Thursday, March 11, 2004

‘Kinse anyos’

Nakatikim ka na ba ng kinse anyos? Have you tasted a 15-year-old?

Whoever crafted, produced and approved that ad for Distilleria Limtuaco’s Tanduay Rum cannot come clean and feign ignorance of the question’s double entendre. What’s in a question? Plenty.

The huge, unsightly and offensive Tanduay billboards asking that question have been taken down, or so we think, but the bad taste remains. Now the rum manufacturer is questioning the Ad Board’s authority to call for the bad ad’s removal from the face of the earth. But that is another story.

The bad story is: why that ad, for whom that ad? It was meant to titillate, to arouse the yearning for the 15-year-old liquid. And while at it, might as well intensify the thirst for two-legged 15-year-olds. Or it could be the other way around. Think of 15-year-old waifs, think Tanduay.

So the question suggests: if you have not tasted a kinse anyos, go taste one. Or if you have, and liked it, go and have more. The ad shows a bottle, which is easy to get from a convenience store. But where would one get the one which is not shown, the one which is not in a bottle?

The recent outcry over the gigantic billboards that now dominate the Philippine landscape has not been addressed. Or has it? Have you seen iron structures that hold billboards being dismantled? In fact there are more of them now waiting to be draped. It seems anyone who has a patch of earth or a rooftop can now offer his property to the billboard industry for extra income.

The issue was about unsightliness and defacing the horizon. Add danger because these iron structures get toppled during typhoon season. Now comes bad taste bordering on arousal of lust for children.

Before this outcry against Tanduay there was this huge billboard near the foot of the Nagtahan Bridge that was just as offensive, if not even more offensive. I saw it every time I came from the Inquirer in Makati and headed for home via the Nagtahan route toward Espana. It showed a young girl, about 15 or 16 perhaps, in a reclining position and with her legs sufficiently spread out. She had these big, pleading eyes looking up, and she had the fly of her jeans unzipped and wide open to show her skimpy panty and most of her pubic area. Lee™, it said. They sell jeans this way?

It was there for many months until Christmas and I kept wondering whether Manila mayor and Pro-lifer Lito Atienza ever saw it or whether the President did, every time she came from Malacanang and was headed north. It was so huge you couldn’t miss it if you were driving.

Billboards used to be made of galvanized iron sheets that were hand painted. Now billboards are made of plastic canvas that come out of giant printer machines. I once saw a team of workers preparing to hoist up a billboard ad. The canvas practically covered a whole street.

This reminded me of the artist (I think his name is spelled Kristo) who covered entire buildings and structures with canvas and then had them photographed. He certainly altered and mummified entire landscapes even if only for the duration of his outdoor exhibition. During the process he was making a statement while whole cities watched in awe and puzzlement.

Our advertising and billboard industries leave nothing for the imagination.

Speaking of kinse anyos, years ago I had to do a magazine story on a study done by psychiatrists on six- to 14-year-old street children who had been sexually used and abused. What were the children’s perceptions of their experiences?

I dug up the old article and found it still applicable in today’s context where lusting for children is part of the macho torture culture as evidenced by dead little girls found rotting in sacks or with bashed skulls and mutilated genitalia. Drugs often have something to do with these heinous crimes. And most likely, rum too. And bad advertising..

The so-called children of the streets (where, may I stress, all these deadly billboard ads could be seen) have a language all their own. Their vocabulary and conversations are not quite like what one heard if one grew up chasing dragonflies with well-scrubbed kids who smelled of soap in the morning.

``Malaki kasi laging nilalaro, (They’re big because they were always being fondled)’’ said a little girl of her friend, a fellow ten-year-old, whose breasts were bigger than what pre-teeners had. The declaration sounded almost too casual. These were little girls exchanging notes on adult things.

``Malaki kasi…’’ was not foul language, it was one mean declaration that one knew ``what it’s all about.’’ Like being forced to drink urine or being beaten up during sexual play, or learning new words describing what it’s all about. Like dyug-dyug.

In the study, the psychiatrists classified the children’s reaction to the sexual abuse. Some children were able to make an integration of the event, meaning they have overcome the anxiety, they neither avoided nor encouraged discussion but were able to talk about the experience fairly objectively.

Others avoided the topic, sealing off their anxiety either consciously or unconsciously. They denied the happening and avoided discussion. There was depression and self-destruction. Some children suffered continuous repetitions of these symptoms. Still others identified with their exploiters by impersonating them, a way for them to deal with their anxiety.

It is all very complex. Go to a shelter for sexually abused children and you’d get some idea where the culture of lust and abuse is coming from.

Consumers should scrutinize their brands. By their ads you shall know them.