How To Reflect On The RC Cola Ad

ROHEI Foundation
Ampon po ba ako?”


This week, the latest RC Cola commercial was released online. It starts with a telenovela-like opening with a boy asking his mother the above question dramatically. The ad quickly veers into strange territory, when the boy reveals four glasses protruding from his back and his mother turns out to be a soda bottle. Reactions have quickly sprung up online, with some netizens admiring the ad’s quirky, unsettling humor reminiscent of Japanese or Thai commercials, while others find it creepy and disturbing.


(Esquire Magazine: Social Media Is All Abuzz About That RC Cola Ad. It’s Disgusting)


Whatever the inspiration for the commercial, it has raised a lot of questions, not just because of its surreal premise but because of the interaction between a son and his mother and how it uses adoption.


In general, portrayals of adoption in mainstream local media — specifically in teleseryes — tend to be on the cliched side, with the ampon or adopted child being abused and bullied because the child is perceived to be different. Other depictions are less positive and reinforce negative stereotypes, with an adoptee seen as a “problem child” not just in the Philippines, but in places like the US (who remembers Thor’s “he’s adopted” comment about Loki in The Avengers?).


In the article “We can do better on depictions of adoption in pop culture”, E. Young wrote:


“Negative attitudes and misgivings towards adoption are so ingrained in pop culture that they’re almost invisible. Many shows and movies make light of it, go for casual “he/she is adopted” jokes to explain bad or socially unacceptable behavior, even using adoption as a plot point and perpetuating negative stereotypes. Often, these jokes can be damaging on several levels, internalized by adopted children as well as their families.”


While the people behind the commercial may not have meant to cause harm or use an adopted person as a punchline, the ad can cause pain to those who are directly affected. Anna L., an adopted person, posted on her Facebook account after watching it:


“Kudos for triggering me. . . An adopted kid who had to hear “ampon ka lang” every single day from neighbors, friends, even family. Wait. Am I overreacting? It’s just an ad. . . It’s an ad that millions can watch and it portrays adoption in the worst possible way ever.”


While it is not ROHEI Foundation’s intention to condemn those who worked on the commercial, we want to acknowledge and emphasize that such portrayals and reactions contribute to the problematic perpetuation of this “ampon ka lang” mindset in our culture. Our hope is that pointing this out will help us all reflect more on how adopted people are depicted in local media.


Here are some questions you can reflect on:


  • When was the last time you saw adoption or an adopted person in a local commercial, TV show, or movie? How was the person or the process depicted?
  • What stereotypes or negative depictions about adopted people have you heard of or seen in local media content?
  • What positive depictions about adopted people have you seen in local media content?
  • What do you think of when you hear the word ampon?


While talking to friends and family about the commercial, or adoption in general, you can ask them the questions above to help start a meaningful conversation about adoption. By doing so, we hope that we will all realize the need to outweigh these portrayals with the real adoption stories that are worth celebrating.


Having heard from many families who have adopted, we find that in the pursuit of changing the culture surrounding adoption, it is not enough to speak about the faults of what’s current. Equal, if not more, effort must be given to speak and dream about the kind of culture we hope to see in this generation and the next.


After all, we do not remove perception. We replace it.


This is why we want to serve as a platform for adoption stories. We want to highlight the amazing work done by families, communities, and organizations in destigmatizing adoption over the years. We want to tell the world the many amazing journeys of families who know firsthand the realities, struggles, joys, questions, and celebrations that come with adoption.


These are the stories we hope to see in Philippine media as well. Now that we know how an advertisement less than two minutes long can ignite a nationwide conversation on adoption, we invite and challenge writers, producers, and media practitioners to lean in and listen to these stories. Let’s share the joy and privilege of creating content that will celebrate adoption and make an impact on generations.


And whether you are someone who has an adoption story to share, who does not know how to feel towards this cola ad, or who is simply curious to find out what the buzz is all about, we invite you to keep these meaningful conversations going.


Let’s talk about adoption.


Read adoption stories here or share your adoption story here.


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