In the Philippines, one can say that a person like myself is an anomaly. Case in point: I’m relatively well-off and can afford to buy video games as a luxury item. To be more specific, almost a third of all Filipinos live below the poverty line, but I do not.
There has always been an undercurrent of restlessness in my mind because of that: I know I’m blessed, but I tend to not take advantage of my good fortune as often as would be thought of. Because of this, I try to avoid watching shows that have a tendency to hit close to the heart so that I don’t feel a sense of guilt pervading my everyday life.
I avoided my usual predilection towards watching Philippine variety game shows tonight, and as a result, I’m writing this now to arrange my thoughts in a more orderly manner.
There’s a show called Willing Willie (not the English definition of “willing,” mind you, but a deliberate misspelling of “willing-wili,” an adjective that means “to be amused.”), frontlined by Willie Revillame, which is basically a televised variety show and game show rolled into one whose contestants and participants are part of the lower income brackets.
I normally avoid this show because of my above-mentioned hesitancy towards thinking about my blessings and my state in life. You see, certain segments really tug at the heartstrings because, as an unspoken rule, just about everybody wins in Willing Willie. By simply being there, you get gift packs, and lucky contestants are given money just for participating or performing their talents for the audience. Sometimes, people win because the host simply makes it so (for instance, an old lady gets the chance to participate in an oversized ring-toss game, and Willie will catch the ring in mid-air and place it in a 10,000 peso spike).
How do you make a game where everyone wins amusing? By letting people tell the stories of their lives, and of their situations in life.
The real reason why I wanted to write this today is because the story of this one father really gnawed at my soul. You see, his twin sons (who are nicknamed Pula and Puti, or Red and White) found out that Willing Willie’s future theme for a specific contest segment was to have twins or triplets be part of the contest. They asked to be a part of the show, and their father did everything in his power to make their wish come true.
The twins are actually part of a brood of seven, and the father single-handedly has to raise them, seeing as his wife died some years prior. He can barely afford to buy food for his family, and education for the kids isn’t even an option at this point as they are simply living from day to day, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. He had to beg a clothes seller near his house so they would have good clothes to wear to the show, and probably had to skip making fares as a pedicab driver and goods transporter to get the two to the show.
By the end of the family’s tale, just about everyone was in tears, including myself (hell, I’m tearing up while writing this) and after the kids presented their dance, Willie gave them 20,000 pesos just for participating, to which the father, in tears, thanked Willie and the crew and was happy because his kids didn’t have to sift through trash for Christmas.
I won’t tell you about the outcome of the competition they were in because the competition isn’t the point. In fact, I’m not sure this write-up has a point. I know the money won’t last, and no real change comes as a result of a temporary boost in funds, but there is joy and hope and tears and a respite from pain for some people when they become a part of a show like that, and sometimes, I think Christmas is all about forgetting sadness for a short while.
The only thing that Willing Willie does to trump Christmas, I think, is that the joy-giving is somewhat sustainable on a six-day-a-week basis, with advertising revenue and whatnot.
In any event, don’t worry. This isn’t the Christmas post. Just a sharing of thoughts. Cheers.