On any given year, Esquire Philippines puts out some very controversial content. We stick our necks out, and sometimes we get clotheslined. This was perhaps more true than ever before in 2017, when our switch to the digital realm meant a longer reach and real-time responses. We found out that sometimes you hated us—you really, really hated us.
And sometimes we deserved it.
So, in the spirit of starting out anew for the New Year, let's look back at the times you, our readers, disagreed with us and told us so (vehemently). We can't promise not to tick anyone off in the new year, but you can always count on us to try harder and be better.
When We Made Fun of Erich Gonzales' Name
Poor girl. In February—on Valentine's Day, no less—her breakup with Daniel Matsunaga was playing out rather publicly, and we dared to ask the questions: "Who exactly is Erich? What’s the drama between her and her model ex-boyfriend’s family? How is her name Erich? Why can’t they leave the poor girl alone? Why are we talking about her? But also, why is her name Erich?"
Our article came with a quiz that asked readers to see if they could tell the Filipino celebrity apart from other Erichs we knew and loved: psychologist Erich Fromm, artist Erich Heckel, filmmaker Erich Von Strohheim, and novelist Erich Maria Remarque. The article came from a genuine place of curiosity, as we wondered how such a pretty and talented woman could share a name with countless German guys, but the Internet was not amused. But, as Erich G recently became the MMFF Star of the Night awardee, she has the last laugh. (At least until the reviews for Siargao come in.)
When We Argued that a Beloved Movie Romanticized Stalking
Kita Kita was a runaway hit earlier this year, but we disagreed with the movie's meet-cute premise. When the unconventially attractive Tonyo (played by Empoy Marquez) meets the beautiful Lea, who is blind, they proceed to fall in love as one would expect from your standard rom-com. But we argued that the protagonist's behavior was more stalkerly than charming, more perv-on-the-bus than George Clooney.
Many people in the comments section disagreed:
When We Featured Chavit Singson, Rudy Fariñas, et al
The Esquire profile—and its cousins, ESQ&A and What I've Learned—has a very very long history. Over the years, our mother title has featured everyone from Frank Sinatra to Roy Cohn, from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. Though a post from a 2013 article, our interview with Congressman Rudy Fariñas was not welcomed by readers; neither was the profile of Vigan City councilor Chavit Singson. Here's the thing: a feature is not an automatic endorsement, and a feature that stops short of outright condemnation is not necessarily positive.
When We Featured Chito Gascon, Conchita Carpio-Morales, et al
Our reposts of other past articles also drew ire, and accusations of bias for the other side of the political fence. ¯\_(?)_/¯
When We Watched a Senate Hearing Like It Was a Bad Sports Competition
The Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media was entertaining—even when it wasn't meant to be entertaining. It was better when we chucked all pretense of serious fact-finding out the window and just embraced the whole fiasco as a spectator sport, and called winners and losers in the drama. Predictably, some bloggers were not amused.
When We Deserved It
Man, we messed up. Having learned nothing from our earlier experience with Erich Gonzales—and compounded with our ignorance of transgender issues—we made fun of Jake Zyrus' name. We apologized, and took the opportunity to direct everyone (ourselves included) to the media style guide of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which we hoped would at least help us move toward a more inclusive society. Not everyone liked our apology, but it was accepted by the only person from whom it mattered.
When We Exposed the Pastor Hokage Groups
In June 2017, we published a story exposing "The Dark Side of Filipino Facebook", about the disturbing emergence of so-called Pastor Hokage groups that preyed on women and perpetuated rape culture in the Philippines. The largest of these groups had 2.9 million members.
Our story was quickly picked up by major news outlets, leading—satisfyingly—to calls for stiffer penalties and jail time for members of the groups. Senator Risa Hontiveros also renewed calls to pass Senate Bill 1251, or the Anti-Gender-Based Electronic Violence bill of 2016, which will penalize people who engage in misogynistic online attacks.
While the story was read almost 1 million times, predictably the members of those groups were not happy at being exposed. Not only did we have unrepentant 'pastor' members in the Comments section, but we also had to fend off network attacks.
We are most definitely not sorry for doing this story.