During a Mother’s Day dinner, I told my son and daughter-in-law that their only child had asked me to write my memoirs. My son immediately accessed ChatGPT to ask for a Gemma Cruz memoir. At warp speed, Chat GPT presented a table of contents ( with errors): I. Introduction–early life and family background; education and career aspirations. 2. Beauty Queen and Reign– Journey to becoming Miss International 1964; The significance of her win for the Philippines; Life and reign as a beauty queen. 3. Life as a Public Figure–a career in journalism; advocacies, contributions to society; marriage and family life. 4. Political and Diplomatic Careers– Entry into politics as a councilor ( fake news!), as commissioner for the Philippine Commission on culture and Arts (no such agency), ambassadorship to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ( my mother, not me). 5. Reflections on Life and Legacy–looking back on her accomplishments and regrets; lessons learned and advice to the younger generation; the importance of preserving cultural heritage and identity. Epilogue–current endeavors and future plans; final thoughts and messages to readers.
ChatGPT warned: “This is just a suggested outline, the actual memoir may vary depending on the author’s choices and experiences.” Here is the “actual memoir” in brief:
“It was the year 1943, and Manila was a city of contrasts. The Philippines was still recovering from the ravages of World War II, and the scars of the past were still evident in the city’s streets and buildings. Yet, even in the midst of this hardship, there was a sense of hope and optimism for the future. In this context, I was born.
“Gemma Cruz Araneta, the youngest of four children (I was the eldest of two) born to Dr. Sixto Cruz, a physician, and Leticia Diaz Cruz, a homemaker. ( My parents were Ismael Arguelles Cruz and Carmen Francisco Guerrero. Japanese soldiers killed my father in 1945.) From an early age, I was surrounded by the love and support of my family, and I was instilled with a sense of purpose and responsibility to serve others.
“As a child, I was curious and inquisitive, always eager to learn and explore the worlds of fiction and non-fiction alike. Despite the challenges facing our country at the time, my parents believed in the power of education. They instilled in me the values of hard work and discipline…”
Chat GPT continues: “In 1963 ( it was 1964), I entered the Miss Philippines pageant. At the time, the pageant was a platform for young women to showcase their intelligence, grace and poise, and to serve as ambassadors for the country. As I walked down the runway in my flowing gown (there was no runway in the Miss Philippines contest, we all wore white regulation ternos) I felt a sense of pride and determination. I knew that I was representing not just myself, but my family and my country as well. To my great surprise and delight, I was crowned Miss Philippines. It was a moment that would change the course of my life forever.
“I went on to compete in the Miss International pageant; I was crowned the winner. It was a surreal and overwhelming experience, and I felt a deep sense of gratitude to have been given this opportunity. As a beauty queen, I was more than just a pretty face. I was an ambassador for my country, and I used my platform to raise awareness about the social and political issues facing the Philippines at the time. “
After reading all that, it dawned on me that the Binibining Pilipinas and other contests have been using InstructGPT and its “sibling model” ChatGPT for the “speeches” of their candidates. That explains the sudden surfeit of “advocacies”, “platforms”, of aspirations about our history and culture, of being selfless“ambassadors”, of going through the arduous “journey” for the sake of family, and of country.
The ChatGPT memoir continued:” Through my travels and experiences, I was struck by the beauty and richness of our traditions and customs, and I knew that it was our duty to ensure that they were passed down to future generations. I realize how much my experiences shaped the person I am today. I am committed to using my voice, my platform to make a positive difference in the world. As I continue on this journey, I am inspired by the words of my parents, who taught me that anything is possible if we work hard and believe in ourselves. It is a lesson that has stayed with me throughout my life, and I hope to pass it on to others as I continue to write my story.”
I cower at ChatGPT’s memoir of shapeless weeks and years, so I will look fitfully backward and do it myself.