Pagkalusaw ng Isang Disiplina

Kagabi ay hindi ko na napigilan ang sarili na lantarang tawagin ang pansin ng butihing palaisip na si G. Leloy Claudio, na sumulat sa Rappler.com ng kaniyang pagtatanggol sa General Education Curriculum (GEC) ng Commission on Higher Education (CHED), lalo na hinggil sa duda ng ilang partido na malay na pagsikil nito sa Wikang Filipino.

Hindi ko na sana ito papansinin, tulad ng mga hindi ko pagpansin sa mga okasyonal niyang pakikisawsaw sa kung ano-anong usapin. Ngunit ang nakatigalgal sa akin ay ang pagtawag niya sa mga nanunuligsa na “emotionally-charged”, at “ill informed” pa nga sa pagrerehistro nila ng mga “national polemics about the national language.” Binasa ko nang husto ang maikling artikulo niya sa website, sa mithing maunawaan ang kung ano ang talagang sinasabi niya hinggil sa maaanghang na nasabi na hinggil sa usaping ito. Labis kong ikinagulat ang marami niyang akala.

Marami sa mga sinasabi niya ay nasabi na—tulad ng mga “options” lalo na para sa mga gurong lumalabas at nahihintakutan dahil posibleng mawalan ng trabaho sa pagdating ng ganap na pagpapatupad ng K-12, at ngayon nga ay mistulang naghuhuramentado sa midya. Sa tesis na “hindi naman pinag-initan” ang Filipino sa paglikha ng bagong kurikulum sa kolehiyo, kibit-balikat na ipinanukala ni G. Claudio ang animo’y talagang mga napakadali ngunit hindi makataong solusyon: ang retraining o pagtuturo ng asignaturang tulad ng Art Appreciation; secondment sa hayskul, at pagbaling sa mga dalang posibilidad ng interdisiciplinarity.

Ang mga panukalang ito sa pangkabuuan ay nakaangkla sa kaniyang pangunahing ideya: “In asking the CHED to have mandatory Filipino language instruction in the college curriculum, advocates are, in effect, calling for the outright privileging of Tagalog over English. None of them advocate returning both Tagalog and English instruction.” Hindi ko alam kung natitiyak niya ang kaniyang sinasabi sapagkat ang totoo, hindi naman isyu ng mga sinasabi niyang “polemiko” ang tungkol sa pribelehiyo ng ano mang wika, bagaman malinaw namang sa mahabang panahon ay marhinalisado ang Filipino (at iba pang wikang Filipino) sa akademyang tubog sa Ingles.

[Huwag na muna nating isama pa ang marhinalisasyon ng mga wikang Filipino mula sa iba’t ibang lupalop. Kamakailan, nakasagutan ko sa Facebook ang isang guro na kasapi yata ng lumilitaw ngayong pangkat ng mga dalubwika (dalubhasa sa wika) na humihingi ng “linguistic justice”. Bigla akong napaisip nang marinig ko ang kataga—linguistic justice. Kapag pinagnilayang mabuti, hindi lamang sila talaga ang nangangailangan ng katarungang pangwika. Lahat ng mga wikang Filipino—kasama na ang Tagalog—ay nangangailangan ng pagkakaaahon mula sa pagkakadusta, at sa wika nga ni Vicente Rafael, ay “pagkakasakit” ng kolonyalismo, sa ahensiya ng pagsasalin. Oo, may mga lumitaw na hegemon sa wika, tulad ng Tagalog, ngunit ang hegemoniya ng mga ito ay hawa ng kolonyal na kamalayan, at dapat ngang mapalitaw. Sinabi ko na sa isang pagkakataon na tiyak na may sakit ding ganito ang iba pang Kristiyanisadong wika sa Filipinas. Kaya may katumpakan ding sabihin na tungkol sa linguistic justice ang usaping ito.]

Iniisip marahil ni G. Claudio na sapat na ang pagtatalaga sa Filipino sa mababa at mataas na paaralan. Ang sabi niya, ang mga kurso sa GEC ay talagang “advanced” na, at sa kaniyang lisyang retorika, inaasahan na ang ganap na kahusayan sa pag-aaral ng wika sa Enhanced K-12 Basic Education Program (BEP). Lubhang ideyal ang ganitong pananaw, lalo’t kung hindi naman nakikita o nalalaman ang totoong sitwasyon sa ibaba. At ang kataka-taka, sinusukat niya ang maaaring “kahusayang” ito sa bilang ng oras na maituturo ang Filipino sa BEP. Ang sabi pa niya sa kaniyang addendum sa humahaba nang usaping ito, “(t)he two years of senior high school, according to CHED documents, require 80 hours of Filipino language instruction per sem(ester). So I’d like to know what the concern is.”

Sasagutin ko siya ngayon sa pamamagitan ng marami kong tanong. Ano nga ba ang ipinagpuputok ng butse naming nagsasalita hinggil dito?

Sabi pa niya, “(t)he net effect is, in fact, an increase in time and resources devoted to the study of the national language.” Non sequitur. Kung oras nga lamang talaga ang sukatan ng inaasahang kahusayan, palagay ko, hindi natin makikita ang maraming kabagang sa gayong “karahas” na pakikipagtalo. Sapagkat hindi oras ang isyu kundi ang mismong pagkalusaw ng institusyong pangkalinangang-wika, na mistulang pagtalikod na rin kung tutuusin sa diwang pang-pambansang wika na nakasaad sa ating Saligang Batas. Naniniwala akong hubad sa kritikalidad ang ganitong praktikal na tugon, at myopiko ring pananaw ito na tiyak na magbubunsod ng mas malalaking suliranin para sa bansa. Isang mainiping pagtaya at di makatwirang pagtatanggol sa isang programang sa mula’t mula ay may nabubulok na ubod.

Sinasabi ni G. Claudio na sapat na ang Filipino sa BEP, samantalang may pagkakataong pumili ang mga institusyon ng Ingles o Filipino sa pagtuturo ng bagong mga asignaturang isinalin pa nga (ay, pasalamat tayo) sa Filipino sa CHED GEC, sa Memorandum 20 na nilagdaan ng tagapangulo ng CHED Patricia Licuanan noong Hunyo 28, 2013. Makalulusot pa sana ang CHED sa pagigiit ng “option” na “English or Filipino” sa GEC, lamang ay talagang inisip, dinalumat ang kurikulum sa Ingles—at nananatiling isang “option” ang Filipino, hindi lamang dahil inihuli ito, kundi lalo’t higit, tiyak na mas pipiliiin ang Ingles sapagkat nakasanayan nang gamitin at madaling madadala sa bagong sistema. Burado na ang presensiya ng Filipino sa malawakang sistema.

[Kaya ipinagtataka ko rin kung bakit pinaggigiitan ng isa pang kritiko ng wikang Filipino na “misguided” ang mga tagapagtanggol ng pambansang wika. Kung mamalasin natin sa pangkabuuan, hindi lamang naman ang sinasabi nilang hegemonikong Tagalog ang naisantabi. Ang lahat ng mga wikang Filipino ay naisantabi sa bagong sistemang ito, na nagmimithi lamang na ihanda ang mag-aaral sa global na merkado, kahit ibinabandera pa ang nasang hulmahin ang kabataan na “secure in their identities as individuals and as Filipinos.” Sang-ayon ako sa Mother Tongue Based Language Education, oo. Ngunit hindi dapat matapos sa maagang yugto ang pag-aaral ng mga wikang pambansa. Kung maaari pa nga, dapat na iakyat din ito sa mataas na paaralan, maging sa kolehiyo. Ito sa palagay ko ang paraan upang makamit ang linguistic justice na tinatawag. Ang huwag patahimikin ang mga wika sapagkat nabigyan na naman ito ng espasyo sa sistema. Ang patuloy na pagdidiskurso sa mga wika at sa Filipino ang tunay na diwa ng pagtupad sa diwa ng Saligang Batas sa nagsasaad ng mithing linangin ang wika.]

Muli, ang usapin ng dali. Kaya tama rin si G. Claudio na baka nasa hayskul nga ang pag-asa. Marahil.

Ngunit wala ito roon. Sa isang matalik na pagsusuri ng kurikulum ng BEP Filipino, makikita ang maraming butas sa iniisip si G. Claudio na “mas pinalakas” na Filipino. May bilang na 141 pahina ang mapang pangkurikulum na ito, at higit na hahaba ang talakayan kung sisimulan ko sa simula—sa Kinder. Ang pagtitig ko sa mapa ay nakatuon sa pangmalawakang balangkas nito, at sa kabuuang pagturing sa panitikan ng programang hayskul, na siyang bungad ng mga kabataang papasok sa senior high school o sa kolehiyo.

Una, ang mismong programa ng K-12 Filipino, na kompartmentalisado ang mga kasanayang tumutugon sa kakayahang pang-ika-21 siglo [maka-agham at teknolohiya ang balangkas], ay sumusupil sa ubod ng katuruan ng wika. Ang pinakamataas na antas ng wika, ang panitikan ay patuloy na kinakasangkapan dito bilang lunsaran ng pangwikang kasanayan, at hindi binabasang panitikan, gaya ng sana’y inaasahan. Malabo ang posisyon ng mapang pangkurikulum sa aspektong ito, kahit tila ba pinaniniwala ng mga gumawa nito ang kanilang sarili na sapat nilang binalangkas ang mga aralin sa mga kunwang kaukulang kasanayang nakabaling sa mga anyo at uri ng panitikan.

Kung tititigan ito, makikitang sa bawat gawain, nangingibabaw ang paggamit sa panitikan sa napakababaw na pamamaraan ng pakikipagtalastasan. Malawak at tumutugon sa teknolohikong panahon. Isinasaalang-alang ang lahat ng sinasabing “makro-kasanayan”. Ngunit horizontal lamang ang tiyak na magagawang paglawak. Walang lalim. Halimbawa, sumasapat na ba ang pagmapa ng Pag-unawa sa Binasa kapag itinakda nitong ang kasanayan ay “Naiuugnay ang mga pangyayari sa binasa sa mga kaganapan sa iba pang lugar ng bansa”? Pag-unawa nga ba talagang may lalim sa Binasa ang “Nasusuri ang pagkamakatotohanan ng mga pangyayari batay sa sariling karanasan”? Bakit paulit-ulit ang pangangailangang ilahad ang mga elemento ng maikling kuwento mula sa Bisaya at Mindanao, halimbawa? May pagkakaiba ba? Bakit ba lagi na lamang nagsisimula sa pag-uugnay sa daigdig at kasalukuyang pangyayari ang pagbasa ng panitikan? Bakit kailangang laging ipasulat sa mag-aaral ang mga alternatibong katapusan sa mga kuwentong o pagsasalaysay na kadalasan ay “hindi maganda” ang katapusan?

Kung mamarapatin, sa bahaging nauna, ang kasanayang “Pag-unawa sa Binasa” lamang ang binabasa, tinititigan ko, sapagkat susi sana ito sa pagtutuwid sa lisyang pagtuturo ng panitikan na malaong ipinapatupad ng ating sistema ng edukasyon. Ang pagsipat na ito sa ilan sa mga problematikong gawain (ilan sa talaga namang napakarami pa!) ang magpapakitang halos walang ipinagbago ang metodo ng pagpapaunlad sa kasanayang ito, na hahango sana sa ating mga mag-aaral sa lusak ng kakulangan sa pagkamalikhain at hahasa sa pagkamapurol ng kritikal na pag-iisip. Ang mga lumikha ng kasanayan ay hindi gaanong maalam sa pinapaksa nilang panitikan, kung kaya’t lumilitaw sa mapang pangkurikulum ang mga tulad ng “Naihahambing ang tekstong binasa sa iba pang teksto batay sa: paksa, layon, tono, pananaw, paraan ng pagkakasulat, pagbuo ng salita, pagbuo ng talata, pagbuo ng pangungusap,” na nakatuon sana sa pagsuri ng isang teksto ng kulturang popular.

[Isa pang kataka-takang bahagi ng mapang pangkurikulum ang patuloy na pag-unawa sa sinasabi sa linguwistika na mga “suprasegmental” na katangian ng pagbigkas sa salita. Ginamit ito sa isang aralin sa tula. Ang nais ng aralin, ipabigkas sa mag-aaral sa tamang tono, himpil, at diin, ang tula. Wala namang problema. Ngunit kung babalikan natin ang mga pundamental, hindi nga ba, iba talaga ang ating wika, iba sa mga wikang may malinaw na mga katangian ng himpil o diin, halimbawa? May hinala akong isinalin lamang ito ng mga bumalangkas ng kurikulum mula sa Ingles, dahil kagulat-gulat na kahit marami nang naisulat hinggil sa katutubong palatugmaan natin sa Filipinas—mula pa kay Rizal—parang wala pa ring nakabasa na wala naman tayong mga pagdidiin (stressed) at di pagdidiin (unstressed) sa salita. Mayroon lamang tayong apat na tudlikan: mabilis, malumay, malumi, maragsa.]

Bakit din ba panay ang munti’t malalaking pagkakamali sa kurikulum, na parang tanda ng kakulangan sa kahusayan ng mga lumikha nito? Bakit ba ginagamit ang salitang “kabanata” sa Florante at Laura gayong batid naman natin na ito ay nasa anyo ng awit at patula? Baka kasi nga ito ri’y may katangiang pasalsaysay. Inisip ba nilang kaydaling gawin sa pagbulatlat sa teksto ang layong “Nailalahad ang sariling pananaw at naihahambing ito sa pananaw ng iba tungkol sa pagkakaiba-iba o pagkakatulad ng paksa sa mga tulang Asyano”? Handa kaya ang guro sa ganitong mahaba-habang paliwanagan? At, handa kaya ang mag-aaral. Ano ang ibig sabihin ng kurikulum map nang iatas nito sa isang item ng Pag-unawa sa Binasa ang “Nabibigyang-puna ang kabisaan ng paggamit ng hayop bilang mga tauhan na parang taong nagsasalita at kumikilos”? Isang pabula ang paksa, at kumbensiyon ng pabula ang pagkasangkapan sa hayop! Balak bang pagsa-tauhin ang karakter?

At bakit ba pinipilit tayo nang pinipilit ng mapang pangkurikulum, sa mga pagkakataong magagawa nito, na suriin ang mga teksto “batay sa pananaw/ teoryang: romantisismo humanismo naturalistiko at iba pa”? Matagal nang tinututulan ng mga eksperto sa panitikan ang ganitong lisyang pagkasangkapan sa “teorya” sa hayskul dahil una, hindi naman naituturo talaga nang maayos ang mga dalumat at pamamaraan ng sinasabing teorya o lapit-pagbasa. Ikalawa, hindi naman mga pananaw, ni lapit-pagbasa, ang mga binabanggit na “teoryang” ito. Bukod sa nakakagulo sa pag-aaral ng panitikan, maging ng wika—na sana’y nagtutuon na lamang ng pansin sa mga tamang pamamaraan ng pagtitig sa teksto—ginugulo pa nito ang isip ng mga bata sa pagpipilit na ang “humanismo”, “romantisismo”, o “naturalismo” ay mga paraan ng pagbasa. Nagagamit nga sa talasalitaan ang teksto, nagiging salalayan ng gramatikong kasanayan, ngunit patuloy na binababoy ang pampanitikang katangian nito.

Ang pinakamasaklap sa palagay ko ay ang tuluyang marhinalisasyon ng mga malaon na nating tinatanggap at ipinagmamalaking obra maestra. Ang mga ito—ang Florante, Ibong Adarna, at ang mga nobelang Rizal na Noli Me Tangere at El Filibusterismo—ay muli at muling idiniyestiyero sa huling quarter ng mga taon, at dahil nga roon ay hindi na mababasa nang buo dahil sa hayskul, ang huling quarter ay yugto ng mga pagmamadali. Ang tugon ng mga materials developer dito—yaong mga gumagawa ng teksbuk—ay lumikha ng buod sa mismong mga bagong teksbuk, na malinaw namang inhustisya sa mga akdang pampanitikang nabanggit. Sa pagkakataong sari-sari nang puna ang naibato sa mga patakbuhing kompanya ng teksbuk na naglalathala ng mga “pinagaang” na bersiyon ng mga akdang pampanitikan na ito, isang hakbang paurong ang pagpipi sa mga ito bilang mga dakilang akda ng ating kultura. Isang kabulastugan, kung tatanungin ako ni G. Claudio, na patunay lamang na wala sa haba ng oras ang kalakasan ng isang programang pang-edukasyon kundi nasa nilalaman nito.

Panitikan ang paksa at teksto ng pag-aaral ng wika sa BEP ng K-12, at itong mga halimbawang butas na ito sa pag-aaral ng panitikan ang nagpapakita na hindi pinalalakas ng programa ang Filipino, bagkus ay pinapatay pa ito sa pamamagitan ng ganitong mga nakapanlulumong pagpapabaya. Oo, may 80 oras ngang itinuturo ang Filipino kada semestre, pero tiyak kong 80 oras iyon ng pagtuturo ng sari-saring kalisyaan at basura. Ang masaklap pa, sinusunod ng kurikulum, sa pangkalahatan, ang balangkas na spiralling ng mga aralin. Lalong lumalala ang problema sapagkat nag-i-spiralling ding malinaw ang mga kamaliang pinayagang maitala sa mapang pangkurikulum.

[Magsasapantaha ako: bakit nagkaganito? Marahil ay minadali ang pagpaplano. Maaari ay maraming hindi pagkakasundo. Maaari ring maraming may interes sa pagbabagong mangyayari na nagmithing makakuha ng posibleng negosyo, lalo na sa produksiyon ng mga teksbuk. Ang balita ko, naging “pahirapan” ang pagkuha ng mga mapang pangkurikulum na ito para sa mga materials developer—animo’y kontrabandong ipinupuslit noong nakatakda pa lamang itong matapos. Gaano kaya ito katotoo?]

Kung ako kay G. Claudio, sapagkat may mithi naman siya na maging tagapamansag ng interdisciplinarity, aaralin ko muna ang laman ng mga kurikulum na itong lilikha nga ng mga mag-aaral na tutugon sa “pangangailangang panlipunan at global na pamayanan”, ay lilikha rin tiyak ng mga Filipinong kubikong ang kamalayang pambayan. Sabihin na nating anti-nasyonalismo siya, na siya ngang posisyon talaga niya sa ispera publika. Malinaw na may direksiyong pambayan ang kurikulum sa Filipino, na agad-agad din nitong tinatalikuran sa pagmamapa nito ng mga kasanayanang nararapat na mapaunlad sa loob ng klasrum. Ginagawa ngang nakatutugon sa teknolohikong sagitsit ang mga bata, ngunit upang hayaan lamang nilang maging busabos ang bayan nating sawi.

Sana nga ay ganoon kadali ang lahat. Sana nga ay madaling kamtin ang mga mithi. Ngunit ang dali at praktikalidad na nasa hinagap ni G. Claudio ay sadyang napakalayo sa realidad.

Hindi ko lamang alam kung gaano kalalim ang kabatiran ni G. Claudio sa lagay ng ating edukasyon sa ibaba para maging madali sa kaniya ang malinaw namang pagtatanggol sa pamahalaan, sa CHED GEC, at sa DepEd BEP, sa isyung ito ng Filipino. Pinalad—o minalas yata—akong makapag-ikot sa maraming bayan sa Filipinas upang tumulong sa tinatawag na mga “teacher training” at nakausap ko ang mga guro mula sa mga sentro at malalayong bayan. Hindi sila handa para sa mga minimithing pagbabago ni G. Claudio, na mithing pambayan ko rin naman. Nababagabag sila. Mungkahi ko kay G. Claudio na sa lalong madaling panahon ay mag-ikot-ikot upang makaharap ang nakapanlulumong sitwasyon ng kakulangan sa paghahanda. Nakaambang lalong maging mangmang ang mamamayan. Lalong pinalala ng mapang pangkurikulum ang buhay ng mga guro, na lubhang hirap na dahil sa mababang sahod, kakulangan ng mga pasilidad ng paaralan, at higit na kawalan ng pagkakataong makapaghanda sa daluyong na ito ng K-12. Isa lamang ang disenyong pangkurikulum sa napakalaking balakid sa pagtupad ng mga gurong ito sa mga katungkulan nila, at tila hinayaan na lamang silang lumangoy sa malawak na karagatan ng estado.

Ngayon, dinadalaw ang lahat ng takot na mawalan ng trabaho, at sa palagay ko, hindi iyon dapat na ipagkibit-balikat lamang. Minsan, kailangang lumipas ang panahon ng hinahon upang ligaligin ang malupit na tiraniya ng pagtanggap-na-lamang at pagtitiis, na nakaambang sumakop muli sa atin. Naririto ang rebolusyong hinahanap ni G. Claudio, sa rebolusyon ngayon, ng mga pinatatahimik, sa ngalan ng pangako ng kaunlaran. Sa rebolusyon ng mga handa at matatapang na magsiyasat ng mga lingid na balangkas ng repormang ito, na handang humimay ng mga diskurso at dokumento sa ngalan ng tunay na pangangatwiran, bansagan mang “polemiko” o ultra-makabayan. Wala akong nakikitang masama, lalo na kung ganito kasama ang isinasalaksak sa ating mga lalamunan.

Isa pa, ang sabi ng mapang pangkurikulum ng BEP Filipino, layon nitong makahulma ng “buo at ganap na Filipino na may kapaki-pakinabang na literasi.” Bakit kaya ang lumalabas ngayon, parang higit na kamangmangan, lalo na sa pagiging Filipino, ang tinutunghang landas ng mapa? Ito ba ang tuwid na daan? Daan patungo sa kamangmangan? Hayaang mabusabos ang wika at kasamang mabubusabos ang panitikan. Ang pagbusabos sa panitikan at wika ay hindi lamang atake laban sa kabansaan. Atake din ito sa totoong nilulusaw na disiplinang akademiko sa panahong ito ng neoliberal na pananampalataya—ang humanidades, na kandungan ng pagkatao at pagpapakatao. Isa sa mga haligi nito ang wika, ang panitikan. Nagtuturo man ang mga guro sa Filipino o sa Ingles, mismong estruktura ng pag-iral ng mga disiplinang tinatalunton nila ang nilulusaw ng sistema.

[Sa ibang pagkakataon, susuriin ko ang mismong balangkas ng CHED GEC. Nais kong ipakita ang pagkatuta nito sa “global” na mga kahingian. Tinik sa lalamunan ng globalisasyon ang humanidades sapagkat sa larang na ito sinisinop, sinusuri, at inuusig ang laksa nitong mga pagkukunwari.]

Nauunawaan ko ang sentimiyento ni G. Claudio hinggil sa imposibilidad ng kabansaan. Ngunit, sa ganang akin, hindi makatwiran na ganap na tanggalan ang mamamayan ng pagkakataon na mithiin ito, kahit patunay pa nga ni Caroline Hau ay isa itong katha. Kailangan din ang kuwentong ito. Kahit itatwa pa niya, ang pag-aaral ng wika ang batayan ng pagkamakabansa ng mamamayan. Maaari tayong maligaw ngayon, kung hahayaan natin ang mga sariling ganap na ma-tiyanak ng globalisasyon, at ng ASEAN 2015 Integration.

Salamat kay Dr. Antonio P. Contreras.

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Love in the Time of the Teleserye

At the core of all the adventures (or misadventures) of a teleserye, the Philippine soap opera, there is but one important element that is often undervalued, simply because many people have been conditioned (perhaps by class consciousness or education) to dismiss it for its tawdry performance and lack of sophistication: love, romance. But romance is a timeless theme, even in the high literatures of both the East and the West. Thus the dis-ease comes to us very curiously since it basically has been propelling all thinkable plots in all of literary history.

All histories (that is fictional or real) are basically narratives of love, animated by desire for the other, fired by this desire which compels people to move mountains, so to speak, and even to come up with all sorts of tropes and treatises. This desire for the other is structured on a premise of possibility, where two individuals could eventually become one—and this precisely is the focal point of all orchestrations of fictional fulfilment or impediments. In the classical narrative sense, a tragic one directs us to frustration; a comic one, though traditionally sporting distortion, promises attainment. The possibilities of love commence depending on the trajectories.

Love is not lost on the teleserye as it is its important element. As a popular cultural text framed by the importance of the basic social unit of the family, it thrives by perpetrating the strengthening of this institution, which weathers the storms and becomes, in the end, a stronghold of characters. Any aggression towards an individual is an aggression towards the family. In our current social disposition of various familial dysfunctions, the teleserye family, as in Angel Locsin’s The Legal Wife, Piolo Pascual’s Hawak Kamay, or Sharon Cuneta’s Madame Chairman, the recovery of any form of equilibrium, by all means, is a necessary resolution to all present conflicts.

The love of the family, as well as the love between family members, situates the character as part of the institution, which is the primal symbolic order—which is also what governs the laws of friendship. Friends are like family, and they usually play the role of the other voice providing perspective and foresight. The recent resurgence of the “best friend” figure embodies this philic love. Every time Matet de Leon’s Rowena bathes Maja Salvador’s Nicole in the choicest sarcasm, she acts as a mirror that only shows genuine love and concern, despite the uncouthness, which the audience loves, and even discourses in social media. All the unrelated figures performing some didactic roles in teleseryes are basically to be considered philic.

But love above all is the fulfillment of the eros, the commencement of the romantic unity. And this unity may be prevented by certain things, at the very least: poverty, a familial difference (usually between two warring political or feudal families), or circumstances, natural or man-made. In her articulations of the romance plots of popular novels, the poet and scholar Joi Barrios mentioned of capsizing ships or volcanic eruptions as preventing couples from eloping.

The idea of love in popular texts, as in a teleserye, is to purify the feelings, to heighten desire, to reiterate the fragmentality of one without the other, en route to the romantic fulfillment. Love is the expression, as affection, as it also is the very journey by which this feeling, this articulation is narrated. While love is told, several other discourses are consequently implicated, like notions of differences, aside from the obvious character polarities. Our value system upholds the belief that love must be a way of bridging disparities since it is the universal forger of relations, the closer of all arcs. But it is, in a way, also a creator of forgery, as it offers givens, which if left uncontested only perpetrate particular ideologies.

Yesterday, I listened to a lecture by the scholar Resil Mojares, who revaluated—in the language of theory, “metacriticized”—his own “blind spots” in a 1979 study of published Cebuano popular fiction. In his clearly empirical survey, he uncovered in the stories the configuration of the “poor boy-rich girl/poor girl-rich boy” plot formula he called in “gugmang kabus” and demonstrated “the value in analyzing “symbolic action” (enactments on a symbolic plane of social desires and fantasies) in large masses of Philippine literary texts, as a way of understanding Filipino popular mentality.”

Though his arguments centered on the need for a larger, more encompassing study of Philippine regional literatures, his analysis directed me towards important insights on Philippine literary romance that may also be found in teleseryes, the subject of my recent studies. Truly, gugmang kabus is still a configuration very much entrenched in Philippine literature and popular culture, though in a follow up question which delved on the current landscape of romance plots and character configuration, I felt that there were very notable differences, especially in the observable placement of male figures in the privileged position (rich, educated, mobile).

Mojares, if I am not mistaken, observed that the prevalence of rich male characters may be associated with the observable lack of women writers in his survey (there were only two, he said). This was in the 1920s, or course, and the tenor was obviously patriarchal (but aren’t we still patriarchal, in the first place?). In the discussions that ensued, I offered some insights about the configurations of the plots, particularly of the teleserye, since, in the earlier part of his lecture, he mentioned a similarity of the plots with that of a recently concluded feudal teleserye, Ikaw Lamang.

I surmised that there are now new configurations, though the traditional (patriarchal, feudal) value system still shapes our collective imagination of class or gender relations. This is not surprising if we consider that the creation of plots and characters, particularly in the teleserye, is borne out of sophisticated market research initiatives, creative brainstorming and pitches, as well as the expected scrutiny and intervention of network management, which puts weight on market opinion. It was easy to conclude that the domination of male writers in the 1920s may explain male prominence in terms of class and gender in popular fiction.

Today, the complex authorship of the teleserye shapes how romantic figures rise and fall. Today’s authorial processes in teleseryes may not easily lend explanation about the configurations of characters. For the most part, I still think that love is still the point of the conquest, whether the characters are poor or not, or merely part of the struggling middle class, since, as many scholars have already observed, much of what we see on Pinoy television drama today are basically fantasy productions that peddle ideas of social mobility or acceptance, as in the case of bolder teleseryes like My Husband’s Lover.

Love remains to be an important literary value as it bestows equity, where class or gender differences are bridged, or where circumstances are undermined, in the name of romantic consummation. Love and its fulfilment are great equalizers, and each possibility is a narrative that animates all consciousness. The world at every turn of history may be enveloped by cynicism, but love in all its myth, is expected to conquer all. Love is a myth, and it is also mythic, and all generations will definitely need their share of its stories too.

An odyssey to the indigenous in Janus Silang

Here’s one that finally recovers the myths and legends of Filipino folklore—Edgar Calabia Samar’s Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon (Adarna House, 2014), the first in a series of young adult novels featuring a teenage online gamer from a fictional town called Balanga.  The character is caught in a quagmire of mysterious deaths eventually to be related to his addicting game called TALA or the Terra Anima Legion of Anitos, reminiscent of the popular Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) fame.

The first book exposes high school student Janus’s world and his situation, and builds on a crisis that at first was considered personal by the hero, the lone survivor of gaming deaths in his hometown.  The complication arises when national media covers the spate of deaths that apparently happened in other localities in the country.  After discovering his past, Janus begins his journey in this book, and finds himself in a path back to the indigenous, a rich mine of material Samar has been tapping through his earlier novels Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog, and Sa Kasunod ng 909.  

Samar’s gripping prose sets up the world of Janus as resonant though ordinary—and marginal if it may be said.  The gesture of beginning the journey in the locality of Balanga prefigures the project of enriching the Filipino young adult literary tradition with a return to the indigenous, oftentimes sidetracked by staple middle-class and cosmopolitan depictions.

Samar contributes to the growing corpus of writings by creating an exciting story bold enough to decenter the norm and present the horrific otherness of the figure of the tiyanak, which is emblematic not only of the complexity of the fictional TALA game, but also of the intricacy of Philippine culture, the well-spring of the series’ story.  What is more remarkable is the fact that the novel redeems the tiyanak from the Christianized imagination of this unnerving creature.  From a babe that failed to receive the grace of baptism, Samar re-imagines its history of “evil” by connecting it with the Tabon Man, perhaps the oldest artifact of Philippine history.  This turn to history and archeological discovery establishes the undercurrent of myth-making Samar employs to provide an altogether unique and suspenseful reading experience grounded on truly Filipino material.

Moreover, Janus is an exciting character that may easily remind of young adult figures enjoyed by generations of readers.  As a boy about to pursue a destiny, he finds himself coping with the concerns of his age—performance in school, social acceptance, early pain, and technological over-immersion, which brought him to his situation in the first place.  Janus however is not merely one poster boy of the downsides of internet addictions, since he breathes and lives as a very self-aware character.  Janus speaks for an internet savvy generation oftentimes misunderstood and misjudged, especially with regards to perceived “illiteracies”.

The children of the “Janus generation”, some say, have very low attention spans and would easily put down books for more stimulating virtual experiences.  Janus however is compelled to confront the competing worlds by the very conflict he faces—fairly symptomatic of the kind of engagements of the youth of today.  The virtual, on the one hand—that is the world of the TALA—transports itself in the real world of Janus, and this is where we are offered a glimpse of the blur between these two conflicting worlds.  In a manner of speaking, Janus’s myth sings of the very interesting life of border-crossing young Filipinos, who for want of better things to believe find themselves searching in various thresholds of postmodern, value-deferred experiences.

Janus sings a new myth for young adult Filipinos on the cusp of change.  With the awareness that the portal of the epoch is the world wide web, Samar emphasizes through the novel—and most probably, through the novels to come—that the recovery of certain “national” memories is but a strategic return to the originary meanings of the word “entertain”—to keep up, to maintain, to hold together.  TALA the game is there to entertain, amuse; to provide refuge for the young souls embarking on virtual journeys, hopefully, back to native terrains of heroism and adventure.  Janus proposes a new way of reimagining crusades by using the Filipino young adult novel as a vehicle of “keeping up” or “holding together” a Filipino value system considered lost to this generation.

This makes the series, indeed, worth anticipating.

 

My Soap Opera has a Name: Originality and the Teleserye

Delivered at the University of the Philippines Writers Club Lecture Series, Recto Hall, Faculty Center, University of the Philippines, Diliman, February 18, 2015.  

Photo courtesy of Starpinay.com.
Photo of Jodi Santamaria as Amor Powers, courtesy of Starpinay.com.

It may sound curious, our configuration of two keywords—originality and teleserye—but reading them together proves to exemplify what Lucilla Hosillos once called the Filipino Literary Achievement. Despite the dissatisfaction of many for its being formulaic, predictable, and derivative, as well as its perceived incapacity to “upgrade with Hollywood Level”, the teleserye, 15 years after it had finally earned a name, has distinguished itself as a distinct Filipino cultural text by precisely being the drama of the Filipino local. Etymologically, drama is performance, and for Doreen Fernandez, performance as “palabas” signifies two meanings: “Palabas indeed it all is—performance, show, entertainment, fun. Palabas—outward—it also is: people-based and community oriented.”

However, what is unsaid in this explication of palabas is the very internality or paloob that it requires, one that enables this outward movement to begin with. The teleserye, as the Filipino soap opera, may be seen as both an internalization and externalization of the Filipino experience in this wide-reaching, border-crossing televisual medium. It is our palabas, as externalized in creation, production, dissemination, and consumption. It is also our palabas, as internalized in our constant search for national identity. We may have missed the point of signification, but 15 years ago, the soap opera in the Philippines sought a linguistic turn by identifying itself as teleserye, in the advent of the emergence global soap operas like the Latin American telenovela and the Asian drama in Philippine television. It may be surmised that the primary landmark of its originality is the daring to give itself a name.

This capacity to dare, this decolonizing gesture of naming, may not be found in the object of calling the soap the teleserye. It was, anyway, a simple network brand in the first place, a mere marketing strategy to distinguish a Filipino soap opera for the new millennium, Pangako Sa ‘Yo. The soap opera then had more promises than the word, but the word stayed on in broadcasting consciousness, at least, to be used by all networks in referring to their soap operas, and to soap operas in general. One may prove this discursive practice by simply going to the respective websites of the networks and typing “teleserye” in the built-in search engines, or even surveying entertainment news reports available in video format. The word, to this day, however stays true to its neologistic nature—it is disputably mainstream, but it has yet to be registered in repositories of Filipino discourses, foremost of which is the UP DIksiyonaryong Filipino, despite considerable public use.

Quite recently, chancing upon a project I was once involved with, spearheaded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, an ingenious archive of Filipino cultural icons for distribution in the schools and libraries, I was surprised to discover that the word “telenovela” from Latin America was archived, but not the teleserye. I immediately volunteered to revise the entry, since, the telenovela was eventually subsumed under the teleserye—which is historically more circumspect, and more preferential to our cultural discourse, all things considered. While the telenovela may be said to be the catalyst for revolutionizing the Filipino dramatic genre, and while it has also entered our discursive consciousness (since for a time, it had been used to refer to soap operas, like Mula sa Puso), it had remained to be what it is: the foreign, similarly-colonized televisual product that resonated with us by way of Marimar and her tropical dreams and fantasies.

However, it would be facile to merely undermine the Latin American telenovela, and its pivotal role in the rise of the Philippine teleserye. After all, both share not only what may be called the vernacularized colonial language (the local enunciations of the Spanish for Mexicans, Venezuelans, and Columbians, and bits and pieces of the same in our national language, Filipino), but also embedded histories of colonial upheavals, political instability, and economic disarray, that animate their respective dramatic worldviews. Also, the Latin American Telenovela may be just as old as the Philippine soap opera, with the former being perhaps a few years its senior. Both began in the 1960s, with the telenovela curiously emerging from other names, such as “teleteatro”. When the two converged in Philippine space, in the threshold of the new millennium, the Philippine soap opera was still emerging from the return of democratized broadcasting after the Marcos regime, and was awaiting to be transformed, not only by the diaspora of filmmakers and writers to television, but also by the constant demand for foreign dramatic texts in the market.

Marimar propelled the process, and offered to the Filipino market a viable alternative: a more compact and engaging plot with a more time-bound seriality. Take note that it had not really reinvented the romance that we have learned to love; I remember clearly that people followed Marimar because it was fast-paced. No looking for a lost diary for three dragging weeks, like in Mara Clara‘s. The reaction of the broadcasting industry was radical, and it involved a reconfiguration of programming landscapes. Mara Clara, ABS-CBN’s strongest afternoon soap was deployed to battle it out with Marimar and her talking dog. Around this time too, GMA 7 was reconfiguring its primetime, which led to its first primetime drama offering, Kadenang Kristal. If there is any word to this describe this event, it must be resistance, but not in the way that Raymond Williams described it in his Keywords entry on “reactionary”, which is to react to “particular kinds of change”, but more so, to reiterate that it has its own self to bring to bear. Change was bound to happen anytime soon (as it was a “revolutionary” period, anyway), and the telenovela, spectral of our very own colonialism and feudal imaginaries, “incited” in a way, our soap opera revolution.

To be original is to have an access to the source or to launch beginnings, and for Hosillos, literary originality is a means to carry out vengeance by way of assimilating, transmuting foreign elements and influences for “(our) own purposes”, considering our postcolonial realities. Hosillos has observed that same capacity to “transcend the foreign materials that inevitably influenced” Filipino literary works, from the Hiligaynon balac to the Philippine Educational Theater Association’s dupluhang bayan which she has called the “total theater”. This may also be the case for the teleserye, not only during its moment of inception, but also during the course of its proliferation, after the Marimar and the telenovela fever. Sure, the broadcast industry reacted by presenting a more compact, more time-bound, competitive version of the soap opera, but it certainly had a more original sense of what it had wanted to dramatize.

We may point out too easily the many similarities between the telenovela and the teleserye (and it would not surprise us at all, considering the affinities), but the teleserye, as a showcase of Filipino dexterity, has achieved originality by transcending imitation and up to this writing, still transmuting “foreign elements into original works that are truly Filipino” and in one way or another embodying “relevance to social consciousness and the development of nationalism.” In her critical work, Hosillos emphasized that this assessment of literary achievement may only be done extensively, that is, with other works in consideration, and the teleserye fits perfectly this kind of assessment since it is continuously produced and reinvented. While we accept the fact of inconsistency in production quality, the oeuvre of the past 15 years already compels for a vigorous appraisal of the teleserye after it had proclaimed independence from the telenovela, which practically gave birth to it, and which is another text for comparativity. The breadth of the materials, along with the challenging work of archiving information about each of them, makes the task rather quixotic, but nevertheless necessary, if only to show not only how we have managed to create a soap opera of our own, but also how far we have come in shaping the continuing Filipino narrative.

In a way, the closedness or terminality of the word telenovela (as in television novel) already signifies a kind of fixity that we had to negotiate with as we were apprehending its procrustean and Western form. The novel, no matter the length, will end, and this is, of course, rhetorical for the much lamented idea of speed, a very contemporary and nevertheless western concept that enthralled us in Marimar.  In contrast, our narratives—from our folk epics and myths to perhaps the Noli and Fili, which had invited sequels and allusions from not a few of our novelistsindulged in seriality, re-emergences, resurrections, even it it turns out to be grotesque, as in the Filipino telenovela Mula sa Puso, where the villain seemed to have had nine lives and had to be violently expunged from the face of the earth in the soap’s ending. That’s more than poetic justice for me. This perhaps explains not only the aptness but also the originality of the term teleserye, as particularly indicative of the kind of narrative that we intended to perform. Our’s is a culture that lingers to hear of stories memorized, that thrives in plot and character complexity, that attends to adventures (and even misadventures) that seem to only always trick us since they lead to darker groves where valiant men are tied to trees and ceaselessly grieving their usurped fates. Yes, the world is used to multi-character, multigenerational plots, but our concept of multiplicity in Pangako Sa ‘Yo, the very first teleserye, was indeed multiplicitous.

On the one hand, a love story of the past was presented in Pangako Sa ‘Yo, between a maid and an hacienda heir, and their love would prove to be epical because of the many years of chasing that unfolded. But the story was not yet over, since, in a manner of mirroring, a similar love story would emerge, this time involving the initial pair’s love daughter and a boy the hacienda heir would consider a son for quite a while. The configuration in itself was already complex, and it was made more complex not only by the twists and turns of the story, but also by the introduction of various individuals that would get entangled with the characters. The nature of the serye in this case is very much observable, and despite the soap’s being shaped by the romance mode, where endings always call for weddings, the seriality—the web of interrelations not only of events, but also of individual encounters—illustrates the distinction of the teleserye from the telenovela. It may look like a telenovela, but it is certainly not one. It may have been compact and fast-paced already, but it refuses to be completely colonized, just as Hosillos has described, in the case of the Philippine Literatures she has revaluated.

There is still however Hosillos’ requirement of works to embody “relevance to social consciousness and the development of nationalism” to consider. Is the teleserye, despite its commercial underpinnings, capable of avenging “with originality to create literary works of artistic significance even in (its) Filipinoness”? For her, “(i)t appears that Filipino writers who transmuted foreign influence into literary achievement of originality were primarily concerned with such transmutations in terms of their personal experiences and social realities.” Pangako Sa ‘Yo, the very first teleserye, immediately located itself in a time and place recognizably ours, where the struggle for land is unending, and the city is but merely boulders upon boulders of trash. Politics was also tackled by the teleserye, and what better way to expose its seething corruption than a dramatization of a festive local elections? Our teleseryes have not gone far from these realities, even if the discussions were peripheral. The very fact that they exist shows how they have became spectral, hounding us even in our fantasy teleserye worlds, from the barrios or urban jungles of Coching and Ravelo superheroes to the imagined realms of Encantadia. When characters in Philippine popular culture desire to find or heal themselves, they usually go abroad, to the middle class fantasy of the United States, but that trope too had also been overcome.

When a teleserye character is relocated abroad, it is more recently in the contemporaneous context of the Overseas Filipino Worker, at once viewing the foreign land as tourist, and as a subjected migrant laborer.  And we have gone so far from depicting the absented individual—usually just a picture in a frame, a voice from the telephone receiver or a tape recording, or an image in a video call. The individual is now imagined in the land of the foreign, among foreign peoples, struggling to make ends meet, in the name of a better future for the family, and making the experience more estranged for the audience. I suppose, we have to thank the Koreanovelas for fuelling our dreams of flight, as seen in the local adaptations of Only You, Lovers in Paris, and even A Beautiful Affair. The teleserye has also participated in historical retrospectives, providing imaginations of our past and heritage, particularly the Spanish colonial period. While most have only remained within the vicinity of romancing the hagiographic and the heroic, like the recent Jose Rizal biopic Ilustrado, there have been notable instances of historical representations like De Buena Familia, and Amaya, a story of an indigene warrior from precolonial Philippines, and loosely based in Panay folk literatures. There was also the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Noli Me Tangere which should have been given space in major networks to reorient audiences with Rizal’s founding narrative.

The teleserye, being the drama of the Filipino local, has managed to locate our experiences. In a way, it has become a parallel narrative to our current historical unfolding, providing retrospects, reflections, and prescience, even in seemingly domestic episodes. The particular is embroiled with the pervasive, in such a way that the two parallel narratives—our historical time and the creative temporality of the teleserye—converge in certain instances. Pangako Sa ‘Yo has alluded to the Payatas tragedy in delineating the life of Amor Powers after her banishment from the hacienda. In an earlier episode, parallel shots were done to show her beloved’s arranged marriage to her eventual archrival, alongside her own miserable state in the dumps, as she was finding out about the wedding from a discarded newspaper society page. She exclaims, just as man and wife were being pronounced: lahat ng hirap at sakit na ibinigay ninyo sa akin, ibabalik ko! This dialogue echoed the same misery and desire for vengeance of people from the dumpsters, of the marginalized in general, as seen in the opening of the soap where the Payatas tragedy was recreated, a pivotal event in the teleserye’s time that spelled the initial fates of the characters. Curiously, political references in history, like that of the Marcos dictatorship, have also been referred to by the teleserye, and this was followed by other teleseryes, like Kris Aquino’s Kailangan Ko’y Ikaw, which dramatized the suicide of a police general in a memorial park, weeks after former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes took his life in front of his mother’s grave, being embroiled in a government scandal.

In another front, the use of the national language, and the embedding of the other national languages also articulates located experiences: countering the basic gahum or hegemony of English, which for a time was the language of Philippine broadcasting discourse. Today, English is not really phased out, but is merely embedded in the Filipino corpus, as part of this growing medium slowly defining itself as “national language”. Drama has played a big part in this process, though is yet to be more inclusive to really avenge the minoritized Philippine culture and employ the fullest blunt of decolonization. One can just think of the example of the long forgotten Isabel, Sugo ng Birhen, a landmark in relocating the teleserye locality to that of Cebu, even if it meant dramatizing the experience of a Marian miracle using their own enunciation of Tagalog. Isabel was an exemplar in teleserye decentering, one that could also be seen in the most recent production of Maria Flordeluna, parts of which were shot in Cebu, and the currently running Forevermore, which relocated its story in Baguio, and used snippets of Ilocano for verisimilitude’s sake. We need more archipelagic consciousness in our teleseryes.

“The question of originality,” wrote Hosillos, “is crucial to assessing Filipino cultural achievement.” She continued: “It can be asked: what is original about a culture that bears the diverse cultural influences of other nations?” In this discussion of the teleserye, we cited/sited the instances of its breaking away from the catalytic text that is the Latin American telenovela, tracing its reaction by way of transforming the form (its own and that of the encroaching foreign), transcending and transmuting influences while staying rooted in the discourses of locality. This attempt to explicate the said televisual process that happened after the return of democratized broadcasting in the Philippines in 1986 shows that originality in the case of the teleserye manifested its significant conceptualization in various fields—the first being in its “claim” for a name, which is primarily a linguistic conquest. The act of naming, though not orchestrated or performed as a matter of conscious subversion, surfaced in public discourse, as the word and more teleseryes were continuously perpetrated. As also observed, the teleserye has manifested originality in its imaginings of the Filipino experience, from within and without, and through time. It had certainly unpacked the new form offered by the telenovela, restructured its narrative by way instituting its seriality, and re-languaged it, so to speak, “for our own purposes”.

The promise of Pangako Sa ‘Yo

maxresdefaultIn 2000, at the turn of the century, ABS-CBN soap opera Pangako Sa ‘Yo promised to be the new face of the Philippine soap opera for the new millennium. It promised to be larger than life, to become Philippine drama at its finest. Its multi-character, three generations narrative sought to redefine Pinoy romance by entangling parallel characters in an against-all-odds love cycle. Above all, it introduced the term that basically “Filipinized” the soap opera, making it our own, as the world was struggling to come to terms with globalization. Dubbed as the very first “teleserye”, Pangako Sa ‘Yo was instrumental in founding the idea of a local soap opera tradition, deserving of critical attention and distinct estimation. The “linguistic turn”—the turning into language of this truly Filipino television culture—signified the Philippine soap opera’s coming into its own, many years after the Americans brought it along with broadcasting. The neologism “teleserye” (“tele” for television, and “serye” for series) will mark its 15th year in 2015 with the upcoming remake of the soap featuring the love team Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla, reprising the roles of Kristine Hermosa’s Yna Macaspac and Jericho Rosales’ Angelo Buenavista. Meanwhile, the very fact that the word has stayed on in popular culture, and is in current use by all networks when they refer to their respective soap opera productions, prove that the television genre as Filipino has indeed established itself after it sought to name itself, the way the Latin Americans did with their telenovelas.

But before the promise was the premise: the original Pangako Sa ‘Yo, to my memory, sought to become a different soap opera after its high successful predecessors lorded over the airwaves—these were Mara Clara, Esperanza, and Mula sa Puso. This was towards the end of the Latin American telenovela fever, when Filipino viewers have already started to clamor for fixity and tightness in soap operas. Pangako Sa ‘Yo was true to its precursors’ form, though it aspired for more complexity in its conflict which still propelled the narrative. The length of airing was, of course, still determined by the audience, and the landscape back then was changing. Looking back at Pangako Sa ‘Yo, I can’t help but surmise that it was an experiment of sorts in a broadcasting period that had already seen soap opera resolutions in a span of a few months. For how else can the Filipino epic imagination still be sustained in that new environment, post-Marimar? Pangako Sa ‘Yo’s response was simple: narrate multi-generationally, compress the time periods, make the characters evolve the soonest, and invest on good old hubris. Plus, provide a cinematographic gloss to the soap, add more dimension to the rollercoaster ride of the love stories (in the plural). Since the soap is multi-character too, the subplots have to be put in, though to a certain extent, it became detrimental to other parts of the narrative. Pangako Sa ‘Yo was trailblazing in its own right; like the recently concluded Be Careful with My Heart, it resisted the imposition of the foreign form (in Pangako, the Latin form, in Be Careful, the Korean form) by insisting on what it is—an authentic imagination of Filipino romance experience, in its own time.

Time is again very important to discourse about here as the teleserye has its own temporality. While it had already adapted to the temper of the times with regards to soap opera airing lengths, Pangako Sa ‘Yo elucidates our conception of time as particularly shaped by our relation with the past. The past is never a foreign country to us, as it is as much a part of the present—to a fault. In Pangako Sa ‘Yo, the past is pivotal in the dynamics of the story, and in how the lead characters turned against each other. It is interesting to note that the original’s backstory, the love between Amor Powers and Eduardo Buenavista, played by Eula Valdez and Tonton Gutierrez, turned out to be the most important story. It was a deceptive ploy to put together parallel love stories, and consequent triangles, converging and connecting in a singular plot line. Time then had to be bought in order to carry out this complex project. A good number of episodes had to be mounted to dramatize what I’ll call at this point as the origin story, which in turn heightened the love story of the present. In a way, this is how the very first teleserye claimed its being an epic story—it actually played with time present and time past by not only putting them in predictable chronology, but also putting them in parallel with each other, where the main actors interact in constant tension and flux. More than its production design, scenic settings, realistic references to some of the major events of the day, and even the presentation of alternative ending options, Pangako Sa ‘Yo’s virtue is that of time, which may also be read as the capacity to traverse fictional time and current affairs. The teleserye was bold enough to discuss issues of feudalism, man-made tragedies (remember the Payatas tragedy), political dynasty, organized crime, diasporic migration, and domestic labor, to become a testament of not only the times of the star-crossed lovers, but also of real, historical time.

Space also played an important part in Pangako Sa ‘Yo as it has been clearly located by way of the setting in this first Philippine teleserye. While most soap operas currently running neglect the idea of location in its narrative discourse, Pangako Sa ‘Yo has clearly situated not only Philippine experience, but also Philippine space as meaningful plane of signifying the said experiences. The selection of what seems like the Payatas Landfill to open the soap, where Amor Powers lost her young daughter Yna, recalled back then, the very tragic reality of urban congestion and the sorry state of people making a living through dump. The Buenavista Hacienda meanwhile served as testament to the land reform problems still hounding society. On the other hand, the election scenes in the story portrayed the ruthlessness of our political, as well as our business cultures, both run by the reign of vengeance and greed. On a more interesting note, Pangako Sa ‘Yo as a border-crossing soap has put the Philippines in the map of the global drama world, a space dominated by Hollywood, and other emergent drama cultures like the big telenovela players from Latin America. Aside from performing well in countries from Southeast Asia, Africa, and even America, it also earned a local remake in Cambodia, which is currently on air. In ABS-CBN’s Pangako Sa ‘Yo promotional video used for international trade shows, the word “teleserye” is flashed prominently, identifying the soap opera as a Filipino text. In hindsight, Pangako Sa ‘Yo remarkably carried out the two-fold task of locating at once the Philippine setting, and setting the tone for the teleserye as a global text. These distinctions need to be mentioned now that a new Pangako Sa ‘Yo is set to return to Philippine television, 15 years after it launched the word and the genre.

What then is the promise of this new Pangako Sa ‘Yo? The cast promises to be an interesting one, and the tenor is one of maturity. Jodi Santamaria comes of age here, and she receives a rightful prize after her successful stint by being Be Careful with My Heart’s Maya. She will play the bidang-kontrabida Amor, and is expected to perform exciting dramatic exchanges with Angelica Panganiban, who will play the equally unforgettable archrival Madame Claudia Buenavista. Pangako Sa ‘Yo is primarily a narrative of women, and the confrontation scenes of these two are worth anticipating. Also, there is the “Kathniel” craze to reckon with. As contemporary TV’s most favorite love team, Bernardo and Padilla represent current kilig that never fails to sweep the audience off its feet. It would be interesting to see how their kilig would reinvent the best-remembered kilig of Hermosa and Rosales. What looks promising at this point is the network’s emphasis on the maturity of this new pair—that they are now capable of taking on more serious dramatic endeavors. Pangako Sa ‘Yo could be the coming of age of the two, as it is definitely a coming full circle to Santamaria, who played the role of Angelo’s sister Lia in the first version. Meanwhile, for the teleserye at large, Pangako Sa ‘Yo promises to be another landmark, a highpoint in the continuing development of the Filipino television genre. After 15 years, it looks like the term is here to stay, continuing the definition of the soap opera as truly Filipino, and as worthy global drama for the world to see.

Bagong Tula: Magnolia

Papaanong bibilangin ang mga bituin sa langit
Sa ganitong laksang kalawakan—pag-ibig
Ng magsasaka’t heredero, pag-ibig na sininop
Ng pangitain at paglilo, ngunit pagbabayaran
Ang pagsapit nitong paghahawakang inaasam?

Kaybigat ng halaga: ang lihim na kaugnayan
Ng inyong mga anak na ibinababa sa hukay,
Lihim na kayo ang napag-iwanan matapos nilang
Lundagin ang bangin dahil bagabag ng pagtutol
Sa naganap na lamang na pagmamahalan.

Nahigitan mo na ang iyong irog, at ayon sa anda,
Sino mang di kumilala sa iyong ngalan ay aso
Lamang. Kaysaklap: kahit ang kinang ng yaman
Ay walang gawad na kislap sa iyong mga mata.
Batid niya iyon nang magtuos kayo’t magharap.

Gunita mo pa ba iyon, nang ang mga aso mo’y
Naglalaway, handang manakmal? Tanaw mo siya
Sa iyong terasa at amoy ng mga alaga ang poot
Ng bugtong na poon. Baliktad na nga ang mundo—
Dumudulog siya’t hangad ang katiting na habag.

Ngayon, sa pagpapantay ng paa ng mga anak,
Inaabot niya ang iyong kamay, nababalabalan
Ng belong itim. Mistulang tinatawid ang pagitan
Ng uri’t panahon, at sa karimlan, pinasasapit
Sa wakas ang malaong lakbay ng liwanag-taon.

Pebrero 3, 2015