Willie [and the] Poor

By in

In his 25-minute long tirade on national television, Willie Revillame somehow claimed a monopoly of practice in helping the poor.  Nina Terol-Zialcita rightly says that it is a diversionary tactic to shift the issue from abuse to class war, but at the same time, Ina Stuart-Santiago rightly says that in our criticism, we reveal our class.

Much has been said about the tasteless, vomit-inducing behavior of Willie, but I’d like to take up Willie’s gauntlet on class war.

Class distinctions may be easy to invoke, but the argument is extremely powerful.  The captive audience of Willing Willie is that segment of the Filipino population in dire need of emancipation from poverty.  But more than being denied of wealth – as Willie would trot, highlight, and underscore over and over again – they are denied of opportunity.

Every dole-out, every cash prize, and every jackpot Willie and Co. provide to the poor is another opportunity closed to the poor in favor of the opportunities Willie provides.  He keeps the class distinctions in place, instead of breaking them.  Willie Revillame’s show preserves the status quo, providing neither spite or respite to the impoverished.

Yet one man is not capable of doing all that.  In many ways, Willie and his show is a snapshot of the everyday occurrences of injustice in the Philippines.  I’m not just talking about lewd dances on TV or dole-outs and jackpots, but the way these practices come together to oppress the oppressed, offering hope through oppression.

For me, the Willie Revillame fiasco is a face of oppression: a habit that keeps the poor poor.  The host is a face of oppression: an example of how the poor are being kept poor not because they have no will (as Raul Manglapus writes), but because of a lack of hope.  By keeping the poor dependent on the dole, we keep them from forging paths that benefit not only themselves, but society as well.  By keeping the poor on a dream state of jackpots, we keep them from realizing their true state for them to offer some degree of resistance that will not only put reforms in TV programming, but reforms in the economy as well.

One thing we have to keep in mind is that poverty is societal weakness not caused by the absence of money, but by the denial of opportunity.  The problem with the mentality pervasive in Willie’s show is that the way to a good life is through a jackpot and the promise of money, and not the way it is earned, invested, and shared within the economic system.  Doles, cash transfers, and the sweepstakes are much more preferred by our less fortunate countrymen not because of indolence, and not because they don’t know any better.  The reason being is that the opportunity to share ideas and knowledge on microfinance, business, and agriculture (among other things) isn’t there.

As such, we see (and practice) humiliation on a daily basis.  Jan-Jan dancing on TV is on the same vein as people begging on the streets.  It is to expose the frailness of the self for some source of strength.  We’ve all seen how Willie does it: every day, a spectacular display of “I-say-jump-you-say-how-high” is broadcast to millions of viewers for a couple of thousand pesos.  All in all, the “willing” participants to this have the same story as every other poor person you will meet in the streets: that they came looking for opportunity, that there is none for them who are not moneyed or educated, and that they jumped into this spectacle looking for hope.

The rewards of humiliation are paltry, and surely people who walk away from the Willie Revillame Show are not enlightened into being productive members of the economic system, but become steeped in the euphoria of meeting their idol.  The few thousand pesos – heck, the million – go away quickly.  Take Shiela Coronel’s investigation.  Or the 71 people who died in the ULTRA Stampede.  Or even Jan-Jan.  All the millions Willie claims to have given – perhaps the equivalent of the budget of government agencies – translated to TV ratings, but not to economic ones.

As such, Willie doesn’t help the poor.  He keeps them poor: in pocket, in stomach, and in spirit.

It’s easy to see how Willie’s show “fills a need” that society at large does not address, but it’s also easy to see that his form of “helping the poor” starves the poor even further.  I’m not talking about the literal starvation that takes place in saving fare money to go to Novaliches for a song-and-dance number, but how his message – something shared by politicians, businessmen, and all sorts of people doing “philanthropy” – exploits the immediate inability of our society to provide opportunities for the downtrodden.  Spectacle and handouts do not solve the problem.  Perspectives and hands-up do.

You won’t hear of livelihood programs, entrepreneurship, or microfinance in a game show: you would hear of jackpots, pa-buwenas, and thousands and millions of prizes.  I’m not saying it’s evil to give money away, but it fosters and preserves a cycle of poverty in the Philippines that succeeds only when people are kept unequal.  It is a method that only succeeds when people are kept poor, and away from the goals and paths that realize the development of the nation.  Willing Willie succeeds in helping the impoverished because it keeps poor people poor, it humiliates the humiliated, and wounds the vulnerable by putting them under the spotlight instead of putting them under a schoolroom.  Or a storefront or a farm to call their own, armed with the right knowledge of how to run a business and how to pay the right taxes.

Until then, the oppressors – exemplified in this case by well-meaning people with a Willie Revillame state of mind – would keep the poor from the opportunities that will help them realize more than humiliation.  The void left by Willie should be enough for our society and our leaders to fill, not with another place to give handouts, but a place where the poor can have opportunities for themselves.

Rather than be the first to help the poor, Willie is the first to keep them there.  A two-week sabbatical may be able to change the show is run, but it will take a little while longer to change the way we think of helping the poor.

28 comments on “Willie [and the] Poor”

    • GabbyD
    • April 11, 2011

    “By keeping the poor dependent on the dole, we keep them from forging paths that benefit not only themselves, but society as well. ”

    how do you know that he keeps audiences dependent?

      • babie equiza
      • April 13, 2011

      think, GabbyD, think, so you will know. or you will remain ignorant. as ignorant as willie’s audiences.

  1. Reply

    Thank you for the pingback!

    You are so right in saying that, in doing so, Willie is the first to keep the poor that way. He is no different from the politicians who wave their P500 bills, rice sacks–although those would be quite hard to wave–and dole-outs to the poor in exchange for a vote. They do not provide opportunities, they do not emancipate. They use the poor’s adoration and reverence as fuel for their gross political ambitions (whether they are in politics or elsewhere). In fact, if Willie ran for the Senate tomorrow (and I shudder at the thought), I bet he would win by a landslide.

    This is what our society has boiled down to. Every day, whether campaign season or not, a song and dance and couple of bills are necessary to keep the poor entertained and distracted, but still uneducated and in desperate need of a way out.

      • Joel
      • April 11, 2011

      And the government is no different with their conditional cash trasnfer and the gas subsidy cards. They keep on giving doleouts, instead of reforms and livelihood programs. As I previously quoted the Bible in my twitter account, give a man a fish and you feed him for the day, teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

    • ina
    • April 11, 2011

    but too, you presume that the ones who go to Willie’s show are humiliated, and that it is easily a transaction that involves money equal to humiliation. this in itself is a version of us looking in, not really knowing what’s there for real, but judging it based on how it looks, what it seems. yet, wala tayo do’n, hindi tayo ang audience or market, hindi tayo ang kausap: how do we even begin imagining that we have a right to speak of it, to judge what is going on?

    yet the ones who engaged in the anti-Willie campaign have found an amount of success in getting Willie off the air for two weeks. but really how important is that success? how much of it is still about the oppression of the poor and their emancipation, and how much is just a false sense of having saved the world by getting rid of Willie on TV?

    TV by the way that members of online/social media proved they don’t watch, happily dependent and content as they are on spliced youtube videos that are necessarily out of context.

    and when you say these noontime/gameshow don’t talk about livelihood programs and entrepreneurship, you also prove two things:

    1. you don’t watch much of the noontime shows either, especially not of Willing Willie. even on Wowowee, even on Eat Bulaga, matagal na ang pangkabuhayan showcase, matagal nang isang buong business ang premyo sa contestant, matagal nang longterm change sa buhay ng contestant ang goal, complete with follow-up visits, with extra support and assistance when/if needed. which brings me to number

    2. matagal na rin itong ginagawa ng Wish Ko Lang, at ng Eat Bulaga kapag Pasko, for a while even si Sharon Cuneta sa Wish Upon a Mega, pero ang tanong ko nga: so this is acceptable to us? even when these stories are sob stories, and the poor are made to cry in these shows as well, this is ok? as long as what’s given them is not just cash but a source of livelihood, ok na tayo sa pagpapaiyak sa mahirap sa TV at pagromanticize ng kanilang kahirapan?

    in fact, these instances of “helping the poor” that you deem acceptable are no better than what Willie and every other noontime show is doing on TV. nor does Willie have a monopoly on this kind of rhetoric: watch any of them noontime shows, from HappyYippeYehey to EatBulaga, and it’s all the same. it’s just that as it turns out, those show hosts are more acceptable than Willie is: now that still needs to be admitted as a class bias by the online lynch mob.

    now suddenly it seem appropriate that what is here is a response to Willie’s articulation of a class war. when in fact the first shot taken in this class war was against him: what of responding to those who deny this is a class war to begin with? the class war can only be Willie’s diversionary tactic, because the middle and upper classes who started the war against him are in utter denial about it.

    1. Reply

      Hi Ina!

      Salamat sa comment and sa kritisismo. 🙂

      I do agree that the importance of getting Willie off air may be a bit exaggerated; he’s no dictator. We need to temper all this with a bit of context. That’s why I do agree with you to a certain extent: what does this all mean to the poor who do not social media?

      Pero the premise of Willie himself – “show natin to” – should give us a “right to speak of it” or a “right to judge what’s going on.” I do watch the shows, and I do agree that the pangkabuhayan showcase is a prize often given, albeit de-emphasized in favor of milyones. True, but again: it’s a dole. It’s not framed along the lines of a greater set of responsibilities. Dapat gobyerno at lipunan ang sinisingil sa mga pangangailangan na ito, hindi TV show.

      Of course I don’t find it acceptable, whoever does it. Yet we cannot forever reduce this to a personal level and leave it as a “whosoever hath not sinned should cast the first stone” kind of thing. For me, here’s an example of how it is to suffer the spectacle of ersatz poverty alleviation. Here’s how, here’s why, and here’s a way out of the impasse. 🙂

      Indeed, we cannot fight class war out of context – in a way, I’m bringing my own upbringing into the conversation. But that does not mean that we are – and should be – forever clouded by the veneer of being subjective when we see something objective.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment Ina!

        • GabbyD
        • April 11, 2011

        “Dapat gobyerno at lipunan ang sinisingil sa mga pangangailangan na ito, hindi TV show.”

        exactly! so why press willie about it?

        1. Reply

          The show, the media, the concept, everything in it, are instruments of the state (used loosely) to preserve the status quo.

        • GabbyD
        • April 11, 2011

        how is it an instrument of the state?

        an instrument is something one can actively use to do something.

        he is a private citizen. are we all instruments of the state?

        • Frank
        • October 3, 2011

        Let’s put it this way. Willie is a popular celebrity, and he knows this. What he (alone, as a person) says or does carries more influence than most people can, combined.

        He has the power to change how people act. He has the potential to change the way a lot of people think, for the better.

        However, instead of showing the right way to give back to the community, he flaunts these shows which promise quick cash, and offer absolutely no way on how to manage money. There’s nothing about giving back via education advocacy, children’s rights, livelihood programs, job creation, business management etc.

        And he still insists that he’s giving away all this money (in exchange for TV ratings, so it’s not like he loses money anyway) for the betterment of the community.

        While he may not be the first person to do this, he is one of the most notable and most prominent figures to flaunt this pseudo-philanthropy. Every time I watch him, he always seems to be under the assumption that he’s doing all this for the good of the masses, when, as this article points out, it isn’t. If anything, it’s obviously counter-productive.

        He could at least donate or give part of his massive amount of wealth he’s earned to more worthy causes, like disaster relief, education (again), etc. He could do all of this off-screen, of course, if he cares so much about TV ratings. I wouldn’t even mind if he “bragged” about this in public, because there ARE worthy causes out there.

        Also, while (for example) I, personally, can make a change for the better by giving my time and money to public school education programs (which I have in the past), I’m not an influential celebrity. I don’t have the power that Willie does when it comes to fame and followers. So there’s only so much one person like me can do.

        If you say it’s time for a change with the “politics” or “society”, the trendsetters and celebrities (like Willie) would be a good place to start.

        That’s the irritating thing. He can change so much in society, but he doesn’t. All for the sake of TV ratings and personal greed.

    • JB
    • April 11, 2011

    “By keeping the poor on a dream state of jackpots, we keep them from realizing their true state for them to offer some degree of resistance that will not only put reforms in TV programming, but reforms in the economy as well.”

    HARD WORK is good. Slacking around waiting for “jackpot” isn’t. The world isn’t waiting while you slack around.
    So while you hang that chance in front of poor people, they settle and waste time that could have or should have been productive.
    HARD WORK is good!

  2. Reply

    I think Willie just defended the show because Wowowee was made to help more poor filipinos and make people happy not just in the Philippines but all over the world.

  3. Reply

    This issue all boils down to poverty and the failure of the government to truly address this end. People will not be trooping to Willie’s show hoping to snatch a million if the government has provided enough for livelihood and other means to address poverty. This only means that in Willie’s show they found hope instead of the government’s support. These people are already fade up by the promises of politicians and they have lost hope from the government. Even if many people may die of stampede on Ultra and other places where Willie’ show is held, believe me people will not stop going to the show because they have found hope there…not from the inutile government of the country.

  4. Reply

    Nice post.

    “Yet one man is not capable of doing all that. In many ways, Willie and his show is a snapshot of the everyday occurrences of injustice in the Philippines. I’m not just talking about lewd dances on TV or dole-outs and jackpots, but the way these practices come together to oppress the oppressed, offering hope through oppression.”

    Agreed. I’m actually quite surprised that there are those who support that idea that exploitation is poverty alleviation, just by another name.

    The entire structure of the show is built around showing people with little opportunity to improve their state dancing/singing/whatever for the chance to earn a little cash in the pocket with the ultimate purpose of attracting viewers who are in similar situations and want the same opportunity. All the while, a television station makes money off of the viewers via advertising dollars and product placement.

    • Giz
    • April 11, 2011

    Great take. Undoubtedly, many studying various social sciences and in particular social inequities will agree with your viewpoint on the overall concept here, not specific to the show.

    It represents a tool or process that shows the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’, i.e. the boundaries of class. Highlighting these boundaries only exacerbates them. Like you say, its not providing opportunities, its not empowering anyone or educating those of lower SES on how to manage in the society they live in.

    Furthermore, as you also touched on, it puts meeting the host as the ‘goal’ when in reality this is not where their energy should be focused. It keeps men like Willie as the ‘way out’ for which people (unknowingly) continue the pattern of trying to get a quick easy buck from, and like mentioned drive social differences. I also wouldn’t call it humiliating for them as one from an ‘out’ group (though it very well might be), but I would call it oppressive in the same way the author does.

  5. Reply

    Poverty is a sin. Think about that statement, first does it make you angry, or second does it make you nod your head in agreement.

    I grew up on the bottom rungs of income and class. Blessed- because somehow I grew a passion for reading and knowledge – this forcing me to keep exploring and looking for answers.

    Poverty is a sin.” Charles Fillmore shocked the religious community when he made that statement almost 100 years ago. It still rings true today. We need to change the WAY WE THINK, we need to change the mindset.

    Are We Children or Are We Men (and Women)?

    We need to empower not pity.
    We need to show that all the worlds knowledge is at your fingertips (google, wikipedia etc).
    We need to show that As a Man Thinketh So is He.

    If we Think Poor We are Poor.

    Action begets action, when we pray we must move our feet. Quit looking for answers from society when we must first look at the answers in ourselves.


    anyway- I am living proof, coming from one part of life into another.

    Its never too late to reinvent ourselves, we must teach people that the genius, glory and majesty of the human spirit is at our fingertips.

    All we have to do is believe in it… and ACT.

    • Bert
    • April 11, 2011

    I agree with all that Marocharim has said about this Willie’s show.

    Except that this world we live in is a capitalist world, and in a capitalist world big business mostly earned their big money by exploiting the poor. Willie is an agent of big businessess hence both the principal and the agent get rich by doling out pittance to the poor and guillible citizens to alleviate temporarily their hunger, and we have to accept that. The alternative is for the government with the consent of the citizens to declare rapaciousness and greed by business/capitalist illegal.

    Until then, it will be unfair to Willie and big business for anyone or any group, or for the government to stop the show without showing that it has committed an illegal act..

  6. Reply

    Willie has gone mad! ,, by his actions nowadays, he has proven to all of us that he is a lunatic, so what if he is still a billionaire, an icon of hope for the poor, a so called angel sent from above? heck! He doesn’t even embody anything that I said, he’s just an arrogant fool thinking that he will always get what he wants for he thinks that majority of the Filipinos is with him, which I doubt if his ob surd actions will not stop… which I also doubt …

  7. Reply

    poor willie…a victim of reality and consequence, hypocrisy & prejudice, of scribes & pharisees, of oligarchs & cronies, antipathy from the middle class, …am not saying he’s sinless (definitely not), but not sinless are those who want him crucified either…much similar to plight of barabas…we must see the good beyond the hate. all game shows are designed for dole-outs while earning a much bigger return, so what now is new or crime here. it’s being done since time in memorial on these types of shows…it just so happened that the boy cried, then everybody cried foul & then kill…i say, new regulations are a must, appropriate penalties be handed and should be applied to all. Willie’s unrepentant behavior is another story…must be a reaction when your back is behind the wall…

    you say, they keep the poor poor, the oppressed oppressed…Jesus said, there will always be poor and the oppressed…but what do we do about & for them which defines us as morally correct. yet we allow, oppression in the rural areas by the rich & powerful, the desperate migration to the cities and of OFWs trying to escape their situation here unprotected & oppressed abroad left to fend for themselves, overpopulation with insufficient resources (RH Bill), corruption in the military & gov’t…kabit-kabit at malalim ang ugat ng problema. where do we stand on all these issues? then, we are all guilty as well! Palasak na lang siguro na sisihin ang gobyerno sa lahat ng mga ito, pero kung ma-alab tayo tulad ng ginagawa kay willie ngayon ay maraming pagbabago ang magagawa natin sa ikabubuti at kaayusan ng ating bansa…huwag tayong ningas-cogon!

    Mabuhay ang lahing Pilipino. Nawa’y patnubayan Niya tayong lahat…

    1. Reply

      erratum: should be “…back against the wall and not behind…my apologies.

  8. Reply

    the show is an entertaining religious event with the tv host as priest or pastor

    • ervie
    • April 11, 2011

    it’s not that poor or marginalized people are just waiting for dole outs…. Other strive hard also to uplift there lives… Politicians, philantrophist and willie does give money…. Yes, they are making them some kind of dependent but they are also expecting that with that certain amount will help them uplift there lives or help them out live a day of their lives out of hunger….. Being a poor doesn’t mean they are prone to be abused it’s just that they need help on how to uplift their lives. Proper education maybe a good thing to do but the irony is no matter how educated some people are with the economic situation our country has it is still hard to get out of this impoverished life.

    • lori
    • April 12, 2011

    I remember the speech of Mark Anthony in Shalespeare’s Julius Caesar. Willy has mastered the art of communicating to his kind of audience. I coulod almost hear him in the end shouting, “Unleash the dogs of war!”

    Someone who wouldlike to open the eyes of his followers must be aware of his technique to be able to effeftively replace the distorted ideas in the brains of this group of people with those that can empower them.of people with the

    • Pao
    • April 12, 2011

    I can agree on most parts, but to generalize all “dole-out” shows including EB, WW, HYY as perpetuating the stratified society with mendicants at the bottom is quite unfair.

    Game shows are their for a reason, to entertain.

    The line should be drawn however when getting rewards while giving away the persons humanity becomes the routine … which is what the shows of Revillame apparently perpetuates.

    Remember the adage, “Give the man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach the man to fish and he will never get hungry.”

    Sometimes, if you really want to help the man, you have to give him fishing lines and nets and only then would you have really helped.

    • Gina J. Macaspac
    • April 13, 2011

    anything that Willie does is sickening. and the real culprits are the capitalist tv
    networks that allow him to wreak havoc on the helpless and hapless Filipinos via tv shows that perpetuate his kind.

    how can we be respected as a nation when we don’t even respect our own!
    If Willie don’t understand this then what are the tv executives then? also idiots like him?

  9. Reply

    di naman galing kay willie yun perang ipinamimigay nya sa show nya. ito ng pera na to galing sa mga sponsor ng show wag ariin ni willie na sa kanya galing ito. dapat wag maging bulag ang mga kompanya sa pag aadvertise sa show ni wille dapat iboycot ng mga kompanya ang show ni wllie.

    • Maria Spada
    • April 24, 2011

    Haha. Willie Revillame, the shopping mall of inspiration. /sarcasm

    • jun
    • May 3, 2011

    Wag nyo sisihin si willie dapat gobyerno ang sisihin natin walang ginagawa ang daming naghihirap.At isa pa pakana lahat ng abs-cbn yan hnd nila matangap na nawalan sila ng milyong milyong kta araw-araw dahil gahaman sila sa salapi tignan nyo n lng ang mga ibat ibang mga business ng mga lopez gaya ng meralco di ba greedy sila sobrang mahal ng kuryente natin pero wala tayung magawa, Walang ginagwa gobyerno ni P-Noy para mapababa man lng ang kuryente ntin ng mga 5pesos per kw, Mag isip nga kau mga kritiko ni willie gobyerno ang dapat sisihin sa sobrang kahirapan ng mga Pilipino.

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