internet in the Philippines

Cancel culture, criticism, and everything in between: PH Twitter in 2020

Ivy Pedida
Cancel culture, criticism, and everything in between: PH Twitter in 2020

WOKE. Twitter's 'woke culture' sparked interesting conversations on viral issues and legitimate concerns.

Twitter has become more than a platform of fleeting sentiments. The year 2020 shows us how.

Within 280 characters, a Twitter user can start a trend, tell a story, and spark a movement. 

As we wrap up a year fraught with economic and leadership crises during a pandemic, we take a look at how Twitter amplified a hodgepodge of issues, with some arguably more worth your penny than others.

Here are some of the debates and discussions that sent the Philippine Twitter community abuzz. 

The name we call ourselves

When Filipino-Americans tried to coin “Filipinx” as a gender neutral name to refer to themselves, Filipinos from the native land were quick to argue online that the term “Filipino” itself is already gender neutral. 

In a landscape rife with political tension stemming from racial and national identities, the Filipinx debate revealed the blurred lines of what it means to be a Filipino, for those who live in the homeland, and for the diaspora constantly struggling to define themselves.

For many Filipinos, the term invalidates the inherent neutrality of the native tongue, and only submits to the language parameters set by the colonizers.

Canceling the cancel culture

The year 2020 brought a slew of new internet sensations that made living in quarantine just a little bit easier. Aunt Julie, with her one thousand pesos per “mano” and boisterous videos about her children Roberto and Cassandra, had been arguably one of the favorites this year.

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Her proud, progressive “Povedan” disposition, however, did not shield her from criticism, leading to Macoy Dubs hanging Aunt Julie’s pearls for a while after being “canceled.”

Some users were quick to point out how Twitterverse’s penchant to “cancel,” is stifling growth and discourse and sowing divisiveness instead of unity.

Reporters, not stenographers

President Rodrigo Duterte’s very, very, late-night talks to the nation are a source of ire for many Filipinos. 

His false claims, random meltdowns, and sexist jokes are very much a staple of Twitter’s trending topic list every Monday, when he usually delivers these speeches.

But in one Duterte speech laden with lies, threats and misogyny against Vice President Leni Robredo, netizens cast a critical limelight on a TV reporter’s coverage of the chief executive.

Twitterverse was quick to point out that given the President’s interesting hobby of spewing lies and hate, it’s about time the media up their game.

Netizens also turned to American networks’ coverage of the US elections and how they handled US President Donald Trump, who also regularly makes false claims in public.

Some however, also pointed out the reality and constraints reporters have to work with while covering Duterte.

Basta!: How a soft drink ad rocked a restless nation

Still scratching your head over that soft drink ad?

Twitterverse was left unsettled after RC Cola Philippines released a bizarre commercial about a schoolboy confronting his mother if he is adopted. 

This is a staple storyline in Filipino movies and teleseryes, often leading to dramatic revelations. But the ad subverts all these and instead makes the characters have back-cups and a “bottle-neck.”

Netizens had varied reactions towards the commercials (two, after RC Cola released another one on December 14) – from plain disgust to overreading.

Besides the disturbing nature of the characters’ physical deformities, some users slammed the commercial’s insensitive portrayal of adopted kids. 

However, its creators said the ad wasn’t supposed to make sense or be explained. Is there really something more to be read in this ad or it’s just the lockdown talking?

Gifted or privileged?

In a dog-eat-dog world, the advantage of wealth and a comfortable life provide a stepping stone to success.

Specifically in the Philippines, where dreams are sacrificed for paying jobs and the best education given to those with financial capacity, privilege comes as a birthright – inaccessible to most and handed freely to those with the proper last names.

Midyear, Michael Pacquiao, son of boxing champion and senator Manny Pacquiao, came under fire after he released his song, Hate. People pointed out that besides whatever merit his music holds, his songs garner a large audience because of his last name and connections.

For others, however, it isn’t Michael’s fault to be born into a wealthy family. (Wealth is a birthright, right?)

On the other hand, Tiffany Uy sparked a similar conversation on Twitter after she graduated as class valedictorian from UP Manila, and ended up on the list of board exam topnotchers.

Some netizens came to the defense of Uy, saying that resources should be complemented by hard work, especially in a tough environment like medical school.

“Let people deserve their hard work. Let people celebrate their achievements. Let people breathe,” tweeted Hya Bendaña, valedictorian of Ateneo de Manila Class of 2019.

In 2015, Tiffany Uy’s near-perfect grade for her undergraduate degree got people talking about privilege and what it takes to be “truly intelligent.” –

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Ivy Pedida

Ivy Pedida is a digital communications specialist for Rappler’s Digital Communications arm. A shameless bandwagoner, she likes everything pop culture, whether it be the latest anime or another HBO hit. She is a furmom to five cats and one dog.