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Classism and double standards? A look at the new Donnalyn Bartolome issue from two vantage points

Classism and double standards?

These two always seem to come together whenever an influencer comes up with brand-new content at least every once in a while. Local Filipino Twitter can bring up a whole list of influencers who have made out-of-touch content at least a few times in their careers.

Adding to another one in her list of recent “up for debate” content is Donnalyn Bartolome. Yes, her again. Coming so soon after her baby-themed birthday photoshoot that caught the ire of most people online for allegedly romanticizing the fetishization of infants, she is once again caught up in another sitch. This time, for idealizing poverty and “kanto” culture.

On August 14, 2022, Donnalyn Bartolome posted an album of her “Kanto Birthday Party” last July 9.

The album was posted with a caption that reads, “My Kanto Birthday Party is not just a concept, this was my life when I left home abroad where my life was comfortable…pero hindi mo maaabot pangarap mo sa pagiging komportable lagi. Kaya nung umalis ako saamin to work here sa Pinas, hindi ko inaasahan, kahit mahirap, isa siya sa adventure ko sa buhay na hindi ko makakalimutan. So I relived the times when I was just starting out on my bday last month Jul 9, just like nung time na walang wala pa ako.”

(My Kanto [Corner Street] Birthday Party is not just a concept, this was my life when I left home abroad where my life was comfortable… but you won’t reach your dream by always being comfortable. That’s why when I left our home to work here in the [Philippines], I wasn’t expecting that, while it was tough, it was one of my adventures in life that I will never forget. So I relived the times when I was just starting out on my [birthday] last month [July] 9, just like that time when I had nothing.)

As of writing, the post had already reached 314k likes and reactions, 8.3k comments, and 49k shares.

At first glance, it seemed like a very harmless photo set filled with people celebrating the birthday of a beloved friend. However, the whole thing didn’t seem so harmless especially when you recognize the people in the pictures as influencers just cosplaying normal people living on the poverty line.

This was pointed out in a Facebook post by Joum Malonosan, where he compared how people perceive birthday celebrations done by poor people and those from the middle class.

Donnalyn issue
via Facebook

Donnalyn Bartolome’s “Kanto Birthday Party” received mixed reactions from Filipino Twitter, with others not seeing anything wrong with it, while others deeming it as problematic.

Donnalyn tweets
via Twitter
Donnalyn tweets - 1
via Twitter
Donnalyn tweets - 2
via Twitter

Now that we’ve seen how varying the reactions are to Donnalyn Bartolome’s birthday celebration, let’s try to see it from two vantage points:


Yes, we’re right for calling it out for classism and double standards.

There is definitely something up with how the prominent influencer portrayed “simple” birthday celebrations, and it was her and her guests cosplaying as actual poor people. That already leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth, especially with most of our Filipino brothers and sisters living on the poverty line.

And Joum Malonosan was right for saying it like this: “Celebrating in a “simple” manner is the default for the poor. They have no choice but to have as little food as possible because they can’t afford it. Meanwhile, Donnalyn Bartolome celebrates her “birthday sa kanto” because she CAN and WANTS to. By next year or so, Donnalyn will be able to celebrate her birthday as lavishly as she wants because “simplicity” is merely a theme that she can opt out of.”

Honestly, her birthday celebration is just a representation of “poverty porn”. Yes, Donnalyn Bartolome did come from poverty at some part of her life here in the Philippines, but one doesn’t really have to air that out all the time, no? We have to be sensitive of the things we post on social media, and this is one example of what we need to be more cautious of on the internet.

With this in mind, this can lead us to another perspective in this whole issue.

This whole issue is really a non-issue, a.k.a let people enjoy things

People don’t always have the right to say things just because they can, and people have a hard time trying to reconcile this fact. Just because we all have the freedom of expression, doesn’t mean we can abuse it.

This can be related to when people comment on things that should be privy to one person, for example, the way they want to live their life or on topics like wanting to have children or not.

You might want to say that the issue of Donnalyn Bartolome has no connection to the things we mentioned above, but it actually does. The way one wants to celebrate their birthday shouldn’t have the consent of those people who don’t actually know them. In fact, they have all the right to celebrate it in the way they want to.

Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to honor their life in the way they want to on their birthdays. For Donnalyn Bartolome, she mentioned in her post that she wanted to “relive the times when she was just starting out” on her own in the Philippines. Then we should just let her.

However, the way she depicted her beginnings is just not it, and that’s where we have the right to call her out.

This sounds redundant and kinda hypocritical, and we get that. But this is just us presenting two sides of the coin regarding this issue. It’s up to you readers to have your own opinions about this piece, as well.


Other POP! stories you might like:

Privilege check: Your detached opinions on commuting won’t fix the public transportation crisis

The ‘scholarship prank’ on TikTok is not funny, and people should stop hopping on this trend

Solenn Heussaff’s latest piece sparks discourse on advocacy vs poverty porn

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