By: Jefferson Acala
“Hi! Kame ang pabebe girl!”
These were the words uttered by Michelle and Janet, the stars of the video, who drew flock on social media, ordinary girls turned into stars basically overnight. Netizens feasted on the bravery and fierceness of these young girls. On the said viral video, the two girls angrily said they have to express whatever they want, and that no one could stop them. They were then tagged as the “pabebe girls”, for as what they have stated, they were indeed the pabebe girls. The word pabebe then became popular due to this video where these girls describe themselves as pabebe while ranting. The girls from Bulacan were tagged as “babaeng walang kilay” (girl with no eyebrows) and as “babaeng utal” (stuttering girl). The third girl, Vhelpoe, who turned out to be a transgender woman, was tagged as “babaeng multo” (girl ghost), for she was not visible in the video, she just murmured while Michelle and Janet spoke.
But, what does pabebe mean?
According to Richmond Acosta, a nurse, “”pa” is a prefix added to the root word which makes the word mean, “trying to be like” or “acting as.” “Bebe” is the bastardization of the English word “Baby.” “Pabebe” means acting cute. The act of “pabebe” is actually very similar or even a form of regression, a defense mechanism, as discussed in Psychology.”
The pabebe fever actually started when a girl uploaded a video, where she was sad, while eating cupcake in a mall food court, and was teaching kids how to eat sandwich. Due to the apparent intention of such girl to be perceived as cute, she was taunted and labeled as “pabebe”, and was soon called “neneng mamon”. The video which was uploaded by Michelle, Janet, and Vhelpoe, just followed.
In an interview with ABSCBN, the pabebe girls said that they did not expect their video to become viral. Asked why they recorded such video, the girls answered:
“Kasi po ‘nung gabi pong ‘yun wala po kaming magawa, kaya naisip po ni ate Vhelpoe na ano po, gumawa po kami ng video.”
Asked who made such video, the pabebe girls said:
“Kami lang po, sabi po ni ate Vhel kung ano raw po ‘yung gusto naming sabihin, sabihin daw po namin.”
The girls also said that they just imitated the act of kids being bitchy or mad at someone. It was a random scripted act, which should not be taken seriously.
THE “INANE” IN IT
Is the video considered inane or stupid? Definitely! Here’s the transcript”
Michelle/Janet: Hi! Kame ang pabebe girl.
Janet: At wala kayong pake kung pabebe kame sa mga bidyo namen, at wala kayong karapatan dahil nanonood lang kayo.
Michelle: Tama, kaya h’wag kayong mangengealam, kase kahit sino man kayo walang makakapigil samen!
Vhelpoe: Tama na ‘yan!
Michelle: Walang pwedeng makakapigil samen manahimik ka!
Vhelpoe: Tama na ‘yan! Tigilan n’yo na ‘yan!
Janet: Manahimik kayo dahil wala kayong karapatan na maki-pakialam samen. Tandaan n’yo ‘yan.
Michelle: Dahil buhay namin ‘to manahimik ka walang makakapigil samen.
Janet: Kung gusto n’yo ring sumikat sa bidyo gumawa rin kayo ng sarili n’yong bidyo.
Michelle: Kung gusto n’yo gayahin n’yo kame wala kayong pake.
Janet: Wala kayong pake. Itigil n’yo na nga yang bidyong ‘yan, mga nakakabwisit naman mga tao dito eh, itigil n’yo ‘yan!
Now, got the sense of what they have spoken? None, right? They just said that they are the pabebe girls, that no one could stop them from publishing the video, that people watching them should just watch, and if these people become irritated because of the video, they should just imitate what they are doing. Basically, the video clip is all about ranting. What’s the sense? Again, none. Despite its idiotic sense, as of writing time, it has 4,860,205 views on Youtube, 8,651 people liked it, while 8,362 expressed that they did not like the video clip. Apparently, people had different reactions upon viewing the viral video. Jarred Villareal, commented on Youtube, that such video is not good at all, despite the fact that it was scripted. He added that the two are bad examples to the youth, for they were rude and disrespectful. He tagged the girls as “creeps, clods, imbeciles, and morons”. On the other hand, some netizens said that they enjoyed watching the video, that it was funny and that it just brightened their day.
As stated by Michelle, Janet, and Vhelpoe in an interview, it was a random scripted act. Apparently, it was a do-it-yourself video of friends who just got bored one random night. But why did it become such a hit online?
Pabebe is an urban slang which refers to the act of trying hard to be cute. Perhaps, the pabebe girls made the video in order for people to see that they are cute, in a different way, in an aggressive way. In Korea and Japan, being cute is tantamount to being attractive. In the Philippines though, this is not always the case, people do not perceive someone as attractive just by being cute, there is more to it. This perhaps is one of the reasons why the pabebe girls caught the curiosity of people, for they think that the act was childish, strange, and annoying. Another reason would be the urge of seeing what is on the mainstream. People kept on sharing the video, so other users were also urged to click and watch it, and soon, share it. People have the tendency to be part of something because others are part of it, because if they will not do it, they will be left out.
In an interview with ABSCBN, it was apparent that the pabebe girls were timid, contrary to how they projected themselves in the viral video, a proof that the act was scripted. The girls were aware of the criticisms and bashing which they received online. They also shared that they became subjects of fun moments at school, but were aware that those were just jokes.
THE “PABEBE” CRAZE
Media played a major role in making this video stay in the consciousness of people, not just the netizens, but even those who do not have access to social media. It all started when Senyora Santibanez, a popular Facebook page, spread their video. Later on, GMA and ABSCBN shows took advantage of the viral state of the video, for an obvious reason, to be on top of the ratings.
First on the list, Eat Bulaga’s Kalyeserye. Yaya Dub (Maine Mendoza) together with Lola Nidora (Wally Bayola), had a dubsmash of such video. Soon, Yaya Dub popularized the pabebe wave, as a sign of endearment to his onscreen partner, Alden Richards. The show even named one Saturday as the National Pabebe Wave Day, which emphasized the wave, inspired by the viral video of the pabebe girls.
On July 19, 2015, the pabebe girls made a guest appearance on Gandang Gabi Vice.
Also, the pabebe girls became part of ‘Wag Kang Pabebe’ music video, which was one of the songs popularized by comedian-host Vice Ganda. Such song was composed to urge the youth to be productive and spend less time being lazy. The song was probably composed due to the popularity of the pabebe girls themselves. The producers of course took advantage of their popularity to attract sales.
Netizens started to create their own videos, which were of course inspired by the pabebe girls, and here is one of the best parodies made:
Creativity at its finest! One even created a remix of the viral video:
Kapamilya artists Alex Gonzaga and Kim Chiu, had their own version of the trend:
Social media, indeed, is a powerful tool, for someone to become popular. What is interesting is the fact that now, mainstream media, like television, utilizes what is viral online.
New media gives ways to the democratization of online space to discuss taboo topics. Also, new media gives way to the distribution and consumption of idiotic videos online, videos which become extremely popular. New communication technologies, such as YouTube, according to Del Casino and Brooks, “challenge the historical flows of conversations that have been relegated to the private spaces of the home or the public spaces of a highly regulated political and mass media economy”. YouTube is a media outlet whose content is developed by individuals, corporations, and groups through the process of uploading videos to its website, which also allows the posting of comments for exchange of insights. On the other hand, the prevalence of idiotic videos online, is explained by the concept of new media idiocy, “the crafting of a mode of living, a concept that enquires into the changing forms of individuation, as the process of becoming of an individual or an object”. Idiotic video has three elements: simplicity, humor, and craftsmanship or do it yourself character. Humor is further composed of laughter, vital joy, and being parodic. Idiocy explores the truth through the false. Idiotic videos do not arrive to the granting of change in the society nor an outstanding achievement of any kind. Such creativity has individuating function, people at their homes create video and upload it, for public consumption. Sorrow is not part of the picture, the creativity and even vainness allow its consumers or audiences to laugh. “The happy idiot is a non-dangerous, friendly idiot whose performance is discovered and greeted instantly through the networks, by the multitudes”. New media idiocy is false but true, and materialist in its relation to technical media, it may be useless but it shows the genuine feelings of its producers, which becomes possible through new communication technology.
The “Pabebe Girls” video is a good example. It is senseless but there is a truth behind it. It serves as a form of escape, for people to laugh and just enjoy life. The makers of the video, Michelle, Janet, and Vhelpoe, created the video just for fun, just for them to show their other side online. As they have mentioned, it was scripted. Their projection in the video was not real. It was out of boredom. Nowadays, people tend to use social media to gain attention, for people, naturally, are attention-seekers. Social media is a new way of calling people’s attention, in one’s simple, creative, annoying, or even vain way. New media technology is very powerful, for it makes people closer, it turns privacy to publicity in a good way, and it allows people to express who they are despite the possibility of being tagged as idiot.
Michelle, Janet, and Vhelpoe are ordinary people who post things online. It is just that their video became viral, thus, the subject of imitation, fun, and of course, bashing.
In the Philippines, a good number of kids, when asked on what they want to be in the future, respond this way: “gusto ko maging artista”. Being a celebrity is one of the ways in order for one to move from scratches to riches. A good number of celebrities are rich from the start, but it is interesting to note that some, really started from the bottom. Some of the artists now joined talent searches, some became housemates of a reality show which has the big idea of testing its contenders’ “pagpapakatotoo” (being real to oneself). It is not branded as an “artista” search, but alas! After going out of the house, they will start signing their contracts with the network’s artist center.
Michelle, Janet, and Vhelpoe are part of the many who desired to be famous, knowing that this could lead them to places. According to them, it is their dream to be a celebrity, that is why they tried to act, had it recorded, and uploaded it for people’s consumption. Yes, they did not expect such state of being viral, but at the very beginning, what they wanted was to be a celebrity, to touch on the interest of the people, and to get that much coveted attention. Social media is a tool that is utilized by many to get attention. It is undeniable that for some, likes, shares, positive comments, and reactions, are equated to their gratification.
The state of being viral online comes with the reactions of people, which of course, are divided into two: positive and negative. As mentioned by the pabebe girls in an interview, they were aware of the negative comments that they received online, and they honestly stated that they were also bullied because of the popularity of the video. Their parents in an interview, said that they have mixed feelings about their fame. Michelle’s father said:
“Parang kasi na-bubully yung anak ko ngayon e. May mga pumupuna, may mga nababasa din akong comment na hindi maganda..hindi lang sanay.”
Michelle’s mother, on the other hand, stated:
“Meron nga kumakalat na video. Ayun hanggang sa nabasa ko yung mga comments. Pinagsabihan ko na huwag na niya uulitin. Kasi ang daming mga masasakit na salita.”
Janet’s mother said, in defense, that her daughter is studious in real life, and a member of her school’s track and field team.
Their parents, apparently, were affected by the fame that the girls experienced. The girls said in the video that no one could stop them, but in reality, their parents did not want the video published at all for despite its advantages, their daughters were also bullied. Contrary to their famous line “Buhay namen ‘to manahimik ka walang makakapigil samen”, at their very young age, they especially need the attention and guidance of no other than their best guardians, their parents. Michelle and Janet, said in an interview with Susan Enriquez, that they realized the importance of asking permission from their parents before doing anything. They said that they felt sorry for their parents because they were heavily affected by the situation, for their actions were attributed to how their parents raised them.
“Tama na ‘yan! Tigilan n’yo na ‘yan!”, people will utter these words to prevent someone from doing something online, but, is it unstoppable? Definitely not. You just have to be part of the wave, whether you like it or not. Despite all criticisms, it is but better to look at the brighter side of the story. The pabebe girls were able to make some people smile. Also, the term pabebe became part of the rich Filipino vocabulary. To conclude, netizens should remember that what they post online is viewable to the public, wherever and whoever they are, hence, one has to be careful before clicking the post button. Otherwise, he or she has to be ready for all the repercussions that it will bring. As they say, think before you click.