Nas Daily issues statements after allegations emerge of him 'disrespecting' and 'capitalising' on Filipino culture

Nas Daily has come under the spotlight recently following claims of founder Nuseir Yassin (pictured) disrespecting Filipino culture. The latest allegation against Yassin comes from Louise Mabulo, founder of The Cacao Project, who shared her 2019 experience with the content creator on Facebook. She explained that Yassin arrived at her town to cover her story on The Cacao Project and her family took him in as a welcomed guest, along with other content creators.

However, Mabulo claimed Yassin "imitated and mocked the local accent and language, vocalising Tagalog-sounding syllabic phrases saying it sounded stupid". She also claimed that Yassin also allegedly said "no one wants to hear about farmers or farms" and that it is "not clickable viewable content". "He didn’t care about making a change or shedding light on real issues - he only wanted content, a good, easy story to tell that would get him more Filipino views," Mabulo said. According to her, Yassin also joked about how easy it was for him to rack up millions of views just by putting "Philippines" in the headline and comments would come flooding in with "brainless Pinoy pride comments".

Mabulo has worked with journalists, documentary makers and professors and never had negative experiences. She claimed Yassin "blatantly discriminated" against her people and had no regard for local customs or cultures. "He’d built a story in his mind without meaningfully understanding the context of what he was going to cover. As a result, he was disappointed that my work wasn’t the perfectly packaged story he’d pre-determined and imagined - I mean what visual popcorn can you create out of a farm?" she said. She also called Yassin "exploitative" in her Facebook post, adding that he is "fuelling a neocolonialist narrative using [Filipinos'] need for foreign validation".

In response, Yassin put up a statement saying he cannot let Mabulo "share falsehoods on the Internet for free". He explained that he was very inspired by her story and his team went the extra mile by flying to the Philippines from Singapore. While they were excited to share her story about how she "revolutionised the cacao industry in her province", as stated on the Internet, Yassin and his team concluded after arriving at the plantation and speaking to the farmers, that there was no real story and what was published was false. 

"Our investigation has made it clear that your story in the media is false. And that there are no '200 farmers' that you work with, and there are no Cacao plantations that you don't personally profit from," he added. Despite travelling for two days just to meet with Mabulo, Yassin said the team left because he will "never ever put fake news on Nas Daily". He also alleged that The Cacao Project is a family business from which Mabulo profits and advised her to be truthful about her work.

"Do not share online falsehoods. That is borderline illegal. Everything you said is with malicious intent and it is clearly not how I speak. We have five years of evidence to back that up; 40% of my company is Filipino. Our actions back up our words," he added.

According to Mabulo's website, The Cacao Project was founded after the Bicol region was hit by typhoon Nock-Ten, which destroyed more than 80% of agricultural land within San Fernando. It also destroyed 1,000 homes and partially damaged 4,000 households, impacting farmers' livelihood. The Cacao Project offers participating farmers of San Fernando with cacao seedlings and short term crops such as bok choy, okra and pumpkins to intercrop with cacao.

Mabulo's post came shortly after Nas Academy got caught up in another controversy with Filipino tattoo artist Whang-Od. Whang-Od's granddaughter, Grace Palicas, said in the "Tattooed by Apo Whang-Od" public Facebook group that the Whang-Od Academy is a scam. "My grandmother did not sign any contract with Nas Daily to do any academy," she said, adding that some individuals are taking advantage of the Butbut tribe's culture. "Please help us stop this disrespect to the legacy of Apo Whang Od," Palicas added.

However, Yassin maintained that Whang-Od consented to the academy. In a separate Facebook post, he said the team approached Whang-Od because it loves her traditions, is inspired by her and wanted to share her culture for future generations to appreciate and respect the ancient Kalinga tradition of mambabatok (hand tap tattoo). Hence, the team pitched Whang-Od's family the idea of creating Whang-Od Academy. "Her and her family present both loved this idea, and have worked with us to build it, with Whang-Od teaching herself," the Facebook post said.

Nas Academy added that Whang-Od's niece, Estella Palangdao, was present and translated the contract's content before Whang-Od affixed her thumbprint, signifying full consent of the project. The post explained that everyone was compensated for their time and for every sale generated by the Whang-Od Academy, "most of it went directly to her and her family while Nas Academy provided the technology and marketing".

"The truth is often times not as simple as a tweet. And online falsehoods can be dangerous. Out of respect for her family, we temporarily took down Whang-Od Academy while we resolve any issues that have arisen from these falsehoods," it explained. He added that 40% of Nas Academy is made up of Filipinos. "So for us, this is personal," the post said.

Nas Daily entered Singapore in 2019, drawing over 2,000 fans when Yassin held his first meet-and-greet at Botanic Gardens. Last December, the company expanded into Dubai and is now splitting his time between both countries. Yassin said previously that the expansion comes as the company has grown alot since its launch in Singapore. The company is still headquartered in Singapore and its Dubai operations will be an extension for Nas Academy and Nas Studio.

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