Thursday, May 19, 2011

Revillame Revisited, Part I of III

A Portrait of Slow Transformation

By Mila D. Aguilar

Yes, "progressive" darlings, I went to see "Wil Time Bigtime" at its reopening inside ABC-5 on Saturday.
And that’s because I never agreed with your self-righteous rants about Willie Revillame, nor your total damnation of his episode with the hapless boy who macho-danced on his show.

Rather, I have always wondered what made Willie Revillame tick with the masses. These are the masses you are supposed to be loving, at least ideologically, but whom you have never really known. Because the masses you know are the indoctrinated ones, the ones we both call "organized," who do not gyrate or sing or laugh spontaneously.

I have been in search of those masses the past thirty years, and have found them. They are not the masses you know.  They are the masses that Willie Revillame knows. He is a representative of those masses.

That is why I have been keeping tabs of Willie Revillame some years now. Not consistently, but closely enough to see that through the years, he has developed, even if by the painful little, shedding his grossness and crassness bit by bit.

My memory of his first suspension was when he, Randy Santiago and John Estrada joked very badly about some sexy vixen beside them, giggling like adolescents with their flies virtually open. Correct my remembrance of the event if I’m wrong.

That suspension, if I remember right, hardly tempered Willie’s attitude towards women, but it did temper his crassness, if only a bit.

Barely-clad women still dance sexily on his shows -- as they do in all viable entertainment extravaganzas -- but he has stopped looking at them lustily, at least in public. For me, this is a very big development both for Willie personally and in terms of his influence over the public at large, even if it happened over a long decade.

But what got me more interested in Willie was when he started to show his compassion for the masses. That was already manifest while he was at ABS-CBN in his tear-jerking interviews with his contestants. You know, if you’re truly in love with the people you pretend to espouse, you show it by the way you ask questions about their personal lives. If you are able to show your sincere interest, they respond to you with the truth -- the naked truth, which may seem vulgar at some points to you who are ensconced in your petty bourgeois ivory towers, but are enough to wrench the hearts of Willie’s masa viewers, who came from the same truth.

At ABS-CBN, however, the money relationship between Willie and the masa often came to the fore. There was even a time when some starlets sang to him something like “Money, Money, Money, Give Me Money and I’ll Give You Love.” You could tell from his face that the song hurt. It was as if the crass jokes he had made with Randy Santiago and John Estrada had come back to him karma-like in the form of a crass song about money. It was as if the reality of his relationship with his mother had struck him dead in his tracks.

At TV5, the money relationship was happily subsumed under his genuine feelings for the people. He still gave away gifts and prizes, and the masses still hankered for them, but the love relationship was on its way to some form of purification -- until, of course, the six-year-old Jan-Jan came onstage, and Willie’s old habit of sincerely trying to give his masses “saya at tuwa” got the better of him.

I don’t blame you for pouncing on that. I do suspect that the media fervor was whipped up in no small measure by parties interested in getting back audience lost during the hours he was on air, but I don’t blame those parties either; all is fair in profit-oriented love and war. But I do stare in wonderment at how none of you who style yourselves as “progressive” saw that Willie Revillame is a child of the class divide and should therefore become a subject of study if not sympathy, but not of utter revilement.

Have you ever tried to get authentic feedback from your un-indoctrinated maids, at the very least? They will tell you that they like Willie because “nakakatulong siya sa tao,” “nagbibigay siya ng saya.” And they will not understand why you have so willy-nilly attacked him.

But anyway, he’s back, to the consternation of the competition. His production team has tried to put together a more thoughtful show highlighted by a state of the art high-definition LED floor. They have integrated your high-brow requirement of a quiz portion at the end of the show. Hopefully that will educate your great unwashed -- your great unwashed, whose priority has, according to the latest studies, always been television, radio and newspapers whether they can afford it or not; in other words INFORMATION, belying your charge of ignorance on them.

Those, however, are not what I noted in my mind when I watched the reopening on Saturday.

What I noticed first and foremost was that the show started with a -- surprise -- prayer! The young man who prayed asked for guidance from the Lord God of heaven and earth. And his prayer, rather long by TV standards, ended with “in Jesus’ name, Amen”!

I asked Jay Montelibano, ABC-5 Managing Director of TV Productions, if this was a practice before the reopening, and he said Yes. Of course I have no one to verify his claim, but my main concern is Willie Revillame anyway. Did I see any change in Willie with regard to his spiritual wellbeing?

I certainly did. While Jay replied that Willie himself had been mentioning God before the reopening, it was my first time to notice. In fact, in the previous show, I was rather concerned that while more and more of his contestants referred to the Lord as their source of strength, he would not respond to them in any way. This time, however, the words came from the man himself.

Does this matter? Isn’t it all a show?

I would say Yes, it matters, and No, it wasn’t a show. The man is transparent -- more transparent than any of your “progressives” or even “saints.” It was his very transparency that got him into all that trouble with the sex jokes, with his 2010 endorsement of Manny Villar, with the Jan-Jan episode. So this time, his transparency speaks of his humbling; he is now, by his very comportment, awed by the God who causes his constant rise and fall; none of his seeming arrogance showed, at least last Saturday.

It was his transparency too that caused him to thank, among others, such Christians as Gary and Angeli Valenciano and Bro. Eddie Villanueva for their heartfelt greetings and concern for him.

It was his transparency that caused him to gush over being regaled to lunch or dinner by rich men and women -- he who came from the poor, he who once had no manners!

So has he totally changed once and for all?

I would like to say Yes, but I remember how long it has taken me to shed all my sins since I surrendered to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Master and was born again of the Holy Spirit. It took God ten years to sweep off the major cobwebs in my mind and another ten years to wash me further of my past. I’m now on my twenty-first year in His service, and He still has to squeeze me of my earthly habits a little bit more!

So now here’s the rub: At the Saturday reopening, Willie brought out a tiny elephant that he said had been given to him by Cristina Ponce-Enrile because it was “maswerte.”

That tiny elephant is indicative of the idols Willie still has to smash in his life. One of those idols is his relationship with his mother. Successful men (and maybe women too) usually have a troublesome relationship with their mothers. It took me sometime to get over my own, and my mother wasn’t even the problem; it was my own rebellion. I was more terrible to my son than my mother ever was to me. So I could imagine how Willie must feel about his mother.

As long as he doesn’t get over that, he will keep on making mistakes, and the competition will keep on pouncing on him.

But once he gets over it, once he has forgiven her fully, once he starts talking openly about her, about his dire poverty and how he grew up; in fact, once he starts to genuinely love a woman for what she is because she loves him for himself -- not his money, nor his talents --, he is certain to become the greatest entertainment host in Philippine history.

Part II: The Great Class Divide
Part III: What Then Should Be Done?

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