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Everybody loves Willie... even in the US

Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) - June 10, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Willie Revillame will never be able to silence his most passionate critics but to the people who really matter to him, it is apparent that no amount of controversy and negative press would put a wedge between them and the Philippines’ undisputed king of game shows!

They just love Willie!

The large crowd that gathered inside the 7,800-seater Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco was a testament to how much Willie has embedded himself in the entertainment and cultural landscape of the international Filipino community.

Consider the group of nurses who traveled more than a hundred miles, bought $100-plus tickets each and all wore matching bright green Hollister shirts — this writer was no longer surprised when they told me that they all drove from Hollister (yes, there’s a seaside town named Hollister!) — just so they could welcome Willie back. (The TV5 group arranged for them to meet Willie backstage after the show and the smiles on their faces were priceless!)

Or you can also consider how my Aunt Zoe Baile decided to postpone her planned 55th birthday party when I informed her that Willie was in San Francisco. I spoke to her Friday evening and she cancelled her party 30 minutes after. On June 2, she drove more than two hours with my Tito Henry and Tita Letlet Armas and decided she’d celebrate her birthday with Willie.

 The deafening and thunderous applause that greeted Willie’s appearance on stage showed just how much the people have missed him. A lady garbed in a tacky (but cute!) leopard-printed blouse and pants danced to Willie’s opening number for as long as it took Willie to complete his extended opening number. I did not set my timer but the engaging opening number might have lasted more than 30 minutes — everyone had a good workout, I thought to myself.

If Derek Ramsay and Nora Aunor shed tears during the press conference the previous day, it was this writer’s turn to be emotional. The sight of the entire auditorium on their feet, dancing almost exactly to the choreography on stage drove this writer to an unexpected cry. It was very apparent how much the Filipinos in the US miss their home country and their enthusiasm for Willie was an undeniable fact that the presence of the TV host and the show that’s enjoyed by their loved ones in the Philippines somehow took them back home and let them experience even for just a few hours the unique fun that only their home country can offer.

The smiles on the faces of everyone as they continued dancing would bring anyone such immense joy. If they were present, critics of the game show would most likely be silenced by how the audience everywhere warmly embraced Willie.

There were even non-Filipinos in the audience. A husband here, a boyfriend there, or just someone’s good friend tagging along, were part of the mix in the crowd and they, too, were eagerly dancing along, singing along, and taking pictures of what was happening on stage — very Filipino, very American.

Admittedly, the show was kitschy but who cares! The people who bought tickets knew what they were going into and, judging by their rapturous welcome, the show was just possibly the best television show there is today. Art appreciation is, after all, very subjective.

After the lengthy opening number, Willie started selecting contestants from the audience. When it was over, Mariel Rodriguez, Ruffa Gutierrez and Camille Villar took over hosting duties while Willie was presumably catching his breath backstage. Rufa Mae Quinto was supposed to have been a part of the show but she failed to catch her flight.

The first game played was called Baligtaran and the lucky contestant was awarded $500 even if she just kept losing the bet. After she won, she thanked Willie and Wowowee. The audience laughed at the old lady’s mistake.

When Derek came out on stage, the Philippines’ ultimate leading man took off his jacket and gave it to one screaming, lucky lady. The ladies close to the stage just went gaga! The hunky actor wasn’t able to completely perform his set as the ladies stormed the stage and one-by-one they started giving Derek kisses after kisses. The entire time the actor was on stage, more than 50 ladies must have successfully planted their lips on his face.

The next game played after the ladies calmed down was a fun game called Family Apir. Four members of each team popped the balloon on every member’s lap until all eight balloons were popped. The team that spent the shortest time doing this was the winner. This was the funniest segment of the show when one team was just so lost and didn’t know what to do. Everyone had a good laugh as each member committed one mistake after another. They naturally lost the game but their game was the most memorable. The winning team won $1,000 cash prize and each member got a cellular phone and a TV5 jacket.

When the boyish Aga Muhlach performed, he attracted the same amount of shrieks and screams from the ladies in the audience although only a few dared to go up the stage and plant a wet one on Aga’s face the way Derek attracted a few minutes earlier. The actor performed two songs for the crowd. When he was done “singing,” he announced that he would be hosting a new show on TV5 called Artista Academy which will start casting this month.

Aga introduced Nora Aunor. The Superstar wore a purple terno and greeted the audience. She did not perform and was not seen again after.

In a humble display of thanksgiving for all the success he has achieved, Willie returned to the stage to sing What a Wonderful World and introduced a series of clips showing some of the most memorable episodes of Wil Time Bigtime. The montage showed the people that Willie and the show have helped all these years. It was a touching reminder that there is always room for someone who wants to help another just as there’s always room for a new international Filipino channel that could bring joy and bring the Philippines to the home of every Filipino anywhere in the world.

“TV5 is here to give more happiness — in my heart, in my spirit, in my mind,” Willie promised the audience.

Willie acknowledged the presence of TV5 execs in the audience — they came in full force! — but reserved his most precious expression of gratitude to TV5 big boss Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP). He recalled how he lost his job at ABS-CBN and how TV5 took him in, “binuksan po ang bintana, pintuan at bubungan ng TV5!”

MVP delivered a brief speech to thank the audience for gracing the show and invited them to subscribe to Kapatid TV5.

The night’s biggest moment was when one lucky contestant won a house and lot sponsored by Sen. Manny Villar who was in the audience together with his wife, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar.

The lucky winner was 65-year-old Maria Luna Tolentino, who said that she would select a house somewhere in Angeles, Pampanga.

The show ended on a high note, capping a two-week successful launch of Kapatid TV5 in the US. At the after-party, everyone was grinning from ear-to-ear.

AGA MUHLACH AUDIENCE HOLLISTER MARGIN SAN FRANCISCO SHOW STAGE TV5 WILLIE
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