Picture of coffee and local mall in Metro Manila (Vanessa Esguerra)

Dear Visitors, You’re Not Entitled To Exploit Filipinos for Content

A vlogger, reportedly named Dale, caught the ire of Twitter after he made rude comments about Filipinos who were working and studying in a local Starbucks joint. Dale was outraged because Filipinos were making use of cafes for charging their laptops and working on their papers even after they’d bought drinks. In summary, this entitled man was getting mad at locals who were going about their day.

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Aside from being outraged, he called the people in the video a bunch of derogatory insults. He also observed that Filipinos were using their local cafes as their personal offices instead of going home and using their own Wi-Fi or working there instead. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior from a visitor is not an isolated incident.

People who think like this should be Googling why this is a social phenomenon in the Philippines instead of insulting my people. There are only 12% of green spaces left in the bustling capital of Metro Manila alone, comprising parks and other open areas. Most of Metro Manila’s public spaces are dominated by large, air conditioned malls that monopolize lands for commercial pursuits. Even open-air malls are a thing, and many Filipino urbanites who want a change of scenery still have to go to a mall if they want some semblance of greenery while doing their digital work or meeting up for school group work.

There are in, fact, libraries in Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines. However, these libraries are often isolated within prestigious universities, and the remaining public libraries that can be accessed by Filipinos are not open 24/7 every day. When parks and libraries aren’t an option, what about home?

A survey in 2022 revealed that most Filipino households had a floor area of 10–49 square meters. That’s not nearly enough to accommodate group projects, nor does that suffice for a proper office and study space if they’re living with their family of four. The only ones who could afford to work at home are those who are either living alone or the 3.2% of households who have 200 square meters of floor area or more.

So the next time you’re a tourist in the Philippines, keep in mind that many Filipinos don’t even have decent places to lounge at for digital work or school endeavors outside of malls or cafes. It’s also part of the cafe culture to have a table for yourself for a while, and even the coffee shop business owners don’t care as long as you buy coffee, tea, or food from their establishment. In short, mind your own business and enjoy your stay. If you think Filipino locals are an eyesore for utilizing the spaces our public malls offer, then feel free to end your vacation early because you will not be missed.

There’s nothing wrong with making content about the Philippines, except for when the act becomes severely exploitative towards people and local cultures. Many foreigners have been making content about my country for years, but many vlogs on YouTube often showcase exaggerations of Philippine culture through an orientalist lens. They came here to vlog their Jollibee experiences, applaud our singers to the high heavens through reaction videos, and indulge in our white sand beaches so that their YouTube videos can get more likes and comments. This phenomenon is known officially as “Pinoy baiting,” and many Filipinos are none the wiser when foreigners actively make content that is targeted to the desperation for foreign validation.

It just so happens that many Filipinos have had enough, especially after Nas Daily’s incident with the indigenous tattoo artist Apo Whang-Od. Nas created online course out of Whang-Od’s tattooing, reportedly without her consent. Foreigners can’t claim to love our culture, be proud of our artists, and enjoy our spaces if they can’t afford the common Filipino human decency and respect.

If you want to vlog your stays in the Philippines and you genuinely had a blast, that’s great. If you’re a foreigner living in the Philippines who is benefitting from the content creation industry, then good for you. But if you’re going to exotify Filipinos for content, or flatter Filipino people on camera and then harbor this much hatred for them, please leave. There are many grifters like you in the gutter, and you’re not special.

(featured image: Vanessa Esguerra)

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Vanessa Esguerra
Vanessa Esguerra (She/They) has been a Contributing Writer for The Mary Sue since 2023. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy, she (happily) rejected law school in 2021 and has been a full-time content writer since. Vanessa is currently taking her Master's degree in Japanese Studies in hopes of deepening her understanding of the country's media culture in relation to pop culture, women, and queer people like herself. She speaks three languages but still manages to get lost in the subways of Tokyo with her clunky Japanese. Fueled by iced coffee brewed from local cafés in Metro Manila, she also regularly covers anime and video games while queuing for her next match in League of Legends.