Now I know that the Miss Universe pageant passes by nowadays without causing much of a blip on most American folks’ radar, but those of us who are Filipino or half Filipino or married to a Filipino watch it and root for Miss Philippines to overcome the odds and become a sort of Manny Pacquiao of the beauty world. And so it is that we have been abuzz since Monday night when Miss Philippines Venus Raj made it to the top 5 in the MIss Universe Pageant and seemed poised to possibly win when she apparently blew it when asked: “What is the big mistake in your life and what did you do to correct it?” Her answer: “In my 22 years of existence there is nothing major major problem I’ve done because I’m confident in myself and my family. Thank you for being here…. …Thank you , Thank you very much..”
Here’s the video:
Everyone groaned, then the media — mainstream and otherwise–pounced, and in the Philippines (and even on Twitter where it is still trending) the term “major major” has beome poor Venus’ legacy of sorts.
Meanwhile, making this even more sad is that from everything I’ve read, Venus’ life is a wonderful story of lifting ones self up from poverty, achieving more than could ever be expected of you, loving and respecting your family — by all reasonable accounts an extraordinary youg women. So it hurts to see her attacked particularly when the attacks (at least those over here) for the most part fail to consider some cultural dimensions that cause her answer to make a lot more sense than if you view it from an American perspective.
For a couple of days I’ve found myself making comments here and there in response to articles and blogs, trying to explain, somewhat lamely, how in the Philippines it’s a whole lot more possible than here for someone to be 22 and not have made a major mistake due to family love surrounding her during her upbringing. I made a hash of it, it’s something I grasp but can’t really explain very well. And then, a while ago, when reading an infuriating attack in the Washington post, I was reading the comments after the article and found one very beautiful and humbly articulate comment by a Filipina named “Fortunata”. In her comment I found the articulation of what I’ve been trying to say without getting it right. And so I’m happy to share what Fortunata had to say — and say that this is what I was getting at all this time, only I couldn’t say it half as well as Fortunata: Here is what she says:
“i guess if you are not a pilipino or if you are a fil crab it would be hard to understand what venus raj’s answer to the question. I myself a filipina don’t remember making a BIG mistakes that can turn into BIG problem in my 22 years of life becoz iam surrounded with a family who are always there to guide me to make sure i don’t make a Big mistake because of their love and support, I am confident not to dissapoint them.I had some minor mistakes and I am sure Venus had some too but does she or did she had the time to elaborate her statement, no she was given 30 seconds to answer the question for me her answer was very clear, she had not done any BIG mistake in her 22 years of her existence or big problem coz she had confident in her family that gives her the love and she gives them love back by not dissapointing them and make sure she dont make any BIG mistake that can turn into a big problem. Pilipinos have this thing of making sure to do things right for your family, specially if you are tight close one. Venus Raj grew up in the middle of a farm which there is no access to electricity at the end of the day all she have is her family no tv to watch no computer to browse it’s the kind of life they chose as her mother work in a ricefield to help with their everyday needs, their life is so simple but surrounded by a loving family her answer reflects the kind of life she have. Although living in a below average family she feels secured and confident being with them, a day to day job and making sure she wont make a BIG mistake as she moves on with her life, so far she said she has not done a BIG mistake and this is what she told everyone watching her on tv as she hopes to win that crown unfortunately it wasn’t good enough for a lot of people or to the judges. It’s unfortunate that people that don’t know her life story cannot get the whole picture of what she said and judge her intelligence, it’s unfortunate that the judges did not also get exactly what she was trying to tell them. Well I myself totally understood what Venus Raj’s answer in my 22 years of life i made sure I don’t make a BIG mistake coz if I do it might become a BIG problem and i would totlaly dissapoint my family that I love and loves me. Venus Raj Some people may totally get your point but some may not but one thing is for sure you are a beautiful woman with a good heart and you will not graduate as a cumlaude honors if you are not intelligent as you are, Hope this whole Miss Universe you had experienced will make you stronger than ever keep smiling and God bless you more than you expected.” THANK YOU, FORTUNATA!