The Philippines’ fondness for celebrity life has birthed a trend of artista kids. While most lavish in it, the unfortunate hustlers are left with less opportunities. The issue of Michael Pacquiao and Jason Dhakal opens a discussion on social media about privilege and artist experience.

/ 17 August 2020

Every artist finds purpose and entitlement in the process of creation. This is why a lot of the successful ones revel in the glory of their artistic journey which they forged in their own productive ways. But there are instances when circumstances are not equal for all. Others find lead in their own resounding ways, some cling to privilege, which can seem unfair for people whose perspective believes in the littlest shard of equality that should exist in the industry. But the sad truth remains that sometimes, reputation precedes us all.

Last week, young artist, Jason Dhakal, headlined for his opinion on the music industry as he tackles the recognition of Michael Pacquiao’s freshly-released foray into music. For context, Dhakal has been active as an R&B indie singer in the Philippines and has graced events and made collaborations with other notable artists of his genre including Jess Connelly, LUSTBASS, and Claudia Barretto. Recently, his biggest break happened when he joined the international Asian artist collective, Paradise Rising. Michael Pacquiao, on the other hand, is best known as the second son of Sen. Manny Pacquiao and has just recently released his debut album Dreams.

On Aug. 10, Dhakal tweeted his opinions when Pacquiao’s new music “Hate” trended and was well-received by the mainstream audience. The recognition was very much evident on Pacquiao’s recurring headline over the week, his Wish 107.5 Bus performance receiving 8.3M views as of writing, and the positive reactions from local music icons such as Chito Miranda. However, Dhakal finds an opportunity to call out the unfairness he’s been witnessing in the music industry.

Following a series of tweets that pertains to capitalism, inequality that promotes mediocrity in music, and the injustice of privilege⁠—the indie recording artist received a lot of mixed reactions for his barrage of opinions. Several people called him out for allegedly being jealous of Pacquiao’s hype, while some sided with him in believing that there’s always been a flaw in the industry and that he did the right thing to speak up.

Perhaps the most notable responses came from the people in the same league as Pacquiao–Frankie Pangilinan and Leila Alcasid, whose common denominators are their famous parents. Alcasid’s comeback to the Philippines has also built a lot of media interest and a record from a leading local label. In spite of being the daughter of a famous singer, she built up her career and proved herself in the industry eventually leading into making it to Paradise Rising as well. Pangilinan, on the other hand, is known as the daughter of the Mega Star Sharon Cuneta and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan but she raised her reputation in social media for her strong opinions and well-informed views in social issues. Both have been productive in their own lanes and the fact that they have privilege wasn’t much required because their actions are what made them. Here’s what they said about the issue.

In Pacquiao’s case, his sudden reputation in rap, in so many way, can be attributed to the sensationalization of the media that earned him eyes and praises eventually building him up on the news. Of course, his name is resounding and that’s part of his privilege, but people who shared his taste resonated well with his music. Then on Aug. 14, he clarified in an interview with GMA news, that his dream has always been to be a basketball player and that music is something he enjoys during the lockdown. This, in great lengths, links Dhakal’s tweet on the notion of privilege for celebrity kids that some people are lucky enough to have a foot forward in the industry while others have to work the double only to receive zero recognition. 

This only justifies some people’s notion on “work smarter, not harder”. It sheds an insight on the existing unfairness that’s yet to be resolved in the industry to back up fame with a learned talent. However, opportunities are never equal and people who start from nothing have to seek it even harder. The Philippines have always been fond of celebrity lives and throughout history, dynasties have been blessed with a reputation that precedes them. Another instance of this was back in October 2019 when Richard Gomez’ painting of a penis titled “OOOOHH” was valued at P196,000 and was heavily criticized by many for its allegedly unparalleled price and quality. It’s very much common in local entertainment, but for some people, a perspective on just letting people enjoy what they love also works as a valid statement in these scenarios.

Now, others looked into the retweeted caption of Dhakal on Pacquiao’s rapping video with a critical analysis of his performance.

Looking into the rich history of rap which was largely rooted to black culture and social commentaries, the genre has since been progressive in bringing in a whole new flair of creativity and culture into it. Such has been the case for Rich Brian, whose rap mostly revolves in his life and struggles as an Indonesian immigrant in the US. Even locally for Francis Magalona’s rap that holds a lot of truth in the lives of ordinary Filipinos. Just hear out his songs such as “Nilamon Ng Sistema” and “Ayoko sa Dilim” and more. Rap is a reflection of reality and while a meager lifestyle clad in vices and habits are apparent in its practice today, the struggles and social commentaries of the past holds more weight in the history of its genre. 

The issue seems to simmer down after a week of fiery discussions but it’s been an interesting feast of insights and discussions on the topic of privilege and artistry. All sides in the issue take on a personal perspective and no one can ever fully provide the right opinion that can satisfy everyone.