U2’s first-ever concert in Manila — already memorable enough as it was — had fans on cloud nine after the band dedicated their 1991 song Ultraviolet to the women claiming their rightful place in history, with frontman Bono singling out Rappler chief executive officer and thorn in Duterte’s side Maria Ressa.
It’s no secret that Ressa’s news outlet Rappler has been in hot water with the government after being slapped last year with charges for allegedly violating the country’s tax code and laws on foreign media ownership — charges that are widely believed to be politically motivated. Amid legal woes lodged against her by the government, Ressa was chosen as one of Time magazine’s 2018 people of the year for her contributions to Philippine journalism.
But the journalist got what was arguably an even more sought-after shout-out last night.
“When women of the world unite to rewrite history as their story, that is a beautiful day,” Bono told the packed audience at the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena. “When women of the world unite to rewrite history as herstory, that is a beautiful day.”
“For Maria Ressa,” he added, before launching into a seven-minute live rendition of the song, which came out on the band’s 1991 album Achtung Baby.
“She’s a wave and she is breaking; she’s a problem to solve; and in that circle she’s making, I will always revolve,” Bono sang. “Your light is ultraviolet.”
A massive wall behind the band projected a collage of pictures of women who’ve made history, among them writer Mary Wollstonecraft, primatologist Jane Goodall, and, more contemporarily, Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby.
Then there were the Filipinas: revolutionary Melchora Aquino, singer Lea Salonga, the late President Corazon Aquino, Senator Pia Cayetano, and Ressa herself. Bono described them as “incredible women, women who light up history.”
“You know what, Maria Ressa is an incredible woman,” he said. “But the extraordinary thing is, even Maria Ressa will say, it’s not about individuals. It’s about collective action, it’s about social movements.”
“And so then, all of you can grow up to be the president or Maria Ressa. That is the wonderful gift that is the Philippines. Good night, God Bless you.”
Bono has long been just as famous for his activism as his music, and has styled himself as a champion of human rights. But earlier this week at a Philippine Red Cross event — where he unveiled a drone-based blood delivery service — the rockstar-philanthropist raised eyebrows when he said he had no plans to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte over his spotty rights record.
He added, however, that as a lifelong member of Amnesty International he took human rights “very seriously,” before taking a subtle jab at the Duterte government.
“My impression of the Philippines, very caring, very sophisticated people. I understand when progress is made, people make compromises on that progress. And I’ll just say you can’t make compromises for human rights. That’s my soft message to the president.”
This article, ‘For Maria Ressa’ : U2 dedicates song to PH journalist and the women reclaiming history, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!