By Andrei Miguel Hermosa
May 2023 was a bittersweet month. It started off with memes and pop culture moments that entertained us for a while, then the latter weeks were followed up by some unfortunate events. After that, we’ve gotten a taste of victories, which is then followed by another wave of misfortunes. With the presence of both good news and bad news, it’s hard to tell whether this month was in our favor or not.
From pop culture moments to typhoons, here is a roundup of the trials and triumphs that made this month a bittersweet one.
1. Toni Fowler entertains netizens with iPhone 14 giveaway
Social media personality Toni Fowler, known as “Mommy Oni,” started the month of May in true Mommy Oni fashion as she entertained netizens with her latest social media craze: an iPhone 14 giveaway!
In a Facebook post posted on May 1, Fowler invited netizens to join the giveaway, challenging them to answer why they deserve to win an iPhone 14 from her. The ones with the best answers will win an iPhone 14, the latest Apple device. The post immediately went viral, with netizens coming up with witty answers to get Fowler’s attention and possibly win an iPhone 14 from her.
Among the lucky winners of the giveaway is a netizen who said that he voted Fowler for president during the 2022 elections, to which Fowler joked: “Goal: magkaroon ng iPhone 14 ang bawat mamamayang Pilipino.” Another lucky winner was a netizen who recently celebrated her birthday. “Dahil birthday mo, may iPhone 14 ka,” Fowler said.
Meanwhile, netizens who did not win but wanted to simply join the fun have been sharing and commenting hilarious copy-pasted lines on Fowler’s post.
“Kada nagkaka-issue itong si MAMI ONI ay talaga namang sa kanya ako laging kumakampi,” one of copy-pasted lines said. “I mean, how can you not side on someone who’s as genuine as her? Isa pa, tao lang naman tayo, lahat tayo may mga flaws. I love you MA’AM TONI and more powers sa career and vlogging mo.”
2. LE SSERAFIM embraces their individuality in ‘UNFORGIVEN’
Seven months after the success of their second mini-album, ANTIFRAGILE, LE SSERAFIM returned with UNFORGIVEN, their first full-length album. The album was released last May 1, a day before the girl group’s first debut anniversary, which makes the release a timely showcase of the musical identity and artistic heights that the girls have achieved within only the first year of their career.
The album’s title track, UNFORGIVEN, is a fun and infectious anthem of independence that features legendary guitarist and record producer Nile Rodgers, who brought funky guitar riffs and punk rhythms to the track’s sound. Throughout the song, the girl group sings about embracing their flaws, breaking free from society’s expectations, and paving their own paths. With rebellious lyrics such as “Unforgiven, I’m the villain” and “I’m not that cinderella type of a girl,” they encourage listeners to take pride in their individual identities and be unapologetically themselves, even if doing so will make other people dislike them.
Apart from their empowering title track, LE SSERAFIM also delivers excellence in the album’s b-sides, which features an impressive variety of genres. From the synth-pop No-Return (Into the unknown), Jersey club banger Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard’s wife, Taylor Swift-esque country ballad FEARNOT (Between you, me and the lamppost), bubblegum pop tune Flash Forward, and Latin pop closer Fire in the belly, the quintet embraces their individuality by experimenting with a variety of genres. With their outstanding talents, versatility, and bold personas, they continue to prove themselves to be a force to be reckoned with in the K-pop scene.
‘UNFORGIVEN’ is now streaming on all music platforms.
3. Taylor Swift announces ‘Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)’
After months-long speculation from fans, Taylor Swift has officially announced Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), the re-recording of her third studio album, Speak Now, to be released on July 7. This is the third in Swift’s series of re-recorded albums, following Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version), both released in 2021.
Swift first made the announcement on stage during her first Eras Tour stops in Nashville on Friday, May 5, quickly sending fans into a frenzy. Shortly after, the singer-songwriter shared the announcement on her social media accounts, with a photo of the album cover and a letter to fans, which says: “I always looked at this album as my album, and the lump in my throat expands to a quivering voice as I say this. Thanks to you, dear reader, it finally will be. I consider this music to be, along with your faith in me, the best thing that’s ever been mine.”
Speak Now, released in 2010, consists of confessional songs about love, heartbreak, and Swift’s public image. It features many iconic hits, such as Sparks Fly, Back to December, Dear John, Mean, and Enchanted. The country-pop record was nominated for Best Country Album at the Grammy Awards 2012, with “Mean” winning for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance.
4. Two dogs shot dead by London police
Marshall and Millions, two American Staffordshire bull terriers owned by Louie Turnbull, an unhoused man living in London, were fatally shot by London police. The dogs, aged 3 years and 9 months respectively, were gunned down by London police on Sunday, May 7, after a woman reported that they had attacked her and her pet dog in East London. The owner of the dogs, Louie Turnbull, a 46-year-old homeless man, has been charged with dangerous dog offenses, including being the owner of dangerously out-of-control dogs.
However, some reports claimed that the woman only got entangled in the dogs’ leashes and was not harmed or attacked. Moreover, footage of the incident showed seven officers wielding a barrage of weapons while confronting Turnbull and asking him to surrender his dogs. Turnbull ended up arguing with the officers and attempted to walk away, but the officers tasered him and shot his dogs, killing them. The dogs, who were on leashes, attempted to shield Turnbull during the altercation.
“They pulled out all their weapons. They were intimidating me and the dogs,” Turnbull said about the incident. “And all [the dogs] were doing was trying to protect me. I had them on the lead, I was pulling them away and [the police] just murdered them. I can’t sleep.”
The unjust killing of Marshall and Millions has stirred widespread outrage and sparked a wave of protests and vigils, led by dog lovers and animal rights activists who are seeking justice for the dogs and demanding for the police officers responsible for the killing of the dogs to be held criminally accountable for their actions. An online petition calling for justice for Marshall and Millions has racked up more than one million signatures.
5. GCash encounters phishing attacks
On May 8, several users of digital wallet platform GCash experienced unauthorized deductions to the balance of their accounts. Affected users reported that thousands of their funds were funnelled from their e-wallets to accounts in EastWest Bank and Asia United Bank (AUB) without their permission. The total amount of illicit transfers was reported to be at ₱37 million, with at least a few thousands taken per transaction.
Upon the detection of suspicious transactions, GCash activated their security measures and implemented preventive maintenance for several hours to investigate and recover the funds. Following the maintenance, the digital wallet platform was able to return all seized funds to affected accounts and assured its users that no funds were lost and the “money is intact,” as they were able to trace where the amounts went. Meanwhile, the National Privacy Commission (NPC), the country’s personal data privacy watchdog, conducted a thorough investigation on the incident.
On Tuesday, May 24, NPC finished its investigation and confirmed that the security breach incident was caused by phishing attacks. “Upon our thorough investigation, we have determined that the unauthorized transactions in GCash accounts were a result of a meticulous phishing scheme,” Privacy Commissioner John Henry Naga stated.
“Unknown threat actors took advantage of vulnerable GCash users, triggering the phishing scheme through online gambling websites such as ‘Philwin’ and ‘tapwin1.com,’” Naga added.
6. ‘Glorious day’: Leila De Lima acquitted in 2nd drug case
Detained former senator Leila de Lima scored her second legal victory after she was acquitted in one of the two remaining drug charges filed against her during the Duterte administration, bringing her one step closer to freedom.
On Friday, May 12, Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 cleared De Lima and her former security aide, Ronnie Dayan, of charges of conspiring to commit illegal drug trading, “on the ground of reasonable doubt,” about a year after former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos recanted his statement that he delivered drug money to the former senator in 2012.
“Answered prayers. It’s a glorious day, this is the beginning of my vindication,” De Lima said after the verdict. “May I say this to my oppressors: you can never crucify the truth.”
However, despite her two legal victories, De Lima’s battle for truth and justice is far from over. She is currently seeking bail for her third drug case and will remain in detention until then. As of this writing, Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 256 has yet to announce its decision on the former lawmaker’s petition to post bail, as well as her bid for temporary freedom.
7. Michelle Dee crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2023
Michelle Dee, a model, entrepreneur, and actress from Makati, was crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2023 during the live coronation night held at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, May 13. The 28-year-old bested 37 other candidates to succeed Miss Universe Philippines 2022 Celeste Cortesi.
In addition to the Miss Universe Philippines 2023 crown, Dee was also named Best in Evening Gown and received the Miss Aqua Boracay, Miss Pond’s, and Miss Zion Philippines awards.
This is Dee’s second time vying for the Miss Universe Philippines title. She first competed in 2022, where she was named Miss Universe Philippines Tourism 2022, placing second only to Celeste Cortesi.
She is set to represent the Philippines at the 72nd Miss Universe competition to be held in El Salvador later this year.
8. PH triumphs in 2023 SEA Games; Yulo and Obiena deliver standout performances
The Philippines was triumphant in the 2023 Southeast Asian Games (SEA), held in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, placing fifth among eleven countries and winning a total of 260 medals, which includes 58 gold medals, 85 silvers, and 117 bronzes.
Filipino gymnastics star Carlos Yulo was one of the biggest standout performers in the event, as he hoisted the Philippine flag high yet again with a spectacular campaign. After emerging as the most bemedalled Filipino athlete in the past two SEA Games, Cambodian organizers have implemented a restriction that will confine Yulo to vie for a maximum of only four medals this year. However, this medal cap did not stop Yulo from securing victory as he bagged two golds in men’s individual all-around and parallel bars and a pair of silvers in team all-around and rings. The gymnastics star is set to be awarded with about P800,000 for his exceptional performance.
Another standout who brought pride to the country is World №3 pole vaulter EJ Obiena. Amid intermittent rains, Obiena put on a brilliant performance in the biennial meet event and broke his own SEA Games record thrice. The inclement weather did not deter the Olympian pole vaulter, as he aced the 5.55m, 5.60m, and 5.65m marks swiftly, breaking the previous record of 5.46m he himself set in last year’s Hanoi’s games. This marks Obiena’s third SEA Games gold and the Philippines’ 19th gold medal in the 32nd SEA Games.
9. ABS-CBN shuts down TeleRadyo
ABS-CBN on Tuesday, May 23 announced that its long-running television channel TeleRadyo will halt broadcast operations on June 30, marking another big loss to the network after it lost its free-to-air and cable franchises in May 2020.
“[TeleRadyo] been incurring financial losses since 2020,” the media giant said. “Since ABS-CBN can no longer sustain TeleRadyo’s operations, ABS-CBN is left with no choice but to cease its operations effective June 30, 2023 to prevent further business losses.”
In another announcement, ABS-CBN disclosed that it entered a joint venture deal with House Speaker Martin Romualdez’s Prime Media Holdings Incorporated. ABS-CBN and Prime Media will form a joint venture company that “will produce various programs, which will be supplied to broadcasters and other third-party platforms, including Philippine Collective Media Corp.”
Under the joint venture, ABS-CBN will own a 49 percent minority stake, while Prime Media Inc. will be the majority stakeholder with a 51 percent stake.
10. Super Typhoon Betty hits Luzon and Visayas
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that a total of 14,908 individuals or 3,821 families were affected by the typhoon, with 5,981 people safely evacuated from their homes. NDRRMC stated that there are no casualties reported so far, but damage to infrastructure worth P68,695 was reported in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
As of writing, tropical cyclone wind signals are still hoisted in some areas of Luzon. According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, Typhoon Betty was last seen moving slowly around the east of Batanes, with a speed of 10 kph. The typhoon is expected to weaken into a tropical storm and exit the PAR by Thursday, June 1 or Friday, June 2.
With incidents such as animal cruelty and typhoons, this month was not exactly a favorable one. However, the triumphs of this month remind us that amid any tribulation we face, we must keep our heads up and continue walking our paths. There are some things that are not worth looking back on, but there are also things that are worth looking forward to. Moments such as De Lima’s legal victory and the Philippines’ strong performance in the 2023 SEA Games remind us that even though bad things would keep happening, there will always be good things that can make us smile and hope for better things.