A petition in support of Willie Revillame: http://www.petitiononline.com/wil27271/petition.html
Since it’s premiere in 2005, the Filipino game/variety show Wowowee has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
Aired in the Philippines on ABS-CBN and around the world on ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel (TFC), Wowowee has become one of the most popular shows for Filipinos at home and abroad. The show has consistently won in the national ratings, became the first competitive noontime show for ABS-CBN in years for Mega and Metro Manila, and brought together overseas Filipinos like never before.
On the other side, the program was accused of rigging or allowing the opportunity to rig a game, prompting rival competition to loudly call for a government investigation. And in 2006, tragedy marked the program’s first anniversary when 73 people died and hundreds injured in a stampede at the venue of their special anniversary show.
Comedian Willie Revillame was named host and has been a big part of the show’s success. Despite past troubles as a host, Wowowee has been Willie’s breakthrough in the industry, bringing him fame and much fortune around the world as well as the platform to launch a multi-platinum music career. He is the face of the show and the times when he has been sidelined by illness, the show just wasn’t the same without him.
Willie himself is not without controversy. His personal life is often fodder for tabloids and gossip outlets, a huge and profitable part of Philippine showbusiness. His on-screen persona also has turned off some, perceived to be mayabang or egotistical. But Willie and Wowowee have helped countless Filipinos, whether it be the small, but meaningful prizes or bringing a few hours of entertainment six days a week.
The program has also helped launch and discover new talent. Their shows abroad have drawn thousands of Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. Filipinos born and raised in the Philippines as well as Filipinos born and raised in foreign countries. As much as shows like American Idol have become part of American pop culture, so has Wowowee to Filipino pop culture.
Last week, yet another controversy hit the show. The Philippines mourned the loss of former president Corazon Aquino. For a person as influential in shaping the Philippines as a nation, naturally news coverage of her passing and subsequent funeral proceedings will dominate television airtime.
ABS-CBN was granted almost exclusive rights to air the funeral proceedings. And on Monday, as the body of President Aquino was being transferred from De La Salle University to the Manila Cathedral, the long procession which included a stop at a monument paying tribute to her late husband, was the top story of the day. ABS-CBN was covering every minute of it and the network’s programming was in limbo that day.
Wowowee director Johnny “Mr. M” Manahan detailed the morning’s events to Philippine Entertainment Portal over the weekend, but long story short, Wowowee went to air live as the network cut away from covering the funeral proceedings.
Or so they thought. Video of the solemn procession began being broadcast side by side with Wowowee without the prior knowledge or consent of Wowowee itself. They asked the network’s higher-ups what was going on, because naturally having video of the dancing and singing of a variety show is by no means the best thing to have side by side with a funeral procession for someone considered a national hero. Right?
The video simulcast was removed… until it reappeared later during Wowowee
Wowowee had no problem being pre-empted that day, especially with the circumstances. But ABS-CBN had given them the go-ahead to broadcast their show that day, with Wowowee not knowing the show would be sharing a screen with live news coverage of a funeral procession, an event the show would give way to without protest.
As soon as the simulcast reappeared on-screen, Willie, visibly frustrated by the situation called for the video to be removed (a second time, but first on air), citing them having fun on Wowowee while people were mourning out on the streets was in poor taste. His choice of words, not the best, drew fire.
Critics called Willie disrespectful, that he was basically sh—ting on the memory of the former president. Some called him out on his ego, asking who does he think he is?
It is clear, however, that Willie meant no harm in asking on-air why the video reappeared on screen when they had already asked and had been granted their request to not have the two greatly contrasting images to be broadcast simultaneously. His choice of words should be his only fault, but now he, and to a lesser extent the show, is being put in front of a firing squad.
Petitions for him to be fired, personal insults and once again hateful comments on-air and in print from one of the hosts of Wowowee’s direct competitor Eat Bulaga on GMA-7 (Joey de Leon, who has in the past used any Wowowee misstep as the butt of a joke or ammunition to criticize his competitor… but that is beside the point… he’s a whole other argument to consider).
Willie is now being attacked on countless accusations, all stemming from this one moment of wrong words, which really were inoffensive, even to the Aquino family who have since accepted Willie’s apology, but never took issue with him or the incident in the first place.
First of all, ABS-CBN has not yet made a statement on the issue of simulcasting an entertainment program with news coverage of a funeral procession. Please tell me any other network in any country that would do that? It is disrespectful for two such horribly contrasting images to be broadcast simultaneously, let alone simultaneously with the funeral processions of a national icon like Corazon Aquino. Did American networks simulcast the funeral proceedings of President Ronald Reagan (the most recently departed American leader) with game shows, syndicated entertainment shows or primetime scripted series? No.
American broadcast networks pre-empted regular programming to bring live news coverage of President Reagan’s funeral processions through Washington D.C. and then in California. The same common sense policy applies to coverage of a presidential inauguration or breaking news coverage of a tragic event.
Unfortunately, some in charge at ABS-CBN were not aware of common sense last Monday, August 3.
Many were quick to attack Willie, including rivals, people who already didn’t like him in the first place, and even Cory Aquino’s spokeswoman. They seem to have the same fault as the person they are ready to crucify… not thinking before speaking.
There is no doubt Willie could’ve chosen a better way to say what he meant to say and he has admitted as much. It is clear he meant no ill-will or disrespect, even though many continue to insist he did.
Many are also using this incident, blowing it out of proportion (making a mountain out of an ant hill, as ABS-CBNnews.com put it in a poll) and drawing any and all past mistakes Willie might have made and shot one bullet after another. When one criticism is met with a reasonable, logical explanation, another criticism is dug up.
The MTRCB, the Philippines’ joke of an answer to the FCC of the United States is aiming to get their feet in the pool as well. Frankly, when the MTRCB borders on censorship and falls to the typical Filipino trait of behind the door/under the table dealings, they cannot be taken seriously as a government authority regulating movie and television. But this is the Philippine government, what else is new?
What kind of action must be taken against Willie Revillame? Thousands of dollars in fines? Jail? Loss of his job? I honestly don’t see any justification. He has currently been asked to go on an indefinite leave of absence by ABS-CBN. Why? Because he called the network out on their horrible mistake? Now that I think about it, yes. A subordinate calls out a superior, hell yeah the superior is not going to like it, even if they were in the wrong!
If we are discussing the issue of Willie Revilliame and having the wrong choice of words that would be disrespecting of Corazon Aquino and her family… then discussion over. The Aquino family accepts Willie’s apology, which they never asked for in the first place. Willie’s relationship with the Aquino family up to the morning of President Cory’s death shows he would never even dream of disrespecting them. And no matter how bad his choice of words were, he made the excellent and correct point of simulcasting a funeral procession and a musical/variety/game show being in poor taste.
So what is the problem?
He has other things to be a fault for? Okay. But the suspensions and complaints all stem and really only center on that Monday, August 3rd which has been explained away, facts out in the open, no one hurt but the feelings of those who never cared for Willie or the show or even the network in the first place.
Chalk it up to Philippine showbiz, the petty and downright stupid “network wars,” and the “money talks” philosophy of so many Filipinos (unfortunately) for this to have exploded into what is has become (and is sadly becoming).
Willie Revillame is by no means a perfect person… but then again, who is? He does his job and wants to do it well. He has soldiered on despite health concerns in the last year or two, against his doctor’s wishes and hosts the majority of the show on his own. There is no other host on Philippine television that does that. It is not hard to see his sincerity in helping those less fortunate, while also providing entertainment in a variety show setting.
Are there things he can change about himself? Sure. Can he find a better way to handle crew mishaps? Of course. There are tons of What Ifs? in life.
It is just very disheartening to see this mudslinging, the dragging in the memory of the deceased, and people wanting to save their own ass by not owning up to mistakes.
Willie Revillame is Wowowee and Wowowee is Willie Revillame. A program that has brought ABS-CBN international success, both financially and socially, and continues to do so will be hard to replace or replicate.
But I guess that’s just how it goes. When you’re on top, all everyone wants to do is bring you down. And there is certainly those who want to do just that. Petty reasons and all.