­day with friends. And his birth­day din­ner with friends is a spe­cial oc­ca­sion we’d give up our pri­vate Sun­day for.

This year, I ar­rived so early, was the first guest to ar­rive, so that Ben, stand­ing on the front steps of his house, blurted out, with a wide grin, “Akala ko ikaw yung singer!” (He thought I was part of the band per­form­ing.)

Any­way, I didn’t sing, but had fun do­ing the swing with Randy Or­tiz who, by the way, is cel­e­brat­ing his 30th year in fash­ion on Nov. 26 with a grand col­lec­tion at Penin­sula Manila.

Ben re­mains the strong­est pa­tron of Philip­pine fash­ion. Af­ter spon­sor­ing the Red Char­ity Gala, his Bench mounts the Ter­noCon 2018 to­day at the Cul­tural Cen­ter of the Philip­pines—the cul­mi­na­tion of year-long work­shops on ter­nomak­ing all over the coun­try, by a team led by the chief advocate of the terno re­vival, Gino Gon­za­les, the coun­try’s fore­most scenog­ra­pher.

The work­shops pro­duced par­tic­i­pants of a terno com­pe­ti­tion, whose de­signs will be pa­raded to­day, along with the de­signs of lead­ing de­sign­ers JC Buen­dia, Len Ca­bili and Cary San­ti­ago.

We’re look­ing for­ward to see­ing the Ter­noCon to­day, even as we keep our fin­gers crossed that we will fit in our Aug­gie Cordero day terno.

It is com­mend­able how Ben sus­tains his com­mit­ment to pro­mote what is lo­cal (#love­lo­cal)—he com­mits his time, re­sources and pas­sion.

Back to his birth­day din­ner—a stand-up co­me­dian panned the room for puns, locked her eyes in our di­rec­tion, and, point­ing at her puffy cheeks, said how good a job the botox was. Did she mean me?

“Not botox,” I blurted out, “just cheesecake!”


Af­ter Red Char­ity Gala, heels give way to sneak­ers, yet there’s en­ergy left for im­promptu din­ner hosted by Vir­gie Ramos (stand­ing, 4th from right) for friends: seated, from left, the au­thor, Sandy Tan Uy, Derek Ram­say, Ba­bette Aquino-Benoit, Michelle Zeñarosa; stand­ing, from left, Mark Hig­gins, Sheila Ramos, Glenna Guidi­celli, Nestor Pag­u­layan, Mia Bor­romeo, Am­beth Ocampo, Gino Gon­za­les, Su­san Joven, Milka Quin, JJ San Juan


Ben Chan at his birth­day din­ner

Derek Ram­say, Anne Cur­tis greet Vir­gie Ramos at Red Char­ity Gala.

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