Of weight loss and flimsy revolts: Resisting the BELOnization of Philippine society

JUAN DE LA CRUZ has always been portrayed as a frail man who is bordering on the malnourished, reflective perhaps of the plight of many Filipinos who have very little, if any at all, on their dinner tables.

I prefer however to imagine Juan as obese, one who cannot walk ten meters without panting, but who can run fast as a squirrel to the dinner table where bagnet, sisig, and adobong baboy are waiting to become part of his already multi-layered flab.

If I were to be appointed as Presidential Adviser for Weight Loss Affairs (if and when this post is created as obesity rates reach alarming levels), I would present the following proposal which, I hope, will merit some consideration: Presidential Decree 8888, A Measure Placing the Entire Nation under Calorie Preemptive Reduction or CPR.

In detailing this program (which I hope will not be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), allow me to intersperse personal insights on my own journey to the medium-sized world.

Section 1. Government takeover of liposuction clinics and confiscation of weight-loss magic tricks.

Starstruck Juan is very familiar with the names Belo and Calayan (whose popularity now arguably matches, if not exceeds, Bonifacio and Rizal’s), what with television celebrities constantly thanking these fat-busting surgeons for their figures to die for. Under this provision, government shall take over all liposuction clinics, proprietors of these businesses shall be sentenced to do community service as aerobics instructors, and all diet pills in the market shall be confiscated and subsequently donated to the Philippine National Police.

I expect the Church to be supportive of these moves because more than a health concern, vanity and gluttony are moral issues. Spending a hundred pesos for a pill that will absorb fats from the sinful lechon you devoured over lunch while millions of your brethren starve to death is not only imprudent, it is scandalous. Yes, these measures are drastic, but Juan Dela Cruz must be transformed by the bitter pills of discipline, determination, hard work, and temperance.

In 2001, I weighed 200 pounds, and, standing at 5’5”, was grossly overweight. With a strict diet and exercise program coupled with a strong resolve, I lost 75 pounds, over one-third of my original weight. Spanning a period of two years, this feat was not achieved in haste.

Juan is unbelieving. He asks me what my “secrets” are. “Eat right, exercise more,” I tell him. But he continues to look at me with doubtful eyes, I am reminded of the sinister smiles I got from drug addicts in our neighborhood who suspected me of using shabu when I began to shed excess weight.

Many Filipinos have become so cynical that they have conceded to evil as the norm, and have regarded the virtuous as fools. Instant gratification, games of chance, and anything easy have become the best friends of Juan.

Section 2. No permit, no jolly policy

By “jolly,” here we mean fast-food stores like Jollibee and Mc Donald’s. Before Juan can visit these establishments, he will have to secure a permit from ex-Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, who will head the Dagdag-Bawas Task Force—Dagdag Gulay-Bawas Karne. I am afraid Garci will give special accommodations to some VIPs, but it’s worth the risk. Knowing how elusive the former is, one would be lucky to get a permit once in ten years, if at all, unless you are phone pals.

Ananda, my two-year old grandniece, will hate me for suggesting this move. Ultimate happiness to her means going to Jollibee. She loves french fries, fried chicken, and soft drinks. But, what we eat is what we are. Who wants a society that fried chicken built?

Section 3. Warrantless arrests against rebellious “flip-flabbers”

Government will be spending heavily for CPR so it must ensure that public resources are not put to waste.

By “flip-flabbers” we refer to those who lose and gain weight intermittently until they resign to being their old cholesterol-laden selves. Juan has seen many flip-flabbers on television, like this actress-turned-tv-host whose surname sounds like the place where our dear Messiah was born. Years ago, this celebrity endorsed a weight-loss program that her current body figure now decries as a hoax.

Flip-flabbing happens when a problem’s roots are not identified and addressed. No wonder why after 3 EDSAs, this nation is still in disarray. Superficial revolutions such as these are like crash diets and liposuction treatments. They prove futile in the long run, for what we need are systemic changes in attitude and mindset.

It’s been seven years since I have trimmed down, and have maintained my weight with success. My neighbors no longer think I am a drug addict. Juan tells me I have inspired him, but he still asks for magic tricks.

Section 4. Stopping Turo-turo

This provision of PD ate-ate-ate-ate (or eat-eat-eat-eat if you come from the Visayas) shall criminalize finger-pointing. Juan can no longer blame his genes, his mother who cooks so well, nor the government for his obesity. He will have to take personal responsibility for every grain of rice he takes in.

This is a bit difficult because Juan has imbibed the habit of blaming others—our colonial history, politicians, or the constitution—for his woes, but fails to acknowledge his own remiss as an agent of change. Juan complains of corrupt policemen, but he is the same driver who bribes the traffic enforcer. He complains of cheating in the elections but does little to ensure credibility in the polls.

Section 5. Presidential Qualifications

“Philosophers must be kings,” said Plato. I am not about to say, “Bodybuilders must be presidents,” or that a weight or muscle mass requirement must be set for those who seek public office. It’s one thing to build muscles, it’s another thing to know why, when, and how to flex them.

Nonetheless, I am sure that Juan would not be happy with a gym instructor who is twice as fat as he is nor would he wish to be under the tutelage of a bemuscled master who took Bangkok pills to lose weight and who injects horse steroids every five minutes.

In fitness gyms, one is taught to develop strength, flexibility, and endurance. The gym instructress in Malacańang made our republic as strong as marshmallow, as flexible as peanut brittle, and as durable as the products made in China.

Weight loss, very much like charter change and people power, must be done only for the right reasons, and initiated only by the right people at the right time. Otherwise, it is doomed to fail.

No to horse steroids, no to diet pills, no to flimsy revolutions and band-aid solutions.

Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

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