By Yong B. Chavez
For making a joke that put Philippine medical schools in a bad light, the producers of "Desperate Housewives" are saying sorry.
"The producers of 'Desperate Housewives' and ABC Studios offer our sincere apologies for any offense caused by the brief reference in the season premiere. There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines. As leaders in broadcast diversity, we are committed to presenting sensitive and respectful images of all communities featured in our programs," Chandler Hayes of ABC Media Relations wrote in an e-mail to FilipinOnline.com.
As of Wednesday night, an online petition demanding an apology from the show has gathered close to 42,000 signatures. The petition was started by Kevin Nadal, a Filipino performance artist and activist.
In last Sunday's episode of the highly-rated show, Teri Hatcher's character (Susan) said this line to her doctor: "Can I just check those diplomas because I just want to make sure that they are not from some med school in the Philippines."
This throwaway line gathered a barrage of negative reactions from the U.S. Filipino community and its leaders.
In a letter addressed to the show, the leader of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) condemned "the racially-biased and culturally insensitive remarks."
"It is outrageous that in this day and age, popular media continue to demean and insult Filipinos in America," Kern said. "For more than one hundred years, we have made valuable contributions to this country, not only as health professionals but as child care providers and home care givers. These dedicated, diligent and competent workers do not deserve to be slandered and stereotyped in such a prejudicial manner if only to evoke laughter."
The Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles also sent a letter of protest to the show for the "derogatory remark."
"We wish to point out that the Philippine medical profession is highly regarded all over the world, as evidenced by the high demand for Filipino healthcare professionals in many countries, including this country. The United States recognizes the academic standards of Philippine medical and nursing schools, and in general, does not require additional schooling in this county for Filipino healthcare professionals who wish to work here," Consul General Mary Jo Aragon said.
Many of the show's Filipino fans were turned off by this gaffe but some may not be writing the show off completely.
"Does this mean that I'll stop watching 'Desperate Housewives?' Only if the story lines are boring," said a blogger from FilipinaMoms.com.
When "Desperate Housewives" premiered in 2004, it was lauded for its quirky plotlines and for having a diverse cast. Filipino American actor Alec Mapa has appeared on the show several times.