Palpakis Junior book 5: the enlightened thief

It might be a surprise to hear the current social media pariah-in-the-making, UP graduate student and UP undergrad bachelor’s degree holder Mark Joseph Solis, talk about how challenges make Filipinos resilient and still end up smiling despite the negativity that surrounds us. Courageously scary and scarily courageous, given the mess he got himself into.

Scroll down through this post and look at the video of Solis taken during the awarding of the Chilean embassy event where he won a photo contest by submitting a plagiarized photograph.

By the 00:03:09 marker, Solis closes his speech with these lines:

“At the end of the day, when all things have already fallen into place, always remember that the Filipino nation — our nation — is a nation of heroes. And when things get worse and when things get challenging, always remember that the Filipino character is something that’s resilient, that’s optimistic, that’s smiling.”

Sounds so mature and enlightened, coming from a thief who stole photographs for the 5th time which he then passed off as his own, and submitted to various photo competitions. His grad school unit is now investigating him. Maybe his undergraduate alma mater should, too, as some people suggested. But let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt right now. He may have written some scholarly articles that were really his, or he could have worked hard for his diploma without plagiarizing here and there. Maybe he just wanted to be a creative being, and maybe he had this burning desire to be recognized for another thing — in this case, it looks like it’s photography. Baka ayaw siyang pag-shift-in ng nanay niya noon sa Fine Arts or something kaya niya nagawa ito. But that’s just my theory — at least one of many. In every story, there are not just two sides anymore but multi-dimensional sides na tayo. Oo, polygon mode na tayo ngayon these days, and we could have many lives, thanks to our offline interactions and our online cloaks of invisibility.

The questionable winning photograph that started this hullabaloo. What if the real photographer didn't find out kaya? Then it would have been just another ordinary day that passed.

The questionable winning photograph that started this hullabaloo. What if the real photographer didn’t find out kaya? Then it would have been just another ordinary day that passed for us Filipinos.

I’ve been reading his story since it broke out over the weekend in social media outlets. As a storyteller, I am fascinated by such characterizations kasi, therefore I am curious about how this person thinks, feels and moves — but most of all, how he calculates. There was even a story where he apologized and even said this in a Rappler.Com interview:

Solis said he wanted to take the “moral high ground by apologizing publicly.” He added that everything else he achieved in his life will go to waste because of the mistakes he made by entering the photo contests.

Sounds very enlightened naman pala, this kid. Moral high ground daw teh. How high is that ground for him kaya, I wonder. Kasing-height siguro ng bahay ng average nuno sa punso, pare. Ayan ang moral high ground ni koya. Ganun kataas.

So sue me for being cynical. Stealing the intellectual property of another and passing it off as your own is, in my book, the greatest mortal sin that ever existed in the creative world at walang kapatawaran ito. But watch that video and listen to his words. He sounds so together naman, so well-composed, so planned. And this is where I find it creepy — that someone as supposedly intelligent as he is could really be that intelligent to steal stuff in this age of digital “paper trails” where you could be traced at the click of a button on Google search. Ang galing niya, ha. And the way he orchestrated his previous acts and this latest one, planado, pare. Sociopath na nga yata daw ang dating, as one contact said in social media. Maybe. Who knows? Look at that event, that diplomatic event, where no less than an ambassador of another country proudly congratulates him while he sports his handsome barong. It’s not everyday you wear a barong and attend such events to be awarded a free trip to another country and pocket money huge enough to cover a semester’s worth of tuition and then hobnob with the diplomatic corps while drinking wine from their country.

Sabi pa daw niya sa apology niya:

Solis said he was driven by “youth, lack of experience, and the inability to see the repercussions of my actions.”

Seriously? Inability to see? Repercussion? His inability siguro is the fact na hindi niya na-foresee ang mangyayari kapag nahuli siya. Kasi nga this is not his first, second or even third time to do this — and he gets away with it, each and every time. Each and every time. But to also peg his mistake for being young, I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think he has lack of experience in anything. Expert manggagantso na nga siya, o, as surfaced by his fellow UP schoolmates who surfaced the other photos he plagiarized. Magaling, magaling ang batang ito. I’m trying to recall if naging estudyante ko ito somewhere sa Film 10 GE course na tinuro ko dati. Parang hindi. Hindi naman makakalusot sa akin ang plagiarism sa kursong iyon kasi on-the-spot lahat ang pinapagawa ko sa mga bata. Pero siyempre, ang iba sa amin ay nalulusutan pa rin, kaya minsan, nakakalusot ang mga magagaling manggantso.

Sa klase ko, tatlong bagay ang bawal: 1. Bawal ang tamad 2. Bawal ang tamad mag-isip 3. Bawal ang tamad mag-isip kaya nangopya ng likha ng may likha.  Alas, sa labas pala ng klase, hindi bawal ito. Kahit sa kapita-pitagang Unibersidad ng Pagmamanman. Lumbay. #hugot

Sa klase ko, tatlong bagay ang bawal: 1. Bawal ang tamad 2. Bawal ang tamad mag-isip 3. Bawal ang tamad mag-isip kaya nangopya ng likha ng may likha.
Alas, sa labas pala ng klase, hindi bawal ito. Kahit sa kapita-pitagang Unibersidad ng Pagmamanman. Lumbay. #hugot

In all honesty, as a content creator — a writer, photographer, filmmaker — I have always admired how other people could just have the guts to claim the creations of others as their own.  Yes, admired, because I always wonder how they could silence their conscience and how they killed off their good vs. evil dichotomy that’s supposedly stitched in our beings as humans. And I want to know how they sleep soundly at night without the aid of booze or sleeping meds or worse — remorse. Sabi nga dun sa Michiko Yamamoto-penned script of the OTJ film “pati mga konsensiya nila kinakampihan sila.” Parang ganun ang peg ni koya enlightened thief, pare. Parang walang remorse. Kung meron man, baka kinopya lang niya ulit sa ibang pagkatao iyon and passed it off as his own, yet again.

Now I’m being mean. Yes, I am, because this type of thing infuriates me. I don’t think plagiarists know how hard it is to produce material, to create new thoughts, to achieve a level of satisfaction in forging something that has gone through countless trial-and-error methods. It’s just so easy to right click-save as or copy-paste things today, dagdag-dagdag pa ng kung ano-ano palabok-palabok and then voila! — “likha mo” na siya.

And it’s even easier to just say sorry and shrug. That’s the part that saddens me more — that after all that has been done, it’s easier to just wave the magic wand of sorry and go on with life, as usual.


Legend has it (legend daw, o! Chos!) that when an infuriated writer made salubong this other writer (who plagiarized his concept and passed it off as his own winning creation) at the doors of the hallowed halls of April submissions, infuriated writer pointed to other writer and said “Magnanakaw! magnanakaw! Magnanakaw!” like a scene out of a script of a film. The next time I see infuriated writer, I will give him a hug for being brave. And treat him to coffee na lang to theorize on why people like us steal from people like us.

Remember that we just came from current events where thousands of people gathered to say hey hey/ho ho/government corruption has to go and we’re still witnessing if other people creative enough to fabricate fake NGOs to siphon out our money would get away with it or not (Pusta kang they will? What’s new, gnu, eh? Abangan.). I’m sure kapag nai-guest si Solis ni Boy Abunda or Kris Aquino sa talk shows nila, isang iyak lang niya on national TV and we will forgive him na. Sure, we could have compassion and forgive, zen mode. But I hope we do not forget such acts. Minsan kasi, madali tayong makalimot din as a country, tayong mga Pinoy. Kaya ilang beses din tayong nababalahura, tapos napapahiya pa sa maraming tao in the process.

Sana lesson learned na lang ito sa mga kabataan pa diyan o kahit sa matatanda, basta sa lahat ng mga “enlightened thief” who think that stealing other people’s thoughts and ideas to pass it off as their own is something that they could do on a regular basis, or something they could do to get ahead in life, to get a job promotion, to get more money, to get tenured, to get published, to get awarded or cited.

Minsan na rin akong nanakawan ng creation, at marami akong kakilala na nanakawan. At sa kasamaang palad, marami rin akong kakilalang magnanakaw. Kaya minsan, nakakalungkot na hinahayaan na lang natin ito at hindi natin aayusin para maging tunay na maayos at maganda ang takbo ng kalakaran ng buhay nating Pilipino. Or worse, hindi tayo nagsasalita para isambulat ang mga katotohanang ang daling talikuran lang kapag nalibre ka na ng painom ng alak or naregaluhan sa Pasko ng hamon at keso de bola. Pero sa kabilang banda, mahirap din kasing magsalita minsan. Sa bansang mas kawawa ang whistleblower kesa sa corrupt na pinipituhan, it’s easier to get numb na lang. O kaya nakakapagod na lang kasing harapin. Kaya parang mas madali pa ring gawin ‘yung kinanta ng Eheads dati, na sabi “shake yer head and walk away.” Oh, what to do, what to do…

After shaking our heads, I hope this won’t go away. Fine, get mad, but learn from it, as well. What’s the next step?

Up to you. Think of a thought. Be original. For once.

At nawa’y matakot tayong lahat sa tadyak ng karma.


~ by leaflens on September 24, 2013.

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