Venus Falling, Charice Rising. Confronting your demons

venus fallsMANILA - An impossible dream, I knew. A couple of hours before the Miss Universe finals aired from Las Vegas, I uploaded my essay and declared that Miss Philippines Venus Raj had The WIT Factor and should win with her wit, insight, and talent (see my "The It Factor Isn't It? Venus Raj as Miss Universe 2010," 23 August, American Chronicle). I said that wit, insight, and talent could be summarized in 1 word; I said The WIT Factor can be equated to smart. She was smart. But she placed only 4th Runner-Up, or 5th among 5, not even 1st Runner-Up or almost winner. Like I said I would if Venus didn’t win, should I now call the Board of Judges The ...WIT Factor? Having noted certain things, whether dimwit or not, I would be a nitwit if I did that.

As Filipinos, my friend Double O and I wanted Miss Philippines very much to win, but she didn't. She wanted very much to win, but she failed. Sometimes the impossible dream doesn't come true.

She was rattled. She had been under unbelievable stress the last couple of days before that big day. Her close friend Melody Gersbach had suddenly died in a terrible car accident on 21 August (Manila) (see my essay "Unchained Melody. Miss Gersbach on a red Innova," 21 August, American Chronicle); then, stress added to stress, on 23 August, the depressing international incident of the hostage situation in Manila happened where 8 Chinese tourists died and made Filipinos look like savages or nincompoops or both. The finals were on 24 August; it was an impossible situation; it was impossible for her to be smart.

American actor William Baldwin asked the last simple question to the poor little girl blue (kayshayne21, yousaytoo.com):

Baldwin: "Miss Philippines Venus Raj: What is one big mistake you've made and what did you do to make it right?"
Venus: "In my 22 years of existence, there is nothing major, major problem that I have done in my life. Because I am very confident with my family and the love they are giving to me. So thank you so much."

That was a mistake. Today, will the poor little girl blue forgive herself?

Little Girl Blue
(Janis Joplin)

Sit there, hmm, count your fingers.
What else, what else is there to do?
Oh and I know how you feel
I know you feel that you're through.
Oh wah, wah, ah sit there, hmm, count
Ah, count your little fingers
My unhappy oh little girl, little girl blue, yeah.

kayshayne21 says, "I think it would (have been) better if she answered like this:"

Maybe my biggest mistake (was) when I almost surrendered (my) fight for my crown as Bb Pilipinas-Universe after they dethroned me for my title, but thanks to my best friend, Melody Gersbach, who died last August 21, 2010 in a car accident, for pushing me and believing in me that I can take the crown of Miss Universe 2010, and this is it. I'm closer to that title. Thank you very much!

That's smart, kayshayne21. But that's an answer After All, not Before All Those Things That Happened To Venus' Close Friend Melody, and after the live drama of the error-filled behavior of the Philippine National Police vis-à-vis the tourist hostage situation in Manila (Christine Avendaño & Alcuin Papa, 25 August, inquirer.net). Was God saying something we didn't want to hear?

Your close friend has just died from a dreadful accident, the very soul who convinced you to join the Bb Pilipinas contest in the first place; on top of that, your own people are trying to show the world, on live television, with the happy cooperation of Philippine mass media, that your countrymen are a bunch of hopeless fools, how would you feel? What could you say?

If you look at Venus' response to the question again, you will note that she isn't answering the question. Not really. It wasn't the best Maria Venus Bayonito Raj who was there. Aside from being nervous, which was natural, she was aching inside, which was unnatural. She was smarting so much she couldn't be so smart.

Venus Raj was on a lonely island battered by 2 super-typhoons one after the other. She was the lone casualty; she was the lone inhabitant of that island. She was the island.

In this 3rd week of August 2010, the double-pressure on Venus was not unlike the 2006 double-trouble experience of her adopted province, when Albay was hit by 2 super-typhoons - Milenyo on 27 September and Reming on 30 November - and left 618 dead, 419 missing, and 1,641 injured (Cedric Daep, 21 January 2008, Tao Pilipinas). That was the only time the "Zero Casualty" record of Albay was broken from 1995 to today. This time, in Las Vegas, it's not Zero Casualty either.

That time, current Albay Governor Joey Salceda explains, Albay had hardly recovered from Milenyo's devastation and communication lines had not been restored when Reming struck the province. Wham, wham! Venus Raj had hardly recovered from her melancholy upon hearing the sudden death of her young, close friend Melody when she was hit with shame by the behavior of the Philippine National Police in handling the hostage situation in Manila. Bad news is good news is bad news.

In time, Albay recovered brilliantly; the PNP will too, and Venus, even radiantly. But, as in the case of Albay, recovery must be pursued vigorously. Ask Joey Salceda. You have to help yourself. You have to recover yourself.

How do you begin to do that? You have to accept the reality that you do make mistakes, sometimes major mistakes. You have to confront your demons. If you don't confront them, they will betray you. Like, smoking is a demon; you have to break it before it breaks you.

Charice Rising, stumbling: Already an international singing sensation, in preparing for her new role in the popular Fox TV series Glee, Filipina performer Charice made the mistake of having a Botox treatment done by well-known, enterprising Vicki Belo, and that made friends and fans howl all over the world because it was so unnecessary and so childish. Innocent beguiled, I said. Now it is her demon.

Venus made the mistake of saying she has never made a major mistake in her life - and, as according to Sharyn Alfonsi & Bradley Blackburn (24 August, abcnews.go.com), "that may have been the biggest mistake of her life." It was. Now it is her devil.

Like I said in my "Charice's Glee. Amid the noise & haste of Belo's Botox" (01 August, American Chronicle), the thing is, after you make a mistake, you have to learn to forgive yourself. Never mind if other people will never forgive you for your mistake. You have to forgive yourself first.

If I were Charice, I would take it to my favorite Roman Catholic priest; if I were Venus, I would take it to my favorite Protestant pastor.

Been there, not done that! Me, I didn't know enough to confront my own demons, and so for many years I was depressed, even if it didn't show much.

This is a do-it-yourself thing. Nobody else can do it for you. And it's not easy. Pride will get in the way. Or, you will enjoy the false hope that the silent devil will go away later or sooner.

What was the biggest mistake in my life? Wrong question! I didn't have 1 - I had 3.

Mistake #1: I became an activist. While I didn't sign any hidden or illegal document or anything like that, I was very visible as a sympathizer of the 1960s Protestants - we were protesting the American war in Vietnam - and, being a writer with a sharp pen and a sharp tongue, from then on, people began avoiding me. You have to live with your convictions, yes, but you also have to live with other people. You can't avoid living with people.

Mistake #2: I fell in love with love. 1960s, I said; remember, I was still a college student, at the University of the Philippines' College of Agriculture, UPCA. I wasn't attending my classes anymore; I was attending to my girlfriend when she was in Manila; I was attending to my girlfriend when she was in Lucena City; I was attending to my girlfriend when she was in Los Baños. Same girl, same behavior. I loved every minute of it.

Naturally, I was kicked out of UP, labeled “Extreme Delinquent.” (Shouldn't that be Extremely Delinquent? Never mind.) In those days, the dreaded word was Extremed; it was a social stigma; it was like you had leprosy. Or you were crazy. I thought I didn't mind, but my brain was paying attention to what I wasn't paying attention to.

The little Mayon volcano in me erupted sometime in 1965 when I woke up in my aunt's house early one morning suddenly agitated, shouting that my brother Emilio was dying. Nobody actually knew because he was in Brunei at that time. Of course he wasn't dying or anything like that. My mind was. I was then teaching at the public high school in my hometown of Asingan, Pangasinan. Even then, I was a good teacher, if I may say so myself, so I had no problem with that.

That same year or the next, my mind almost snapped. I was at that moment riding a bicycle along with my teacher friend Federico Butuyan going home. Heart bursting, I begged him and we cycled back to the town proper. And so my friend and Dr Honesto Vitug, an amateur psychologist who trained in the US, saved me from myself that day.

Later, my new girlfriend, love at first sight, the one whose heart I won or who won my heart when she was brought by a Summer Camp to my little village of Sanchez in my hometown, a midwife, said what I had was not a nervous breakdown. Easy for her to say!

Mistake #3: Another girl, another year. On 10 October 1967, when I was a Substitute Instructor at the UP College of Agriculture and already married, my wife pregnant, I wrote, signed with my name, mimeographed and distributed to visiting UPCA alumni an open letter to my child in the womb titled "What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?" that which was against the celebration by aggie alumni of 10 October as Loyalty Day of the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines because, I argued, it was loyalty to the Americans. The faculty and students of the College had volunteered to train in Manila and fight in Europe in World War 2. The Philippines was not involved, I argued; why fight a war that wasn't ours? I thought my arguments were pretty solid. Well, good arguments are poor substitutes for being civil. Not surprisingly, offices began to close doors and would not open opportunities for me. What I did I didn't think was a betrayal of trust, of one biting the hand that fed him. I didn't go down on my knees and beg forgiveness. I was 27. The young know everything.

My depression went on for years. Still I didn't confront my demon; my devil was always with me wherever I went, including Cagayan De Oro City where I taught at the College of Agriculture of Xavier University, because I never confronted that demon. The young don't know everything.

Why was it so hard to confront my devil? He was my shadow. My demon was me.

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