Sen. Sotto, Eat Bulaga, and male chauvinism as comedy

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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.

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14 Comments

  1. julio madiaga on

    “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.”

    bravo!

  2. Wasn’t he just offering himself as Senate President !!!
    And his younger brother also flirted with running for the Senate or QC mayorship ( not that
    the present occupant isn’t a Joke himself ).
    Showbiz & Politics……..oh boy !!

    Could have been worse.

  3. I never like Eat Bulaga. Most of the jokes are out of line. The show cater to the poor masses and these three reprobates are just bad example.

  4. He is a showbiz pimp of sexual exploitation! But only one of many, I recall the TV networks’ had complicity to cover-up corruption scandals of Abnoy by making big issue about his new supposed love interest, every crisis the media spin matched him with beautiful actresses, socialites and even our current Miss Universe, to divert public attention.

    Now is that not more grievous sexual harassment and exploitation than GMA7’s media make a big deal over Du30 just whistling?

  5. Without Eat Bulaga, Tito Sotto could be a non-entity now. The Filipino voters have not overcome their hangover in all entertainers running for office. Pres. Rody is apparently the only exception. Tito Sotto have so many issues as a Senator which until now is being ignore by the people, why because he is always seen in Eat Bulaga which make him a noon time personality. Take notice that after he is elected, he will slowly disappear from Eat Bulaga and before his term ends and he wants to run for another office, he will again reappear in the noontime show. When shall we, the voters stop being foolish and not vote for Sotto. He has done nothing worthwhile, anyway.

  6. And to add insult to the situation of women in the Phils, the fact that many are well educated,some are even civic leaders and become presidents and powerful figures, but alas most of them can talk but to protect their kind in the Phils against mal treatment, divorce has been denied to them, even marriage annulment is only available to those who can afford it. Is it time for women to really, genuinely rally support so all levels of society can avail of divorce if only to get themselves out of living in misery.

  7. Chris Espiritu on

    What do you expect from a person who managed to extricate himself from a rape scandal in the 1980’s? Since he and his cohorts got away that easy, exploiting the poor woman for cheap entertainment is like drinking soda for him. With the looks of it, it is intrusion to Ate Katrina’s privacy for no one in his right mind will humiliate on national TV the controversies that hounded her. Is this the way they “reward” their audience – lousy talk for cheap gimmicks. Gone are the days when noontime show was just for good old clean fun like “Student Canteen” or “Lunch Date”. No wonder Filipino morality is going to the dogs.

  8. Vagoneto Rieles on

    Are these guys now the moral compasses of the Filipino? Their platform, ‘Eat Bulaga’ is, in and of itself, a lewd, voyeuristic and degrading show. It does nothing to uplift the moral standards and discernment of its viewers. To the contrary, the show’s format and content desensitizes them and further erodes what precious little of the values they have left. The Senator, if he weren’t so blind to the country’s needs; weren’t he so singularly focused on profit; and were he not so motivated by the exposure to the voters that the show lends him… might see his show as a vehicle for inspiring and elevating the public’s intellect.
    Alas…on the other hand, maintaining a ‘status quo’ might just be the object of ‘Eat Bulaga’. And… it is succeeding famously. What a pity…

    • I agree with you absolutely. if I may add, tv programs of this kind should
      not be on prime time since “it does nothing to uplift the moral standards and discernment of its viewers” -as you have clearly pointed out.

      with its time slot, there is almost nothing left for growing young Filipinos to not see the show where they are exposed to and learn what they should not that desensitize them to adhere to and appreciate the importance and relevance of decency and morality.

      that’s how and why our young generation have become to be now. not only the eradication of drugs do our society needs to be at par with the rest of the world. tv programs that corrupt the minds and moral fabric should be done with, too.

  9. Max Alvarado on

    It is cultural. Whether we accept it or not, that’s the kind of society we have. I have observed that we Filipinos like to fashion ourselves as progressive thinkers when in a detached, outside-looking-in situation. Women’s rights, gay rights, and all other minority group rights while we’re at it. We all support it. Right? No. That’s just the superficial hipster paporma mode of the Pinoy. Because deep inside, as with the good senator and the rest of the noontime gang’s example—and cheered by their audience at that—-we really are an uptight, conservative and hypocritical society.

    However I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss Sotto and Manalo’s admonishment of the woman as “brutish” or “uneducated” although that was certainly the manner they delivered their message. The Philippines (the WORLD, actually) is a misogynist country. No doubt about that, and the hosts were just reflecting the sentiments of the greater population that most likely expected them to do what they did. Can you really imagine Sotto et al suddenly sounding like some emo American Liberal mouthing off about women’s rights, liberties, and gender equality? Me neither. It would sound stilted and insincere because it really is. How many Pinoy fathers have you heard reprimanding their daughters for being too “loose” in their movements? Surely in that context, we’d do a little double take of accusing the man of being condescending and neanderthal-like in his thinking simply because he wants his daughter to be safe?

    And that is exactly the lens of which the people who laughed with them saw the entire scenario: Her habits made her an easy prey to prowling predators. That’s the reality of things. No amount of hoity-toity social theories can curb the primal bestial nature that’s lying dormant in all men. Smart women know who to avoid and how to conduct themselves in hazardous territories. Not all men are predators. But it helps to be proactive rather than reactive. Nuff said.

  10. Amnata Pundit on

    This is actually a contest between traditional and modern values, or more accurately, western liberal values. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have the morals of an old maid, but there are still many out there who do, in spite of efforts of modern media to brainwash people about the “merits” of militant feminism. FYI, the powerful forces promoting feminism are the same ones promoting gay rights and believe it or not, pedophilia and sexual sado-masochism (read 50 Shades of Grey). To discuss their motives one needs to write a full-blown article. By the way, here is a classic question for feminists:If men and women are different, how can two different things be equal?

  11. P.Akialamiro on

    There’s no need for a “Comedian” in Congress, in the first place! But, Filipino voters have yet to ‘mature’; they vote using their hearts instead of their brains, more often than not; and, they cannot distinguish reality from fantasy…..pathetic!

  12. Soto should be in jail for giving his pork barrel fund to Napoles. Aquino didn’t allow De Lima to arrest any of his allies instead Aquino allowed De Lima to arrest 3 opposition senators only.

    Duturte should have every pork barrel thief arrested on live televison during his SONA.