In an event that’s reminiscent of the disastrous ULTRA Stampede of 2006, Wowowin host Willie Revillame once again apologized to viewers of his show on Thursday, January 28 after a horde of almost 4,000 fans marched to Wil Tower in Quezon City where the Wowowin studio is located, and camped outside the building with the belief that the host would give away money and other prizes to them.
The crowd gathered around noon on January 27, the date of Revillame’s 60th birthday, and reportedly spent the entire day outside Wil Tower, effectively blocking passage through Eugenio Lopez Drive. Local authorities were only able to disperse them at around 3 AM.
The crowd, who wore Willie Revillame T-shirts and carried tarpaulins greeting the host on his 60th birthday, failed to observe social distancing, according to Quezon City Police.
ABS-CBN reporter Jervis Manahan’s video on Twitter shows the crowd starting to scatter after being told that Willie Revillame will not be able to meet them personally.
During Wowowin’s live telecast the following day, Revillame profusely apologized to his fans, explaining that he cannot join them due to persisting laws regarding social distancing.
“Gusto ko lang ipaliwanag sa inyo na noong Tuesday ho, ini-explain ko sa inyo, bawal hong pumunta dito. Kasi marami na ang natutulog sa labas ng Wil Tower, diyan sa audience entrance ng ABS-CBN, pero pinapaalis na po ng mga tanod, ng mga barangay. Siyempre, hindi mo naman matitiis ‘yan dahil nandiyan sila, bumabati naman ng birthday mo. Pero kaya lang ho, may sinusunod ho tayong batas. Kahapon ho, dumagsa, actually, ilang araw nang dumadagsa ang tao diyan. Siguro, it’s almost about 4,000 ang tao na dumating,” the host explained.
The host then repeatedly said sorry to his fans after failing to appear in person: “Humihingi ho ako ng kapatawaran, ng pasensiya sa inyo, sa pang-unawa, dahil alam niyo naman po na kailangang sumunod tayo sa batas, social distancing. Alam ko ho na gusto niyo ako mabati, gusto ko nga kayo na mapuntahan sana, pero hindi ho ako pwedeng bumaba. I’m sorry dahil pinigilan ho ako ng mga pulis dahil baka may mangyari pa na hindi maganda. Sana maintindihan niyo po na kaya ginawa itong Tutok To Win para hindi na kayo bumibiyahe dito.”
In an investigation after the incident, QC Mayor Joy Belmonte told CNN Philippines that she has coordinated with Revillame’s staff to identify members of the crowd so that they can be subjected to COVID-19 testing. She also wants Quezon City Police District Director Police Brigadier General Danilo Macerin to explain why they failed to disperse the massive volume of the crowd sooner.
“Gusto ko malaman sa kanila kung ano ang nagawa bakit may mga reports ang media na hindi nagkaroon ng crowd control, etcetera. So I will have to get their side,” Belmonte told CNN Philippines.
While Revillame is known to hand out grand prizes and lofty amounts of money during his birthday every January 27, he was adamant to advise the public beforehand that the same won’t be happening this year.
The host said that it was fake fan pages on Facebook who started to circulate false advertisements that he will give out money. Currently, there are dozens of false “Willie Revillame” fan pages and accounts on Facebook, each having tens of thousands of followers.
Similar to the dismal ULTRA Stampede inside the PhilSports Arena back in 2006, Filipinos who are deep into poverty had no choice but to charge to the venue of Revillame’s now-defunct show, Wowowee, hoping for instant financial relief. In the aftermath, at least 73 people were killed and nearly 400 were injured.