Nothing keeps me glued to the TV like a reality show—something happening in real time to real people. While others may be looking for frailties they can use as excuses for their own imperfect lives, I’m looking for some redemptive quality in real life.
Watching athletes perform at higher and higher levels, constantly breaking records, gives me as much satisfaction as watching Charlie Rose and his interviewee provide education in every facet of life.
I particularly remember sitting through three hours of William and Kate’s wedding, thrilled just to be able to observe understated royal fashion and impeccable decorum, admiring the English sense of order and efficiency at the sacrifice of personal comfort and convenience—guests standing in line as a matter of course, waiting to be led to their assigned places and getting settled well before the queen and her entourage arrived—on the dot.
Cousin Ninit and I are self-confessed royalty fans. The seeds of our obsession were planted during our two-year stay in Europe as students, principally in Madrid and Paris, and, through the years, we’ve kept abreast of royal goings-on by watching Spanish and French television and reading the magazine Hola!
It’s no mere curiosity, to be sure. The elegance and the nobility of spirit that royals continue to exude despite great burdens of stature, not to mention problems no different from those of everybody else’s, are certainly not lost on us.
Royal hearts surely also break, as in the case of Queen Sofia, who suffers through the king’s rumored infidelities, not to mention such anti-preservation follies of his as slaying elephants. Perhaps to console herself, she sought solace in the country where they had honeymooned—right here, in the Philippines.
Her daughter Leticia’s divorce and her son-in-law’s involvement in a graft case about football money, as well as the cut in the royal allowance certainly weigh additionally. But Sofia carries on like the Queen that she is.
Impoverished for role models
On the other hand—not to assign any blame—I can’t help feeling impoverished for role models among local reality-show characters: movie stars, politicians, social types. Very few of them can inspire emulation either in behavior or legacy.
Indeed, at the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, televised live, whatever attempts made at nobility were overshadowed by the rantings of one female senator— yes, merely one, and an odd one at that, indeed the longest-running oddity on local reality TV.
Still, I’m grateful to have seen it all—if only for the continuing validation of her character.
I didn’t feel the same about the television coverage of Dolphy’s show-biz funeral. There was just too much of it, as if nothing else was going on in the country. An overexposed funeral—thanks to a misguided press—can be just as distasteful, indeed almost disrespectful toward the dead and the viewers as well. Lito Zulueta had a most felicitous phrase for the likes of it: “pornography of grief.”
The other Monday I watched President Noynoy as he delivered his third State of the Nation Address (Sona). The program was distracted only by an unintended fashion show by congressional ladies and spouses, but as soon as he made his entrance and until he finished his speech, it was his show.
His command of the vernacular is quite endearing, his idioms and manner popular, obviously a younger man’s. For this particular reality TV, I was looking not for any air of royalty but, simply, credibility, and did feel I got it. Thus I found the president taller than the last time, and his moral authority stronger.
On the other hand, the street protesters, representing the nation’s poor, the long-standing victims that they have been, understandably had little to give in the way of niceties: They just have to go out there and give vent to their sentiments, the least concession the haves can allow the have-nots.
Still, instead of engaging in the old rituals—burning effigies, waving red flags and streamers, chanting old chants, throwing missiles—I wish they’d engage this president more. He does seem engage-able to me.
Feeling somehow that that would be too much to wish for, I retreated after the Sona to the refuge of un-reality TV—“Downton Abbey,” a story set in 1912 in a 1,000-acre estate of an English noble family, where nobility is portrayed as no monopoly of the noble rich, but a popular virtue, regardless of class or assets, liabilities and net worth.