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A year in memes

For Filipinos, memes have become a legitimate way of communicating feelings—outrage, disgust, happiness, contentment, and good ol’ Pinoy humor


By Art Sta. Ana

While we proclaim every new year that el año that just passed was “quite the year,” 2016 was truly something else. It was a year that’s not unlike your crazy new girlfriend who asked everything about your ex and promised that she would do them all better. And then she went and did that in ways that are exhaustingly crazy, and funny, and just shockingly vulgar in some ways. It was a year that we all had fun with and, at times, all felt betrayed by, but one that we all knew would come to an inevitable end.

It just all seemed to come together: the presidential elections both in the Philippines and the United States, the crazy campaign periods that preceded them, the pageants that our gorgeous Filipina delegates won, government decisions that have Pinoys of different political convictions react strongly to, and many other events that we all either really loved or really hated. And being the social media-savvy and politically insane people that we are, we expressed our opinions through the highest form of online expression the Internet gods have allowed us to use as weapons in this age of faceless wars and gigabyte-limited duels: the meme (mēm).

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Filipinos have, of course, been known to make fun of everything: their situations, their country, their friends, their enemies, and themselves. For those who are unaware of what memes are, these are images, videos, or texts that are copied and spread rapidly through social media. The origins of these are hard to pinpoint, but one thing’s for sure: for us, these stem from socially relevant and pervasive issues, stewed and sautéed, and mixed with dashes of both Filipino ingenuity and sarcasm, and served in bite sized pieces with a side of vinegar, soy sauce, and fish sauce. So without further adobo, here are 10 of the most hilarious Filipino memes of 2016.

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‘So sinong mag-aadjust?’

Who could forget that moment when Steve Harvey went back on stage and said those six words that made all of our hearts leap: “Ok folks, I have to apologize…” You were just about to turn off your television, or you probably already did, and then you heard your neighbors shout in surprise and you turned on your television screen again, and then saw Pia Wurtzbach become our first Miss Universe since Margie Moran in 1973. While we waited more than 40 years to have one of our own crowned most beautiful in the world again, the universe rather, we had to apparently wait through a few more minutes of heartache as the host mistakenly announced Miss Colombia as the winner only to correct himself later. While these generated a generous amount of memes, Pia’s representation of the Filipina charm, wit, and beauty cannot be mistaken, and memes like this one perfectly encapsulates them.

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The ‘Duriam Love Affair’

The Philippine Presidential Debates series, the first Comelec-sanctioned ones for God knows how long and one that most of the candidates attended, with the exception of the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago due to health reasons. The nationally televised debates were vicious and biting, and they all seemed like a pack of rapid wolves ready to tear each other a new, err, mouth. Well, except for eventual winner Rodrigo Duterte and the former “Iron Lady of Asia” Santiago, at least during the times when she was able to attend. While accusations and personal baggage were thrown left and right, the two had nothing but sweet words to say to each other, which created memes filled with images of “Duriam,” a new “love team” that would prove to be more popular than even latest primetime teen love duos.

‘Stupid is forever’

Speaking of the late Senator, she herself inspired the creation of several memes that captured the hearts of our love starved youth. Her “hugot lines,” witty one or two liners that make reference to heartbreaks, were very popular to the younger demographic. She did, after all, authored two playful bestsellers entitled Stupid is Forever and Stupid is Forevermore, a collection of short passages that displayed the enigmatic lawmaker’s strong political views and gleeful, snappy humor. And though we’d known for a while that she has been battling cancer, her passing still caught us all by surprise. Having served in all three branches of the government, elected as a judge in the International Criminal Court, and called the “best president we’ve never had,” she may very well be forever remembered for lines likes this.

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As soon as the Duriam team fizzled out, another one came out: the Dubredo love team of President Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo. Maybe it was the hope that the two could work together. Maybe it was the Filipinos wanting to have a mother and a father figure to lead the country, hoping to see the country united. Whatever it was, it was cute while it lasted. And though political differences eventually created a divide between the two, most of us, I’m sure, would want to see our “father and mother” get out of their divorce and get back to being those annoying parents we love to hate.

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‘Guwapo ba?’

You know when your friends ask you this question and you answer with every other positive trait except for what your friends want to know about? I guess it proves to show how very un-superficial we Filipinos, are that we look beyond physical beauty when looking for our partners. Or, that there’s not enough beautiful people around and most of us have to settle.


The Delima Dilemma

Much has been said about the former Justice secretary. Her soap opera-like love life has been the center of much attention as much as her alleged connection to drug syndicates or the cries of personal attacks on her character as a woman. Whatever turns out to be true, the memes that came out, whether they were due to her “frailties of a woman” or not, are funny as they are thought-provoking.

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Those ’90s teen celebrity notebooks

Remember those days when the Internet was all about the MIRCs and the ISP Bonanzas and the Edsamails? Those were also the days when Judy Ann Santos, Jolina Magdangal, Angel Locsin, Deither Ocampo, John Lloyd Cruz, Heart Evangelista, and many others were found not only on their afternoon teen soap dramas but on the covers of your Math and English notebooks. And given our propensity for anything nostalgic, what do we get 20 years later when those two finally cross paths? We get amazing memes.

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Senyora Santibañez

Another ’90s character that seemed to have risen from the dead is the villainess Senyora Santibanez of the iconic Tagalized Mexican telenovela that started it all, Marimar. Her condescending sarcasm and love for making people around her feel inferior are things that made older Millennials long for the days of yore. But the connection goes beyond that, of course, as evidenced by even the younger generation sharing her memes. We are a culture of irony, priding ourselves with warmth and hospitality, but also trapped in a culture of shaming and racism, wanting to separate ourselves from those who we believe do not belong in the same social level as us.


Those funny Heneral Luna memes show how we all can appreciate a relatively low budget movie if the plot is amazing, how Philippine Cinema is evolving, how our appreciation of our history is expanding, and how we all love a godd*mn, kickass protagonist who can give a proper cursing.

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Taken Out of Context

Love him or hate him, nobody can deny how colorful the tough-talking, drug-busting, unfiltered President Duterte speeches are. Those who love him will always find the beauty in his words, and those who don’t, the ugly. His tough stance on drug use and abuse, the alleged extra-judicial killings that he allegedly sanctions, and his push to change national alliances have taken us all for a fancy, dizzying ride. But our division in our belief in the President, even as he enjoys a high approval rating to this day, stops short of how funny we all find memes like this, those that literally take his speeches out of context.

Ah, indeed 2016. A year that we will never forget, thanks to the immortality of all these memes that will forever live in our feeds and walls and memories. This year watched us work, then it watched us meme (don’t even pretend that you’re not doing that dance in your head right now).

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  • Mark Aserit

    It’s obvious that this writer supports the murderer President