On July 8, Philippine national dailies published on their front pages a picture of The Queen regal in a whopping $3,000 dress.

That same day, I wrote a letter to one of the dailies expressing my disgust. I do not know if it was published. I am reproducing it here in the hope The Dress will arouse a national discourse and spark concrete actions against hunger.

The picture of Pres. Gloria Arroyo wearing a $3000 (P140,000) dress on (your July 8) issue's front page trivializes the crises weighing down her "queendom."

Two weeks ago, (your paper) showed a picture of Ruffa Gutierrez carrying a P100,000 bag. I thought it should inspire national outrage. Ostentation when poverty is at its worst and there are long queues to buy (National Food Authority) rice leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But when the President is the one who vaunts luxury, she commits a social crime beyond acquittal, beyond forgiveness. Amidst the rice and oil crises and the haze of ineffable grief over the tragedy wrought by Typhoon Frank, how can she be brazenly insensitive? The cost of her dress is nowhere near what most poor families make in a year!

But then, this is the same President who was chasing Barack Obama's attention while the orphaned nation, under the heavy weight of various catastrophes, was struggling for breath.

A few days later, I am still outraged. The Queen wore the dress to prove that the Philippines can produce "high tech" dresses from pineapple fibers. What was her message? That we convert all our rice fields into pineapple plantations so that the rich and famous all over the world can feed their vanity by wearing Philippine-made dresses that cost much, much more than what the average Filipino family makes in a year? Scientists already spoke: our rice shortage is due to the land conversion schemes to meet the dictates of neoliberalism. What used to be ricefields for domestic consumption are now lands for the production of the export market's demand. Sounds like a really sick joke. Satisfy the vanity of the few, ignore the hunger of the multitude.

Where does The Queendom's neoliberal obsession lead us, citizens of a country that hosts the International Rice Research Institute? Where else but to those long queues for a kilo of NFA rice? That is if we get lucky at all.
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