An Open Letter to Mr. Coco Martin from a Reluctant Fan



Okay so maybe I am a fan. No, I don’t think it’s “baduy” to be your fan, and I am done being defensive about it. Why? Because I think you’re a good actor. I’ve seen you act in your soap operas (except for your “Juan de la Cruz” because aswang fantasies are not really my cup of salabat) and you’ve got acting chops. I will not get into what so many “pa-intelektwal” individuals say are your bakya-ness because your shows are on ABS-CBN and they have plots that are so rehashed that after the first episode viewers can already predict how the whole thing is going to end three months hence. I will leave it to others to discuss the merits or lack thereof of “Ikaw Lamang”, “Minsan Lang Kitang Iibigin” and why ABS-CBN often insults the intelligence of its viewers. What I want to discuss with you, Mr. Martin, is your role in the whole Bench “The Naked Truth” debacle.

Of course by now you know all about the outrage you unwittingly caused when you walked onto that stage with a Caucasian woman on a leash. Gabriela – a women’s organization whose campaign against violence against women you once supported – issued statements, wherein it said that “Public indignation is also starting to brew over viral pictures of a fashion show that featured a male model pulling a scantily-clad female model on a leash, a sentiment that is also addressed by the resolution. Gabriela activists see the performance a disturbing throwback to concepts of enslaving and subjugating women to male fantasies. “

from Cocoholics Facebook page
from Cocoholics Facebook page

Note that Gabriela did not condemn you, but only your evidently uninformed actions and, of course, the clothing company which came out with such a stupid concept of having a practically naked woman tied to a leash gyrate and contort herself next to you on the catwalk.

What Gabriela – and the Working for Empowerment and Good Governance (WeGovern) Institute, Inc   slammed, was Bench. Liza Largoza-Maza, who heads WeGovern, said that “Bench should be held accountable for this degrading and dehumanizing portrayal of women and should apologize.”

from Liza Maza's twitter feed
from Liza Maza’s twitter feed

It was actually Ms. Maza who called attention to your picture when she posted a screengrab on her Facebook page, and it immediately went viral. It was not surprising that she would immediately take a critical stand on this because she’s one of the authors of the Magna Carta of Women (R.A. 9710). This, you should know, is a law that mandates that there should be a “Nondiscriminatory and Nonderogatory Portrayal of Women in Media and Film”. “

“We will not allow this dehumanizing treatment of women in exchange for corporate profit and set back some of the victories we have achieved in the long struggle for the recognition of women’s rights,” Maza said. And she really has a point – Bench should’ve known better, tsk-tsk-tsk. To be honest, you should know that Bench has always prided itself on its, sige, burlesque-y, bordering on the indecent shows where it features all but naked actors and actresses. It’s not out of prudery that I and so many others take offense, it’s out of the sheer fact that companies like Bench have no qualms displaying women like objects to be ogled at and say it’s all art. Actually, it’s capitalism and exploitation if you really want to know the truth.




But anyway, sige, nagsorry na ang Bench. Company president Ben Chan posted on his   Instagram account an apology to the public and to you. In his post he wrote “It has never been the intent of Bench to offend anyone in presenting The Naked Truth Show. Coco Martin was asked to portray a character in a circus scene of our theater show, and only played the role given him. This is to apologize to Coco Martin for involving him in the controversial scene”.


“More importantly we also apologize for offending the sensitivities of some persons. We assure you that we shall always endeavor to uphold the dignity of people” he added.

Of course it’s going to be easy because what happened really ruffled a lot of feathers. As far as I know, some people have made a vow to boycott Bench forever, but as for you, well, let’s talk about your apology.

“Inaamin ko po ang naging pagkukulang ko, dala narin po sa pagod sa araw-araw na trabaho, hindi ko nakita ang malalim na kahalugan ng pinagawa sa akin sa Bench fashion show”.

“Humihingi po ako ng patawad at pag-intindi sa mga kinauukulan, kasama ang pangako na magiging mas sensitibo ako sa mga isyung may patungkol sa karapatang pantao ang pangkababaihan.”

“Alam mo kung gaano kahalaga sa akin ang lola, ang mommy ko, at mga kapatid kong babae. Hindi ko magagawang tahasang mang-insulto ng babae sa anumang paraan”.

Winner ang apology mo. It was so welcome, and like Teddy Casino said, “ I was glad Coco came out with this statement. Says a lot about his integrity.”

Hopefully you will do be more mindful, and that what happened will also be a lesson other actors and actresses will take to heart. You are in a profession where you are watched 24-7. Whether you like it or not, whether you will accept it or not, you have a responsibility to your audience, especially since so many of your fans are young men and women, majority of whom are still forming their opinions about society, the rights of women, the massive gulf between what they are being led to believe by the various cultural and state apparatuses and what they should believe about themselves and the rest of the country.

In the Philippines, actors and actresses outside the theater are consider “bobo” and “mababaw”. Isn’t it time that you help prove the cynics wrong? The tv characters you have been playing so far have been underdogs involved in battles against the rich, the corrupt, liars and thieves. In real life, I am certain you know that such battles take place all the time. I would encourage you to read newspapers and alternative news media sites everyday and develop a critical mind about what’s happening in your country and how Filipinos are fighting back. You never know – baka makatulong sa pagdevelop ng acting skills and techniques mo and how you will improve your craft as a thespian!

It’s also good that you realized that you should have been circumspect. Is it true what your lawyer Lorna Kapunan and manager   Biboy Arboleda said? That you were uncomfortable with the concept of you being a circus master leading what was (Bench tried to explain) “a cat” and that you were only unable to voice out your concerns? Because if it’s true, then that’s to your credit. Next time, trust your instincts when it comes to issues like this – the roles you portray, how your characters talks and acts. You have a right to speak out if you feel uncomfortable, particularly when what is being demanded of you is demeaning to women, or to the poor, or if you’re being made to spout genuinely stupid and clichéd lines that reveal how the bosses of exploited soap opera writers want to churn out money-making pap and crap regardless of the impact on audiences.

[quote_center]You have a right to speak out if you feel uncomfortable, particularly when what is being demanded of you is demeaning to women, or to the poor, or if you’re being made to spout genuinely stupid and clichéd lines that reveal how the bosses of exploited soap opera writers want to churn out money-making pap and crap regardless of the impact on audiences.[/quote_center]

Your lawyer also said that during the rehearsal for the Bench Naked Truth show, most of the people on stage were foreigners, and that even the choreographer was a foreigner.

“Mr. Martin wanted to voice out his concern, particularly with the leash strapped on the neck of the lady model, but he failed to successfully communicate his thought because of the language barrier. Mr. Martin kept mum on his opinion on the matter because it was impressed upon him that the whole show was already finalized and he felt insignificant as to cause a scene and demand an overhaul of the entire segment.”

Ayan pa. Do not be afraid to voice out your concerns and worry that you’re not fluent in English. Gad, if you only knew the outrage of academics, writers and poets all over the Philippines right now because of the CHED’s stupid move to remove Filipino from the college curriculum! Speak out, in Filipino, speak out and never be insecure that you cannot speak English well. Better yet, maybe you could issue a statement in support of the Filipino language and tell DepEd to back off from killing it or else.

Just a suggestion lang naman.

Finally, on your statement that you will be more sensitive on issues of human rights and women’s rights. That’s very, very good. I hope you didn’t just say to appease Gabriela or your fans in the activist movement (yes, you have many activist women fans). We all hope that you meant it, and that you will, [quote_right]We all hope that you meant it, and that you will, from now on, take a deeper interest in human and women’s rights.[/quote_right] from now on, take a deeper interest in human and women’s rights. There is so much to learn, and I know, for a fact, that the human rights groups like Karapatan, Desaperacidos, Hustisya and others will welcome you with open arms should you want to engage in discussions on HR issues. Let’s not even talk about how Gabriela will also be more than glad to have you join its activities. Don’t worry, Gabriela is not anti-men, what it does, as Prof. Rey Ty of the University of the Philippines (UP) once wrote, “asserts that women’s struggle is integrated into the larger struggles for social justice that benefit the oppressed, workers, peasant indigenous peoples, fisherfolks, children, and gays.” So if you support Gabriela, you’ll also be supporting the cause of other marginalized sectors it supports.

I’ll stop here. This is the first ever letter I’ve written to a stranger. I was prompted to write you because I am fan, and because I think you – and so many other Filipino actors and actresses – have so much potential to contribute to Filipino society beyond engaging in the usual charity events and actions. I wish you would take the time to do research on the lives of directors Ishmael Bernal and Lino Brocka and the kind of films they made and why they made them. You and others in the Philippine showbusiness industry should know that you are not separate from the rest of society, and that your work contributes to either side of the political spectrum when it comes to art: you either contribute to its depravity, or you help to elevate it.

Also, pahingi naman ng autograph kung mabasa mo ito.


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