Bless the beasts and the children


Now that the dust has settled, we can talk about this with a greater sense of perspective and much less emotional overload.

It has been barely two months since the uproar about Jan-Jan Suan's dance on primetime television literally split the country into two camps. But then the MTRCB has passed judgment, the show (with its new title) is back on air with the same hip-hip-hooray atmosphere--and all the talk about child exploitation has become abstract, theoretical and a footnote to more current and pressing issues.

Revillame's guilt in exploiting that child has become moot and academic. But what industry insiders know is that if exploitation of minors in media should be the crusade for some very concerned citizens of the Republic, then perhaps they should look much further than Jan-Jan's terpsichorean display.

It is much easier to throw in everything including the kitchen sink against Revillame cajoling the eight-year-old boy to do the "Body Wave" than to examine the treatment received by child actors while working for various network shows. Although there is a definite ruling from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) including acquisition of work permits and prescribed maximum number of hours any minor is allowed to work, it is interesting to ask if these laws are really implemented at all.

There are all sorts of horror stories about child actors being made to work until the wee hours of dawn. There should really be monitoring on the part of DOLE to safeguard that the laws are followed but then again, what is not captured by the cameras or open discussed in media fall beneath the radar of criticism or consciousness.

Ask any veteran of local soap operas and he will tell you that an eighteen to twenty-four to even thirty-hour taping day is considered part of the industry practice, and they all go through that grueling process as much as thrice a week. Yes, the pay is good, but you are made to work for every centavo that you receive on your daily talent fee. That is, if you are blessed to receive five digits on your pay check much unlike the three hundred pesos an extra (who spent as much time on the set) would receive at the end of the day.

Appalling tales about the sad plight of child actors on soap opera sets abound. While there are some productions that have very specific cut-off hours for their child actors, there are also those who insist that these minors continue to work until the wee hours of the morning until all their required sequences are completed. Rarely are there any appropriations for the child's education especially if the actor is made to skip classes or even quit schooling because of the demands of their schedule.

Such practices are shocking and even disgusting but then again the bigger problem lies in the parents who actually agree to such terms of employment that does not offer any protection for the child. But it is as if the parents have any choice at all. If they want their kid to be part of showbiz, then they must learn to shut up, abide by the rules and take home the money that their kids have earned. And this is common knowledge and practice among people in the industry.

So the plight of Jan-Jan, with all its fire and brimstone overflowing, is literally just the tip of the iceberg. Or maybe even for industry people, we only choose to look at things that we want to see and turn away, yield a blind side to other forms of crimes and misdemeanors because they have been categorized as part of the system. Amen.