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Arts and Culture

Filipina shares 2019 experience with Nas Daily; vlogger fights back

Kathleen A. Llemit - Philstar.com
Filipina shares 2019 experience with Nas Daily; vlogger fights back
The Cacao Project founder Louise de Guzman Mabulo with Nuseir Yassin of Nas Daily
Louise de Guzman Mabulo via Facebook

MANILA, Philippines (Updated Aug. 6, 1:56 p.m.) — Nas Daily called on The Cacao Project founder Louise de Guzman Mabulo to "be truthful" about her work and to "not share online falsehoods" after the latter recounted her experience with the team of the popular vlogger in 2019.

Mabulo on Nas Daily: 'Neo-colonialist' who's after 'clickable content'

Mabulo's post on August 5 went viral after she recounted her experience with Nas Daily.

She began by saying she kept her silence for two years but decided to come out in light of the recent news involving the popular vlogger and his Nas Academy and Kalinga tattoo artist, centenarian Apo Whang-od.

"In 2019, Nas Daily had come to my town to cover my story on The Cacao Project— at the time, I was a huge fan, watching his clips with my Dad daily. At the time, I was gaining some press exposure and building up on opportunities thanks to UNEP’s (United Nations Environment Program) recognition of the work I do in my hometown for my farmers. It was enough that a friend, Shai Lagarde, had referred Nas Daily to us," Mabulo said.

 

 

Listed on her Facebook are a couple of her citations including the UNEP Young Champion of the Earth 2019 and The World's 50 Next GameChanging Producer.

Mabulo describes The Cacao Project on her eponymous web site (https://louisemabulo.com/the-cacao-project), as an "initiative which provides participating farmers of San Fernando (Camarines Sur, Bicol) with cacao seedlings and short term crops such as bok choy, okra, and pumpkins, to intercrop with the cacao, as well as the resources and training they need to better implement their livelihoods. Farmers will be paid a fair wage and be better positioned for sustainable success."

She said her family took Nas and other content creators as "welcome guests" with the typical hospitality Filipinos are known for. She said, she found Nuseir Yassin, the man behind Nas Daily and someone she looked up to for years, as "not the bearer of good news he’d misled his followers to believe he was."

"I watched him imitate and mock the local accent and language, vocalising Tagalog-sounding syllabic phrases saying it sounded stupid. He repeatedly said that the people of my hometown 'poor' 'farmers are so poor!' 'why are Filipinos so poor?' He said no one wants to hear about farmers or farms, it’s not 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," Mabulo alleged.

She continued that her family did not receive any thanks for welcoming him into their home, adding that he said that they were only "wasting his time." She also recalled how Nas "refused to eat" the food her mother spent the whole morning preparing for the guests.

"I’ve worked with journalists, documentary-makers, professors, who have seen my work, interviewed me, and even featured us, and have had no negative experiences that could ever brush up to what I saw that day. 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.

"As a result, he was disappointed that my work wasn’t the perfectly packaged story he’d pre-determined and imagined— I mean what visual popcorn can you create out of a farm?" Mabulo said.

By the end of the day, she was exhausted and her patience had run thin. She recalled how Nas "refused" to let anyone to take a break or eat. She said Nas also blamed his lack of “presentable click-worthy content” on her and claimed that "everything is not clickable or viewable."

Mabulo said she was "fully transparent" during their call exchanges, adding that she did not think her work would be something Nas will be able to visualize. She added that there are too many factors that a minute would seem hard to capture all aspects of it. She remarked her work may not be the kind of content Nas Daily, famous for its one-minutes videos, can do for that time, but may be in five years' time.

"In his story, he assumed that I’d replaced coconuts with cacao— when in reality, this was unrealistic and absurd, and not the goal of my venture, which is to diversify income streams for farmers. We mutually agreed it was best he should just leave," she said.

Mabulo then shared her sentiments about the entire incident.

"I should have known better, that this man was exploitative and fueling a neocolonialist narrative using our need for foreign validation. I’ve stayed silent because I knew that I would face backlash for calling out on this man— after all, it’s easy to take Nusseir’s word over mine. And I’ve been haunted with the knowledge that he could manipulate years of my work with a single carelessly misinformed video— I chose to stay silent about it. I would not risk my hometown, and the farmers here who benefit, over an affront by some influencer. I told myself, that if he really was like this, it would come to light eventually," she wrote.

She continued that Nas had "overstepped" and had the "audacity" to do the same to Apo Whang-od and the Butbot tribe. She is aware that some  Filipinos have come to the defense of  Nas "despite the statements from Gracia, a fully able bodied representative of her tribe and of Apo Whang-Od, our most revered and iconic artist."

Mabulo then addressed Gracia Palicas, Apo Whang-od's grandniece and tattoo apprentice.

"Gracia, you did what I never had the courage to do until today, and if you ever read this, you are not alone in your experience. I stand with you, and hope you can get justice and the compensation your tribe deserves from exploitative content creators," she said.

Related: Nas Daily under fire for including Apo Whang Od in Nas Academy

Mabulo said that the fact that Nas refused to take down the course listing on the website of Nas Academy until Gracia took her posts in a Facebook page calling the course a "scam" is "a clear sign of systematic silencing, and the hope that they want to continue their money-making from our culture."

Mabulo also hit Nas Academy's statement after Palicas' posts where it showed Apo Whang-od talking with another niece Estella Palangdao, who Nas Academy's camp said served as translator and witness to the signing of contract between them and Apo Whang-od.

She said the video response/statement is the same stragegy colonizers "used to mislead indigenous people to sell off their land, happening now action in the 21st century, except instead of land, it’s data and content and tradition being sold."

Related: 'Not a scam': Nas Daily clarifies Whang-Od inclusion in Nas Academy

She called on her fellow Filipinos to stand together; for them to be not "content to be exploited."

"We are not culture to be capitalised. We are not people to be romanticized. Or poverty to set the scene for 'Benevolent Saviors'. We are more than what the world thinks of us," she said.

She added that "people like Nas Daily" are the "new wave of colonialism in today's world" and she could not remain silent any longer.

"I’ve threaded this into my message for years— support local, support local farmers, take action to aid marginalised groups, protect the vulnerable and empower them to stand for themselves too. We can only ever set the ground and pave the way for others," Mabulo said.

After the incident, Mabulo said she has become mistrustful of anyone who wanted to cover or feature her work.

"I resolved myself to hold no tolerance for affronts of this nature because I refuse to expose the people I care about to discrimination or exploitation in this way, and I have absolutely no filter for anyone who tries to anymore. Gracia had the steel to do what I couldn’t back then— to call out the injustice brought about by exploitative behaviour Nas Daily had normalised, and her people did not deserve," she said.

She said she is now speaking up to "amend" for her silence and put her resolve into action. She calls on her fellow Filipinos to support each other and rid of themselves 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. 

"Let’s put our own forward instead, Filipinos have the ability to make our country great if we set aside our differences, refuse exploitation like this, and work in the interest of the Philippines and the Filipino," the post ended.

Louise is the daughter of San Fernando, Camarines Sur Mayor Fermin Mabulo.

 

 

In a reply to Nas Daily's response to her Facebook post yesterday, Mabulo stressed to stick to the real issue involving the vlogger and Apo Whang-od and that she only spoke up to "back Gracia if there was ever any shadow of a doubt about her integrity."

 

 

Mabulo referred to Gracia Palicas who had raised her concern about her grandaunt, Kalinga tattoo artist and centenarian Apo Whang-od's inclusion in Nas Academy's offering of courses on August 4. Palicas has since taken down her post and Nas Daily has released statements on Nas Daily Tagalog Facebook page regarding the issue.  

"Nas, I didn’t want to validate your post with a response, but I’m not sorry to say we’re doing well, and launching our own chocolates soon. Our farmers are well and real, and are either blissfully unaware of you, or enjoying this exchange over a cup of hot chocolate or coconut water," Mabulo replied.

In Nas Daily's previous statement, he said that there were "no 200 farmers" in her farm upon his investigation.  

Nas Daily is a vlogger or content creator famous for creating one-minute videos. It was founded by Nuseir Yassin.

"I will not take advice nor criticism, especially when you clearly don’t understand Filipino farming and culture, or refuse to. Attacking me this way does not validate your behavior, the words you’ve said nor the injustice you’ve built your entire career on," she added.

Mabulo said Nas Daily "diverting" the issue from Apo Whang-od and her tribe will not work.

"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," Mabulo said.

The post included screenshots of Palicas' posts.

"To those who came across this issue from my post, here’s the posts of Gracia Palicas, Apo Whang-Od’s grandniece, and the REAL ISSUE at hand that we have to stand for. I’m only here to back Gracia if there was ever any shadow of a doubt about her integrity," she added.

She then said that it will be the last that the public will hear from her about this issue.

"Have a great day, no more he said she said from me, I should be nothing to you.

"On a lighter note, you’re all welcome to visit us, our farms, our mini chocolate factory, and have a sip of tsokolate (post pandemic or observing strict safety protocols, of course). That’s the last from me, have a great evening," Mabulo said.

 

 

Nas Daily to Mabulo: 'Your story is not true on the ground'

Just hours after Mabulo's viral post, Philstar.com reached out to Nas Daily. The team provided the link to their statement uploaded on Nas Daily Tagalog.

Nas Daily gave their side of the story, emphasizing the reason why they decided not to push through with their feature on The Cacao Project, which he calls is a family business that Mabulo "profits" from. He added that her posts are bordering on illegal and are malicious. Nas also said he has five years of evidence to back him up.
 
The statement started with a personal address to Mabulo.

"Dear Louise. I have also kept my silence for two years out of respect to you. But I can't let you share falsehoods on the Internet for free," Nas Daily said.

 

 

He was inspired by her story so much that he flew in from Singapore to the Philippines for two days in 2019 to show his support.

He then explained the photos that accompanied his statement, where he is shown with Mabulo.

"As you can see in the picture, we are trying to tell the world about your story. By the way, no other media did that. They just report from their fancy offices. But we wanted to go the extra mile for you.

"We spent two days flying and we were very excited for your story of how you 'revolutionised 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," Nas Daily said.

When he landed, it was when he said that he had realizations about the initiative.

"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.

"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," he said.

Nas said that even though they flew in for two days, they had to pack up and leave because he will never put "Fake News on Nas Daily."

"When we told you in person that we believe your story is not true, you understood us and you bid us farewell. We thanked you for your time and your hospitality and we went back to the airport. In fact, we took nice pictures with your family before we left. The Cacao project you mentioned is a family business which you profit from," he said.

He said that he flew back to Singapore disappointed and that he didn't want to hurt Mabulo. He flew in to support her in the first place.

"So I kept my silence for two years. But now that you speak up about it, I have two advices for you:

1) Be truthful about your work. The Cacao Project is not as truthful as the media says it is.

2) Do not share online falsehoods. That 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," Nas said.

He also shared that from making Nas Daily, he has learned that "sometimes good intentions do go unnoticed. In fact, good intentions get punished sometimes."

He added that examples like Mabulo's "will never stop us from believing in the good of humanity."

"We will continue to support the Philippines and we will continue to promote people who need their story told. Hopefully one day, I can come back and tell your story again. You are, after all, an inspiring individual. Makakita ng Kaunti," Nas Daily's post ended.

According to Nas Daily, YouTubers Project Nightfall and Lost Juan accompanied Yassin in the trip and were witnesses to the "falsehood" about The Cacao Project.

"I was there with them! That’s true! We saw nothing but false story! I even help to gather more information about Louise but when we arrived there, disappointed," Lost Juan commented on Nas Daily Tagalog's Facebook post, to which Nas replied: "Another evidence from a LOCAL FILIPINO. Thank you Lost Juan for sharing the truth."

"WOW! I can't believe this! I was there too! We literally have footage of dying cocoa trees because the whole program was a failure," Project Nightfall added in the comments section.

"We tried so hard to make this video work. We visited a few different farms and none of the farmers were growing the trees like she told us because they weren't properly educated on how to take care of them. That was the reason why video was never finished. Nowadays people can write anything on the Internet, and it instantly passes as truth. It's very unfair."

NAS DAILY
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