The massive outpouring of humanitarian assistance for the victims of Typhoon “Yolanda” has been heartwarming.
The tragedy has touched off a torrent of aid from here and abroad.
Governments, international organizations and individuals have joined hands to give aid, comfort and hope to the people whose lives had been shattered by the monster storm.
Even prominent figures from the movie and entertainment community are pitching in. Broadcast networks wasted no time launching fund-raisers with their pool of stars volunteering to take calls from prospective donors. Prominent musicians and singers are preparing benefit concerts and shows.
We laud the efforts of the entertainment industry to help the typhoon victims.
Showbiz personalities have shown in the past their readiness to pull together and lend a hand. As award-winning editor of Variety.com Tim Gray noted, “Charity is part of showbiz’s DNA.”
There is a line, however, between genuine charity work and publicity hype that celebrities sometimes cross. And when they do, good taste flies out the window.
A case in point: The Manila Times got wind of a network’s live telethon over the weekend where its popular male stars were shown carrying sacks of rice from delivery trucks to a re-packing area. To get good shots of the “hunks,” the cameramen were said to have shoved other volunteer workers aside.
If this report is true, it’s one good cause that was spoiled by an overzealous attempt to push this “huge-celebrity-becomes-kargador-for-a-day” hype.
“I’ve helped out in my own way immediately after the typhoon, but I didn’t need or even want to broadcast what I donated,” said one actor. That’s not what helping others is all about.
And what about celebrity auctions, where movie stars sell their million-peso designer bags and wardrobe in the name of charity? A commendable gesture, but if these stars really wanted to help, they could have just donated the cash equivalent of the valuables they are putting on the block.
The loudest buzz has to do with selfies posted by film and TV personalities showing them in various stages of humanitarian work. Netizens are ranting at a celebrity couple—who is also in politics—for posting photos of themselves doing relief work. Other famous names also posted selfies on Facebook and Instagram of themselves handing out check donations.
The self-promoting images drew an online comment that lifts a passage from the Bible: “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
We are not disputing the fact that news stories and images of celebrities stepping out of their comfort zone to help Filipinos in need provide the spark that could fire up the public into contributing whatever they can to ease the suffering of thousands of our countrymen in the devastated areas of Central Philippines.
There is also the chance that seeing glamorous actresses part with their bling could motivate a group of teenagers into organizing a garage sale as a fund-raiser.
And yes, even the self-serving posts can spur netizens to hop on the charity bandwagon.
We are facing a crisis the scale of which we have never experienced before. That means even the smallest of act of giving matters.
But charity work that is laced with hype leaves a bad taste in the mouth.