‘Hawi’ incident of Ricky Lee spurs discourse on respect due artists

‘Hawi’ incident of Pia Wurtzbach, Ricky Lee spurs discourse on respect due artists

/ 12:15 AM October 19, 2023

National Artist for Film Ricky Lee

National Artist for Film Ricky Lee

The controversy that involved Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, National Artist for Film Ricky Lee and an event marshal—now referred to as the “hawi” incident—“had to happen” to give way to a discourse that’s necessary and more pressing, Lee said.

The incident, which was caught on video, shows the award-winning screenwriter being pushed aside by the guard, obviously unaware of who he was, when Lee tried to greet Wurtzbach. The beauty queen was on her way to her book launch that day.


“I didn’t think about any of it until I read complaints from netizens. I was like, ‘May nangyari ba?’ I watched the video and it didn’t really affect me. It’s just that if people were concerned and reacting, then maybe there was really something to it,” Lee told Inquirer Entertainment in a recent virtual chat.


Lee, who has written more than 170 screenplays since 1973, added: “I thought, ‘Why is this issue getting bigger instead of dying down? Were there people offended by what happened? I discussed it with some friends and they felt that maybe it was time for people to actually have a discussion about it. It’s because people don’t usually recognize writers, and people in the arts, in general.

“Filipinos are more familiar with sports celebrities, for example. Here, popular people are more recognized, more respected. I guess that became an occasion for us to finally discuss these things publicly. Other than that, I really didn’t think it was an issue.

Ricky Lee

Ricky Lee

‘No one seems to care’

“If a sports celebrity wins a major award abroad, this athlete returns home to overwhelming support from people. He is given money, grants and a grand welcome. But if a director, for example, wins in a major film festival abroad, no one seems to care. Just like what happened to a director friend of mine, who couldn’t even find a ride home from the airport. He had to call another friend to have him picked up.”

Lee said that even after his friend’s win, the director will still have to look for money, convince people to grant him financial aid so he can make his next film and compete abroad again. “If he were a sports celebrity—who is very deserving of the recognition, by the way—he could easily get help to be able to compete abroad next time. While it’s just right that the athlete be given support, his artist counterpart will have to work on securing funds by himself in order to make another film.”

‘Glaring example’

Lee describe this as a “glaring example” of the difference in how Filipinos regard our artists compared to popular celebrities, especially in sports. “Again, I’m not belittling the achievements of sports celebrities. I just wish we can also uplift those in the arts, who also bring home pride and honor from competitions abroad.”

He added: “I guess it was a good thing that this happened because it brought forward issues that are more important. Otherwise, I didn’t feel anything against the guard—although he could’ve been nicer. He could’ve just told me, ‘Pasensya na po. We’re in a hurry.’ But it wasn’t like that. It felt like I was invisible,” said the multiawarded screenwriter, journalist, novelist and playwright.


“If that wasn’t me, then we would probably not be having this discussion. It just had to happen to a National Artist. What if it happened to an artist, who is unrecognized locally but has done so much for Filipinos artistically on the international scene?” Lee surmised.

Inquirer Entertainment then asked Lee to recount what happened on that fateful day. “I was with Pia that same morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. We then had lunch with some friends that included her producer, Mark Yambot, who is also my friend. We talked over lunch and even exchanged book copies,” said Lee, whose first novel “Para Kay B” was published in 2008.

“When I saw her at the venue, one of her entourage called my name. That was when I stood up and approached her group. Pia and I held hands. She said, ‘Sir Ricky, thank you for the book.’ That was when the guard tried to push me away. She left and I decided to follow her to the venue of the book launch to listen to her briefly,” he added.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Lee said the venue was a place very familiar to him because it was where he signed copies of his latest novel, titled “Lahat ng B (Karugtong ng ‘Para Kay B’),” for several days. “Often, I would walk around the place for a few minutes to stretch my legs. When we got to the stage, the event host was interviewing Pia. When they saw me, they acknowledged me and even asked the audience to stand up. Everyone stood up, some 300 of them, including Pia,” he recalled.

TAGS: Pia Wurtzbach, Ricky Lee

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.