A sad reflection of poverty in the Philippines is the Stampede of February 4, 2006.
Wowowee is one of the flagship noontime shows of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest network. Promising large prizes and highlighting the plight of its winners, many people saw it as their hope to get out of the hellish life that poverty brings. Thousands of people line up in the night to have a chance in getting in the studio for the next day’s show, and hoping to get the top prize.
The show would have celebrated its anniversary by doing a show at the Philsports Arena (formerly ULTRA) today, and thousands of people lined up last night just to get a chance of getting inside the arena. Getting in the arena gives you the chance of winning the top pot. Then, the shocking tragedy happened.
Poverty is a sad reality in this country, and despite the indifference of the affluent, its reality cannot be denied, and its existence will be highlighted. The massive crowd that lined up the streets near the ABS-CBN studios, and indeed, those who lined up at Philsports Arena, is proof of poverty. People see game shows like Wowowee as their last hope, the ticket out of the muck of poverty.
The host lamented the deaths and stated that they only wanted to entertain and give hope. Some individuals chided ABS-CBN for exploiting the poor in order to get higher ratings. One weblog even berated the company for such poor planning and organizing. The said comments are rather unfair; who wanted such tragedy to happen?
ABS-CBN has announced that it will shoulder all medical and funeral expenses of the victims of the Stampede. Well and good. At least it is not shirking on its responsibility, although some skeptics may – again – claim that this action is just damage control.
ABS-CBN should rethink its concepts about Wowowee. It has created false hopes and unduly contributed to the vicious cycle of poverty, feeding to the fast-buck thinking. The intentions are good; their effects are, in the long run, not.