Just For The Money

It was just a kid trying to make a buck.

Jan-Jan, age 6, performed a macho dance on national television for the princely sum of ten thousand pesos. To the chant of his parents, the audience and Willie Revillame, the host, he did so, even in tears.

Willie was unapologetic: ”That’s how hard life is. He’s doing it for his family even if he feels bad about it.” Willie got it, even as he laughed all the way to the bank. We hope his corporate sponsors get it as well.

The producers and the station were officially contrite, but not really. It was just a lark, they intimated. To Manny Pangilinan’s boys we say, shame on you.

Jan-Jan’s parents decried: It was just for the money.

It was just for the money.

That seems something increasingly prevalent to our culture.

The three Filipino drug carriers executed in China did it just for the money.

Generals skim their budgets just for the money, even as their under-equipped men die in the jungles of Mindanao.

Our politicians and officials steal the nation blind, just for the money.

Our country did not attend the Nobel Peace ceremony just for the money. China is too big a trading partner to offend (The President was also hoping to save our convicted countrymen, to no avail).

Prostitution is defined as debasing oneself, just for the money. What does that make us as a nation?

The common belief is that the Philippines’ affliction is about corruption.  Yet, as we see in the Jan-Jan and Nobel affairs, our condition extends beyond corruption.

Our illness is about the debasement of our culture. We are a nation that is down on itself.

Internally we have come to believe that we have a failed psychosis, a crab mentality that seeks the lowest common denominator. We seek in entertainment the most crass in the human condition: T&A, violence, and humiliation. Our idea of a good time is reducing a child to tears.

Externally we display this inferiority through subservience, witness our action on the Nobel matter, on the Luneta affair. It is of no help that we are known as the maids to the world.

We have become a diminished people.

And yet it need not be so.

For, when we apply ourselves, we are a nation of achievers. People Power, Manny Pacquiao, Lea Salonga, Heidi Mendoza, our overseas doctors and nurses, our call center operators, and, yes, even our exported household help show we are world class.

It just needs for us to believe.

It just needs for us to honor our dignity and our heritage, to recognize all that is worthy in us which is plentiful. We should not be defined by the corrupt, mindless and skeptics among us.

It just needs for us to stand tall in the society of nations, not be cowed by the power and wealth of our counterparties. We are a sovereign people.

It just needs for us to imbibe the values of community, love, discipline, care for the weak, respect for the elders, the spirit of Bayanihan.

We need to inject into our development plans the softer side of progress, the tenets that make for a kinder and gentler society. If necessary, let us trade so many points of GDP for a cultural renaissance, one that will restore our essence as humans.

The tragedy in Japan has so clearly demonstrated that in times of crisis it is not the financial wealth of a nation but the richness of its values- solidarity, order, respect, empathy- that will sustain and comfort the aggrieved.

Singapore is what it is not because of its economic strength but because of its core beliefs. The latter is what led to the former.

This country is ready for a restoration of its values. May 10 was a good start, it held the promise of high hopes and common purpose. However we have since returned to the mundane, to the small, to the petty.

The President has succumbed to the notion that resurrecting the economy is the key to our progress. In truth, with the right underpinnings, the economy will resurrect itself. The animal instincts of the private sector will see to that.

As our leader the President might instead address the elemental issue of our human spirit, the rekindling our national heritage.

As Filipinos, we must believe that we can be better than we are.

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About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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42 Responses to Just For The Money

  1. frank says:

    Leo, another wonderfully written piece, full of inspiring words and thoughts. My perspective is similar to yours, a foreignor having both lived and earned my living here for many years. I have the utmost respect for the people with whom I have worked and for whom I have had responsibility. Truly world-class, with a strong work ethic, and a great capacity to learn and adapt. But we need more than words to make the country great. How does one transform a national mindset to become a “tiger” in the world community. What specifically has to be done? Perhaps you should dwell on that in future blogs?

    • steksnikliu says:

      good writing again.
      great suggestions again.
      its all about DOING the right thing again.
      riding the right values through.
      just one thing though: why always the president.
      for that matter, why always and again … it’s all about us.
      all of us.
      why not … you.

    • steksnikliu says:

      frank,
      i agree totally.
      i want to see Leo dwell on positive solutions.
      it is just whining.
      c’mon. life cannot be that boring –
      or is it …. really…

  2. Ging says:

    What I love about this piece, Leo, is that it is full of hope and promise. We just need to believe in ourselves, in our capacity for transformation. Willie, the archetypal trickster is the reflection of our baser side. Hopefully the maltreatment of Jan-Jan, which violated almost everything we hold sacred, will be the beginning of that transformation.
    Keep ’em coming, Leo!

  3. Peachy Bretaña says:

    We have lost our dignity and self-worth. Just for the money. But like what you said, “We have to believe we can be better than we are.”

    Thank you.

  4. Gerry Rodriguez says:

    In local newspapers today (April 4), it was mentioned that the “DOJ, CHR, and the MTRCB are all up in arms” because a 6-year-old boy was “forced” to do a “macho dance” on the air (he was crying when he did it). Willie Revillame and TV5 are being criticized for a blatant violation of child abuse (and child labor!), esp. since the parents of the boy were paid P10,000.

    When will corporate executives (TV5 and advertisers) realize that making a quick buck by supporting someone like Willie is not worth the long-term degradation of their company’s image (and core values) because people like Willie will always devolve into the lowest life forms.

    Ninoy Aquino once said, “The Filipino is worth dying for…” Well, the Filipino people is worth more than this!

    • When my wife was 9 years old, she was sent away to live with very distant relatives as a nanny/ cleaner/ cook. For two years she laboured, and anything earned was sent to her family so they could eat. She cried as well, but her family ate.

      Some days she would hide a cup of rice, and some time later when there was no food at all to eat, she would bring out the rice she put away.

      The floors were dirt, and it was one room shared with many siblings. She cried, but still did what was necessary to help her family.

      A boy may have been forced to do his dance on TV for money, but it’s a small cry from labouring for two years as many other Filipino children do to help their families survive.

      I don’t know the financial state of his family, but if they asked him to do it so they could eat, it’s forgivable isn’t it?

      • Jt says:

        There is a big difference between honest labor and being asked to sell and display yourself on tv. Labor might be hard but you keep your dignity unless she was abused but to be paraded like cattle on national TV like janjan was is just unacceptable. My father also worked while sending himself to school and he has always emphasiZed how his hardships made him a better person. He used that as inspiration to make something of himself and as the driving force to achieve his dreams. And he did achieve them – beyond what he initially imagined.
        You never have to sell your soul. You just have to work harder.

  5. Jameelah says:

    Very well said.

  6. Ana says:

    T. Leo this is another inspiring piece! And Manu others agree– I saw it on a number of people’s tweets.

  7. Neesha says:

    Has anyone even seen the entire episode or segment of the show? My mother did and she attests that the boy was crying because he was afraid of Bonel Balingit. Is this yet another case of making a mountain out of a mole hill? I am not a supporter of Willie Revillame. I would be happy if his name is never mentioned ever in the entertainment industry. But why not build a stronger case against him and his TV show, one with proof other than a viral video?

  8. Kate Oliva Lequin says:

    We are a great nation….we need to believe in ourselves….and have the discipline to be better….

  9. lmcraq says:

    nice one!!!!

  10. wondering says:

    This blog is nice. But y attack Willie? I don’t agree that its his fault. Life really is unfair. What Willie did is just part of life being unfair. How many poor people haven’t allowed young children to walk long miles just to reach school? Who among poor families have not asked a young family member, a child, to go and buy or get something? and if the child complains, s/he will be punished. If you are complaining about Willie having requested the child to do what should have been “talent” (only that the choice -macho dancing is very inappropriate – i don’t like it eiither – had the parent been rich and witty, they could have taught the child playing violin or some other sophisticated instruments and he would not have qualified in the show) do you have an alternative reason to give children and families money or goods for “years”? Who among you have helped so many poor families? Have you seen his program? Have you cited the instances wherein Willie have given so much? Have you cited instances where Willie have supported not just an individual?

    If you are to watch Eat Bulaga and examine closely, you’d see how the hosts (Joey De Leon, Vic Sotto and others) humiliate participants in their “mild ways”. But since they are giving the participants something, it appears to be okay. But I can tell how dirty they work as well. Poor Filipinos see and perform in their shows. But only to be humiliated. Only to be made fun of.

    Let’s try looking at other shows. What about Show time? Who among you have seen how contestants would cry because of the rigid trainings they had just to come up with a good performance? Are they all adults? No. Some of them are young children. And its just weird how that is not focused. Just because it was “hidden”. Just because the whole world did not see how difficult it was to train young children. Even to the point of them being scolded. Even up to the point of them crying. But in their silent moments.

    The point here is clear. JUST FOR THE MONEY. Before you say something about us being able to live without money, try asking yourself first. Will you be able to live a year without money? Will you be able to live without anything? Try putting yourself unto the shoes of the parents of the boy in Willie’s show, given the chance to have a source of money to feed your other dying children, will you not do anything just to save them? The boy might cry today… But he’ll see the wickedness of life. And eventually make something good out of it.

    Life is indeed unfair. Here in the Philippines, it is very unfair – just like in other third world countries. Filipinos are being prepared to be “workers”. To be slaves. What appeals us is the idea of “serving”. The idea of being, (1) a nurse that serves the rich and can afford; (2) a factory worker that works for rich businessman; (3) a crew fo all fastfood chains and many others; (4) a janitor, driver, maid and a lot others… All these trainings are for low class citizens. We are not trained to innovate. We are not trained to lead.

    I hope the culture of “serving” would change towards positivism. serving and helping. I hope that more Filipinos could be trained to own a business that would eventually require the service of not fellow Filipinos but of other nationalities. I hope that the idea of excelling in the line of “serving” is transformed towards excellence in leading. There is hope for our country. There really is.

    • jemma says:

      To Wondering….I think you may have missed the point. Try reading the article again. Try looking past your nose. Try going beyond the obvious. We are talking here of a culture, an entire generation being taught to be corrupt and debased. All for money. We are not talking about Willie Revillame. He is a factor in all this, yes, but he is not the root of the problem. Read the article again.

      • batman says:

        wondering’s intentions are suspect… right from the very first paragraph, his/her focus was on willy because that was his/her purpose for adding a comment… so there was no way he/she could catch the real intent and spirit of this posting.

    • Happywillows says:

      I think you missed the whole point of the discourse.

      • Evelyn says:

        You are missing the whole point. This article is not to attack Willie. This happens to be more than what you are pointing out. Read again please, and read with a broader set of mind.

    • hyperbola says:

      @wondering: The essence of the discourse presented here is much bigger than the Willie-Janjan incident. But there’s no doubt that the Willie incident is one undeniable symptom of a burgeoning social & political cancer that has encroached into gov’t and society. I am with you when you so unequivocally stated that “there is hope for this country”. Maybe, just maybe, that entails weeding out the very entities that have kept us at stagnation or have cause our downward spiral.

    • steksnikliu says:

      why Willie?
      because he has FULL CONTROL.
      just as we all do.
      Full control over what to watch. and discern the “what for”.
      Full control over our sensitivity to others.
      Full control over when not to make fun at our brethren’s inability to grasp when indignity is upon them.
      It is every person’s duty to protect those who are incapable of protecting themselves. We have moral obligations to uphold the dignity of the impoverished raped by desperation of their abilities to see beyond dire needs for survival.
      we have control over choices they themselves no longer have the means of understanding OF that leave them prey to harm or vulnerability.
      “Who among you have helped so many poor families?”
      you dare ask this – then SHOW ME DA MONEY.
      what?!!
      – are you now suddenly the surgical guardian angel of righteousness?!!
      seemingly it is only NOW you assert what would have otherwise been more appropriate at the time when Willie was baptized by ABS CBN to be their role model for its Philippine Values Reformation Movement.
      you are one h-u-g-e “helllerrrrr”.
      Looming larger perhaps in your own home game show
      nurturing your kids to play violin and scoff at them when they do not follow you – and thank god, your god, you are not televised and have no 3,000 pesos to give your wife when she goes near to embrace your cuteness.
      The Blame Game Show. Its “on” daily in your TV Home neuro-Network.
      “had the parent been rich and witty, they could have taught the child playing violin or some other sophisticated instruments and he would not have qualified in the show”.
      So the rich now have the monopoly of wit and innate ability to not qualify in the show with such pronounced demeaning acceptance?
      And you have likewise the monopoly of an “alternative reason to give children and families money or goods for “years” ….
      Many rich parents have their children “schooled” and sent to equestrian education … blah blah blah … yet these children live a life devoid of nurturance on values of hard work, treasured talents and qualified qualities that otherwise would easily land them a decent job as OFWs abroad.
      (I want to be educated on which part of town you were ‘schooled’ )
      And you label this “servitude” as a quality among filipinos worthy only of preparing us to be “workers” and “slaves”.
      You can’t handle positivism if it stared you in the face.
      Best you train your brain to learn the word ‘innovate’ before you even go anywhere again near the words “trained to lead”.
      You are so freakin’ ignorant how hard work with dignity and respect equates fairly with our fellow filipinos – be they nurses, fastfood chain crew, janitor, maid or any factory worker you so galantly label to be trained ‘low class citizens”. or specially, if they are.
      the respectability they earn in the workplace are bestowed upon them not JUST FOR THE MONEY dude, which you so embrace with indignant impunity … ‘excelling in the line of “serving” … but rather BECAUSE of having excelled in the line of being “DEserving”.
      Yes. DESERVING of every ounce of respect and dignity for their inherent capability and persistent fervor with resiliency unmatched anywhere in the world (obviously not in the universe you incubate yourself in). such is the transformation of us Filipinos you grossly manifest to require ‘enabling’ for.
      With Hard-earned money comes hard-earned dignity.
      Not the hard-erred indignant and demeaning hosting that go with dependency nurturing.
      Which has come to be the talent a Willie Revillame has institutionalized to a a level of frenzy for his ” ‘sang-bayanang-pilipino”.
      And which is why full responsibility is upon your friend Willie.
      he has full control over responsible (mature?) “handling” – instead of manhandling – poverty before nationwide television.
      he has FUll control over his personal choice of hearty fun over insult, upliftment of character over condescending patrimony, commonsensical humor over personal-deep-seated-unhappy-childhood-rooted ridicule.
      Just as you have full control in asking “myself” first over asking “of others” – what they have done to personally alleviate poverty.
      Willie corrupts – not the poor, not the children and their parents.
      He corrupts the very essence and true meaning of the word “help”.
      He has trivialized the integrity of the value of true “assistance”.
      “Gusto ko lang naman tumulong sa mahirap”. Echoes of a Manny Villar dictum.
      But that is another episode altogether.
      Willie promotes dole-outs and dependency in the guise of patrimony and kindheartedness.
      “dignity, respect and integrity used to be the measure of a man” – some wise old Filipino father once said. Obviously not Willie’s father.
      ‘Hard earned money’ used to be how life is lived.
      Willie gives away money to the impoverished because she embraces fine after finding him ‘cute’. that there is profound talent and hard work.
      Willie gives away money that is not his but CLAIMS ownership over the act of “charity”.
      oh and the “poor” in Filipino language is not “mahirap”.
      this word also means “difficult”.
      the “poor” or financially impoverished translated properly is “maralita”.

      and yes “this blog is nice.”
      for indeed, acdg to my friend Webster the child molester,
      “nice” is the most convenient word in the dictionary to use when one is at a loss of an appropriate choice of word to describe something not really understood or found unworthy of anything better to say about.
      You would definitely know this, dude.

  11. Melanie Brigado says:

    I rarely read commentaries and for some reason this caught my attention when I saw it in twitter. I fully share the sentiments and POVs written here. I believe it truly is about time that Filipinos go back to what is decent and right.

  12. Terry says:

    No, Filipino have not lost their dignity. It is both the corrupt officials in Philippines as well as the international community that is letting Filipino down. Are Filipino unwilling to labour? Are they unwilling to risk their own well-being? Are they willing to sacrifice for their families and loved ones? The answer is clear – Filipino give as much of themselves as humanly possible, simply to help those they care about have better lives.

    While it is not the case with all Filipino, it can be honestly said that most Filipino are willing to make great sacrifices for the ones they love.

    Does not this clearly demonstrate a people and a culture that is strong and unique? I believe so, and I have the utmost respect for Filipino as a people. I have the utmost respect for Filipina that travel abroad to earn money to support their families, often leaving their own children at home. It is a tremendous sacrifice, and one so great that others would ask, “How can she leave her own children at home, doesn’t she love them?”.

    But the only reason they would ask such a question is because they have no idea the sacrifices Filipina are willing to make to ensure their families have a roof over their heads, can eat, go to school and make a better life for themselves.

    I have an incredible respect for Filipino in general and all the Filipina that travel abroad to support their families.

    While true Filipino will do what it takes, you can see one of two reasons. Either they are willing to be unscrupulous, or they are willing to sacrifice.

    We know that it is because they will sacrifice. There are no people on this planet that deserve more respect in my opinion.

    *I am Canadian, and have been married to a Filipina for 17 years. Together we have been involved in many community projects, and in the past have owned and managed a Filipino Karaoke Bar/ Cafe in Ottawa. Our friends are from all walks of life, and have our equal respect.

    • Happywillows says:

      I beg to disagree.

      Sacrificing for one’s family is not a measure of dignity. It is not even unique to Filipinos. It is a universal predisposition of all men. It is the manner by which you make sacrifices that will make you dignified. Most Filipinos lost their integrity which explains why probably they lost their dignity. Without integrity any Filipino would easily succumbed to corruption especially when the interests of their loved-ones are at stake just like you claimed, “while it is not the case with all Filipino, it can be honestly said that most Filipino are willing to make great sacrifices for the ones they love”.

      That is why you have the Arroyos, the Estradas, the Marcoses….need I say more?

      By the way, the plural of Filipino is Filipinos.

      • Happywillow says, “Most Filipinos lost their integrity “.

        You use a very broad brush, and you generalize all based on the ‘power corrupts absolutely’ bunch.

        Dignity isn’t directly related to integrity. You can swallow your dignity to do what you must to feed your family, but you cannot swallow your integrity to feed your family. One is about humility while the other is about corruption.

      • Eldrick says:

        Not necessarily

      • eldrick says:

        i meant the reply not necessarily for this comment from Happywillows

  13. hyperbola says:

    Thank you, Leo, for such eloquence! Your blog certainly mirrors the desperation of so many Filipinos who are more than ready for a “radical” change sooner than later. It is really sad to hear & see more unpleasant news hog the headlines more than the good deeds that many of our kababayans do; more than the core values that make us the resilient people that we are. I still cannot fathom how the Philippines, once second to Japan & the envy of our Asian neighbors, has sunk so low. Mendicancy, diaspora, corruption, and crass entertainment should not define us as a nation.

    I am in awe of the Japanese and how they handle themselves as they rise from the triple whammy (earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown) of a destruction that hit them recently. Quite ironically, they earned the world’s respect at a tragic time like this.

  14. Berniemack says:

    Money is indeed, as what they say, “root of all evil.” Everytime money is the topic, a lot of things happen–benevolent or malevolent.

    It’s also sad that the concept of “pera pera lang yan” has penetrated the mindset of our culture. 😦

  15. Fay says:

    thank you for the article! i feel the same way. having a husband, sisters & more relatives who are already citizens of 1st world countries. i admire them for their integrity, honesty, discipline & putting their country/others first before themselves. i’ve always wants to leave the Phils but my husband would always say, “if you leave you country, who else will love/care for it? many good/great people already left your country. let’s stay & become good citizens & set that as an example to others.”

    i hope you touch more Filipinos to sacrifice & not just think about money.

  16. rin says:

    @ wondering: you really missed the point here. haha. cant help but laugh.

  17. Thoughtrift says:

    Woah, you really hit a nerve here, haven’t you? 🙂

    Boy, if we could only convert these comments to cash, how many people d’you think we’d be able to help?

  18. Chinky G. Jacobe says:

    It’s sad that the future of our country (the children) are being subjected to this humiliation and that they are taught that it is OK to sell your dignity in order to feed your family. I feel for Jan-Jan because at an early age…he knows that what he was asked to do was wrong but was left with no choice because the people who were suppose to protect him (his parents) were the ones who subjected him to harm and humiliation.

    • I understand the 1st world sentiment that subjecting children to anything they don’t desire is humiliating. However it is a western point of view that seldom applies in 3rd world life and culture.

      Of course it isn’t desirable to subject children or anyone else to hardship or humiliation, but that is a hard lesson many Filipino learn early on in life. Sacrifice for family – starts early and stays with them their whole lives.

  19. manuelbuencamino says:

    Amazing how an asshole can lead us to contemplating our navel.

    • Eldrick says:

      YOU TALKING TO ME???

      • manuel buencamino says:

        Imagine how a Willie can lead us to contemplating our character as a nation is what I meant when I wrote imagine how an asshole can lead us to contemplating our navel. Besides, you’re a diplock not an asshole.

  20. May we publish this essay in the Philippines Free Press magazine? We are in the process of including well-written and timely blog posts in our magazine’s print edition, as well as linking blog posts we publish in print to our website.

    If you do give us at the PFP permission to print this, we would also like to ask for a short bio of the author. Thank you very much.

    Alma Anonas-Carpio
    Associate Editor
    Philippines Free Press

  21. ralfviktor says:

    i’ve only read three of your articles but now i’m pretty sure you’re the kind of writer i want to someday be. cheers to you sir! do you have a newspaper column if i may ask?

  22. steksnikliu says:

    good writing again.
    great suggestions again.
    its all about DOING the right thing again.
    riding the right values through.
    just one thing though: why always the president.
    for that matter, why always and again … it’s all of us.
    all of us.
    why not … you.

  23. steksnikliu says:

    my earlier posting was addressed to Wonderings

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