Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mayor PMS and the sound of silence

Petulant. Misanthropic. Scurrilous.

Timing myself, I found that I needed 17 minutes of browsing through my Roget’s Thesaurus to find adjectives that could be substituted for every letter in PMS.

PMS also stands for pre-menstrual syndrome, a monthly state that bedevils some women.

When certain men shy from publicly calling a “difficult” woman a bitch, they blame “PMS.”

But the comeback mayor of Cebu has recently proven that women have not yet cornered the market in being quarrelsome, sulky and coarse.

Displeased over charges of contest rigging made by Miss Cebu contestant Kimberley Therese Burden and her family, Cebu City Mayor Tom Osmeña dismissed their plaint as a “non-issue’ and called Kimberley as “just Miss Cellphone.”

I sympathize with the mayor if, like other Cebuanos concerned about joblessness, criminality and other concerns of governance, he wants to move on from what must be the longest-running beauty pageant.

On the other hand, the mayor’s penchant for name-calling leaves the usual afternotes.

Name-calling, whether the baiting is done in playground jungles or the corridors of power, has a drawn-out corrosiveness: people are often entertained for a long time by the taunting even if few exactly remember the circumstances leading to the nickname or its author’s original intent.

Who of us remember in clear detail the issues spawning “Gwen Doling,” “Queen of Darkness,” and “Tandang Zorra”? If the tags still have a sting, it is not just because online news archives ensure that it will be an indelible mark in the Web.

Instead of training people to focus on issues, name-calling feeds a mental laziness that is quite happy to pigeonhole people, on the assumption that nicknames stick but people hardly alter.

Why would the mayor saddle Kimberley with the crushing burden of the “Miss Cellphone” tag? She is not only a young person, with unlimited opportunities to contribute meaningfully to life after moving on from this episode. She is also a private individual, without the access to media that a public official like Osmeña has.

Praising Miss Cebu Kris Tiffany Janson for the “silence” she maintained during the “Texter’s Choice” controversy, the mayor observed that hers was “conduct becoming” of a true Miss Cebu.

Silence, as a virtue, should be taken into context. Perhaps in the world of beauty queens, being outspoken and demanding the correction of a wrong is as unseemly as tripping on one’s gown. By this standard, the feisty mayor himself would be an awkward duckling in a beauty tilt.

Then again, beauty contests hardly mirror the real world where, as Mayor Osmeña must have observed from working with non-government organizations, women have to break the curse of voicelessness and speak out to assert their rights.

In the face, though, of our propensity for Freudian slips-of-the-tongue and name-calling, I agree wholeheartedly with the mayor on the virtue of silence.

After grappling with a thesaurus and being wordless for 17 minutes just to come up with a whimpering bomb of a taunt, I cut short my aspirations in the art of name-calling, as well as take back that “Mayor PMS” tag.

According to our elders, if you have nothing positive to say about a person, don’t say anything at all. 09173226131

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s “Matamata” column, published on Mar. 15, 2009

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