Asia

Apec summit: What got Filipinos talking at the Manila meet?

Leaders pose for a group family photo at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, Philippines, 19 November 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption More than 20 world leaders gathered in Manila this week for the summit

The Apec summit, held this year in Manila, dominated headlines and online discussion in the Philippines - but not always in the way the hosts might have hoped.

Along with the official agenda at the annual trade gathering, Filipinos were talking about everything from traffic woes to the homeless, and gave some world leaders the title of #APEChotties.


Affected by Apec

One trending hashtag was #APECtado - a play on the Tagalog word "apektado" which means affected by.

The term was used widely by Manila residents to express dissatisfaction at the inconvenience caused by the summit and privileges received by delegates such as dedicated traffic lanes and faster internet speeds.

Manila's infamous traffic snarls worsened - with one woman giving birth on the pavement after her ambulance was stuck in traffic - and the disparity between the clogged public lanes and delegates' lanes quickly became the subject of ridicule online.

Image copyright Raphael Miguel
Image caption Many users compared the traffic situation (right) to an iconic image from zombie television show The Walking Dead (left)

Some took issue with the grumbling.

"Complaining about APEC is such an uneducated thing to do, and also a tinge self-centred.... think about the good of the other two to three billion [who] are helped by this thing, and maybe suffer a little bit of inconvenience for a week," said Kaya Cosio.

Another resident Francis Asilo said: "The lives of the heads of state are more important than our conveniences. We only have our families who depend on us. They have entire nations."

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption The traffic got so bad on Monday that motorists were able to eat a meal on the back of their vehicles

But others pointed out that the source of frustration among residents stemmed from deeper issues of dissatisfaction with governance.

Kenneth Manuel pointed out, in a post that went viral, that the event showed that Filipinos "are second-class citizens in our own nation".

"If you have to suspend work and classes to avoid traffic on an international summit, it's evidence that there's something wrong with public transportation... It hurts that street lights get fixed and public cleanliness is at its maximum for this summit, but we have been so used to being patient, silently suffering, for the poor services they provide."

"We all deserve Manila at its best every day, not only when foreigners come to visit."

See more: The BBC's Rico Hizon gets stuck in Manila traffic


Homeless outrage

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Thousands of homeless people live on pavements in Manila

Filipinos were also enraged by a move by local officials to round up homeless people off the streets in the days leading up to the meet.

Human Rights Watch called it "abuse" and an attempt "to put a cynical veneer of 'cleanliness' on the city for Apec delegates". It also alleged the local government was detaining the homeless against their will.

But authorities said the move had nothing to do with the summit and was part of outreach operations to help them, and denied they were detaining people.

While authorities had done this before, most notably before the visit of Pope Francis in January, residents this time criticised the Philippine government of hypocrisy and for attempting to whitewash the capital's image.

Image copyright Pipo Del Rosario
Image copyright Neil Maambong

Homeless people were also reportedly pushed out by Apec road clearances into Luneta Park in Manila.


Canada vs Mexico (vs Philippines)

Used to celebrity figures in politics, Filipinos revelled in a little ogling of world leaders, with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto gaining attention in particular.

The two men quickly became objects of affection with the hashtags #APEChotties and #APECbae trending on Twitter.

One particularly popular meme was comparing them to Disney princes - Mr Trudeau as Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid, and Mr Nieto as Prince Charming from Sleeping Beauty.

Image copyright Heneral Eyebags

Filipino President Benigno Aquino even acknowledged the trend, reportedly telling Mr Trudeau at a bilateral talk: "You have a lot of fans here."

Mr Aquino was not left out from the cartoon comparisons either.

Image copyright Jackie Hearts G

Pinoy pride

Filipinos also cheered for engineer and entrepreneur Aisa Mijeno who shared the stage with US President Barack Obama and Chinese internet tycoon Jack Ma in a segment of Apec's CEO Summit.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The trio took part in a panel discussion at the summit

Ms Mijeno is the founder and developer of the Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt) project, which aims to bring affordable and safe lighting to poor rural communities. Its key product is a lamp which uses water and salt to generate light.

Mr Ma, chairman of e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba, later offered to mentor her.

Image copyright Lucci7

Ms Mieno's appearance quickly earned her her very own hashtag - #APECdarling.

Image copyright Renzo Blanco

Additional reporting by Patricia Suzara

Related Topics

More on this story