Throughout this week, journalist and former diplomat Rigoberto Tiglao has exposed several major truths about Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and her quest to defame Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, his supporters and the modern Philippines as a whole. First, Tiglao exposed how Ressa is an American who only got a passport from The Philippines (that she hardly uses) in 2004. Then, Tiglao exposed how Ressa’s failing career was rescued by powerful and ultimately foreign benefactors who needed a go-to “journalistic” outlet in order to advance their anti-Duterte/anti-Philippine agenda, whilst using a seemingly “authentic” voice. Finally, Tiglao revealed that Ressa’s American backers have close links with the wider US ‘deep state’ and that Rappler was essentially used to advanced the neo-imperial/neo-liberal agenda of the rich and powerful in Washington. At the same time, there have also been numerous rumours spreading that Ressa’s parents (likely one, but possibly both) were Indonesian rather than Filipino, although this has yet to be confirmed, as was stated by Tiglao in one of his pieces.
While Ressa has used her platforms to bash The Philippines and flaunt Philippine law, another much younger commentator spent the better part of last year promoting The Philippines and OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in a deeply positive light. His name is Nuseir Yassin, but most people know him as ‘Nas Daily’. Like Ressa, Yassin had a somewhat atypical background but unlike Ressa, Yassin is very open about being a Muslim Palestinian with Israel citizenship, typically referred to either as a Palestinian-Israeli or Arab-Israeli.
After going to university and working in the United States, Yassin started making his minute long Nas Daily videos which documented his numerous experiences travelling around the world. When he got to The Philippines, Yassin in his own words found the country to be the world’s most “lovable”, whilst he also developed a special relationship with the Filipino people. As such, Nas made an entire video dedicated to the OFWs he met in multiple large and small countries that he travelled to, in addition to multiple videos filmed in various parts of The Philippines.
While Yassin’s videos are generally thought of as positive and informative, they too are not entirely without controversy. His experiences in China arose controversy that he later tried to de-escalate by saying that he does not want to project hostility against China, but instead seeks to promote greater connectivity with China. Likewise, as could be expected, some of his videos concerning or hinting at the Israel-Palestine conflict, were deemed to be controversial.
In this sense, while Yassin isn’t a traditional political commentator or journalist, his effect on the wider world has been greater than most traditional political commentators or journalists, because in the true contemporary style, he prefers to show rather than to tell. Filipinos have remained among his largest fan base for multiple reasons. For one, Filipinos speak English but tend to be even more active on social media than Canadians, Americans, British or Australians. More importantly though, Yassin came to The Philippines from a truly international perspective and he did so at a time when many from the west in particular were insulting the country because of the global liberal war against President Duterte. In spite of this, Yassin let Filipinos and let the country speak for itself and the message was one of supreme positivity. As such, Filipinos become followers of his video as a whole, beyond just those involving Filipino themes.
This week, Philippine Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat presented Yassin with a special certificate of recognition in Manila, which honours Yassin for the positive work he has done to tell the wider world about the natural beauty of The Philippines and the natural warmth of the Filipino people. It was a fitting celebration of the fact that at a time when The Philippines is being slandered by many media corporations of the Rappler variety, someone defied the odds and instead showed The Philippines in a natural light.
And thus one sees a schism between the online material that the powers that be want people to see and that which people are naturally attracted to. Rappler’s website was first unveiled as something that marketed itself as new and fresh, but this has largely been subsumed by content that promotes the old discredited policies and old discredited politicians that Filipinos collectively rejected when they voted for President Duterte, a leader that Filipinos continue to support in overwhelming numbers.
By contrast, Nas Daily videos were not aimed at either criticising nor praising Duterte, but were instead concerned with telling uplifting stories about the country itself and about the Filipino people. Like with most things in the modern world, people vote with their feet and it seems clear enough that for ordinary Filipinos, Nas Daily videos are considered a far more realistic account of life in The Philippines and life for Filipinos, than is the character assassination style “journalism” of Rappler.
Thus, one sees a generation gap in which Rappler represents old ideas and old money attempting to stay relevant, whilst the Nas Daily videos are the creation of one young web pioneer, his small team and the ordinary people who are the real stars of his videos. In this sense, the future has been allowed to speak for itself and its message rings out above those stuck in the past.