When Willie Revillame started hosting Wowowee in Feb. 2005, his heart was light and easy, eager to please and entertain especially the marginalized sector of Philippine society. It was a heart that truly and sincerely cares for the masa with whom Willie can easily identify because he, too, experienced how it was to miss meals and sleep on the hard floor of a cramped rented room, with a dilapidated electric fan that produced more creak than cool air.
Two weeks ago when he quit Wowowee in a huff and in protest against Jobert Sucaldito whom he accused of hitting him “for almost one year already” in Jobert’s program on dzMM (ABS-CBN’s sister company), Willie was diagnosed to be suffering from ulcers, a bad throat (no doubt from talking on the show almost non-stop for two hours and a half Monday thru Saturday) and a clogged heart that continues to beat for, should I say, the down-trodden, most of whom show up on Wowowee in slippers (vendors, etc.) and in worn-out clothes (streetkids, etc.), and go home not luhaan (no tears) because Willie sees to it that they are cared for with a reassuring hug and, most important of all, with financial help (even the contest losers get consolation prizes).
Either you love Willie or you hate Willie. Most of those in the upper class (A and B) — those who can afford to buy computers and maintain Twitter and Facebook accounts — hate Willie with impunity; and those in the lower class (B, C and D) — who can hardly afford to have three meals a day and to buy branded clothes — love Willie with a passion. There lies the secret of Wowowee’s success both here and abroad where there are TFCs (The Filipino Channel).
Willie has remained “inaccessible” at the moment, he’s in “seclusion,” refusing to answer or return calls (placed through third parties) or text messages. He’s sorely missed by Wowowee followers and his co-hosts (all of them, I hope!) and his staff who have only nice words for Willie.
“He’s generous,” said one of the 98 staffers whom Willie treated to a holiday in Hong Kong with $200 pocket money each. “He never forgets to give us bonus or to help with hospital bills and other needs kapag kulang ang budget namin,” adding with pained laughter, “parang nga siya ATM namin, eh!”
Does this piece sound like, sigh, a “tribute” to Willie who has been temporarily replaced (for two weeks) by Robin Padilla on Wowowee which is, the network’s biggest money-maker? And the bigger question: Will Willie ever go back to Wowowee?
Read between the lines of the following letter Willie has just sent to the ABS-CBN bosses, a copy of which was furnished Funfare by my Bohol Avenue VDPA (Very Deep Penetration Agent) who swore that she would kill me if I revealed her identify (don’t worry, “auntie,” the secret will remain a secret forever):
12 May 2010
MR. EUGENIO LOPEZ, III
Chairman of the Board
ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.
Mo. Ignacia Ave., Quezon City
Through: Ms. Charo Santos-Concio
ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.
Dear Sir Gabby and Ma’am Charo,
I have labored over the past week on what to do in the face of another setback in my relations with the management of the network. ABS-CBN has been my home for the last five years and five months and it has given me the greatest gift – the opportunity to reach out to people who have so little in life.
In the process, I have come to realize that my gratitude to the network would be more meaningful if I considered the impact of my recent actions which has placed the station in a bad light. This is among the reasons, as I will explain in this letter, that I humbly request the management, to release me as a talent of the network. (Willie’s contract is good for one year and a half more. — RFL)
It is no secret that the program “Wowowee,” for almost five and a half years, has been the core of my existence. The program gives me a sense of purpose because I make people happy and I give them hope that, despite their difficulties, they can make things happen for themselves. Because of this, my world has revolved around the show. The desire to make it the best noontime show, has consumed my waking hours, as I conceptualize its format and contents from Monday to Saturday. Apart from this, I want the show to give the network excellent ratings to maintain its reputation as the leader in the broadcasting industry.
My devotion to the show is unparalleled that I have even been besieged by health problems due to the long hours I spend daily, thinking of how to bring “Wowowee” closer to the public. In fact, I have developed a heart blockage, which has already once posed a real threat to my life. I have sacrificed so much. Now, I have to accept the reality that I also have to take good care of my health.
Hence, it is very painful to hear every time my show is the target of unwanted and unnecessary tirades. I do not think that these people even have the slightest clue of what I go through to put together a show like “Wowowee”’. The show is not for me, but for those people who dream of a better life. Is it too much to ask that we be respected for what we do? Is it too much to ask that we be defended from such attacks?
My outburst last week during the live presentation of the show is nothing more than a reflection of my frustration over these things, and was not at all meant to disrespect the network and its management. I implore you to understand that several incidents, which were beyond my control which have marred the reputation of the show to some extent, have already taken their toll on me.
There was the “Wilyonaryo” incident wherein we were accused of deceiving contestants about their winnings; the Ultra stampede wherein I was blamed and severely criticized; the misunderstanding about my remarks when the coverage of the funeral of the late Pres. Corazon Aquino was unexpectedly shown in the giling-giling portion of “Wowowee”’s airing, for which I have apologized. In all these incidents, I took responsibility even if I was not at fault.
I do not want to cause any further embarrassment to the network. I know that all these have caused so much strain on our relations and I would like to save the situation by asking that I be released as a talent of the station. This way, I will have the much-needed space and time to contemplate on my direction in life and, at the same time, maintain the relationships I have built within the network, which are all worth preserving.
Before I end this letter, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to all the important people I have had the good fortune to work with during the years I have been with ABS-CBN. Ma’am Charo, maraming salamat sa lahat ng pagkakataon na naibigay ninyo sa akin. Kayo po ang tinuturing kong ina na patuloy akong tinatanggap at minamahal sa kabila ng lahat ng aking kahinaan. Hinding-hindi ko po kayo makakalimutan at lahat ng mga bagay na ginawa ninyo para sa akin.
Kay Mr. Gabby Lopez, maraming salamat po sa inyong pagtitiwala sa aking kakayanan na magbigay ng mahusay na programa. Kay Tita Cory Vidanes, maraming salamat sa pagiging maunawain ninyo sa akin. Kay Mr. Johnny Manahan, maraming salamat sa walang-sawang pag-suporta ninyo sa akin at sa “Wowowee,” at lalong lalo na sa pagtayo ninyo bilang aking pangalawang ama. Kay Ms. Linggit Tan, Mr. Jay Montelibano at Mr. Edgar Mortiz, maraming salamat sa suporta at tulong ninyo na mapabuti and programang “Wowowee” para sa ikaliligaya ngmga natutulangan natin. Sa lahat ng bumubuo ng management ng ABS-CBN, maraming salamat sa tulong ninyo sa aking programa.
Higit sa lahat, sa lahat ng mga taong sumuporta at patulong na sumusuporta sa show na “Wowowee,” maraming salamat at kayo ang nagbibigay sa akin ng lakas na gawin ang mga dapat kong gawin. Sana po ay maunawaan ninyo ang aking kahilingan sa sulat na ito. Ayaw ko na pong may masasaktan pa at gusto ko lang na maisaayos lahat. Taos-puso akong humihingi sa inyo ng tawad at lubos na pang-unawa sa lahat ng pinagdadaanan ko ngayon.
There will never be enough words to express my gratitude to all of you…
Salamat at mabuhay po kayong lahat!
— Willie B. Revillame
Ms. Charo Santos-Concio
Ms. Cory Vidanes
Mr. Johnny Manahan
Ms. Arlene De Castro
Ms. Linggit Tan
Mr. Jay Montelibano
Mr. Edgar Mortiz
There you are.
I agree with what Tempo’s Ronald Constantino wrote in his column yesterday: Willie is Wowowee and Wowowee is Willie, as in worthless one without the other? It’s like saying, Sharon is Megastar and Megastar is Sharon...Maricel is Diamond Star and Diamond Star is Maricel...Or, Vilma is Star For All Seasons and Star For All Seasons is Vilma.
My prayer is that Willie and the ABS-CBN bosses will adjourn their scheduled meeting (on Monday, May 24?) on a happy note. Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed.