By Joy Panaligan
When it comes to love and romantic telenovelas you can expect that it will be an instant hit among Filipinos audience. There is something about the matters of the heart that instantly lures Filipinos to react and patronize romantic stories and telenovelas.
Love is a universal language that anyone can relate to. From unrequited love, crushes, breakup, moving on, unfaithful or any love issues you can think of. I think Filipino netizens got that covered. There are countless of memes available online, you don’t even need to be a poet to generate thousand of likes and reactions. You just simply need a killer and relatable line with a simple photo/background (you can even associate it with a popular movie, telenovela or cartoon series), style it a bit and post it online. In fact, the shorter the better.
Hugot culture in general is not idiocy but the content is so rich that people playfully reproduce it into many forms. It really caters to one’s entertainment.
Background: Hugot Culture
“Hugot” is literally translated usually as a personal deep sentimental or emotional undertones that is drawn from oneself or “deep within”. As Doctor Lakangiting Garcia from DLSU’s Filipino department puts it “Ang hugot ay mula sa loob tungo sa labas na malalim ang madalas na pinagmumulan o pinag-uugatan”. Hugot posts draws a lot of attention because it’s funny and appeals to young adults. It can also be attributed to Filipinos’ tendency to follow fads considering hugot content is so rich in various social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and instagram.
Another factor could be the appeal it has on people going through a tough time especially when it comes to love. As William Shakespeare puts it “These violent delights have violent ends”. And truth to be told love and relationships involves a lot of complications that adds a perfect flare to the ups and downs of life.
WHY DO WE FEEL SO MUCH? Filipinos in particular?
Perhaps the cultivation theory comes into play. In a way big media industry has a hand in conditioning Filipinos to be absorbed with telenovelas and Filipino movies. They lure viewers in, and in effect people becomes fascinated with hugot lines because it invokes relatable emotions.
Movies like Labs kita okay lang?, Starting over again, That thing called tadhana and the ultimate blockbuster hit One More Chance played an important role in the development of “hugot” in the Filipino culture. Who wouldn’t forget the beloved characters Popoy and Basha played by John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo? The movie gained a large following and even considered as a cult and beloved Tagalog film earning PHP 152 million box office sales. It was so popular that the sequel “A second chance” earned PHP 445.9 million became the highest grossing Filipino movie of all time (now second) in 2015 the same year it was shown.
Romantic Filipino movies that follows the same format like One more chance attracts a lot of attention because it represents reality. A way to tell and represent the story of ordinary people played by the biggest celebrities in local show business is a proven way to capture the heart of the audience.
Fast forward years later, movies with the same format like Starting over again My Exs and Whys and That thing called tadhana also became an instant hit as well.
Social media played a big part in adapting influences from traditional media like cinema and TV. It became a great venue for interaction and dissemination of information among users. Soon enough, memes, facebook pages and groups were created to even gain more traction and following. Social media enables interaction between users to share and re-create multimedia content.
New Media Idiocy
The new era paved a way for ordinary people to share content without the need to be featured in traditional media. In fact you can find instant fame by mixing up the right amount of humor and simplicity. A simple hugot quote or line can instantly gain likes and shares because the intent is to be funny without the use of any intricacies. Hugot is so popular in social media and people just instantly gravitates to click,check and react to it.
“New media idiocy has a formal relationship with simplicity that acquires its own formality… Such simplicity is rooted in a certain naivety that allows a non-professional to speak” (Goriunova, 6).
Similar to how Angelica Yap also known as Pastillas Girl claim to fame. Her viral video making pastillas was an instant hit. She talked about her recent breakup, not the usual rant you would expect. In fact, she utilized the power of hugot to her advantage. It earned 2 million views and shared to various social media platforms.
As Olga Goriunova discussed in her article you only need three elements simplicity, humor and craftmanship. She was able to transform something so ordinary in a creative way by incorporating her “hugot” or feelings in the recipe of Pastillas. She was able to successfully concoct the recipe of instant hit. A short homemade one minute video is all that Angelica Yap needed to open the elusive door of stardom.
Paano gumawa ng Pastillas? Simple lang kumuha ka ng condensed milk,powdered milk, at asukal. Tatlo lang. Oo Tatlo lang. Hindi lima, Hindi anim, Hindi pito. Tatlo lang hindi kasing dami ng babae mo.
Her Pastillas tutorial video was so popular that a popular noontime show, Its showtime by ABS-CBN took notice and transformed this young and heartbroken girl into a celebrity and they even made a segment “Pastillas Girl”to help Angelica look for Mr. Pastillas. A week later after she visited the noon time show, hosts volunteered to help her find love again.
In a way it was the show’s attempt to match the rival show from GMA and the phenomenal love team Aldub. It did created a buzz since netizens our curious to see if Pastillas Girl can gain the same instant popularity like Maine Mendoza also known as Yaya Dub. It created enough buzz that even her bestfriend the new girlfriend of her then ex-boyfriend, the inspiration behind the viral video was invited to the show.
The reunion is emotionally charged as Pastillas girl reunited with her rival and best friend. It’s really amusing but it’s not entirely endearing because such personal reunion done in public and Vice Ganda, a popular host and comedian facilitating the encounter you can’t stop yourself from thinking “Is this scripted?”. Some cannot help but cringe how such reunion can be authentic. Why all of a sudden the best friend and ex-boyfriend decided to make amends with Angelica? Is it also part of the show’s effort to gain more viewers? It’s just hard not to ask questions why her bestfriend and ex-boyfriend would agree to come to the show. I guess a reconciliation of Angelica’s past is pivotal to Pastillas girl journey in finding a new love again. It can also be the segment’s effort to “set a good example” that forgiving is essential. It can also be a great way to build-up Pastillas girl character to the public and present her in a favorable way. Regardless, I think it’s an obvious act of publicity stunt. Such gimmicks is clearly an attempt to gain more viewers and ride with the popularity it accumulated in social media.
The popularity of Pastillas Girl are often tagged as a complete rip off of Aldub yet some defend it having a different narrative. The immense success of Kalyeserye and Yaya dub at that time, inspired big network media companies to get new talents from social media just like the efforts of ABS-CBN to compete with the ratings of a rival network.
The reaction of people maybe divided some are amused while some are not. John Storey in one of his many definitions, identified popular culture as mass culture. The viral content like Pastillas girl video caters to mass people as well as for consumption. One may assume that the content is rubbish, pointless and useless but the invisible hand doesn’t think so. In fact, they would look for ways to monetize or extract some kind of a business deal. The social media footprint and influence are exchanged for business deals masked as opportunities for them to profit.
For instance, a twitter page with a large following may capitalize on social influence. For example, an unassuming follower of a hugot page may not notice that they absorbed the content produced by the page by including subtle ads for profit. The user or admin of the page can find ways to earn through ads just through subtle nudges that seem all too familiar for one follower to make a big deal out of it as shown in the picture below. Having millions and close to a million followers may convinced admin and page owners to monetize it by allowing ads on their page. A notable indication that there is a shift or transition of power between new and traditional media.
Idiocy is a kind of individuation that produces, at different levels, those objects amd behaviors, subjectivities, as well as collective performances, the taking part… In fact, the individuation general idiocy offers has only recently gained power and became a very successful way to concretize a collective movement: To be heard politically, to concretize a collective movement; to be heard politically; to concretize and object of achieving media attention; To individuate the human and to experience her individuation and through expression and so on.
Another example would be the spoken poetry video “Ang Huling Tula na Isusulat Ko para Sa’yo” by Juan Miguel Severo. It may not necessarily fit what new media idiocy illustrates but it does fit that “craftmanship modes of living stemming from the capacity to create may yield various forms of expression from process-based performances to individual or collectively produced objects, requiring and developing different kinds and levels of skills” .
Juan Miguel Severo’s hugot expression are obviously more acceptable as a recognition of true talent and his rise to fame may in fact be accidental since he didn’t even post the video. Yet the content can still be considered as a part of the wave because it reflects the collective movement of the popular “hugot culture”. Yet his performance is obviously marked in a different level compared to the usual DIY videos. This is not to demean the movement but to cite a contrast example that a popular feature that can be utilized for one’s marketing. Although, the intention is quite more serious it still does capitalize on the popular hugot culture and eventually used it as his official brand to market himself as an artist and also for the big media companies to onboard him as a result of his viral video.
The video was taken in UP Palma Hall, it was a recorded talk in an ordinary school function yet the video accumulated 115,000 reactions and 2 million views. It was such a hit that Juan Miguel Severo became a public figure, gaining a large following. He even became an actor and played a role in one of the most popular Filipino TV show in 2015-2016, On the wings of love and several commercial projects.
To sum it all up, the desire to be noticed are inherent qualities attached to humans mysteries. The digital age provided new ways for people to create content and interact at the same time. You can easily gain information and produce content, you would know what clicks or not. In this case, “hugot” are used as one of the formula to gain traction and viewers because it is proven that it appeals to a lot of people. I guess it will not go anytime soon and evolve into something new. Others may perceive it as a fad but it might remain and stay for a long time. I guess personal attachments or videos that can trigger you to react will attract attention or gain the virtual stamp of approval since the concept of love will always be classic. Posts related about love and relationships is the most effective bait to capture the mass audience.