Why Filipinos should say “no” to the “Boyet Challenge”

27 Jan

I spent the late afternoon reading social media comments and direct messages about ASP’s #no2boyetchallenge. After a couple of “Huh?”, “Jusko” and “Uy, hindi ah”, I felt compelled to write this article (which first appeared on the ASP website and echoed by Smart Parenting) for those who were missing the point.

Advocates do not have the luxury of self-serving anger because positive change is inspired by enlightenment. Hope these responses to FAQs help somehow.


The Autism Society Philippines condemned the latest social media experiment called “The Boyet Challenge” (where participants mimic the title character from the soap opera “My Special Tatay”) as thinly-veiled instruments of ridicule of those who live with autism and intellectual disabilities, just as the Philippines began to the commemorate the National Autism Consciousness Week on the third week of January.

This is in response to the increase of posted videos of Filipinos doing their versions of this fictional character with a developmental disability, which began in December 2018.

In January 2019, the ASP called out YouTube influencer Benedict Cua on Twitter for posting a “72-hour Boyet Challenge” video. The ASP appreciates how Mr. Cua apologized in writing and via video; and has since taken down the original post.

Since our Facebook and Twitter posts, this story was covered by GMA NewsPhilippine Daily InquirerManila Bulletin, Abante TNT, Abante VisMinRemate, Yahoo News PhilippinesPEP.ph, Coconuts.co, Kami.com, among others.

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Our call for kindness has spurred questions and conversations via comments and direct messages worth sharing here.

I like Ken Chan and his portrayal. Why are you against “My Special Tatay”?

The Autism Society Philippines respects the rights to creative expression of performance artists, writers and producers of TV and film in the interpretation of fictional characters who have autism and intellectual disabilities.

We condemn the “Boyet Challenge” social media trend involving the imitation of a popular fictional character named Boyet, because it uses traits of persons with disabilities for the purpose of comedic entertainment and social media notoriety. Sadly, this includes Mr. Chan (who joined and supported the Angels Walk for Autism years ago) who often slips into his Boyet character outside the context of his soap opera.

Ganun naman talaga magsalita ang mga may autism. Uma-acting lang naman kami, kasi fans kami ng show.

“My Special Tatay” is an undeniably popular show with a wide audience base. When the show launched in August 2018, Ken Chan articulated his aspiration to be a “voice of people with autism”. This made us hopeful that his portrayal of a man on the spectrum will inspire compassion and respect for persons with autism and intellectual disabilities as human beings, who do not deserve being spoofed in the name of comedic amusement.

We would like to share a list of honest and nuanced portrayals of characters with autism and/or intellectual disability worth emulating: Alden Richards in Eat Bulaga’s Lenten Special “Kapatid” (2017), John Lloyd Cruz in “The Trial” (2014), Gerald Anderson in “Budoy” (2012), Terence Baylon in “Ipagpatawad Mo” (1991), among others. We are keen on watching how Arjo Atayde’s character with autism in “The General’s Daughter” (2019) will be developed. The Autism Society Philippines serves in an advisory capacity on film and television projects that will further the understanding of autism through media.

We especially commend actor Gerald Anderson for starting a foundation which trains dogs to serve in rescue missions and to act as service dogs to children with autism — after his show ended and without the intention to promote his television project. He also partnered with Kiehl’s Philippines to raise funds that will provide free therapy for children with autism from indigent families.

Wala pong masamang intention ang mga gumagawa ng challenge. Pampa-good vibes lang po ito.

Ginagawa po ang challenge para magpatawa. Bakit po naging nakakatawa ang mga taong may kapansanan na nahihirapan magsalita o parang musmos magisip? Hindi po makatao na gamitin ang hirap nila na pampatawa! Hindi po makatao na gawing katatawanan ang kanilang kaibahan! Para po sa mga milyong-milyong pamilyang Pilipino na may minamahal na may kapansanan, hindi po ito nagbibigay ng “good vibes”.

This is a harmless social media gag. It has no effect in real life.

Here’s an effect which can be measured by empirical data. With the popularity of the Boyet Challenge and its variations like the “Kapag lumingon ka …” and the “This is my voice after watching #myspecialtatay …”, measured in post volume, likes, comments, reposts and number of compilations, it appears that it is now acceptable to mimic persons with communication challenges in the name of entertainment and social media virality. The term “Boyet” is now an emerging euphemistic insult for anyone likened to persons with autism and intellectual disability — just search #boyet on Twitter.

As an ethnographic observation, the thousands of people who have posted this challenge expose a dark layer of society who think persons with disabilities are different, therefore less than them and are laughable. This perpetuates the culture of bullying that Filipino children and adults with autism and intellectual disabilities have to live with everyday.

This may be just a TV show or a way to rack up social media likes for some; but this is real life for persons with autism and their families.

We are free to express ourselves. We are protected by freedom of expression by law.

The freedoms we enjoy as citizens carry obligations. We should not abuse these freedoms by infringing on the rights of others to exist with dignity. Persons with disabilities are protected by the Magna Carta of PWDs. Republic Act No. 9442 (the ammendment to RA 7277) protects PWDs (which include those with autism and intellectual disabilities) against ridicule and vilification. Violation of this law carries fines and prison time. Pursuit of legal action is an option the Autism Society Philippines is ready to take as a last resort.

What can I do to help the #no2boyetchallenge campaign?

Send this FAQs to anyone in your sphere of influence who has posted a #boyetchallenge video. If you have made a #boyetchallenge video, delete it now. If you are a parent, please talk to you kids. If you are a teacher, please discuss this in class. If you are part of a student group, please create a campaign on campus. Take a stand! And read more about the Autism Society Philippines’ 1Pangako campaign at http://bit.ly/1pangako.

There is no need to pick fights. Many who have participated in this challenge quickly recognize the disability slur once it is pointed out. Think of this as an opportunity to teach and inspire change. Peace to all!

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