Driving along the familiar roads of Makati, I find that it is almost impossible for one to never see a homeless person begging, literally, on the street; their gray, unwashed hands knocking on windows of cars, their faces pleading for some of your change, and for food that they may eat. It can be heartbreaking sometimes, especially when the beggar is a child.
But in the Philippines, these people are a familiar sight. Poverty is the rule, not the exception. And when I say poverty, I mean knee-deep in the muck kind of poverty, and I can almost mean that literally. Forget about quality of life or even dignity; in a lot of cases, these people just want to survive. And you can see it in some of these homeless people’s faces, their eyes conveying nothing but desperation.
There are con artists to be sure, who simply go out on the streets to beg, acting like they were handicapped or insane, just so they wouldn’t have to do an honest day’s work. But in a country where the poor outnumber the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy in mind-boggling numbers, it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between the two.
Willie Revillame, an extremely popular celebrity in the Philippines especially among the poor, was once under fire for allowing a child named Jan-jan to simulate the dance of a male stripper on his game show. There are several clips all over the internet, and the first thing you would notice is that the child was crying while it was all happening, and that the audience, in a cruel display of heartlessness, was . Revillame, obviously possessing very little empathy, even went so far as to say that he admired the child for doing what he did just so he could help his family. He then gave Jan-jan Php10,000 as a prize for his performance.
When you watch the whole thing, it literally makes you want to throw up. Have our countrymen been ground so low that they would allow their children to do something so obviously horrible just so they can get by? Are TV shows so blinded by the bottom-line that they are willing to subject a child to pointless psychological abuse just so its audiences are entertained? When will we realize that these people who act like champions for the poor are nothing but greedy hypocritical sharks who really do nothing but profit from our less fortunate brethren? When will we realize that instead of helping, these shows cultivate a culture of mendicancy, where instead of being taught to stand on our own two feet, we are made to depend, our arms outstretched, on the alms given by false kings?
In an obvious display of self-righteousness, one that shows his ignorance and malice and worthlessness, Revillame claims that he shouldn’t be criticized for what he did, and that he was only trying to help the poor and that he only wanted to make people happy.
Revillame lives off the myth that he is one of the poor, that he wants nothing but to help them. The irony is that he is a multi-billionaire who generated his wealth at the expense of countless Filipinos’ dignity.