Over-analysing Senator Tito Sotto’s Halloween Costume?

As I have said in my previous post, apart from the real insult that Muslims, who have appropriated the Arab garb for religious reasons, felt, I knew the true issue is Senator Tito Sotto. For a senator, he has a poor choice that is indicative of his politics. It bespeaks of his scant grasp of cultural understanding and promotion of unity.

1) He claims it was given to him by a Sheikh from Riyadh who loves it when he wears it. That even makes it worse. If you value your friend and his gift, would you honour him by wearing it to a Halloween party that has the tendency to be misconstrued, as it did, as mockery instead of promoting it? I dare Senator Tito Sotto to honour his friend by wearing that Thobe to the Senate. If his intention is pure, why limit honouring his friend by wearing that gift only on Halloween next to the costumes of vampires, ghosts. Ghouls and others? I assure the good Senator that wearing the same garb to the Senate will make those people criticizing him now admire him for his bold statement in the spirit of cultural sensitivity. Granting for the sake of argument that it was given to him by his Arab friend for Halloween purposes, not wearing it on Halloween in consideration of the Muslim minority in the Philippines who consider it as their religious garb is taking the moral high ground for the sake of understanding. He will not lose anything by not using a Thobe and a Sahal on Halloween.

2) He has been wearing it for 15 years, and nobody complained. Fifteen years ago, not many Muslims had access to Eat Bulaga. Where I live in Marawi City, we watch ABS-CBN most of the time because GMA reception is so bad. With social media empowering netizens, people become aware of what is happening even without watching TV. I for one have not watched that segment. But that is beside the point. Having nobody complain for a long time does not give it legitimacy, nor make it right. It means a wrong long been going on.  It also shows that more people are watching Eat Bulaga nowadays because of AlDub.

3) The Senator is right, though. Other people wear nuns, priests and Pope’s outfits for instance, and it wasn’t offensive. Like the cute little toddler who came in the Pope’s raiment at the White House Halloween celebration and won everybody’s heart. What is scary in that? Nothing, of course. Will the Pope be offended or Christendom? No, I don’t think so. I thought that was genius of the parents. But to wear an Arab garb that some Muslims consider as their religious attire to a Halloween party with the theme of “Katatawanan and Katatakutan” in a country with a Muslim minority who have often been subject to unfair stereotypes is being callous. It is unnecessarily igniting tension, as it does now, just for the sake of entertainment, or just a vain display of arrogant power.

As you can see, there are also Muslims, who defended your choice, and some of them claim that they are not offended and will still vote for you. I will not base my vote because you wore the Thobe. It will be based on your merits as a legislator. That should be a reminder to you that you are a Senator not only for Eat Bulaga, AlDub nation, Luzon and the Christian majority but including the minority as well. Parallel to that, it means that your fans also comprise Muslim minorities like us. Believe it or not, my Mom was a big fan of your triumvirate. She had photos with all three of you decades back.

Either you have the magnanimity and the sensitivity to consider the repercussion of your choice, or you don’t. Your choice of a costume is already a manifestation that an apology from you will be empty or that it will be forthcoming. If you have not seen the rationale why not wearing it is the most sensible, honourable and most “senatoriable” thing to do, you will never ever see why there is a need for you to apologize for it in the first place, which is, as I predicted what happened. You said those asking you to apologize have misplaced sensitivities. You may be right. That is exactly the very reason why I wished you had been magnanimous in the first place, as a public official not to ignite the so-called misplaced sensitivities of the Muslims. Our being overly sensitive is merely a reaction of our being overly sensationalized in and by the media to begin with. Remember the “Muslim Type”? Was there ever a “Christian Type”? None. Because it is not the proper thing to do in the first place, not that there are no people of Christendom who equally do the same despicable acts to us human beings.

4) This brings me to my last point. You said, “If that’s the way they think, I am now having second thoughts on my support for the BBL.” This proves my earlier point that the real concern is not whether you will apologise or not, or that you owe an apology or not. Your poor choice is a manifestation of your flimsy and merely superficial if not insubstantial grasp of the plight of the Muslims in the Philippines. Sadly, because you are a Senator, your actions or antics, will have a direct impact not only on the AlDub nation but the Filipino nation. I wonder now who has really misplaced sensitivities. Governor Mujiv Hataman’s alleged misplaced sensitivities and the Muslims he represents will soon dissipate, while yours will determine the fate of not only the Bangsamoro but the nation. Please support the BBL or oppose it, based on its merits or its alleged limitations and not because some Muslims including our governor demanded for your apology. The BBL has the real potential of affecting the lives of all Filipinos. By all means endorse it, or oppose it, but please, do it by concrete and sound reasoning and not because your sensitivity is equally challenged.  That is insulting to all those who have poured  a lot of effort   and put their lives and careers on the line in  crafting  the BBL for the sake of peace–Muslims, Lumads and Christians alike–  and even to those questioning  its viability based on sound concerns. It is a disservice to the nation  in its quest for a lasting peace, if the efforts at finding a solution  will be judged based on  whosoever’s misplaced sensitivities and not on concrete  and valid grounds. May God Almighty bless and guide you to think and act for the benefit of this country.


Photo from http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/2015/11/02/1517580/tito-sotto-addresses-halloween-costume-controversy


About darangenwomentoday

PhD student University of Melbourne, Australia (Culture and Communication); MA-Media Studies (New School University, New York City); Director, Press and Information Office (Mindanao State University); Former Vice-Head, National Commission on Culture and the Arts Committee on Cultural Information and Special Events; Former member, National Commission on Culture and the Arts Committee on Monuments and Sites; and Former Vice-Chancellor for Research and Extension (Mindanao State University).
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