VinCentiments, the official Youtube channel of the theater company SAWAKAS (Sa Amin Wagi ang Kultura at Sining), is yet again in hot water. This time it’s for the video, Online Class, a mockery of online classes and how teachers impose unreasonable demands on students.
Written by Darryl Yap, with the direction, cinematography, and editing of Vincent Asis, the video is set in a Zoom-type classroom where the students, based on the situation of the lead character, belong to the middle class to lower-middle-class bracket. The lead is a teenage girl who has to contend with numerous distractions in her home—a baby crying, a barking dog, the whirr of an electric fan, her mother’s loud voice, the neighbor’s karaoke machine—even as she tries her best to deliver her report on Rizal.
The series of interruptions —and her teacher’s nagging —leads her to detonate, resulting in a ceaseless, hyperbolized, expletive-glazed ranting —one of scriptwriter Yap’s trademarks—aimed directly at “Ma’am.”
“Hindi lahat ng bahay, okey sa online class!” goes one of the lines.
“Basa-basa lang tayo, online class na?” goes another line, referring to “Ma’am” sharing presentations on the screen and reading them to the class.
“Di ka naman nagtuturo. Pindot ka lang ng pindot,” says another line.
On one part of the video, the main character compares the subscription fees of streaming services Netflix and HBO Go to tuition fees. “Sa school natin, 50,000 pesos [for tuition fees], wala naman kami diyan,” she wails.
The character goes on to rant some more—about the short attention span of students, about how easy it is to cheat during online classes, etc., without forgoing her antics, including flailing her hands and taking her shirt off (also not the first time VinCentiments has done this bit on video).
Near the end of the film, it is revealed that the entire tirade was a product only of the main character’s imagination. However, when she is asked to continue her presentation, her imagination comes to life and the video ends with an extension of her verbal onslaught.
Yap, who is best known for his feature-film debut Jowable (2019) and a short film of the same name (uploaded on VinCentiments in 2018), and SAWAKAS has received massive backlash especially from educators because of ‘Online Class.’
The writer and director is not new to this kind of fallout, however. Just last May, the first episode of his BL (Boys Love) series, Sakristan, about two altar boys falling in love, was expectedly castigated by several religious groups. In an interview with the Philippine Star, published in June, Yap said he was ready for the disapproving sentiments: “It’s just a matter of standing firm on your ground. If I don’t value the opinion of the ones who have been saying nasty things about my work, that means those people are not important to me. I’m not affected anymore. Those who get mad only bring negative attention to what you created.”
Clearly, Yap likes to imagine himself a provocateur. But his latest online video has clearly rubbed people the wrong way. He may reason that one can glean various interpretations from the film, but we can’t help but understand why people are crying foul—especially those coming from the academe, those who were thrust into this unprecedented dilemma of teaching in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of confusion. And it’s not Yap’s artistic license they’re disputing but the crude, pitiless way the script has treated the people it is supposedly trying to defend.
The University of the Philippines College of Education Student Council, in its statement, called the video, “outright irresponsible, insensitive and infuriating.” It adds, in part: “The video narrows down learning into the traditional mode wherein it is only facilitated in the classroom. Moreover, it fails to acknowledge that remote learning is not merely limited to conducting online classes.
“The video also antagonizes teachers by portraying them as harsh and ignorant to the concerns of students. This is a direct insult to educators whose efforts, for the past months, are directed towards adjusting syllabi, curricula, modules, and lesson plans in order to ensure the delivery of quality and compassionate education amidst the pandemic.
“Our teachers do not deserve this disrespect.”
The student council is urging the production team to take down the video.
Meanwhile, the University of Santo Tomas College of Education Student Council, in its statement, has called the video “unsettling and disrespectful.” Their statement also tries to answer the issues pointed out by the video, including the comparison of the streaming services to the tuition fee, which they say are “totally different in nature.” The statement adds that the streaming applications “are intended for entertainment and not solely for education purposes. We believe that schools are strategically planning on the said fees to be paid upon enrollment.”
Yap has spoken about the issue on Twitter, and remains unapologetic. The now-deleted statement (but this is the Internet, so barely anything stays deleted), says, written as is, “Basta Ako, Wala akong naging Teacher na iyakin. lahat ng naging teacher ko—matibay ang loob, hindi nanunumbat ng tungkulin at pinaghihirapan; at hindi umaaray kung hindi natatamaan.
“Huwag ka magTeacher kung makitid ang utak mo, kung manipis ang balat mo, at kung hindi mo kayang tanggapin na bahagi ka man o hindi.
May mali sa sistema.
Exaggeration has been a tool used by many creators to drive home a point. In fact, Yap has used this in many of his projects, to positive reviews. The original version of Jowable—where a lady, beer in hand, goes to church and justifies loudly to God why she deserves a boyfriend—received a lot of laughs, despite questions from religious groups. In ‘Online Class’ the trick still works—at least a couple of times.
But the target of the exaggeration is the issue here, which in this case is the hapless teacher whose duty it is to instill order in a situation that demands it. ‘Online Class’ is a poorly written critique of what it aims to criticize—an education system that could have been more prepared, could have been more sensitive to the needs of the larger public. The film is so poorly written it ends up putting the person it is trying to defend in a bad light.
And what’s with Yap saying people are plain “iyakin”? Heck, most of us have cried, or have learned to cry, during this pandemic—what with the loss of jobs, income, loved ones. We know for sure that many teachers are just trying their darned best just to give their students the best education possible, in the most decent conditions, despite the odds. So, yeah, there’s really no need to kick teachers further to the ground just to provoke people’s sensibilities. That’s not art. That’s kacheapan.