Each time an individual of Filipino descent achieves success on the global stage, expect a vociferous assertion of pride from the rest of the community. Without fail, the wider Filipino population would bask in the limelight of a single compatriot’s triumph with jubilant exaltations that they are “proud to be Pinoy”.
Fair enough, if the tradition of nationhood dictates a shared struggle among the members of that nation then it should also imply a sharing of exploits. If Manny Pacquiao is crowned victorious in the international arena, the entire Philippine nation shares in his glory as though they were members of his support team.
Filipinos are proud of almost everything their compatriots’ succeed in that is of relevance to the rest of the global community, whether it be beauty pageants, boxing matches or singing competitions provided the endeavor is mentioned in global media. There is nothing wrong in doing so, these exploits are substantial; but we must also be cognizant that achievements transcend vocal prowess or athletic ability.
There is an individual of Filipino-descent who has caught the attention of the international media but sadly has not achieved the same attention from the community as Pia Wurtzbach did when she clinched the Miss Universe pageant title. Her name is Ambra Batillana Gutierrez, a Filipino-Italian model who has championed women’s empowerment outside of a beauty competition.
Gutierrez first made headlines in 2015 when she accused Harvey Weinstein, a powerful media mogul, of sexually assaulting her. The latter is best known to be the brains behind the Miramax film studio and later, The Weinstein Company, which produced blockbuster hits such as Inglorious Basterds and The King’s Speech. He is widely known as one of the elites of American society, with his stature in Hollywood as well as having significant links in the political realm being a long-time patron of the Democratic Party.
Hence, when the accusations against him came to light in 2015 Weinstein was vehemently defended by the tabloid press who disparaged Gutierrez as an opportunist instead. Even the Manhattan District Attorney’s office refused to prosecute the businessman, citing a lack of evidence even though the New York Police District recommended pressing charges against him.
The Filipino-Italian model would remain defiant in her pursuit of justice amidst all her detractors, and set up another meeting with Weinstein only equipped by the NYPD with an audio recorder to catch him in the act. The recording was published by the New Yorker, which exposed the latter coercing Gutierrez to perform sexual acts while also admitting to physically harassing her during their previous encounter.
The revelation sparked a revolution in the entertainment industry, since then almost a hundred other women have come forward to reveal similar experiences with Weinstein. Many were aspiring actresses at one point who approached the latter for a role in his movies only to find themselves sexually assaulted by him, their silence was bought with his promise of landing a career in Hollywood. Several of these victims are now big-name stars in the industry, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Develigne and Angelina Jolie.
It also exposed a web of coddlers that attempted to protect Weinstein throughout the whole saga, including members of the press and of the entertainment industry. The deceit of the DA’s office was revealed, which explained the lack of urgency to prosecute the media mogul in the first place. When the evidence came to light, Weinstein’s most powerful allies such as former president Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton came out condemning him.
Gutierrez’s bravery toppled the elitism of a man as powerful as Harvey Weinstein, who at one point was considered “untouchable” given his powerful ties and made his past victims suppress any objections they had regarding his treatment of them. Even individuals as influential as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow were tight-lipped of their experiences with him, emboldened only by the courage of one Ambra Gutierrez to come forward first.
The reluctance of the other women victimized by Weinstein highlights the prevalent rape culture present in the entertainment industry, a “casting couch” tradition that preys on desperate individuals aspiring for a career in Hollywood one day. This makes Gutierrez’s deed all the more praiseworthy, since submitting to the ill-desires of the media mogul would have helped further her career.
What she did instead empowered women more than any beauty pageant victory ever could, the heavyweight she brought down was more intimidating than anyone any boxing superstar could ever come to face. Her heroism has been widely acclaimed by the global community, as it should, which is why the Filipino community needs to recognize what she has done and commend her accordingly.
Singers are rightfully admired for their inborn talent and beauty queens are understandably adored for winning the genetic lottery, but in an age of consumerism and a culture obsessed with outward beauty the courage to buck the trend and reject the opportunity for material gain is a deed worthy of our praise. What Ambra Batillana Gutierrez did was nothing short of heroic, she is deserving of our collective “Pinoy pride”.