We already know Filipino officials can be pretty tone-deaf when it comes to the plight of commuters — as proven by passionate Duterte defender Salvador Panelo — but now celebrities are also getting in on the whole insensitive-comments-about-Manila’s-atrocious-traffic act.
Case in point: showbiz royalty Marian Rivera this weekend caused jaws to drop across the capital when she said heavy traffic was a non-issue and that it’s a great opportunity to catch up on “me time.”
At a media event where she was introduced as the new face of local mall chain Waltermart, Rivera was caught on video by the Philippine Star telling the guests at the presser in a mix of English and Filipino, “Traffic? Traffic’s been going on for so long. There’s no reason for you to vex yourself with traffic.”
In a near-verbatim echoing of Panelo’s controversial comments, Rivera then added, “If you have somewhere to go, then leave ahead of time to avoid traffic.”
The presidential spokesperson had previously irked already-exasperated commuters by telling them to “wake up early” if they wanted to be on time, setting of accusations that he was oblivious to the “hellish” nature of Manileños daily commute. In an apparent attempt to calm the storm, ol’ Sal ultimately accepted a commute challenge, taking jeepneys to work like an average joe. (And it only took him three and a half hours!).
But even after all that, it would seem Rivera hadn’t taken the lesson of Panelo’s off-the-cuff remark to heart.
Speaking at the event, Rivera went on to explain that there are upsides to being stuck in traffic. A person can “do a lot of things in traffic,” she said. “Use your cellphone, write something, that’s your ‘me time’ isn’t it? There’s lots of things you can do in traffic.”
Naturally, netizens flew into a fury at Rivera for dismissing millions of Filipino commuters’ problems so coolly, with the actress taking to Instagram this morning to defend herself, saying her comments were “misinterpreted.”
Appearing to take a big step back, Rivera said that all Filipinos are “victims of traffic,” and that everyone has found a way to cope “with the situation.” She said the offending comments reflected her “own truth, and mine alone. I just wanted to give a light take on my personal experience but was misinterpreted.”
Rivera, who is married to fellow actor and former government official Dingdong Dantes, added that she wasn’t “generalizing and especially not lecturing the public” when she made her remarks last week. She also criticized the Philippine Star‘s journalists, saying that they should’ve been more responsible in editing both their headline and the 25-second video, claiming it took her comments out of context.
In a longer cut of the video that Rivera shared on Instagram, however, that context appears to merely include the interviewer asking Rivera for her thoughts on traffic, and whether Waltermart’s delivery system will help people avoid it (it will, she said).
To be fair, though, the first line to the Star‘s Oct. 11 story — “Are the ‘super rich’ like superstar Marian Rivera also affected by Metro Manila’s heavy traffic?” — was kinda mean.
The actress, meanwhile, said she stands by her comments and takes full responsibility for them.
“[B]ut I also apologize to anyone who was hurt, angered, or annoyed by them, it was not my intention to do that. Next time, I’ll be more careful with what I say, and I hope so too will publications who are being looked to by many.”
“I recognize the hardships that Filipinos face and the suffering [that] we all endure in traffic. Every minute wasted on the streets is something we should have used to spend time with our loved ones, nobody wants this,” Rivera said in Filipino.
Rivera is a TV and film actress whose ubiquitous face can be seen on billboards, shampoo bottles, and in TV spots.
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This article, Actress Marian Rivera defends ‘misinterpreted’ comments about traffic as an excuse to catch up on ‘me time’, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!