Pinoys in UK demand, get apology for 'racist' comedy skit

By ROSE ECLARINAL, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Oct 20 2008 08:07 PM | Updated as of Oct 21 2008 04:13 AM

LONDON--Simultaneous protests spearheaded by Filipino organizations in London were held on Friday in front of offices of television companies that were behind a segment depicting a Filipina maid on a British comedy show as a sex object.

The protests were held outside the offices of the British  Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) on White City, home of the BBC Television Center, and Tiger Aspect productions (TAP) on Soho St., London.

The show was aired on a BBC channel while Tiger Aspect Productions is behind the TV comedy series.

Some 30 to 50 protesters in the separate venues demanded a public apology for depicting a Filipina maid on the "Harry and Paul" show as a sex object.

They also believe the comedy sketch was racist and sexually-abusive. 

“It’s treating the Filipina maid as an object, sexual object, as if you own the person.  At saka yung other sexual innuendos, ayaw ko yun. That’s wrong,’ said Edgar, who joined the protest at the Tiger Aspect Productions office. 

Meanwhile, protesters at the BBC office headed by Loline Reed, chairperson of the Overseas’ Woman’s Club said: “Kung wala tayong matatanggap na public apology, walang meaning ang ating complaints. Ang feeling ng ibang Pilipino, bakit ba tayo nag-iingay.  Sana tumahimik na lang tayo. Kung di tayo mag- iingay, the more they will target us. They will stereotype us.”

Another community organizer, Bong Farouza, also said a public apology, and not a personal apology, was imperative as the "insult" was also done in public. 

“They have demeaned women, especially the Filipino woman, in public by broadcasting and by airing the program. It’s a public insult so a public apology is needed and an undertaking that this thing should never happen again,” she added.

Apology read on TV

The silent protest at Tiger Aspect productions became emotionally-charged when the company’s chief executive, Andrew Zein faced the protesters.

He maintained the company had already apologized and showed copies of newspapers articles highlighting the company’s remorse and apology for unwittingly offending Filipinos.

However, the protesters insisted on an apology on television.

“You have done the offense on TV, you have to apologize on TV,” said one protester.

In no time, Zein gave in to the demand of the protesters and faced the camera to read the apology.

"We understand that a large number of viewers has been concerned by the depiction of a Filipino woman featured on an episode of Harry and Paul, a series we produce on BBC 1. Firstly, we are absolutely sorry to anyone who has been in any way offended by the program. That wasn’t our intention," he said.

After reading the apology, Zein addressed the protesters: "We certainly recognize that there was a section of the Filipino community who were offended, and to them, we apologize for any offense taken.”
 
Except for a letter to the Philippine Embassy in the UK promising investigation on the matter, and personal apologies to some individuals who lodged complaints against the show, the BBC has yet to issue a public apology.

The "Harry on Paul" show was aired on BBC1 on September 26 and has sparked various reactions from Filipinos in the UK. 

Pinoy sensibilities were hit by the "gutter humor" on the show, which allegedly depicted racism and exploitation of domestic helpers.

For many Pinoys in the UK, the humor underlines gross ignorance and insensitivity of the producers of the show and is an insult not only to domestic helpers but to the Filipino people as a whole.