The whole world is talking about the Philippines again.  This time we’re on BBC and CNN because of the Wowowee stampede.  When I heard the news this Saturday, I felt really sad that this is happening to our country.  I’ve seen the show on several occasions, not because I like it (I think it’s nakakabobo like most shows in ABS-CBN), but because Nanay’s attendants love to watch ABS-CBN  shows from morning till evening and since I would usually stay in her room while I was on maternity leave, I had to endure it.  I noticed that the people who join these game shows are those whom you would classify as masa or coming from the C, D, and E brackets of society.  They are the ones who have the time to line up from 6am till 12nn to get into a noontime game show on a weekday because they don’t have a 9-to-5 job.  They are the ones who really need the money because their kids are sick or their homes got razed to the ground when a fire broke out in their neighborhood where the only thing that separates their houses is a wall.  In other words, these are the real Pinoys who live just below or way below the poverty line.

I felt sad when I heard the news because I realized that those people who went to watch the Wowowee anniversary show were desperate.  Desperate enough to wait in line for three days just to get in and, out of sheer luck, get chosen to participate.  I took up Statistics in college and I know that the probability of being selected, given that you have a population of 10,000 or more, is almost nil.  Nonetheless, these people came, some all the way from Aparri (according to the news), because they wanted to try their luck.  And because they desperately needed the money.  Some even brought their kids (most of those who got hurt were kids) because they probably didn’t have anyone at home who could watch over them.

Here is an excerpt from BBC News:

The Wowowee show is popular for giving big cash prizes in a country where 40% of people live on less than $2 a day.

The show, which airs six days a week, normally offers a 1m peso ($19,250) top prize, but Saturday’s anniversary edition had doubled that money.

“This is a programme that intends to help Filipinos, especially the poor,” said host Willie Revillame.

“We only wanted to make these people happy.”

It’s so sad that the Philippines is known as a country where 40% of people live on less than $2 a day.  And I honestly don’t believe that the show only wants to help people.  Because what networks are after, first and foremost, are ratings – because ratings mean more advertisements, and advertisements mean more money for the networks.  When you convert 1million pesos into US$, it seems like a paltry sum.  I think the show teaches people the wrong values by giving dole-outs.  Willie Revillame thinks that he is helping Filipinos by giving them their fish for dinner instead of teaching them how to fish for a lifetime.  Thousands watch Wowowee on TV and wish they were the ones shouting “Pera” or “Bayong.”  Instead of going out and looking for a job, they would stay at home or go to the TV station to watch Wowowee and hope against hope that they would get to bring home a few thousand pesos.  Is this supposed to make them happy?  How long would 50,000 or even 100,000 pesos last, really?  (They don’t give out 1million pesos ALL the time!)  That’s not even enough to pay for my mom’s hospital bills! 

With all that’s happening to our beloved Pinas, I just feel deep sadness.  What will life be like in the Philippines when Enzo and Evie grow up? 

I entitled this post “ang bayan kong pilipinas” because I really like the song “Bayan Ko.”  One of the lines which never fails to move me is “Bayan ko, binihag ka, nasadlak sa dusa.”  How long must our people suffer?

Will we ever get to taste the freedom that the song speaks of? “Aking adhika, makita kang sakdal laya!” 

When will we ever be free from the chains of poverty? Or should I be asking, will we ever be free?

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