Telenovelas and the Perfect Ending in the Imperfect Failipino World

If you ever travel to the Philippines, one thing that you can expect is the popularity of the afternoon and primetime teleseries among most households. These drama shows go beyond the entertainment value, can be roughly translated as a “How-To” be stupid in X scenario shows. It is a habit that every Filipino should unsubscribe from right away. It promotes stupidity with the utmost expertise in addressing scenarios so much that could have been easily solved with common sense, had they maintained any knowledge from dealing with comparable situations in the past, that is. My relatives in the Philippines are extremely addicted to these shows, so much so that they function as if they belong in the world of fantasy crafted by a director.

Telenovelas are a huge hit with the Filipinos because most of them they like to play roles – a hero, a villain, whatever it is they fancy. It outlines “perfect” roles and scenarios that cannot when applied in the “real and imperfect world”.  Despite this, Filipinos continue to prescribe to telenovela stereotypes as a means to avoid responsibility. Picture this as an addition to the “bahala na” excuse, especially when new situations appear and pressing decisions have to be made, and you are left with the typical Filipino who is indecisive, proud, and timid. This infuriates me greatly because I know the decision was not carefully thought out. It is only a Filipino acting out in a similar situation that his/her favorite young star in this telenovela did in X episode, as if I am a director or something for the next installment of the series.

I tried to pierce the perfect telenovela bubble with my imperfect arrow of realism on hopefully my last trip to that unfortunate country. But it bounced back right at my face in the form of a curdling wail of Filipino curse words from an elderly distant relative. My ears are still hurt, not from the foul words, but from the decibels that my ears registered from about a year ago. At any rate this happened because said relative was forcing me to hook up with one of the guys in their neighborhood. I politely declined her assistance in crossing off my relationship goals, stating that I was only there for my great grandmother’s wake, and not to procreate.

This distant aunt’s matchmaking duties lasted about three days, with the guy in question getting uncomfortably close to me with each passing day. The fourth and fifth day was a completely different flavor from the first three. These “family members” made fun of my choice to be single and focusing on work, highlighting the fact that I am on my way to becoming an old spinster, and that I should marry within our race. This was beyond what I could tolerate at that point in time. I snapped and told them that it is stupid to be in a relationship with someone that I had just met, let alone someone of my race from that area. Needless to say, I packed my belongings that same afternoon and rented a room in the neighboring village for about two more days when my great grandmother finally got buried. As I soon as my sister and I came back to the US, my brother told me that I had disrespected the elders greatly. But he was happy that I did not end up staying in that backward, hopeless little town.

The telenovela’s persistent influence on most Filipinos reinforces how they view things “should be” on their stupid terms. The huge argument that ultimately resulted in “sama ng loob” with one of the elders on my mom’s side of the family was extremely exhausting to my personal well-being. It was not a very worthwhile effort to convert them into smart, thinking beings that can hopefully retain and function properly for once. Make impromptu decisions and act on the spot! But until their eyes, ears, hearts and minds cease from being glued to this crappy entertainment habit where they derive certain milestones on each gender role, they would have to look for another “actress” to fulfill my role in the next family gathering. I’d gladly play the villain if they want me there, but I doubt they can cover my acting fees.

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  1. Profile gravatar of Phil Doh
    Phil Doh

    I wonder if the people who watch this crap have ever seen a hollywood movie. If they had they’d surely appreciate that the acting on these soap operas is truly terrible. It obviously rubs off on the population in a big way. How many times do you see somebody on the news wailing and bawling the same as those on the soaps?

    1. Profile gravatar of Captain PFB
      Captain PFB

      Yep, those soap operas totally affect people’s behavior. When I was a young boy, my mother was fucking addicted to them. General Hospital, All My Children, As The World Turns, etc…. I did not have a mother available every weekday afternoon for a few hours while they were on TV.

      My mom and dad used to argue and fight a lot (ever since my dad got caught having affairs), and I kid you not, my mother was so melodramatic during those arguments. It was EXACTLY like the people on the soaps.

      And you are right, when watching the news here, seeing the wailing and bawling is EXACTLY like the telenovelas here.

      1. Profile gravatar of Phil Doh
        Phil Doh

        Made me laugh the story of the small girl who asked the pope on his visit why do so many small children suffer, and his answer was we all need to cry more. I guess Franny never turned the TV on whilst he was here.

      2. Profile gravatar of Spartacus_killingus

        It was precisely that fucking melodrama that pushed me away from my previous wife in the Philippines. I strongly believe with 100% certainty, that her behavior as well as her families, was a direct result of too much god damned television!

        I go out to get a drink at 7 Eleven, I must be “meeting up with someone other woman.”
        I get into a fight with my Ex, she would start this weird screaming over the top drama, where it was like acting. First scream and cry, then go into RAGE and point the finger while talking through teeth and making threats. Jesus Christ I had enough of that shit!

        Oh yeah, and everything was a freaking conspiracy to her and them.

        What is worse, is that She literally had no interests other than reading romance novels and watching Pangako Sa yo and every other POS that came out of the idiot box.
        Always complained I never gave her flowers, or had a candle light dinner. Not my style man, seriously. She couldn’t tell from my purple Fohawk and tattoos at the time I was a rocker? LOL

  2. Profile gravatar of vinzz

    When my wife watch this ridiculous soap it’s allways end in fight if i dont leave the room.
    Im so exasperated to listen all this shouts, cries, overacting people, even morer when there is a gay inside the movie.
    I wonder what happen in their head to be stuck with such stufs.
    When i ask to my wife she tell me they need to escape from reality, and forget poverty with such distraction.But we are in France for many years nows and even if the situation here is deteriorating we are not yet in a slum…
    They are in confort zone when they don’t have to think to something and this kind of entertainment really fit their spirit.

    1. Profile gravatar of Johnny

      I tried to watch few movies and TV shows in the Philippines to learn Tagalog. Even though I did not know what they were saying I could se how awful the acting was. Overacting, yelling, crying for no reason, or god forbid a gay guy on the screen overly acting gay.
      All the movies were stupid, slapstick comedies. If they were love movies, it was always rich guy/ girl and poor guy/ girl somehow finding love. It was nauseating.

      1. Profile gravatar of 30-30

        the worst acting i have ever seen,, but sometimes they dub tagolo on to the expat english channels,, thieving twats…
        i can stand good korean and chinese movies with english subtitles
        but I have never seen such crappy tv as in the feelipppines….they can only copy,, steal off other countries…

        1. Profile gravatar of Spartacus_killingus

          When I was in Malaysia they were playing dubbed Filipino soaps.
          Not sure exactly how sad that is, but I’m leaning toward pretty damn pathetic.

          On the other hand, theirs were not much better. They even have same type of story lines as Filipinos.
          The usual, housemaid falls in love with billionaire family member, then discovers she is the actual heir to the kingdom so to speak.

          Your basic Cinderella bullshit.

        2. Profile gravatar of Sarah

          I really hate it whenever they do that!! I do loved Chinese movies, especially ones set during the Imperial days of old China.

          I bought a few pirated ones last time I was in the Philippines. Got home in Oz, put on play and WTF??? It was dubbed in Tagalog!!! I had to tossed it out because I’d have preferred to read the English dubbing. Must be careful next time….

  3. Profile gravatar of Phil Doh
    Phil Doh

    Anybody ever notice how when Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America – and other big budget action movies – are on at the cinema they’re shown on every screen and packed out? I think this is similar to the soap operas, where as long as there is drama and the viewers don’t have to think too much about plot twists, sub-plots and complicated characters you can show the same shit over and over again and they’ll just lap it up.

    I once sat in a bar and they were showing one of the Transformers movies on the screen over the bar. Three filipino guys, all in their forties, were sitting opposite me transfixed with it. You should’ve seen their little faces. I’m sure they thought those big robots were real.

    I went to watch Interstellar a few months back, only a few other people in the cinema. It was worth the ticket price just to see some of the expressions after. You think you’ve seen the blank stare. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve hit them with concepts of black holes, quantum physics and time travel.

  4. Profile gravatar of Elias Loco
    Elias Loco

    Growing up, I think it was called “telenovelas” like their imported Latin counterparts. It’s the networks’ branding that they came up with “teleserye” and “telebabad”. And it’s not entirely on the director/s but to the writers that actually make up or sort of dictate all the shitty stuff.

    If it’s a hit to their audience, they make a follow-up to something like a “Book 2”, or it can take years before one drama project ends like more than a year on air, or gimmicks like a “live ending” to it, and then also concerts to thank and entertain their fans for their support.

    It’s weird that they import Korean dramas that actually make more sense to watch but they never get to learn how they do it and instead go on with how they want their dramas to look like, as “Pinoy” as it can get, needing not much common sense but just enjoy the show.

    I do also think that it’s getting too much already, from noon until late night? Well I can say those networks are really doing a great job gluing people on their TV for most of the day and night and that most people aren’t really complaining about the stuff they’re getting.

    When I get to have a glimpse of it, to me it’s like Granny telling children’s stories to both kids and adults, without really having to challenge their way of thinking or to even question a scene as either relevant or making sense at all. Thought process is kept to a minimum.

    The drama scenes have actually evolved. Now they’ve put more Taglish lines into it, Tagalog mixed with English to make it “sosyal” or “classy/educated” like a high status symbol that the viewer should likely emulate, esp. perceived to be better if one can make it slang.

    And now they like recycling previous dramas from older generations or decades so that, as they say, the new generation can get to experience the “classic obra maestra” that captured the hearts of those that came before them. What a way to pass down a legacy, bravo!

  5. Profile gravatar of 30-30

    Well I was flying from Papua New Guinea
    So I asked this local from png what he was going to do in manaila?

    No. 1 meet a woman.ohoh,, have you ever been out of png,, no,,, where did you meet this women,, internet,,,omg,,
    so i told him not to tell anyone this is ur first time,,, so he teell s the immigration officer he has been here 3 times, of course she checks this out ,, comes back and says he his lieing..
    he gets through ok,, the woman is late meeting him,,, at the aairport,,but we wait for him.. she says she is separated and has 2 kids, she takes him to quezon city, puts him in a hotel,,,, and is never seen again,,
    now,, he texted my wife and is coming over to pasay,,,to get a hotel nearer to me,
    this guy only brought 450 dollars US with him????!!!!!!
    just like sheep to the slaughter house,,,oh well,,,,, maybe God will remember me when i am at the pearly gates….
    shoot me dead is alive and well

    1. Profile gravatar of Spartacus_killingus

      Ahhhhhh yes, the early days of my coming to the Philippines were exactly like this.

      I came with only 250 US dollars in my pocket and no idea what to do or where to go when I arrived at the airport. I had no idea where exactly my destination was, or how to get there. Talk about a puckering ass hole… LOL

      Looking back, I would have thoroughly kicked my ass into reason. I still can’t believe I did that, I’m so lucky I made it out alive!

  6. Profile gravatar of Spartacus_killingus

    Sometimes I would get trapped near a television while this horrible stuff plays. I’m not sure what is worse, the basic telenovella or the “fantasy” variety with mermaids and shit.

    I would sometimes see these shows with mermaids or some elf and at first I was thinking “haha, that’s cute, something for the kids”……….Uhm, no. Actually that is considered serious acting apparently, and those are serious roles. Don’t be making fun of it or you shall be chastised and told to go back to your country.

    There was one show, with like this flying alien horse that could do flips and stuff. It was so bad not even Filipinos liked it. LOL
    The graphics for these are so awful it is beyond reason. This makes literally no sense to me, as you can go on youtube and see better DIY special effects on your home computer.

    I give no leeway for this massive failure as a professional computer artist myself.

    But wait there is more!

    Then you have the WTF moments in Telenovela. Say it is already bad right, but in some way it is grounded in “reality”; that is to say it is about material things in a material world.

    Then seemingly out of the blue they introduce a fairy fucking god mother! Or a mystical elf, or a monster!

    WTF is going on man? Some story continuity would go a long freaking way.

    Also, the way everyone seems mesmerized by the magical TV at telenovella time…..Creepy!