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Wowowee delivers a wallop of fun in New Jersey
Last Saturday, I saw excerpts of Wowowee staged at Atlantic City in New Jersey two weekends ago and I was touched by the sight of Filipino immigrants in the show's Bigat-10 portion, relating how hard and lonely life is in America. Most of them were in tears and choked with emotion, but then they don't really have a choice because that's the only way they know how to help families and relatives they had left back home keep body and soul together.
"If things were okay in the Philippines," said one of them, "ayokong magtiis ng hirap at kalungkutan dito sa Amerika."
Yes, if only, if only!
Said Funfare's Big Apple correspondent Edmund Silvestre (of The Filipino Reporter) who was at Atlantic City, "Now I know why Wowowee is very popular not only among folks back home but also among Filipinos abroad who subscribe to TFC (The Filipino Channel). Ang saya-saya pala! Nakakahawa ang tuwa!"
Here's Edmund's full report:
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.-About 10,000 Filipinos in the US East Coast jammed the Boardwalk Hall here on July 12 to see and take part in the phenomenal game show Wowowee, watched by Filipinos worldwide via The Filipino Channel and whose studio in Quezon City has become a favorite destination among visiting balikbayan.
The three-hour live presentation, produced by Calla Lilly Entertainment Productions, was an exact copy of what is seen daily on TFC, only on a grander scale.
It opened with a bang as host Willie Revillame emerged from the upper-box entrance to greet the huge crowd. He then sang the Wowowee theme while security men escorted him onto the stage, pushing back the throng who wanted to touch the popular host.
The party began with Giling-Giling, with Willie and his staff choosing from the audience the best booty-shakers to qualify for a tricky game called Hep Hep Hooray. About 14 were selected to compete, two of them non-Pinoys. In the end, it was a New York college student named Kyla who bagged the $1,500 prize.
Other games included Questune (Name That Tune), and the popular Oo o Hindi, the winner of which went to play for the finale game Pera o Bayong that offered a brand-new Honda car as top prize. The car was won by Louie Garcia, a retired shipping firm employee from Jersey City, N.J.
In between games were the anticipated sob stories of the contestants that made Wowowee an endearing show to the masses, although critics accuse the program of exploiting the underprivileged who are willing to endure humiliation in exchange for cash.
The Atlantic City show was no different, but nobody cared. Filipinos love the underdogs and the audience could only listen, laugh, cry and sympathize - with many shelling out cash donations on the spot. At one point, members of the audience had to be stopped from getting on stage to hand out dollar bills in order to let the show move on.
The contestants who made their mark included the widowed grandma who found love (and new hope) in the arms of a black American man; the wife who moved to the US and left her philandering husband ("Sumakabilang bahay na siya," she said, referring to her two-timing husband); and the undocumented man who's been suffering loneliness away from his wife and two children to give them a better life. Many in the audience wept with him as video clips of his wife and children in the Philippines, crying and professing their love for him, were shown.
That man won $2,500 in the game called Pasalog, with some help from Willie.
Adding lots of sugar and spice to the show were the temperature-raising numbers of scantily-clad dancers led by the amazing Milagring, Luningning and Mariposa, three of Wowowee's biggest attractions whose flawless bods and winning charm could easily rival Dr. Vicki Belo's celebrity endorsers. "They are the only reasons why I'm here," said The Filipino Reporter's Albert Ignacio.
There were also musical numbers from Philippine showbiz goddesses Kristine Hermosa, Angelica Panganiban and Roxanne Guinoo. The three leading ladies were all ravishingly beautiful singing and striking a pose that it didn't matter if their lip-synching to Beyoncé's hits was out of sync.
Lito Camo, currently the Philippines' top composer of novelty songs and who penned most of Willie's songs, performed a medley of his hits with the alluring Mariel Rodriguez and Valerie Concepcion, with the crowd singing and dancing with them. The comic duo of Eric and Tuko also provided laughter and warmed up the audience prior to the actual show.
Pokwang, arguably next in line to Comedy Concert Queen Ai-Ai de las Alas, could say and do almost anything and elicit instant laughter and applause. Truly a crowd-pleaser, she seemed to have a power to make people adore her and believe that she, indeed, has the irresistible beauty of a Riyo Mori (2007 Miss Universe from Japan) or a Lucy Liu. "Parang Kate Moss ang body ni Pokwang...maganda pa ang legs," said Babes DeGula Harington of Manhattan. "Ang ganda pa ng gowns niya, di talaga nagpatalo kina Kristine."
But it was Willie and his charisma with the masa that held the show together. His style of hosting and comic timing easily reminded one of an uncle or a friend who always infuses life to a gathering. He has mastered the art of displaying compassion when needed and injecting humor in a sorrow to lighten things up. No wonder that even his lack of command of English has endeared him all the more to the masses who see themselves in him.
Willie, however, must refrain from serenading his fans with classic songs and pretending to be a Michael Bublé. It's clearly not his cup of tea. He should stick to singing novelty songs like Sayaw Darling or Iyugyog Mo and leave the ballads to a Mark Bautista or a Ronnie Liang.
Notwithstanding the "slings and arrows" aimed at Willie over the years - from the deadly stampede and Wilyonaryo scandal, to his complicated lovelife - Willie has already reached an iconic status and ABS-CBN finds it hard to let go of him. Despite his suspensions and terminations as a TV host, he is still standing tall.