IF we talk of human development, or how far we’ve progressed as well as regressed in our pursuit of heaven on earth, the week that was proved to be quite an eventful one, with three buzz-worthy developments unfolding one after the other.
I’m sure most of you are aware of the details surrounding these three recent stories:
Leading Filipino realtor Robbie Antonio’s rather self-incriminating story on Vanity Fair; members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) misguided concern (again!) over content shown in today’s local soap operas in light of “My Husband’s Lover’s” high ratings and uncanny pulse on the zeitgeist; and the US Supreme Court’s thrashing (a nearly divided decision) of the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, which paves the way for the full recognition and eventual acceptance of same-sex marriage in the United States.
I won’t bore you with the details anymore, and go directly to what I think about them—one of which, whether we like it or not, is a watershed moment in further advancing the cause of human rights.
Where is Robbie coming from?
If you haven’t seen Antonio in person, then you probably won’t understand where this slight and rather colorful fellow is coming from.
Having seen and heard him up close during a number of press conferences launching this and that condominium, I wasn’t surprised at all that he’d go out of his way to trumpet to the rest of the world how cool and fabulous he is by spending scandalous amounts of money on a Rem Koolhass-designed home in Manila, which he plans to outfit with 35 portraits of himself by the likes of Damien Hirst, Francis Bacon and Jeff Koons, among others.
Each of Antonio’s paeans to himself is reportedly pegged at somewhere between $50,000 to $100,000. Multiply that by 35, then the total price tag hovers north of $3 million. And that amount doesn’t even include his home-slash-gallery by Koolhaas to house them all in.
Dubbed as “Stealth,” the house is anything but invisible and quiet if we go by its supposed price tag: upwards of $15 million.
The Antonios, including Robbie’s father Joey Antonio, a Philippine ambassador to China during former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s time, through their Century Properties, are Johnnies-come-lately (if you compare them to the likes of the Ayalas and the Villars) in the lucrative and mercurial world of Philippine real estate.
Paris will do
Robbie, a self-styled New York City fixture, who’s on first name basis with Paris Hilton and Donald Trump, is just being true to himself and Century Properties’ market. With residential towers designed and/or carrying the imprimatur of Trump, Hilton, Donatella Versace and Margherita Missoni, the high-profile projects are clearly meant to entice the flamboyant and the nouveau rich.
Like I said earlier, I wasn’t surprised that Robbie would resort to such a could-you-top-this stunt (Rico and Tina Ocampo, past masters in the art of global self-promotion, are probably scratching their heads) given that everything about the guy—from his longish, dark locks and perpetually tanned skin, to his skinny pants and ill-fitting shrunken jackets—is designed to call attention to himself.
In his mind, making it on the pages of Vanity Fair on the strength of such an incredible story was a stroke of marketing genius. (Even the respected magazine couldn’t resist from poking fun at the “good-looking” Antonio’s “Museum of Me.”) Well, to a certain extent, it was.
What Robbie probably didn’t expect was the activation of a silent army composed of conspiracy theorists, the self-righteous and the plain envious as a result of his, for lack of a better description, coming out in Vanity Fair.
Actually, he’s very well within his rights to throw away wads of cash like they’re infected with the deadly H1N1 virus. But don’t tell that to Century Properties’ equally greedy stockholders, who are now probably aching for a straight accounting.
Conspiracy theorists and various public and private watchdogs are also probably wondering, if they haven’t already, how and when the Antonios amassed such a vast amount of fortune in seemingly so short a time.
Well, that’s the least of Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares’ concerns. If Henares is really faithful to her mandate, she and her boys better start looking for sources of revenue in the right places. Well, they probably need not look far.
If a celebrity like Kris Aquino, no matter how well-paid she is by virtue of her being one of the country’s leading endorsers, could top BIR’s list of taxpayers (out-paying even the so-called taipans and high-flyers of Philippine business, who won’t think twice of crowding their expensive homes with equally expensive tributes to themselves), then something is terribly wrong with the way the government’s chief revenue-generating arm is doing its job.
And what of our dear bishops who make up the CBCP? Again, they’ve shown how ill-advised and irrelevant they’ve become by training their energies on a so-so teleserye that dares tackle a supposedly taboo subject laced with classic ingredients: pretty and clueless wife on the verge of finding out that his good-looking husband is having an affair not with a mistress from the local honkytonk, but with his cute best friend in high school who, loud gasp, please, happens to be a guy.
Apart from encroaching on the domain of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, the bishops have unwittingly given the show free publicity. I caught glimpses of “My Husband’s Lover” in the office, and find it tame, slow and, like most shows in that genre, incredulous and often bereft of logic.
For its pains, CBCP was the subject of a make-believe news report (Vice Ganda’s defenders should read it to learn what a real satire is), which came out in sowhatsnews.wordpress.com. The spoof dubbed as “My Father’s Lover,” which earned a supposed “parochial guidance” for CBCP, couldn’t have been more on target.
It may pain some to see the truth (“you can’t handle the truth,” Jack Nicholson’s character once bewailed in “A Few Good Men”), but it doesn’t make such a truth any less false or painless. The truth shall set us free, but oftentimes it can also be painful to see it unfold.
Gay love happens within and outside the sacristy. Sweeping it under the rug just because it offends the sensibilities of certain groups doesn’t solve the situation. It further compounds it. As far as the performing arts are concerned, it’s all a matter of presentation. The truth, in the form of ratings, will be the ultimate judge.
DOMA is no more
Finally, before the week ended, the US Supreme Court struck down a decades-old DOMA law paving the way for same sex partners to exchange I do’s. Almost 50 years after the Stonewall Riot in New York, and two years after the US military officially abandoned its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, such a development was bound to happen.
Let’s leave religion out of it, as there’s no point in arguing with various churches on the merits and demerits of same-sex unions. The Catholic Church, for one, isn’t likely to change its stand against it. Not now and perhaps not in the next 2,000 years.
I have been silent on this issue for far too long. Personally speaking, I find that there are more pressing issues to focus on. But after having heard of one too many gay people being left in the lurch after their respective partners die or leave them for someone else, a law ought to be in place to protect them. This could be it.
“Widow” on the run
Often, these individuals are deprived of their rights, even
harassed into silence by their deceased partners’ immediate relatives. I even came across a case, that of a former high school acquaintance, who was constantly moving all over the US and assuming false identities because his deceased partner’s family, for some reason, wanted him liquidated.
In the absence of “marriage,” it’s as if no union took place, as all the deceased person’s properties go to his family and not to his “widowed” partner.
Of course, the issue goes beyond property rights. The recognition itself, again, based on facts on the ground, is a big boost for making a considerable chunk of this earth’s population on par with their heterosexual brothers and sisters.
The world can always use a bit more love, as it can do with a great deal less of discrimination. Loving freely and wholeheartedly regardless of who we are and whom we choose to love are steps in the right direction. In the end, I believe, we won’t be judged by what we did per se, but why we did it.