The paradoxical disposition of the media to instigate public attention lies in its ability to popularize a social phenomenon. However, the popularization of media texts is juxtaposed with the eventual depoliticization of the texts-subjects itself, especially when the formed discourse is indefensibly contextualized in its political and historical nature.

In its attempt to reap the popular taste of the audience and occupy locus in the economic and culture industry, the corporate media posture its capital to popularize the intriguing, yet sometimes frivolous, news which often leads to misrepresentation, hence depoliticization of the news subject as in the case of Carrot Man and Badjao Girl.

Both the online news and social media platforms of various media outlets put lavish reporting space on the seeming unorthodox looks of an Igorot man and a Badjao/Lumad woman after their “stolen” shots were, by chance, captured and posted on Facebook and Instagram by local tourists.

The original photos of the Igorot man carrying a basket of carrots in Bauko, Mountain Province in February 2016 and the Badjao/Lumad woman begging in the streets of Lucban, Quezon in May 2016 led to their virtual identities of Carrot Man and Badjao Girl, respectively.

Thanks to the power of the social media especially of the “millenials” who unwittingly failed to realize the marginalization of the indigenous in terms of political, economic and cultural state.

A number of media reports revealed that Carrot Man, Jeyrick Sigmaton, is a 21-year old Igorot vegetable farmer from Monamon Sur, Bauko, Mountain Province. Meanwhile, Badjao Girl, Rita Gabiola, is a 13-year old Badjao and a daughter of a fisherman whose family hailed from Zamboanga, Mindanao. Gabiola’s family was forced to migrate to Manila and now to Lucban, Quezon to look for a sustainable means of living.

The media representation of the two marginalized indigenous individuals centered on their not-so-eccentric physical attributes not due to physical peculiarity per se, but simply because of their “indigenousness” and struggling economic and labor position in society.

But why bother ourselves with media representation? Who needs media popularization?

Representation in the media stimulates a public discourse that outlines the critical sentiments of a society. It helps in the formation of a democratic space that will (and should) deliberate on the contradictions endured by classes and positions of its peoples. The need to popularize a certain class or phenomenon must be anchored on the intrinsic political hallmark of the marginalized considering the latter’s striving ability to participate in the commercialized structure of the media.

Going back to our case examples, the representation of the Igorot and Badjao/Lumad is a reflection of how the indigenous and the marginalized in general are perceived in our society. They are poorly portrayed as powerless sectors that needed to strike attention before the public realize that they indeed exist among us, either in a far-flung or simply unnoticed setting. The intention to provide them with a space in public consciousness is mere superficial as their existence only resonates their physical and sorry state of livelihood features.

As a matter of fairness (though I am still unconvinced by such fact), their representation in the corporate media paved way for the provision of opportunities like modelling appearance to Carrot Man and scholarship assistance to Badjao Girl. In the above photos, the apparent “experimental physical transformation” of the two seems to be where the profit-driven media wish to invest its capital instead of documenting the plight of the indigenous groups that they are affiliated with.

Why are we, as a people, so titillated with the physical, and yet, extremely detached from the historical and political realities of the indigenous? Equally, why put so much tolerance on the media hype, yet, we remain obstinate in grasping the indigenous?

In an instant, we witnessed the “rise” of the Igorot and Badjao/Lumad indigenous identities in the profit-driven media yet we fail to see how their groups inflicted resistance against the systematic attacks of the State to establish their rights to ancestral lands and self-determination.

We fail to see that since time immemorial, the indigenous groups in the country notably those belonging to the Igorot of Northern Luzon and Lumad of Southern Mindanao have been waging sectoral struggles to preserve and strengthen their political and cultural domains. Last April 24, we commemorated the annual celebration of the Cordillera Day that also marked the death anniversary of Macliing Dulag who was killed by State forces in 1980 for leading the Igorot and other indigenous groups in the Cordillera against Marcos’s Chico Dam Project.

We rarely witness an investigative and critical reporting on the plight of the fisherfolk communities and local migrations of Badjao as in the case of Badjao Girl. And lest we forget, there are still hundreds of Lumad individuals who are displaced and continuously attacked by the elements of the military in Mindanao as in the recent fire at a Lumad evacuation center at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Haran, Davao City last February.

Depoliticization of the indigenous in the media is a major step back from forming critical media audience. By condoning such media representation, we are in essence depicting a major disregard of their cultural formation of resistance, more so, of their way of life.

We do not live in a fashion-oriented society and we do repudiate the imeldific school of thought of the good, the true and the beautiful where a capitalist-inspired narcissism fuels our being.

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