MANILA -- A Filipina chef, farmer, and entrepreneur added her voice to the controversy involving Nuseir Yassin, more popularly known as Nas Daily, and traditional tattoo artist Whang-Od.
Louise Mabulo, founder of the social enterprise Cacao Project, took to Facebook to share her own experience with Nas Daily two years ago, expressing disappointment that he "was not the bearer of good news he's misled his followers to believe he was."
Yassin came to her hometown to feature Cacao Project, which aims to support farmers' livelihoods by providing both long-term and short-term crops.
Mabulo said she was dismayed to see Yassin's behavior after they took him and other content creators as guests.
"I watched him imitate and mock the local accent and language, vocalizing Tagalog-sounding syllabic phrases saying it sounded stupid. He repeatedly said that the people of my hometown 'poor' [and] 'farmers are so poor!' 'Why are Filipinos so poor?'" she said.
The former "Junior MasterChef: Pinoy Edition" finalist went on to call out Nas Daily for only caring about "clickable viewable content."
"He didn't care about making change or shedding light on real issues -- he only wanted content, a good, easy story to tell that would get him more Filipino views. He even joked at the start of the day that all he needed was to put 'Philippines' in the title, and he'd rack in millions of views would and the comments would come flooding with brainless 'Pinoy pride' comments," she said.
"Blatant discrimination of my people, no regard for local customs or cultures, and he'd built a story in his mind without meaningfully understanding the context of what he was going to cover," she added.
Mabulo said she was "fully transparent" with Yussein at the time, expressing concern that her Cacao Project could not be covered in the one-minute Nas Daily vlog format.
Yussein, according to her, assumed that she had replaced coconuts with cacao in her venture, a claim that she called "unrealistic and absurd."
In the end, both parties agreed that it was best for the vlogger to leave.
"I should have known better, that this man was exploitative and fueling a neocolonialist narrative using our need for foreign validation," she said.
Expressing support for Whang-Od's grandniece, the entrepreneur added: "Gracia had the steel to do what I couldn't back then -- to call out the injustice brought about by exploitative behavior Nas Daily had normalized, and her people did not deserve. And now I speak up to amend my silence and put this resolve into action."
"Let's support our kababayans and rid ourselves of neocolonialism or colonial mentality. Nas chases Filipinos for content because he knows his validation of our country gives him fame. We dictate the tide. We dictate the trend and virality."
NAS DAILY RESPONDS
After Mabulo's post went viral on social media, Yussein issued a public statement through the Facebook page of Nas Daily Tagalog.
The vlogger said that just like the entrepreneur, he has also kept his silence for two years, but stressed that he "can't let you share falsehoods on the Internet for free."
"We spent 2 days flying and we were very excited for your story of how you 'revolutionized the cacao industry in your province,' according to the Internet. We know the 'story' already, so that's why we flew in to come meet you," he said.
"To my biggest sadness and surprise, your story was not true on the ground. Once we arrived at your plantation, once we saw the village and talked to the farmers, we came to the conclusion that there is no story here. That the awards on the Internet are just that... awards," he added.
"Our investigation has made it clear that your story in the media is false. And that there are no '200 farmers' that you work with, and there are no Cacao plantations that you don't personally profit from."
Yassin ended his post by reminding Mabulo to "not share online falsehoods," saying it is "borderline illegal."
"Everything you said is with malicious intent and it is clearly not how I speak. We have 5 years of evidence to back that up. 40% of my company is Filipino. Our actions back up our words," he said.
Hours later, Mabulo fired back at Nas Daily, maintaining that the farmers at Cacao Project are "well and real."
She stood by her earlier statement, and told the vlogger that the real issue is not about her, but about Whang-Od and "what you've done to her tribe."
"Our culture is sacred and to be preserved, respected, and given justice -- not commercialized for profit, or sold off to just anyone. We're not easily distracted," she said.
"I'm only here to back Gracia if there was ever any shadow of a doubt about her integrity," she added, referring to the tattoo artist's grandniece.