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SAVING FACE
Amy Perez deals with poorest of the poor, and mad men, too, on TV5 show

By Bayani San Diego Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:05:00 06/15/2010

Filed Under: Entertainment (general), Television

IN THE MIDDLE OF AN interview on the TV5 show ?Face to Face,? host Amy Perez says she realized that the lovelorn guest in front of her was ?mentally disturbed.?

What?s a TV host to do?

Should she (a) cue for a commercial break; (b) feign ignorance; or (c) call a spade a spade and walk out?

In such an awkward situation, Perez says she decided to ?treat the guest with respect. I still valued his right to love. I gave importance to his story.?

More tolerant

After doing 60 episodes of the talk show, which mostly deals with the legal and romantic problems of ?the poorest of the poor,? Perez admits she has become ?more tolerant? and listens ?more intently.?

She feels like she?s back in school. Perez was a junior Psychology major in Sienna College when she dropped out. ?Now, on every episode, I deal regularly with different people with just as diverse problems,? she notes.

Then there?s the issue of exploitation. She makes certain that, unlike its US counterpart, ?The Jerry Springer Show,? ?Face to Face? will not exploit its predominantly marginalized, impoverished guests and, instead, avoid treating them like circus freaks or fighting cocks in a pit.

Raw nerve

Unlike on Springer?s show, Perez points to a panel of experts oncam that dispense free legal, psychological or even spiritual counseling to the troubled guests.

?Atty. Persida Acosta shares legal advice, informing them of their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Dr. Camille Garcia is a psychologist; she listens with heart and compassion. We have two priests who alternate on the panel?Fr. Sonny Merida and Fr. Gerry Tapiador,? Perez explains.

Obviously the show has touched a raw nerve, she says. ?After two months on the air, people call or write to us to volunteer their stories.?

The show has posted double-digit ratings (12 percent and 40 percent audience share) and has expanded its airing schedule?twice daily, in the morning and at night, Monday to Friday. Plus a Sunday episode.

The flip side of success, however, is controversy. The show recently got in trouble with the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) over its risqu content.

?We explained to the MTRCB the show?s essence, our deeper purpose, which is to help people,? says Perez.

Marissa Laguardia, MTRCB chair, says the board has suggested that the show ?tone down physical altercations between guests. In future episodes, the show [should] highlight counseling.?

Perez says her stint on the dzMM radio program ?About Me & You? primed her well for ?Face to Face.?

?On radio, I was trained to listen patiently and without judgment,? she notes.?

Too involved

Still, the sob stories on ?Face to Face? can get too onerous even for her. ?One day,? she recounts, ?we had a mother who kept hitting her grown children in front of us.?

At the end of each taping day, she tries to leave all the trauma and drama behind her.

?Sometimes, when I get home, I talk to my partner (dzMM reporter) Carlo (Castillo) about our guests. Without fail, he would remind me: ?You?re getting too involved.? My family provides me with much-needed balance,? says Perez.



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