WE’VE always known Tito Sotto, comedian, noontime TV show host, Senator of the Philippines, as a male chauvinist. He does not declare this with pride—he is, after all, an expert in the business of show.
Instead, he reveals this as part of his “official business” as senator of the land, such as when he spoke against the Reproductive Health Law, the whole time putting into question our rights as women to decide on our bodies, to care for it the way we want to, given the proper knowledge of how and what our options are. In the process he revealed that contrary to our belief that we live equal to men, Filipino women’s right to their bodies is a “transgression of Filipino culture and family values.” The latter, apparently, is Sotto’s area of expertise.
Tito Sen on noontime TV
One imagines that Sotto has no business keeping a daily noontime TV show like Eat Bulaga while he is senator of this country. At the same time, this longest running noontime show is the best campaign platform of all.
His presence on Eat Bulaga is also rationalized by pop culture history: this show is about Tito, Vic and Joey, an institution that eases the difficulties of the masses with a daily dose of good ol’ Pinoy humor.
But Sotto’s persona as Tito Sen is far from being funny.
Ate Katrina was like any other All For Juan, Juan For All contestant. She was excited: the ex-deal of this segment is that you are given the prizes in exchange for your story. The stories are, of course, unsurprisingly always about poverty, and the case of Ate Katrina was no different. She was left by her husband and was fending for herself and her three children with whatever she earned selling ulam.
The hosts begin by taking her side. Tito Sen says of the husband: “Tirahin mo ng abandonment!” Bosing Vic and Jose Manalo start calling the husband: “Chorva.”
Then they ask: What happened to your marriage? She said her husband was the jealous type, and one day she came home and he had left. How did you handle it? Jose asks. “Siyempre nag-rebelde ako na halos gabi-gabi po umiinom po ako.” Tito Sen shows his disapproval: “Naku. Dati na siyang umiinom?”
Ate Katrina answers with some defensiveness: “Hindi po. Nung time lang na ‘yon.” And when pushed further, says: “Ay shuma-shot-shot na rin po ako [noon].”
It’s downhill from there. Tito Sen asks: “May boyfriend ba siya ngayon?”
A judgment in itself. Her answer does not matter. The audience in the studio is laughing. It’s noontime comedy at the expense of this woman’s failed marriage. A normal Eat Bulaga day.
Women’s oppression on noontime TV
Ate Katrina establishes that her husband had a jealous streak. Tito Sen asks: “Nagselos eh, bakit magseselos, anong nakita?”—as if jealousies are always rationale. Jose asks: “Ikaw ba, nabisyo ka ba no’n? ‘Yung totoo”—as if that justifies being oppressed by the jealousies of one’s husband.
Ate Katrina is pushed to further tell her story as the hosts continue to ask about why her husband had left her. “Kasi may nabalitaan daw po siya, na nung one time po yata na medyo nalasing ako, may hindi daw po yata magandang ginawa ‘yung lalake [na kainuman ng asawa ko]. Hindi ko po alam kung ano’ng ginawa. ‘Yun lang po ‘yung sinabi nung nag-away kami.”
As she tried to explain the story further—no, she was not drinking with her husband that night; no, she had no idea how she was molested or harassed because she had come from drinking with her friends, too, and promptly fell asleep—Tito Sen interjects and drops a bomb: “Ang may kasalanan ng lahat ng ‘yan, ‘yang pag-inom, ‘yung shot-shot. Kababae mong tao, shot-shot ka.”
Jose pushes it further by giving her a sermon, tongue-in-cheek, but sermon, nevertheless: “Ikaw naman asawa, huwag kang dumikit sa inuman kung may kainuman ang asawa mo. Naka-shorts ka ba no’n? O, umiinom ka na, naka-shorts ka pa!”
And you thought it couldn’t get worse.
Misogyny on noontime TV
There are some things that are beyond comedy, but none of these six hosts (count that!) seemed to know that. No one tried to put a stop to this conversation, and no one said the contestant should’ve filed a case against that man who harassed her while she was drunk. No one congratulated her for having rid her life of a walang kuwentang husband, either.
Instead, Ate Katrina was judged: for her husband leaving, for being harassed, for drinking alcohol, for wearing shorts while drinking alcohol. She was not one to take offense of course—this was “normal” for Eat Bulaga, and she was given all these prizes. But what of the countless women watching Ate Katrina that day, who are emotionally oppressed by their husbands, mistrusted for no reason other than that they have a personality beyond stereotypes?
That it was a senator putting into question Ate Katrina’s character, within the format of this seemingly harmless contest on noontime TV, is what makes this misogyny infinitely dangerous. At least as senator we can go and have a debate with Tito Sotto. As Tito Sen on Eat Bulaga, he is incontestable; what he says, incontrovertible truth at least for the duration of the show.
Jose could only make it worse. He ends by saying to Ate Katrina: “Alam mo, hindi maganda tingnan yung gano’n, para sa’kin, para sa kahit na sinong lalake, ang makita kang may kadikit na lalake, tapos nakikipag-inuman ka pa, kahit wala kang ginagawang masama, iba ‘yung iisipin. So ano’ng dapat gaw’in: iwasan mo na ‘yung mga bagay na alam mong mag-iisip ng hindi maganda ang asawa mo, kung mahal mo talaga siya.”
And then he made Ate Katrina say sorry to Tito Sen, making her promise that she would not drink again. To which Tito Sen replied: “‘Yun. Mabuti naman.”
Because to Sotto, women who drink alcohol are an abomination, and they get what they deserve from the men around them—husbands and their husband’s drinking buddies included. Said on noontime TV, imagine the number of Pinoy men empowered and encouraged by Eat Bulaga’s message that day.
And then imagine the number of women who will suffer the consequences and think they deserve it.