MANILA, Philippines—After receiving backlash on social media, comedian and Eat Bulaga host Joey de Leon on Friday offered apologies for his out-of-touch statement on depression.
“Nagkamali po ako [I made a mistake],” De Leon admitted. “Humihingi po ako ng kapatawaran sa mga nasaktan, nagalit [I’m asking for the forgiveness of those who were hurt, angered]. I’m sorry.”
De Leon’s apologies came a day after he said on national television (TV) that depression is a “made-up” condition and those who suffer from it are simply “nagpapasosyal” or trying to be elite.
The comedian’s remarks were made during Eat Bulaga’s Sugod Bahay segment, a mix of comedy and melodrama that appeals to its viewers’ sensibilities by encouraging winners to share stories about their families, particularly the difficulties they face.
Usually, the segment ends in a light note where the subjects and hosts, nicknamed Dabarkads, laugh off issues. However, the usual didn’t happen on Thursday. Netizens weren’t laughing.
The TV host admitted that he made the mistake of trivializing depression due to his little knowledge of the illness, likening it to stress.
“Naging mababaw lang at magaan ang pagtanggap ng inyong lingkod sa salitang (depresyon) iyan. Hanggang nabanggit ko nga iyong ‘Wala, gawa-gawa lang iyan ng ibang tao.’ Iyon kasi ang paniniwala ko, na ang stress at depression halos magkapantay lamang. [I took that word (depression) shallowly and lightly. Until I mentioned, ‘It’s nothing. It’s just made-up by others.’ That’s what I believed in, that stress and depression are almost equal],” De Leon said.
De Leon went on by saying that he was admonished by his wife, Eileen, for his statement. He added that his children also explained to him what depression is about and how it is different from stress.
“Pinagalitan po ako ng misis ko na si Eileen. Paguwi ko pa ho, pinagalitan ako dahil ipinaliwanag n’ya at pati ‘yung mga anak namin, sinabi, ‘Daddy, hindi stress ‘yan, ‘yung depression. [I was admonished by my wife, Eileen. When I reached home, she chided me and explained, as well as our children, they said, ‘Daddy, depression is not just stress],” he recalled, adding that it was far from what he thought it really is.
“Lalo akong nahiya sa sarili ko nang banggitin ni Eileen na may malalapit kaming mahal sa buhay na nagdurusa sa ganoong kalagayan [I felt ashamed of myself more when Eileen mentioned that we have close loved ones who suffer from that condition],” he added.
De Leon shared that he phoned fellow Dabarkads, actress Maine Mendoza, the same night to apologize for his remarks. During the segment, it was Maine, among all hosts, who stood firm on her view of depression, insisting that depression is not a joke and shouldn’t be trivialized. Her on-screen love interest, Alden Richards, affirmed her opinion that people who suffer from depression should be given support.
“Kagabi tinawagan ko si Maine. Nag-sorry ako kay Maine agad dahil s’ya ‘yung nagbanggit noon agad, s’ya ‘yung nagbanggit tungkol doon sa depression. [I called Maine last night. I apologized to Maine right away because she was the first to mention it, the one who talked about depression],” De Leon said.
“So medyo nakaluwag ‘yung paghinga ko. Hirap nga akong matulog hanggang hindi umaabot itong pagkakataon na ‘to [So I was able to breathe better. I had a hard time sleeping until this chance arrives],” he added, referring to his opportunity to apologize to the public.
If there’s any positive outcome this blunder could bring, De Leon hopes that it would open doors for a larger discussion of depression in order to educate people on what it really is.
“May kasabihan naman tayo na mapait man ang karungan o edukasyon, karaniwan naman, matamis ang ibinubunga nito. So ‘yun lang po. Maraming salamat po [We have a saying that goes, ‘The roots of education are bitter, but its fruit is sweet.’ That’s all. Thank you very much,” De Leon said.