JANJAN, a six-year-old boy, pervades our national consciousness today after having done a tearful macho dancing in Willie Revillame’s show, Willing Willie. There is national indignation and disgust, yet again, against Revillame, who thinks he is God’s gift to the Filipino poor. Government agencies, the church, civil society, and netizens have done their share to not let this madness unchecked. The show’s sponsors were pressured to pull out their ads, investigations are being conducted, and a child abuse case is expected to be filed in no time. The show has gone off air, but only for two weeks, as TV5 is all set to defend the actions of Willie—the duck who lays the golden, albeit rotten, eggs for the young television station.
This incident brings to mind the child performers in the talent show “Bukros a Bukangkang” of Harry Corpuz, a radio personality who became a household name in Ilocos, especially in the late 80’s down to the 90’s. The show, which title literally meant “nalalaglag ang sapin at nakabukaka,” produced a herd of singers who performed Ilocano songs, many of them of the novelty kind. Churned out by Alpha Records, the group’s albums sold like hot potatoes. They came out volume after volume, and were too many, probably over 30, for Corpuz, who wrote most of the songs together with his sister Nelly Bareng, to actually remember. Like Revillame, Corpuz, whose real full name is Harry Corpuz Doronio, also hopped from one station to the other.
The most popular Bukros song of all time, I argue, is “Nagimas kan Mayyang,” sung by Melchor Vallejo of Cabugao, Ilocos Sur. Vallejo, who was named Mayyang after the song became a big hit, was a kid then, probably around Janjan’s age.
Corpuz is known to have a good sense of humor, and his jokes obviously had double meanings. But this song did not just have sexual undertones; it was actually explicit in content. What follows are the lyrics of the song, the translations in English are mine.
Nagimaskan, Mayyang (You are so delicious, Maria.)
Dakkel ta patongmo (Your butt is big.)
Dakkel ta patongmo, agraman ta buy-ongmo (Your butt is big, and so is your lower belly.)
Nagimas ket ngata no inka maramanan (I bet it would be so delicious to taste.)
Ay, dios por santo, nagimas kan mayyang (Oh, my god, you are so delicious, Maria.)
Malagipmo pay mayyang ti inta pinagsarak. (Do you still remember, Maria, when we had a date?)
Igid iti baybay sirok ti pantalan (Near the seashore, at the port.)
Rabaw iti rakit ti inta nagiddaan (We laid on a raft.)
Abotmo nga bidang ti inta nagap-apan (We used your skirt as sheet.)
Sangabote nga grande ti inta pinagsangwan (We drank one big bottle of beer.)
Pangpa-imas ta mayyang ti inta pinagromansan (To fire up our lovemaking.)
Ayan na nga pagdaksan innata naduktalan (But, unfortunately, we got caught.)
Innata naduktalan ti baro a karruba (We got caught by a bachelor neighbor.)
What amazes me is that this song never caused an uproar–not from DSWD, not from CHR, not from the Department of Justice, and definitely not from the Church. My mom, a highly devout Catholic who goes to Mass everyday, sometimes even thrice a day, did not even find the song objectionable. The rural-bred, conservative salesladies in our store were also loyal fans. Corpuz, who I interviewed last Friday after his radio program at DZJC, recalled that DSWD personnel even bought copies of the album. And did you know that it was Vallejos’ mother herself who composed the sexually-laden song?
Looking back, Corpuz recalled that there was no actual opposition against the song because everything was done in the spirit of fun and good cheer. “It’s up to the listener’s to perceive it,” said Corpuz. He believed that only people who really had malice in their heads would find songs like Mayyang malicious. Corpuz remembered that only his rivals in the industry expressed disapproval with the songs he produced, and that their objections were ignored, even unheard of, because the album, where the Mayyang song was included, was so popular among all Ilokano-speaking human beings that it earned seven-digit figures, a phenomenal sum for a local production back in the 90’s. This leads him to believe that Willie Revillame is of the same fate. Corpuz feels that the Janjan issue is more a matter of television network war than a child abuse incident.
Today, Corpuz still does a talent show, but with a different title, and no longer in a manner as grand as in years past; “Bukros a Bukangkang” has since folded up. “Times are hard,” he mulls, “and people don’t have money to spare for their fare to come to the station and sing.”
I was able to interview one Bukros Kid in the early90’s, Ronald Candy Lasaten, who is now a college professor and a doctoral student in linguistics. Lasaten—who has to his credit songs like “Ampiang,” “Siding,” and “Pamilya Sikat,”— recalled that he enjoyed being in Corpuz’s show and that he never felt abused as a child performer. Corpuz, in fact, even secured all the necessary working permits from the labor department. Exhausting as it was, Lasaten, more popularly known then as “Ampiang,” enjoyed performing in events like fiestas where their discoverer brought him and other talents to perform. The response of the adulating audiences always elated the little stars.
Lasaten clarified that his songs did not have so much malice and double meanings, but that they were “too direct and bragging,” which he thought was “a child’s normal behavior, living in a province like ours.”
Asked, however, whether he would still sing the same songs if he can turn back time’s hands, Lasaten was doubtful. Moreso, he said he would not wish for his future children to do such pieces. In the case of Janjan, Lasaten is convinced that there was really child abuse as the boy was forcefully made to do the act, even as he was crying while gyrating.
Looked at side by side, the cases of Janjan and Mayyang leave serious questions which we would all do well to think about and answer.
Is our concept of child abuse elitist? Those who protest the Janjan incident seem to be from the educated, elitist lot, the kind who would have enough time and resources to watch Youtube, not the type who would break their backs at work so they can live a life so difficult and miserable that they need a show like Willing Willie to ease their pains, and to gain some hope, no matter how false.
Is the Ilocano sensibility immature that we would allow, even indulge, our children to sing songs like “Nagimaskan Mayyang”? Or are we, in fact, more mature to openly celebrate the joys, carnal ecstasies included, of a postmodern world? Are we insensitive or are we simply not hypocrite?
Corpuz may have probably cracked more vulgar jokes on air, but he was generally liked as a jolly, friendly fellow who helped local artists reach out for their dreams. In contrast, the only real dreams Revillame nurtures are his dreams of self-grandeur, such as when he firmly believed that his game show, with all its anomalies and follies, was all too important that he was annoyed to share a small portion of the TV screen for the live coverage of Corazon Aquino’s funeral cortege. Ninoy Aquino believed that the Filipino is worth dying for, and the hero did lay down his life for the nation. Willie believes that his show is worth dying for as long as he is not the one who dies. Lest we forget, seventy-eight poor fellows were left lifeless in a stampede at Ultra.
Do we really care for Janjan or do we simply dislike, hate, abhor Willie Revillame?