‘The disrespect!’: Filipinos react after video shows National Artist Ricky Lee pushed aside at book fair

September 20, 2023 - 12:28 PM
Photo of Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach with National Artists Ricky Lee and Gemino Abad during the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) on September 14, 2023 (piawurtzbach/Instagram)

A video that showed National Artist Ricky Lee being shoved to the side during the arrival of Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach at a book fair earned the ire of some Filipinos online.

The video was uploaded by ABS-CBN News reporter MJ Felipe last September 14. On that day, Pia held the launch of her debut novel “Queen of the Universe” at the 2023 Manila International Book Fair (MIBF).

READ: Pia Wurtzbach urges fans to support Filipino writers after success of her debut novel

MIBF was held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City from September 14 to 17.

The video showed Pia walking with her security detail at the fair. The beauty queen and now-published author greeted her fans and waved at them as she walked along a hallway.

Ricky was among the people who greeted the beauty queen. He later got the chance to shake hands with Pia.

A security guard, however, pushed him aside while they were shaking hands. Ricky could be seen still waving at Pia after.

What really happened

In an interview with entertainment news site PEP, Ricky shared that he and Pia met and exchanged books before the incident.

He said that he was a friend of Pia’s publisher Mark Yambot.

“So, na-meet ko si Pia nung ribbon cutting, and then, after that, nag-lunch kami. Sa lunch, kasama ni Pia yung mga tao niya, mga anim o pito kaya nakilala nila ako lahat. Sinabi ni Pia na bibigyan niya ako ng libro niya so sumabay ako sa van niya para ma-autograph yung libro,” Ricky said in the interview.

“Sabi ko, bibigyan ko rin siya ng libro ko bilang kapalit. Pinadalhan ko siya ng libro sa holding area,” he added.

Ricky further recalled that Pia thanked him for the book when they briefly shook hands.

The guard, however, did come off a bit rude to the celebrated author.

“I think medyo naging rude yung guwardiya,” Ricky was quoted in the report as saying.

“I think maski na sinong tao, maski na bata o estudyante, kung in-acknowledge ni Pia, kinausap at pinasalamatan, huwag niyang itaboy. Yun ang punto ko,” he also added.

Seen as impolite to Ricky as guest and elder

This part of the footage quickly drew criticism from some Filipinos days after MIBF concluded.

They saw the actions toward Ricky as disrespectful, noting that he was a guest at the fair and a senior citizen.

“Grabe yung hinawi lang si sir Ricky Lee. Unang una, may edad na sya, kung makahawi naman. Pangalawa, National Artist siya! The disrespect!” actor Don Melvin Boongaling wrote.

“The way the guard treated the National Artist, Mr. Ricky Lee,” a Facebook user also said with a crying emoji. 

“Grabe naman the bodyguards makadamba ng Pambansang Alagad ng Sining. May edad na ‘yung tao o,” another Filipino commented there.

Some Facebook users expressed dismay and frustration that Pia’s security detail did not know that Ricky was also a guest at the fair.

“Maybe the guard was not oriented at hindi niya kilala si Mr. Ricky Lee. He just wants to protect the artist at makadating sa stage on time to not delay the program since yun ang instruction sa kanila,” a Facebook user said.

Other Filipinos, meanwhile, put the MIBF organizers at fault for this incident.

“The management should be held accountable. They should have informed all personnel of their VIP [very important persons] guests. Especially security,” a Facebook user said.

Ricky was conferred the National Artist of the Philippines for Film and Broadcast Arts in 2022.

He joined other new and veteran authors who held book signing and fan-meet activities at the MIBF.