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.Published in