Venus: 'Goddess' in distress
STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - April 6, 2010 - 12:00am

They say that beauty is only skin-deep. Deeper, however, is the issue surrounding the dethronement case of Venus Raj, who was recently stripped of her title as Bb. Pilipinas-Universe 2010. Trivial as beauty contests are, I believe that the problem stems from a social disease that is of national concern.

But first, let me present the facts the way I understood them after reading newspaper accounts and watching reports on television.

The birth certificate Venus submitted to the Binibining Pilipinas organization states that her birthplace is the Philippines — in Camarines Sur. Venus and her mother, however, are said to be telling everyone that the unseated beauty titlist was born in Doha, Qatar, but was later brought to this country as an infant and had made the Philippines her permanent residence. Pageant officials cited inconsistencies between their statements and submitted documents as the reason why they had to take the crown back from her.

In an interview with Boy Abunda in The Buzz last Sunday, Venus admitted that she was born out of wedlock (her mother is Filipino, while her father is an Indian national). The fact that her parents weren’t married wasn’t cited as a ground for the nullification of her right to compete in Miss Universe. To begin with, being born outside of marriage is no longer — and should no longer — be an issue in today’s society. While it is still ideal to embrace social conventions (like for couples to properly get married in church), having an illegitimate status is nothing to be embarrassed about anymore — although I have no idea what the mindset is of people outside of Metro Manila. But the bottom-line is: You don’t punish the kid for that.

My heart goes out to Venus because the public is now dissecting her personal life when all she did was tell the truth: That she was born in Doha, Qatar. I don’t think she and her mother were going around bragging about that fact because Doha isn’t exactly New York, London or Paris. They just didn’t want to lie.

But why the inconsistency in her birth certificate? According to her TV interview, it was an aunt who had her birth registered since her mother was too embarrassed to file that herself — being a single mom. Why didn’t they have that corrected later? Her reason: That was the last item in her mother’s list of priorities considering the fact that they had become a large family and had mouths to feed (her mother must have eventually married another man and had more children — that’s only my presumption because it wasn’t in the interview).

I read Venus’ interview in Conversations with Ricky Lo three Sundays ago and I found her answers to be very sensible (she finished college in Bicol cum laude). On TV, she sounded just as intelligent and her explanation for their failure to correct her birth records is totally acceptable to me.

Yes, the main cause of her problem today is rooted in this country’s rotten system of bureaucracy and red tape. Anyone who has become a victim of this will agree.

Some two years ago, I saw in Mel & Joey a feature on how a couple decided to make plans for their wedding: They had made reservations for the church rites and hotel reception a year in advance, which is what most soon-to-be-wed people today do and were all set for their altar date. But shortly before the day of the wedding, the groom had the shock of his life: He was marrying a man — at least, that was what was stated in the birth certificate of the girl he had planned to wed.

Obviously, it was a simple case of clerical error. Instead of putting in female, whoever made the record typed in male — without thinking that another person’s destiny was going to be affected years later. Unfortunately for the couple, they can’t just put an erasure on that piece of paper and type female on it. You have to go to court for that.

Around that time this episode aired in Mel & Joey, a friend of mine was also having problems with his birth certificate. He was born June 15, but on record his date of birth was June 25 of the same year. My friend also had to go to court for that and spent P22,000 to have his records straightened out. Imagine spending that amount on a clerical mistake that wasn’t even his because — for heaven’s sake — he was a baby when that record was filed in his place of birth decades ago.

Add to that the time he spent attending court hearings that kept getting reset because of conflict in the judge’s schedule. Oh, and we didn’t count yet the rice cakes and platters of pancit he distributed in the various offices of the city hall to expedite the steps involved in this legal procedure.

This is the reason why I don’t blame Venus’ mother for not attending to this matter immediately. Maybe you can say that she had been negligent, but even if she wanted her daughter’s birth certificate corrected, did she have the time and, yes, money to spend on court hearings? After all, Venus never denied the fact that she comes from a poor family.

Also, why bother to have Venus’ records changed when she was already registered to be of Filipino birth. Reverting to the truth — that she was born in Qatar — would have caused more problems for her because that would entail filing for Filipino citizenship. Bureaucracy and red tape would have reared its ugly head again.

Maybe Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. should have just simply provided Venus with a lawyer who could advise her as to what legal remedies she could still do at this point so that she isn’t sent back home when she goes to wherever Miss Universe is being held this year. And it’s not to late — if they start now — because the contest won’t be staged until much later this year. Of course, second runner-up Nicolette Henson who is taking Venus’ place may already have thrown a blowout, but pageant officials can still placate her by sending her to those other contests — like Miss Tourism International if that is still existent.

Venus now plans to bring BPCI to court. But that is going to be more complicated than re-filing a birth certificate. By the time Venus is done with Stella Araneta, she’d be old enough to be the den mother of future Bb. Pilipinas aspirants. By then, she can only hope that GMA 7 shall have revived its Lola Madonna contest for hip grandmothers.

Admittedly, what they are fighting over is a piece of paper that could easily be corrected — but not in this country where red tape and bureaucracy rules. I can’t stop imagining those poor applicants seeking jobs abroad who are also facing problems with their birth certificates. Where will they get the resources to have their documents legally corrected when the very reason they are being forced to look for opportunities abroad is due to poverty?

I can only hope Venus’ predicament would finally wake up those running our judicial system — so that changes may be made to rid this country of bureaucracy and red tape.

The Philippines may not be winning crowns in major beauty pageants abroad, but, hey, we still score high in surveys conducted to determine the most corrupt nations in the world.

Hah, you can’t say that we don’t make it in the news anymore.

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