The real road that led us to Jan Jan, Willie Revillame, and TV5

Willie Revillame is on the defense. And like a cornered mad dog, he is lashing out snarling with bared teeth. Revillame cited several celebrities as, in his opinion, being guilty of “prejudging” him. Some headlines count them among people that Revillame intends to sue for libel. An Inquirer.net report, lists the following celebs as having been specifically identified by Revillame as having cast stones at him:

Lea Salonga

Jim Paredes

Aiza Seguerra

Tuesday Vargas

Agot Isidro

However, there is no reliable information source that reports an intention in Revillame to sue these people.

On the other hand one social media “activist” has so far been reported to be the subject of a possible lawsuit. TV5 reportedly plans to sue blogger and culture commentator John L. Silva for libel, an initiative that Revillame says he will support. As far as any references to pedophilia, Silva’s blog only has the following snippet coming out of the entry “Topping the Grossness of Willing Willie” …

A few days or months before, a few of them probably had to macho dance for some pedophile before the [Pangarap Boys Shelter] saved them. How bizarre if not abominable that there are TV programs, supported by companies that mimic what poor boys actually do.

A bit of a stretch to conclude from the above that Silva makes the assertion that TV5 and Revillame are “pedophiles” (considering too the rather flawed structure of the last sentence that, if taken literally impies that said “TV programs” mimic the presumed macho-dancing that poor boys “actually” do).

Still, as I observed in my previous piece “Was it really all about Jan Jan?” perhaps the media (or, shall we say, social media) circus that this whole episode had become is such that it now begs one to take pause and step back from the noise to regard all this with a broader perspective. The Philippines, after all, is a society where children don’t sit too high in most people’s lists of people to dignify.

Indeed, blogger ChinoF tables a question that many Filipinos will probably find themselves hard-pressed to confront: “Does Filipino Society treat Children Poorly?” and proceeds to make these astute observations:

The way children are treated within families:

Even within families, children are used for adults’ pleasure. At parties, they are sometimes made to dance the Ocho-Ocho, Spaghetti Dance or other funny dances just to make the adults laugh. I find that rather unkind. Adults like these only treat children as a source of entertainment, and not as the future. Thus, the disrespect that media shows in children may or may not be a reflection of treatment in the family.

The way Media portrays children:

One children’s advocate before, I believe it was Ms. Feny Angeles Bautista, said that media representation of children was always unkind. Children have always been seen as abused, as “slaves of the adults” or as a source of laughter. Filipino media likes to poke fun at kids, and barely treat them with any sort of equality. She said this in 1997 or 1998. It seems very true today.

The Jan-Jan incident is perhaps only the latest in a long history of poor treatment and portrayal of children in the local mass media. When media releases a “children’s” show, it has be something like Goin’ Bulilit – where children are again the subject of entertainment for adults. Even the old series May Bukas Pa does not show children in a positive light. Barely are children given good treatment in local media, and it helps enforce the idea that children are there for the adults to use as they see fit.

ChinoF’s observations tie in squarely with the reality illustrated by a letter sent to me way back in 2006 by a reader also lamenting the hypocrisy of a society that fancies itself as populated by people hungry for respect but is, in reality, one that lacks a deep understanding of the concept. That letter, a personal all-time favourite of mine, is poignant in its child-like pointedness in describing the dysfunctional ‘wisdom’ of Filipino ‘elders’:

we filipinos are so hypocrete. we live on lies and half truth.

when I was a kid (am now 40 [years old]) our elders never give us straight answer. one day while playing to my female friend, we were both taking a bath (nude and I was 5 [years old]) I shout “ay pepe” [and] my aunt scolded me for saying bad words.

another was, when I ask my aunt again how did I come out in this world. and without hesitation she said “galing ka sa puwet”.

there’s alot more lies and half truth i learn from my elders, when we went to US at my age of 10 [years old], I was so surprised how ordinary folks explain everything as if am talking to them as the same age as mine. up to now am still wandering why we filipinos doesnt treat kids as intellectual and the future of our country, in the philippines, youth are deprive of ideas what is better for them.

Were it not for the immense and, now, borderline ridiculous momentum gained by the lynching of Willie Revillame over “social media”, perhaps I would still have found myself regarding with admiration the way we have found what could have been a sweet spot in our efforts to police our own ranks. But what seems to be taking shape today is beginning to look more like a mere reflection of the same sick polarised society; with the gated community elite on one side delivering summary judgment over the popular sentiment of the majority.

Who after all can judge Willie Revillame who merely reflects the ingrained regard for children of a majority population who utterly lack a Western individualist lens with which they can see their kids; a lens that can only be acquired through a sustained exposure to Western philosophies and social frameworks that the more prosperous but infinitesimally tiny minority of Filipinos enjoy? The Philippine elite take for granted this Western-originated approach to raising kids as individuals possessing of a deep sense of entitlement to dignity. Unfortunately we, in this elite, are surrounded by the Average Filipino Schmoe who, as ChinoF demonstrates, sees kids as mere property out of which some future return (say, in the form of remittances once their destiny as OFWs are fulfilled) will be exacted. And in this taking for granted our children’s individuality and sense of entitlement — what is in actuality an alien concept to the average Filipino — we go on to presume to judge Revillame and Jan Jan’s family.

In his book The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell applies what is often regarded as a concept with a negative connotation — entitlement — to highlighting key differences between the way upwardly-mobile families and those who are considered “disadvantaged” train their children for life as adults. He cited the work of American sociologist Annette Lareau who conducted a study of how kids from different social backgrounds are raised.

The heavily scheduled middle-class child is exposed to a constantly shifting set of experiences. She learns teamwork and how to cope in highly structured settings. She is taught how to interact comfortably with adults, and to speak up when she needs to. In Lareau’s words, the middle-class children learn a sense of “entitlement.”

That word, of course, has negative connotations these days. But Lareau means it in the best sense of the term: “They acted as though they had a right to pursue their own individual preferences and to actively manage interactions in institutional settings. They appeared comfortable in those settings; they were open to sharing information and asking for attention….It was common practice among middle-class children to shift interactions to suit their preferences.” They knew the rules. “Even in fourth grade, middle-class children appeared to be acting o their own behalf to gain advantages. They made special requests of teachers and doctors to adjust procedures to accommodate their desires.”

[My boldface for emphasis]

Imagine then explaining to a child raised in an underclass background that they are “entitled” to a dignified existence. Perhaps this is the key ingredient missing in the upbringing of the average Filipino child. And from that piece of insight, we begin the journey of understanding why Philippine society is the way that it is.

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7 Comments on “The real road that led us to Jan Jan, Willie Revillame, and TV5”

  1. “a deep sense of entitlement to dignity.”

    Nice set of words to distinguish western goodwill from Filipino self-service. I need to reflect on the matter of self esteem here. The people I meet have no lack of it. In western culture, given the same circumstances – abandoned by parents, poverty stricken, little sympathy coming their way – the kids would grow up to be train wrecks. Here they get along with a great deal of swagger. No lack of confidence at all.

  2. Sobra naman ang media sa atin, kaunting mali lang biglang ganyan ang bagsak. Sheesh! Sure nagkamali si Willie but the thing is, he is just as human as the rest of us, also flawed and also capable of doing mistakes.

    Kulang na nga lang eh barilin nila sa ulo si Willie. What do you expect sa “one sided” culture? Walang understanding, basta kung mali, regardless kung ano reason niya, mali agad.

    1. Pero nagkamali si Willie nga. So do we leave him unpunished? That’s just like our government not putting away the corrupt at all. Give him his dues… which are actually long due since the MTB days and the Ultra Stampede.

      You are right in one thing: the media is to blame because it is hypocritical, since it seems to be punishing Willie, but it created this monster in the first place!

      1. No I’m not saying don’t punish him. Of course parusahan siya sa ginawa niya, but the thing is pinalala lang ng media.

        It’s pretty obvious may galit na galit sa kanya kasi sa lahat ng shows siya yung sinabugan ng itriga.

    2. The sort of behaviour Willie Revillame exhibits is nothing new and goes way back to the days when Tito Vic and Joey reined as his equivalent back in the 70’s. I recall similar acts even back then by kids. And not just kids. They also had shows then that had old ladies performing in ridiculous costume to the guffaws of the vacuous audience.

      It means we as a society tolerate this sort of garbage for the better part of the last 30 years. It is a society reflected very accurately by its entertainment industry.

  3. “She is taught how to interact comfortably with adults, and to speak up when she needs to.”

    Growing up there was no arguing with my parents. The rule was they were always right, and if i wanted to say something i just keep it to myself because if i didnt i would get whipped by a belt. Maybe the argument would be a scientific one like “The sun will eventually die and become a supernova” and their side of the argument would be “the sun is not going do die until the the antichrist comes” and they would be very aggressive on how right they are, sometimes i would get hit by a belt because i was being “philosopo.” Every thing my parents would say apparently supersedes anything i’ve learned.

    I remember when i was a kid my mom had accidentally dropped my box of legos and made a mess, she told me to clean it up. I refused to clean it up on the grounds that i didn’t make that mess, so i got my ass beat for that one.

    Also when me and my sister was younger we were always taught to clean up after ourselves after eating, but our parents never did that for themselves. They would just leave their plates on the table and have us clean up after them, we pretty much expected to act like maids rather than children sometimes.

    This filipino trait of treating kids as commodities seems to be true in my point of view.

  4. It is an unfortunate incident…we have been having shows like these shows, for so long…it was only when; some bloggers, shouted: “Child Exploitation”, that people woke up…
    Revillame should accept his fault…he is part of this child exploitation scheme…along with exploitation of the poverty of the Filipinos…part of the Blame and Diversion tactic of the Aquino Administration…

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