by Jon Joaquin
One of the things I love but cannot seem to find here in Davao City is kikiam, a kind of Chinese sausage that my mother used to buy at a store along Rizal Avenue close to the LRT station near Monumento, Caloocan City. The only kikiam that seems to be sold here is the street version, which is actually just an elongated form of fish balls (although I remember reading somewhere that it’s made of pork, not fish). The authentic kikiam is soft, savoury, sweet, and garlicky, and it goes well with pansit or even plain rice. For me, though, it’s best eaten by itself.
It was the street food version that became a trending topic in the Philippines in the week before the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games opened. As host of the games, the Philippines was tasked to welcome, transport, accommodate, and feed the athletes, but the first few days had some glitches. One foreign team, for example, was brought to the wrong hotel, and when they were taken to the right one they were made to wait for a few hours before they could check in. The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) issued an apology and vowed to do better, but by then the damage had been done.
As it turned out, much of the damage was uncalled for, and this is where kikiam comes in. The coach of the Philippine Women’s National Football Team posted on social media that her athletes were served the street version during breakfast, along with rice and egg and nothing else at the WhiteWoods Hotel in Cavite where they were staying. Mainstream media immediately pounced on the post and reported it as true, and it caught on immediately given the glitches of the previous day. Kikiam jokes flooded social media even as accusations were made of incompetence, lack of planning, corruption, and all of the above.
For some reason the hotel took a few days to explain, but when it did, it shut down the accusations completely. WhiteWoods management said what they served was chicken sausage, which was apparently mistaken for kikiam; not only that, the hotel served a buffet for breakfast and not just sausage with rice and egg.
The clincher was when the hotel said the coach had apologized to management and staff and admitted she was not even present at the hotel during breakfast. She had just seen a photo of the food and concluded that it was kikiam.
Another case was the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s report that the Biñan Football Stadium still had not been completed. In its online report, it showed a photo of a stadium that indeed did not match one’s expectation of a world-class facility. The problem, however, was that the photo was not of the Biñan field but of the University of the Philippines-Diliman football field. The Biñan city government demanded an apology, which the Inquirer quickly issued.
And then there was veteran radio reporter Ricky Velasco who reposted a photo of a Philippine flag being used as a table cover for a buffet, angrily saying the SEA Games organizers were violating the constitution and disrespecting the flag. The problem was that the photo he reposted was taken a few years ago in a different context; the original poster was angered that his photo had been misused.
It’s not just Philippine media that have been making wrong reports. A South China Morning Post (SCMP) story claimed that Singapore’s Muslim athletes were served pork, and critics used it as further proof of the supposed incompetence of the organizers. But the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) immediately refuted the report, saying the SCMP’s claim that it had interviewed an official of the SNOC was not true.
These episodes say a lot about how the media, despite their protestations and claims to professionalism, have stooped a little low just to show the current administration in a bad light. To be sure there have been lapses, and Malacañang itself has said it would conduct an investigation immediately after the games to find out what went wrong and who was at fault. But in the cases cited above, all it would have taken was to ask the other side for comment. That’s basic journalism, but it has apparently been replaced now by kikiam journalism.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the original author, and do not necessarily represent those of the Pilipino Express publishers.
Jon Joaquin is the Editor-In- Chief of the Davao City-based Mindanao Daily Mirror. E-mail Jon at email@example.com.