Working Hard for the Money

Apr 04, 2011
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A video of a tearful six-year-old boy dancing goes viral and gets flak for the TV host who made him strut his stuff.

Filipinos love their noontime entertainment. The quality of that entertainment is sometimes questionable though. For example the host and production staff of “Willing-Willie” a popular TV show were recently lambasted by critics for asking a six-year-old boy to do a “macho” dance in exchange for Ph10,000 pesos.

The Commission on Human Rights called it criminal. The country’s Department of Social Welfare called it child abuse. And two NGOs are calling for the controversial host’s immediate sanction.

Watch the video here and ask yourself whether the media sensationalised it or whether everyone was just having a good time.



Theatre actress Monique Wilson made a plea to fellow artists on her Facebook page:


The debate is no longer whether it was child abuse or not. The facts are plain to see. No one with a sense of respect for another human being can dispute that. The discourse now is how we, as Filipinos, as artists involved in the same industry that created Willing-Willie and shows like this, could have allowed this to go on for as long as it has. And what is our individual and collective participation in it?

Let’s talk honestly about our TV networks. The culprit now is TV5 – with its blatant lack of decency in even hiring someone like Willie Revillame – a callous, insensitive individual who preys on the needs of poor, uneducated Filipinos. They hired him for ratings and money at the expense of the integrity, dignity and self-respect of the most vulnerable in our society. Now wasn’t Channel 2 guilty of the very same thing? Let’s observe very closely many other game shows and reality shows across all the networks – can we not deduce very overt similarities? That networks are propelled by greed – ratings and money. Is there really, in all honesty, a local network, that can claim they put human values above all that? I don’t think so. I turn on the television to watch local shows and I feel uncomfortable. We have news reports that are horrifyingly biased and sensationalist, we have noon- time variety shows that exploit women and insult our intelligence, we have talk shows that are intrusive, subjective and tasteless – the list goes on and on. I am not saying, of course, that all shows fall beneath our standards of human decency – there are some TV shows that break the boundaries and give us quality – but there are so few. Even how the networks create the demarcation lines – A and B for middle and upper class, C and D for lower class; what kind of senseless segregating is that? It’s like saying, depending on what “class” you belong to, you cannot “appreciate” certain kinds of shows. This insults me as it should insult everyone. This is one of the roots of the problem. All our TV networks dumb down shows for audiences in one way or another. TV, like any other cultural form – and let’s face it, TV has become our common culture in the Philippines – should be used to educate, empower, inspire and awaken. But when you see shows like “Willing Willie” – and many other similar shows – they do the opposite. They disempower audiences by creating a mendicant society with game shows that promise “quick money”. They keep them dependent on hand- outs, instead of creating opportunities for them to build skills. There is nothing inspiring about this.

I think we all need to take a long, hard look at our local shows – and if we feel they exploit our fellow Filipinos – then we must boycott the sponsors that enable them.

And now, we can all rant and rave, but unless we do something concrete about our rage – we will just be passive bystanders. Sometimes it does seem insurmountable and overwhelming because the problem is huge. But we can play our part. We can do just one thing. That is better than doing nothing at all. Whether that be creating an online petition to deliver to TV5, CRH or DSWD, or whether we boycott the sponsors of the show/s, or write letters to all our newspapers, or make our voices heard with our local Congress representatives and let them know this is unacceptable to us. I think we all need to take a long, hard look at our local shows – and if we feel they exploit our fellow Filipinos – then we must boycott the sponsors that enable them. Boycotts are effective. They will have a tangible monetary, economic effect on the networks. That is how apartheid South Africa crumbled. The boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaign is what is supporting the Palestinians right to self-determination.

We need to look at what we ourselves value. If we expect people to treat us with respect, decency, integrity and dignity – we must insist and demand that everyone else should be treated in the same way. And as artists, our responsibility is greater. We are part of this problem. When we remain silent, we allow this to continue. When we turn a blind eye, our apathy also abuses the vulnerable in our society. When we don’t demand artistic excellence in our fields and settle for mediocre entertainment, we are just as bad as the networks who just do things for profit. As artists, we must refuse to play. We must demand more from our industry.

So this is a call to my fellow artists from television, film and theatre. Please let your voices be heard. Don’t sit on the fence because you fear you won’t be given work. It is this fear that networks also rely on to keep their machinery in place – machinery that not only lacks some very basic human values, but also aesthetics. We keep saying Filipino artists are world class – well let’s prove it now. There are international standards we must insist on when it comes to our local entertainment industry – film, theatre, TV, etc – why should we settle for anything less? We are part of the creation of our artistic culture – we must protect it and demand more for it. We must not allow it to be used for the continued exploitation of our fellow Filipinos.

Art and culture have value in our society.

They awaken minds

They nurture thought

They inspire courage

They open up compassion