Modern Philippine Teleserye: Intelligence vs. Lameness of the Filipino Mind

    (Image by google)
    With the introduction of television in the Philippines in 1963, Philippine Television has already been in the mainstream in Filipino Culture and it is part of our daily lives by providing us news and information, learning, and trivia and the most important aspect of Philippine TV is entertainment.  Whenever we go, in the office, shopping malls, in the jeepneys and bus and even on our cellphone we can watch our favorite program anytime and anywhere.  In Philippine TV, there are three largest networks that dominated the airwaves during television hours like ABS -CBN 2, GMA 7, and ABC 5.  The three network stations provided news, education, and even entertainment.  The Government-owned networks like PTV 4 and IBC-13 provide sports, news, and information while the newcomer Solar TV provided all the aspects of Philippine Television entertainment.  Part of the aspects of entertainment is the Teleserye or Philippine Drama in which most of the volume of airwaves and TV programs came from this aspect that contributes almost all viewing hours from 3:00 in the afternoon up to 10:00 in the evening, minus the news and other entertainment such as sports, cartoons, and reality talk shows.


    Mutya (Image from google) 
    The first Philippine drama or soap opera was Hiwaga sa Bahay na Bato and it was followed by Liwanag ng Pag-Ibig, Prinsipe Amante, and others.  Then in the 70’s it was followed by the ever-popular Gulong ng Palad (revived in 2006 by ABS-CBN) it was shown on BBC2 at that time, were popularized by TV veteran actress Caridad Sanchez and Marianne Dela Riva, and it was a household name.  In the early 80’s with the rise of the Super Robot Anime genre at that time (Voltes V and Mazinger Z), RPN 9 produced Flordeluna and GMA 7’s Anna Liza both are timeless classics.  In the 90’s prime time TVs boosted many careers with the likes of Judy Ann Santos in Mara Clara.  After the noontime show Eat Bulaga, there was Heredero and Valiente which ran for 7 years.  Another on the mid-afternoon time slot Mula sa Puso was already in the primetime big shot which by led by Claudine Baretto (not a bad girl at that time).  By 2000, another Primetime Soap Opera series produced by ABS-CBN which ran from 2000 to 2002 and it serves as one of the most influential primetime dramas ever made and appealed to many audiences in foreign language and it caused a phenomenon that when most of television viewers went home from offices and caused a brief power outage during the last episode of the show.  Pangako sa iyo made Philippine History in Television and took the glory in broadcasting in many networks across Asia.

    From Drama to Fantasy to Controversy

    Dennis Trillo (left) and Tom Rodriguez (right) A controversial Scene
    (Image by  Rappler)
    With the Teleserye phenomenon especially on the major networks has all the telenovelas cards they can offer on the table every night.  According to the survey, GMA 7 holds the most number of viewers compared to the Teleserye Champion ABS-CBN due to its innovation and major star player.  Since we all know that teleseye is mainly drama, GMA 7 made an action fantasy series with the likes of Encantadia and Mulawin.  It was very successful and it was even followed by the successful Darna.  The Kapamilya network did not throw in the towel, the success of the serye of Pepeng Agimat, Tiagong Akyat, Super Inngo, and the current Juan Del Cruz gave the Kapuso some run for the money.  But with the controversial series known as My Husband’s Lover which is credited as the first gay-themed series in Philippine TV gave the Kapuso network an edge for primetime TV creativity and originality.  The show was a success but it is under the observation of CBCP and Malacaรฑan and Representative Edcel Lagman filed the House Bill 2352 known My Husband’s Lover bill which seeks to expand the scope of Article 333 of the Revised Penal Code which only imposes punishment for a spouse having a sexual intercourse to another opposite sex, rather than their partner.

    Teleserye to Telebabad

    Isabela Inhabitants Watching TV (image by google)
    With the number of teleseryes released and produced by the Kapamilya and Kapuso network, not to mention the Kapatid network.  Many Filipinos are now glued to their favorite but mind draining program.  Every night they will line up to the television set whether they are having dinner or cleaning the plates, people are still glued to the program no matter what happened they must know the next plot or the next episode.  Some children now also glued to the TV instead of studying and focus on reading their book.  Parents often neglect their duties instead of helping and guiding their children with their studies, parents mostly glued to the teleserye.  Since the TV networks did a primetime block it means that all of the programs from 7:00 pm up to 10:00 pm were all teleserye marathons.  So every channel from any major networks whenever you switch channels, all of them are in teleserye mode and that is three straight hours of drama enhancing Filipino dialogue with the same plot with the protagonist will definitely be in a pa-awa mode while the antagonist will be planning an evil scheme with evil smile or sometimes an evil laugh.  Then you will see the same old punch line and script, the same old quality acting, the same old ugly goons, the same old plot, the same old story, love triangle, same twisted fate, same ingredients, same old police comes at the end of the event, same old stuff, the exaggerated shouting, the spanking, the low quality action, the low quality scenery.  I think this is more tiresome at the end of the day.  Telebabad in their favorite teleserye programs for three straight hours could cause your mind to be stagnant, unlike before television was invented, the radio was a powerful tool to provide information, especially when you are listening to drama, you can visualize anything in your mind, and thus your creativity can be expanded that caused your intelligent quotient to increase.

    Same Old Theme, Same Old Results

    In a movie or TV series, there is always a protagonist (hero) or antagonist (villain), the plot, and the climax.  Whenever we go to the movies, watch TV programs or buy a book we always look for the synopsis or the preview.  On the teleserye we always have the same plot that the lead character is a mahirap while the love interest can be a rich or noble person, eventually will begin to have interest with each other, then the villain (Kontrabida) will do something to stop the bida and the love interest which will set up as a love triangle in the story then the mahadera or the don Quijote will definitely serve as the main villain will set up to kidnap, kill or stop the Bida by using the ugly and ever-annoying goons, then multiply again by another goons, then the police will become the paid villains lackey, then you will be annoyed but will be interested that the villains are succeeding while the Bida suffering until you will get angry with the contrabida,  once the plot thickens,  the goons will multiply again and until we will see 50 or more goons on the payroll of the main villain.  The main villain is as more powerful than the bida, while the bida is only a significant dot without any equalizer to get even setting up as the underdog, then at the end of the season the villain and the main villain will be arrested in spite of all the killings and the transgressions, while only a total of 5 goons were killed while the rest of the goons just disappeared in the story, then the police will come after most of the bad guys were all capacitated, then the bida and the love interest will definitely live happily ever after.  If you try to check other teleseryes, it has the same formula, sometimes they just made some changes but the formula is still there.  

    One example is Mars Ravelo’s Dyesabel, Dyesabel is a beautiful mermaid and fell in love with the human, upon her adventures in the human world a lot of obstacles she encounters and the more villains multiply until the real main villain emerged at the end.  But the Bida did not do anything; she did something but not satisfying.  Unlike in action movies or in the hero will get even with the villain and possibly give her/ him a doze of his/her own medicine or worst a brutal but justifiable finish.   Another of the twisted character just for the good of the story to be extended is the Mga Basang Sisiw in which Olivia’s lover Efren who was a poor farmer then after several episodes he becomes rich and then eventually became a sub-villain and have goons suddenly appeared in the story tormenting Olivia and her children.   The problem with the telenovela is the balance of the elements in the story.  If this is a love story they have to stick with the main goal, if they wanted to add conflict do not put too much character on the story, place a situation or a subplot but not sub-villains, maybe antagonistic in character.  Place an equalizer or a neutralizer to finish the goons in the story, the audience needs resolve and justice for their actions.  If it is a love story then stick with the love story, if action then places elements of action scenes or the hero and his/her ally will definitely capacitate the goons and kick their ass with the bad habit.

    Where are the Old Series go?

    When the TV series from the US and UK were shown during prime time most of the viewers had high literacy rates due to the program is in English, they have different twist in the story and sometimes the ending is satisfying, the action sequence is very rated and stars have acting quality.  If you remember the series like A-Team, the Professionals, the Knight Rider, Hawaii Five O, Charlie’s Angels, the Dukes of Hazards, Magnum PI and Miami Vice, viewers were glued to the TV every night just to watch their favorite show and to know what will be the next episode like.  With the introduction of cable TV, most of the new series like NCIS, CSI were never shown on the major networks but were mostly shown on cable TV.  As a replacement for the old series, since some of the series finish their season, TV sitcoms were syndicated during the late 80 and mid 90’s as replacements.  With the likes of Ober da Bakod, Palibhasa Lalake, and the ever-popular John en Marsha, most of the people were entertained through comedic notes and memorable punch lines.  Some of the programs provide documentaries and reality shows such as Ripley’s Believe it or not and That’s Incredible.  Who could forget the detective and mind bungling stories such as the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew Mysteries, then the ever-popular 21 Jump Street in which propel Johnny Depp to stardom.  Programs for kids were all important in that era because the popularity of Sesame Street and Electric Company gave rise to the children who can now spell and read at an early age as comparing today in which the education program is only shown in cable TV.  When I think of the old series from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, most of the viewers have high literacy rates and a good comprehensive mindset and when the introduction of Cable TV, most of the series that about to be shown in free TV, mostly were now syndicated in Cable TV stations such as Jack TV, AXN, Star World.  Major networks choose to syndicate reality TV and the Teleserye which is according to them is marketable.

    Good for the economy vs. People’s Disposition in Life

    (Image by google)

    With the teleserye phenomenon being shown every hour in every major station, teleonovela became one of the country’s top exports in the entertainment industry and it is popular throughout Southeast Asia, East Asia, Africa, and North America.  The Telenovelas often dubbed in some languages especially to non-English speaking countries.  Exporting Philippine Dramas to countries in which most numbers of Philippine Diasporas or OFW was the right market for every major network in the Philippines.  With the exportation of Telenovelas, it also gave the foreign audience the idea of Filipino culture and Filipino lives.

    However there was a disadvantage with the syndication of telenovelas in the Philippines especially in primetime programming.  It is about the quality of thinking and the dispositional views of every average Filipinos.  Not all Filipino families can afford cable TV especially the underprivileged, besides watching PBA as one of their past times, the majority of the Filipinos watched telenovelas as the modern-day zarazuelas in the airwaves.  Majority of the Filipinos becoming more focus on the drama rather than to their obligations.  Sometimes people will stay late at night just to watch and finish the drama and will see the next episodes.  With the same old theme and low-quality stories, it also indicated that viewers who are patronizing will have a low quality of thinking and could adopt in their activities of daily living.  Sometimes they even adopt it in reality like for example the last May 2013 Elections, since most of the viewers will root for the underdog because they can relate with that character.  Just like Nancy Binay who would have thought that she will make it in the Top 5.  Do the voters think that she has a making of a good senator in spite without any experience in public office?  During the ZTE-NBN Scandal Senate hearing there developed a scene in which Jun Lozada and Clarissa Ocampo were branded as heroes while the Arroyo administration branded them as the villains.  Another is the wheelchair pity-effect by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and followed by former CJ Renato Corona, then recently followed by the rich fugitive Janet Napoles, which was also used by some characters especially the main villain in the teleseye, when his/her plans were foiled by the hero.

    Most Filipinos who watched teleserye just serve as entertainment and past time but other used it as indirect means of education and adoption of their daily lives.  In the Kapuso network, they made some of innovation and creativity; sometime they use historical settings like Amaya which for me it is a stand out among teleseryes and the next program which is the Katipunan which will be shown on weekends to help the younger generation to familiarize with the history of the Philippines’ struggle against the Spanish Colonial Government.  While the Kapamilya still focus on the same old, tiresome, rich boy meets poor girl or vice versa, the hacienderos, the elite, and the slums, the love triangle, the leaving of wife or husband to each respective lover theme.  With Kapamilya’s theme of the story, most Filipinos adopt this kind of culture that promotes broken lives, broken marriage, and broken families, and even average Filipinos wanted to become rich and famous because of the influence of teleserye.

    Quality of Acting

    Dingdong Dantes
     (Image by Lawrence Bellefontaine)
    There were only a few Filipino actors who can act on the silver screen and on television sometimes they were given recognition due to their acting prowess just recently awardees like Eddie Garcia and Nora Aunor was given international recognition in the 2012 Asia Pacific Film Festival for the film Bwakaw and Thy Womb respectively.  Veteran multi-awarded actors like Christopher De Leon, Maricel Soriano, and acting powerhouse Jacklyn Jose, were all recognized for their quality skills in acting; however, they were just only as supportive characters.  Younger actors such as John Loyd Cruz, Jericho Rosales, Ding Dong Dantes, Marian Rivera, and Dennis Trillo are often cast as lead characters and one of the few who made a stand out in quality acting, while others were just only good for face value and popularity which is good for the business.  Major networks set up some acting workshops or crash course acting but it is not enough to build quality acting.  Some producers hire stage play actors to compensate more for the quality of acting and guide younger stars to act appropriately on their script.

    Regulate and Balance

    Teleseryes or Telenovelas should be regulated by the KBP or LTRCB by controlling the syndication in television programming.  Major networks should not primarily focus on a money-making adventure but should prioritize high-quality acting and storylines that could give the audience not only just to entertain but without draining the intelligence of our dear viewers.  Abolishing the teleserye will not entirely help society and it will cause more problems than solutions and Philippine drama was already part of our culture, we just only have to harness our interests in teleserye.  Major networks should accept one telenovela program for one hour, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, and should discourage syndication at late nights.  Besides the news and information, major networks should revive the American or European latest TV shows or series to counterbalance the lameness of the television viewers.  Government should implement Art Colleges besides UP to promote good quality acting and prohibit discrimination against non-mestizo actors because sometimes those actors who do not have any westernized blood are better than the cute/pa-cute and popular actors.  Give emphasis on the veterans for they are more experienced than the younger actors and possibly could provide the show more ratings.  Finally, the major networks should be more focused on the benefits of what will bring to society rather than on the profits of becoming the best network.

    Rommel Caguiat
    Guest Writer
    (Disclaimer: Images being used courtesy of Google. ) 
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