Oh, Pinoy soaps
I have to admit, I’ve been on a fairly steady diet of Philippine soap operas lately, thanks to my mother’s fierce control over the television. I can now summarize GMA 7’s recent afternoon soaps for you, tell you how they stretched Bantatay almost to breaking point, recount what happened in Dwarfina, and tell you in explicit detail everything about TV5’s Babaeng Hampaslupa. And not just because the soaps are viewed on a daily basis or that I’m present for every viewing. It’s also due to the fact that Philippine soap operas tend to have the same storyline, complications, and climaxes anyway. Female protagonist is poor but kind and pretty, or she was switched at birth and raised to live a hard life, or she’s ugly but will eventually be transformed to prettiness. She is frequently emotionally thrashed by female antagonists in her life while male characters connected with the antagonists mainly look on helplessly or know nothing at all. Antagonists are punished either by death or by them going insane. Rich people are often depicted as cruel, heartless beings who don’t seem to have any hobbies other than plotting ways to make life miserable for the protagonist. Antagonists have infinite resources and at some point will acquire henchmen, insane firepower, and obtain the use of a warehouse in which to torture a protagonist or someone close to her.
Yeah, you get it, you must have seen a few soaps in your day as well.
The settings may change, and you do get some fantasy thrown into the mix as well, but the themes and characters remain the same. It’s funny how I haven’t noticed one archetypal character in Philippine soaps though, having always focused primarily on the poor, kind heroine character and the constant women-against-women theme, which really isn’t doing much for the sisterhood. This character is the Long-Suffering Guy Best Friend Who Is In Love With The Heroine. He is, well, the best guy friend of the heroine, and he secretly (to the heroine) carries a torch for her, which is blithely ignored by the heroine because she’s set her timid, Filipina heroine-appropriate sights on the rich guy, who by some miracle is attracted to her as well. The Long-Suffering Guy Best Friend hangs on, being there for the heroine whenever she needs him, especially when circumstances tear her and Unattainable Leading Guy apart. It’s often too much for soap writers to pair the heroine with the Long-Suffering Guy Best Friend, choosing to have her end up with the guy with whom getting together was such a pain what with all the scheming his mother and his ex cooked up. As a result, the Long-Suffering Guy Best Friend ends up with someone else, like some wacky female character or the female best friend of the heroine, who has had her sights set on Long-Suffering Guy Best Friend for a long time, too.
Just for once, how cool would it be if the heroine just said “Fuck this shit” and opted to not end up with anyone at all? But then, that wouldn’t be a Philippine soap.
And to demonstrate my knowledge of Babaeng Hampaslupa:
Katharina (Bing Loyzaga) successfully snatched up Diana/Anastasia (Alice Dixson 1) and her daughter Grace/Elizabeth (Alex Gonzaga), holding them in a–tadaaa!–warehouse where she taunts them and occasionally whips them, with bloody results. Assassin Harry (Wendell Ramos) kidnapped Stephanie (Karel Marquez) in order to trade her for Diana/Anastasia, with whom he is unhealthily obsessed. Tonight’s episode saw Stephanie back in the arms of her lover Philip Cheng (Joross Gamboa), with whom she has a relationship that perhaps some viewers won’t be able to grasp 2 and Diana/Anastasia remaining in the clutches of Harry, who was trying to convince her to come away with him and forget about her family and her daughter with whom she only recently reconciled and have been trying to find for years and years.
Now if this were CSI, Law and Order, or Hawaii Five-O, vehicle registration numbers, license plates, and general movements would have already been tracked, and Katharina’s mocking phone calls to the Wong family would’ve been traced long ago and her ass clapped behind bars. Of course, in reality, we don’t even have such facilities. I imagine that if the Philippines somehow manages to acquire, maintain, and successfully use sophisticated surveillance equipment, kidnapping subplots in soaps will be severely crippled and resolved in one episode.
Good heavens, I need a life. This is fun, though. Perhaps I should start
cruelly mocking blogging about more Pinoy soap operas.
- To my mind, that “s” is wayward. ↩
- She made him jealous by meeting up with Andrew See (Mart Escudero), with whom she was unhealthily obsessed with to the point of pretending he was the father of her unborn child and who is in love with Grace/Elizabeth. Philip did fly into a jealous rage, which led to harsh words and an exchange of slaps, immediately followed by a what-should-be-a-passionate kiss, whereupon Philip picked up Stephanie and sat her on a table, presumably for sexy timez. ↩