I was having lunch the other day with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and after the usual greetings, the conversation centered around soap operas. Surprisingly, it dominated the whole table, even if there were several showbiz intrigues that were far more interesting.
Someone asked if Elisa died. For those who don’t watch, Elisa is from “Nasaan Ka Elisa?” of ABS-CBN. Someone answered that she died eventually. The soap is about the title character, played by Melissa Ricks, who was missing since the start of the story, but only comes out once in awhile throughout the show.
Which makes me wonder: If she headlines the cast and the story is about her, how much talent fee does she get if she appears much less than the others? It’s kind of intriguing, if you think about it.
They then went on reviewing the popular soaps that they watched or are still watching. “There’s “Budoy,” “My Binondo Girl,” “Amaya,” “Ikaw Ay Pag-ibig,” and now they are starting “Walang Hanggan.” They started reminiscing about past shows like “Rubi,” “Pangako Sa ’Yo,” “Tayong Dalawa,” “Encantadia,” “Mulawin” and “May Bukas Pa.” They went on and on about so many other soaps, it was hard for me to follow.
The conversation continued, with everyone noticing the stereotypical scenarios that all soap operas have in the Philippines. Have you noticed that ABS-CBN has tearjerkers on the popularity charts, while GMA has “fantaseryes” that ABS cannot seem to compete with? Now I am wondering if the action/drama genre that TV5 is offering will hit the mark.
What got my attention was how the conversation veered to the obvious clichés that most of the soaps are guilty of. Let’s start with the protagonist who always starts out poor. Why? So that the antagonist can bully him or her? Isn’t that too obvious a conflict?
Someone at the table shouted, “So that the bida can look good after finding out later in the story that he or she is rich.…” That is so ’50s.
A film major in the group said that it is used to illustrate aspirational dreams. But she also said that we all grew up with the happily-ever-after syndrome that we have been fed since childhood. She even went as far as saying that this all that the masses can comprehend.
I violently disagreed, because Filipinos are exposed to foreign dramas and movies that don’t resort to the obvious clichés. Then the chicken-and-egg argument ensued, a toss-up on the truth. Does the station feed the masses what they really want,or do the masses dictate what the station produces?
They say that the Filipino audience is not prepared to comprehend complex stories; that is why most of the soaps and even movies seemed infantile. Yet these are the same Filipinos who patronize American and even other foreign films.
So my queries on the soaps are the following:
(Trust me, this sounds better in Tagalog)
1. Bakit kapag may kidnapping, kailangan sa warehouse dalhin?
2. Bakit laging huli ang mga pulis at una ang bida sa pagsagip?
3. Bakit mas makapal ang makeup ng kontrabida kaysa sa bida?
4. Bakit kailangan magtapos sa barilan ang kwento, kahit hindi naman ito aksyon soap?
5. Bakit ang mga artistang Pinoy, kapag nasa hospital bed ay naka-makeup pa rin? Kahit taga bundok, naka-makeup pa rin?
6. Bakit kailangan mahirap ang bida at mayaman ang kontrabida?
7. Bakit babad lagi ang crying scene nang 10-15 minutes?
8. Bakit may inuman lagi sa sari-sari store? (Di ba bawal na ’to sa Quezon City?)
9. Bakit hindi lumilipat ang lipstick ng babae sa lalaking bida kapag nakikipaghalikan?
10. Bakit kailangang masama ang ugali ng madrasta? (except for Sharon Cuneta)
You don’t have to answer all of the above; they are just questions that we all ponder. It may sound funny at times but if you really think about them, they do sound ridiculous. Please feel free to add more if I missed any.
Soap operas have been around since they started on the radio. In fact, my first exposure to it was with my yaya washing our clothes in our backyard, with the transistor radio so loud I thought our neighbor was fighting.
Today, soaps or “teleseryes” or “telenovelas” or whatever you want to call them have gained international recognition, with the release of local shows dubbed in the language of the countries they are exported to.
“Pangako Sa ’Yo” is said to be the most successful teleserye that was brought outside the Philippines, where it was dubbed for Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and even Africa!
You want to be proud? Well, even Angel Locsin was nominated for an Emmy for “Lobo,” although the title was changed to “She-Wolf: The Last Sentinel” (sounds better in English, di ba?). “Sana Maulit Muli” was also aired in Taiwan; “Mga Mata Ni Angelita” in Mexico; and “Eva Fonda” in Korea. Which makes me wonder now—do the Filipinos share the same “sentiments” with other cultures when it comes to taste in soaps?
Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure: Soaps are here to stay. They may give us the escape we need from our boring routines; they do give a number of people work (including yours truly), and one thing’s for sure—they’re there to entertain.
I just have one worry, though. Filipinos tend to imitate what they see, so is it safe to actually live in a world that people perceive as a soap opera? Is life imitating art, or is art imitating life? Ang sagot dito, sa susunod na kabanata….
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