Poverty porn? Donnalyn Bartolome’s ‘kanto’ birthday party’ vlog draws flak for theme

August 15, 2022 - 5:53 PM
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Donnalyn Bartolome blows her "birthday cake" made out of burnt rice (Donnalyn/Facebook)

Donnalyn Bartolome made online buzz over the weekend after she uploaded a street-themed 28th birthday party.

Filipino online users found the content creator’s celebration relatable with the roadside karaoke, monobloc chairs and tables, street foods, and guests wearing pambahay clothing.

The party was star-studded as Bartolome was joined by her friends, influencers, and actors such as Zeinab Harake, Jelai Andres, Ella Cruz, Asian Cutie, Rastaman, Richard Juan, Mikee Quintos, Paul Salas, Mika Salamanca, Awra Briguela, and Andre Paras

“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,” Bartolome said in a Facebook post

According to the Youtuber, she chose to celebrate her birthday with the “street” theme because she wanted to relive the times when she was just starting in the showbiz industry. 

How social media reacted

While the message of love and greetings from Donnalyn’s fans poured in, others tagged the party as “poverty porn.”

“Always seen poverty porn on her vlogs, if this doesn’t bother you, then you’re part of the problem, an online user said.

The Twitter user also noted that poverty is not a theme but rather a real-life problem, saying Donnalyn’s celebration is insensitive. 

Sociologist Athena Presto said, “using ‘kanto’ aesthetic merely as an aesthetic without shedding light & calling for action over the financial insecurity, job precarity, and overall sickness that comes with it does not only maintain the unequal status quo.”

Presto highlighted that “aestheticizing it also contributes to this inequality.”

A Twitter user, meanwhile, found Donnalyn’s use of burnt rice or tutong as birthday cake “insulting.”
“Nakakainsulto yung ginamit na cake. Wala namang mahirap gusto ang tutong as cake. They wanna be empathetic but it just feels like they’re just romanticizing being poor as if ginusto ng tao na gnaon yung situation nila sa buhay,” a Twitter user said
A Facebook user also posted a comparison of Donnalyn’s celebration and a photo-turned meme of a couple celebrating their third monthsary. 

“When poor people celebrate, they are branded ‘cheap’ and ‘jejemon’ for not having enough food on their tables. Memes like this one attest to how society mocks the poor for their non-conformity with middle-class celebration norms,” the Facebook user said.

“Meanwhile, Donnalyn is deemed ‘humble’ and ‘grounded’ for momentarily pretending that she was poor. Donnalyn treats poverty as if it was a condition that an individual could simply get in-and-out of,” he added. 

“She never learned. What’s worse here is people don’t recognize her poverty porn content as problematic and insensitive,” an online user said

The criticisms about the “kanto birthday party” came a month after Donnalyn was bashed online due to her controversial baby-themed photoshoot where she wore a onesie and a bib. This was perceived as “disturbing” by some who claimed it “sexualizes” babies and their attire.

Donnalyn apologized for this and used her platform to raise awareness about child abuse.

RELATED: After baby shoot blunder, Donnalyn Bartolome spreads awareness on child abuse | How Donnalyn Bartolome addressed criticisms vs baby-themed bday shoot

Meanwhile, this was not the first time Donnalyn was criticized for perceived “poverty porn” content. In 2020, she earned flak due to a vlog featuring her and her family switching lives with a low-income family. 

READ: Donnalyn Bartolome did a Freaky Friday switch with a poor family

Poverty in the Philippines

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the poverty incidence in 2021 increased to 18.1%, equivalent to almost 20 million poor Filipinos compared with 2018’s 17.67 million. 

RELATED: Pandemic pushed millions more into poverty in the Philippines —govt

A survey conducted by the Social Weather Station from June 26 to 29 also showed that nearly half of Filipino families considered themselves poor.

“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including income and employment losses, caused the poverty incidence to rise,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan told a press conference.

Balisacan noted that inflation would worsen poverty incidence.

According to National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa, 64% of the overall inflation last month was due to food inflation, which jumped 6.9% year-on-year.