Rethinking "Wowowee" From Afar

The show makes you cry. And sick and tired.

No, it is not because of the show. It is the making of poverty and misery as a spectacle for all the world to see, for all the Filipino exiles to see, here in Hawaii and elsewhere. I even hear my sister now dreaming of going to this show when she takes her vacation and 'give something' to help alleviate the burden of the poor. I look at my sister quizzicially, seeing in her a genuine desire to take part in that spectacle concocted by scheming capitalists of charity.

The scenes are sickening, the tears profusely wetting the confused faces of those seeking the pesos to tide them over, to make them overcome their sad sad lot in life.

These scenes you understand well. Exile made you learn. Im/migrant life made you understand the ramifications of having nothing in your pocket except that secret prayer of deliverance recited over and over again.

We have Robinhood models of goodness like this one, like the traditional churches that literally take the excess of the rich to give to the poor.

The churches use a psychological blackmail by its institution of the rite of cleansing that gives a bribe of indulgence and an eradication of their guilt for having so much while many others have so few. Or none at all. This is alms-giving, in another sense, alms-giving with the applause of the viewing public.

On TV, on this most idiotic of all media invented by man, this medium that makes you slouch and equate the sofa as your place of rest and tranquility despite, or because of, the noise and the empty discourses and rhetorics of announcers and hosts, the capitalists of charity make this sense of guilt, this feeling of guilt as something close to an IPO at the stock exchange of the show of love and charity, the stock exchange that does not respect economic borders and national boundaries but goes beyond to reach out to the vulnerable hearts of the balikbayans who have the dollah, the great mightly dollah.

Human misery and depravity as public offerings and spectacles: these are the very stuff of human kindness and goodness that we would rather keep to ourselves.

For one thing, the biblical injunction about the right hand remaining oblivious to what the left hand is doing is violated, the "V" in the "violation" word stressed, capitalized, underscored even.

The show makes you puke even if you empathize with the pleas of the poor, like yesterday's episode that truly broke your heart, you, exile and im/migrant of another land where food comes overflowing on tables that do not know the meaning of hunger, the smell of want, the intricacies of dream for food that is never abundant but simply sufficient to get you by each day. The poor do not dream to overly stuff themselves in order to vomit so that they can feel hunger again like the way the excessive rich Romans did and which we now do, ritualistically, in the United States. The poor only dream of having something in the stomach before they go to sleep.

Here, here in this im/migrant land, they throw away the leftovers. There, there in the homeland, that act is 'ugaw': grace will go away and that is unforgivable. You cannot afford to have grace run away from your humble table.

There, there in the old country, the poor make do with the "fried chicken pagpag": the fried chicken the fastfood chains of the better off Filipinos discard and which the poor await to reclaim from the garbage bin, molds and mildews and microbes and all, have that fired chicken washed of the dirt it gathered and have it re-cooked by a starving mother or a starving father and then offer to the kids as if in a feast, with the shrieking of children hungry for more.

As an im/migrant that has seen both, the scenes come off as conflicting. And the raw emotions come off as conflicted. You can only choke, clear that lump in your throat and say, C'est la vie!

I remember a line from a novel I read, about an account of the poverty and resignation of the people of a third world Bhutan: "But what to do?"

The poor contestants pleaded: "Arnie, pagbigyan mo na ako, parang awa mo na!"

And Arnie's response: "Eto, eto, nangangailangan ito. Hindi kayo uuwi ng talunan. Basta meron kayong iuuwi!"

Two beautiful and young lady contestants that do not have any vestige of poverty come forward. Arnie says: "Etong mga ito, hindi nangangailangan ang mga ito. Hindi ko sila pagbibigyan."

This is a miserable play.

And the moneyed balikbayans and im/migrants like it so.

I like the act of generosity, the spirit of kindness.

But I puke when it comes to the spectacle.

This is plain feudalism and the television capitalists are laughing their way to their bank.

This feudalism had become international as it takes as its audience the visiting im/migrants with all their monies; the show goes on to the channels in im/migrant land, on the TFC, for instance, that the poor mistake as CFC or KFC and all those words that rhyme with copyright owner's name, all, on a sad note on the power of the subconscious/unconscious, suggesting food and more food because the acronyms are food brands.

Paging all the real freedom fighters of television so we are not going to resurrect this play on our miseries. But when? When will all this spectacle of sorrow end?

Ah, cry the beloved country! Cry because this is the only way to lighten the load on your shoulder for the centuries of the rich capitalists yoking the poor with their TV images of charity and Christian love. Whew!

A. S. Agcaoili
Waipahu, HI
July 15, 2005


Lei said...

Maaaring iyan ang panananaw mo dahil siguro, mas masuwerte ka kesa sa mga taong natutuwa na merong Wowowee.

Pero iba ang pananaw ng kapatid mo. Yung pananaw niya e hindi niya inisip tulad ng sa iyo kasi basta na lang niya iyon naramdaman--yung makapunta sa Wowowee at makatulong.

Pasalamat ang mundo na meron pang mga katulad ng kapatid mo at pasensiya na ang mahihirap na merong katulad mo na iba ang tingin sa ganitong gawain.

Sa mga katulad ng kapatid mo, sana dumami pa sila. sa mga katulad mo, sana manahimik na lang.

Kung may mga natutuwa sa mga programang nakakaaliw, anong iniexpect mo sa programang nakakaaliw na e nakakatulong ka pa o natutulungan ka pa?

Sa ganang akin e mas gusto ko yung ako ang nagbibigay kesa ako yung binibigyan.

Ariel said...

You are right. The problem is: ginagawa nilang negosyo at industriya ang kahirapan ng mga mamamayan. Yan ang nakakaasar! Nandun na tayo sa pagtulong. Sang-ayon ako diyan. Pero kapag ibinabando ito at di maghahanap ang lipunan ng kalutasan ng mga iba't ibang mukha ng pagkaduhaging ito, mananatiling ganito ang ating kalagayan sa bayan. Gets mo?