THE REASON Willie Revillame is famous is clear. He gives away stacks of money. So many people want to be on his show. To dance, sing, laugh, and yes, even to be laughed at, and made fun of.
To many, that?s okay. It?s a fair trade-off. You get a prize, after all. You just have to join the fun, to laugh and smile.
But then here comes this little boy, Jan-Jan, who?s not following the script.
He?s not laughing. He wouldn?t smile. And tears are flowing down his cheeks ? as he is twisting his body around to a Snoop Doggy Dog rap tune, pretending to be a little macho dancer.
It doesn?t appear to bother Revillame.
?He?s even crying,? the host says, laughing, ?Ganyan ho ang hirap ng buhay ng tao. [That?s how hard life is]. Of course, he will dance like a macho dancer despite his age for his beloved family.?
?Pinahanga mo ako Jan-Jan. ? Ibang klase ka Jan-Jan. .. Meron kang ten thousand! [You?re great Jan-Jan! You get ten thousand]!?
He hands the cash over to the little boy who stuffs the money in his pocket.
But he?s still not smiling.
Maybe Revillame is thinking, ?Hey, I already gave him the dough,? so he goes for another round. Jan-Jan does another dance.
?May luha pa iyan ha. [He?s even got tears] .. It?s like the movie ?Burlesk Queen,?? Revillame says. The camera shows the studio audience laughing, all having a great time.
Meanwhile, Jan-Jan still has a somber look on his face. Still no smile. He just keeps dancing.
Willie Revillame had the misfortune of being famous in the age of YouTube and Facebook. For while he was able to make his studio audience laugh (and many others watching at home, to be sure), others who saw what happened on the Web were outraged.
Like me and my friends.
?It is sickening to watch!? one of my friends said.
?Our culture has sunk so low for this to happen,? another said.
Then again, that?s not how others saw it. On the YouTube page where the video was posted, many were just as amused and thrilled as the studio audience.
?Ayus parekoy! Galing mo!?
Let me pause here for a while.
Revillame?s show and others like it are meant to amuse and to give people a chance to fool around and have fun. I have no problem with that. I also reject the elitism that dismisses those who patronize such shows as lowbrow, or bakya. As a writer, I?m against censorship or any attempt to suppress people?s right to express themselves.
But what happened to that little boy is another matter. I?ve watched noontime shows in which children perform. Often, they look like they?re enjoying themselves (though it?s hard to be sure, of course).
But Jan-Jan was clearly in torment. And even Revillame apparently picked up on it.
?Kaya niya ginagawa ?yon para sa pamilya. [He?s doing this for his family],? he says. ?He doesn?t feel good about it? ? then he pretends to be Jan-Jan, ?But I have to do this for my beloved family.?
Then Revillame laughs.
Who wouldn?t feel your blood boiling in your veins while watching that?
Other Manila shows do these things, my friends say. Even here in the States, it?s become common to have ordinary people turned into TV characters ? so they can show their skills, show their humanity, or just to be humiliated.
?American Idol,? ?Survivor,? and other so-called ?reality shows.?
But I don?t know why, but the clip of Jan-Jan just struck a nerve.
Maybe because we know that when we let children be humiliated in front of millions of people, when we let them be subjected to that kind of torture, we somehow degrade our soul as a nation.
Heck, let?s be more direct on this: We have a big problem if it?s OK for most people to let a big shot TV host treat a child like garbage.
Copyright 2011 by Benjamin Pimentel. On Twitter @Kuwento Pimentel