I was not supposed to watch the PBB-Celebrity Edition on Baywalk last Sunday, but instead read Murakami’s Windup Bird Chronicle at a nearby coffee shop while Rome was covering the program.  However, an ABS-CBN PR invited me to tag along, and so I eventually found myself in the company of the showbiz press pack and a seat right there in front of the stage.  Being there meant witnessing the crazy off-cam proceedings of the program as well as having a good view of the PBBCE participants , shamelessly staring at the first edition ‘housemates’  and Toni Gonzaga’s to-die-for legs and gawking at Sam Milby’s killer smile. I still think Rico is sexier and JB shouldn’t put too much makeup, but I go for karate girl Gretchen Malalad.

During the pre-show dinner that was supposed to have been actually a press conference, people at my table (including the PR) mentioned the touchy subject, the ULTRA stampede. It was touchy in the sense that ABS-CBN also produced Wowowee, the show for which tens of thousands camped out and eventually stampeded for entrance to the Philsports Arena for chances to win huge prizes. The funny part about the discussion over the deadly Wowowee anniversary was that the PR person acted as if her employer were not at fault for the tragedy, as if ABS was the victim, instead of the 74 people who were crushed to death and the hundreds injured. The tabloid writers on my table, maybe thankful for the free dinner, agreed as if what the ABS PR was saying was true. Mga envelopmental journalists talaga itong mga press writers na ito. I swear that if Rome weren’t one of the press folks around, I would have stomped out of the place pronto.

Here is what happened: Weeks before the show’s anniversary that was to be held at Philsports Arena (formerly ULTRA), adverts were shown about the huge prizes awaiting those who would be lucky enough to enter the show’s venue. Days before the show, thousands of people started to camp out around the Philsports block, and it was obvious, judging by the massive numbers of people, that something ugly could happen because the venue was too small for the possible number of people waiting outside its gates. Still, Wowowee kept advertising prizes and inviting people to go to the arena. In short, the network encouraged viewers to amass around the venue even if it knew that the place could not hold even half of the number that was already waiting outside.  The basketball stadium could only hold 5,000; the crowd camping out was in the tens of thousands.

At about 6:00 AM on February 4, the show’s anniversary, Wowowee’s people started handing out tickets. Because many in the crowd had been camping out for days, they feared that their efforts would be in vain, and thus, agitated, jumped the lines and pushed those ahead of them. This prompted the Philsports guards to close the gates. The gates eventually gave out and those in front stumbled as the commotion to get in went out of hand.  

The show was canceled and what followed since was constant airing of reels from the tragedy and Willie Revillame asking for sympathy. Sympathy for what? For luring people to amass at the Philsports Arena even if it was already impossible to let everyone in?

To add insult to injury, ABS is now asking for donations from TV viewers for the hospitalization of the injured and I guess burial of the dead. I swear, kung sino man ang nag-donate, mga bobo kayo.  All fingers point to ABS-CBN. It was they who allowed the tragedy to happen. It is the network that should shoulder the victims’ hospital and funeral bills. And if they meant what they said that all they wanted was to help the poor, give money to each person who lined up for days outside the arena and stop airing that stupid show that has done nothing but demean women.

And fire that PR airhead. She’s not fooling anyone.