Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Insulting procession of wifely woes

TV Times, 7-13 August 1977


Three housewives. Each with a tale to tell. Who will tell it best? The stout wife with a philandering husband? The suffering mother whose daughter was defiled and insulted? The grieving widow whose husband died in some far-off province, far away from her?

A few years ago, a similar format reached radio listeners under the program title Reyna ng Vicks. Today, the format gets to TV viewers under the title Sapagka't Kami'y mga Misis Lamang .

Sapagka't, perhaps due to the sobriety of the times, is a quieter version of the earlier Reyna. There is hardly any needling of the storytellers. There is greater effort to lessen the tears, quicken the pace, lighten the mood. There is less appeal to the listener's lachrymal glands and more respect for the participants.

But will there ever be dignity in the public narration of a person's most intense and intimate experience? Will the wife and her philandering husband reach a higher level of understanding because the woman told all listening ears an hour before noon how she found out about her husband's wandering ways? Will the daughter who was defiled and insulted thank her mother for having made her an instant celebrity in her neighborhood and school? And will the husband return for a last, loving kiss from the grave because his widow showed how bereaved she was--over nationwide television?

If I sound cruel and unmoved by the procession of wifely woes, it is because I believe there is nothing dignified in narrating a supposedly deeply felt personal experience to an impersonal audience that is unknown and unquantifiable to the narrator. The effort, when seen over television, only appears amusing, sometimes even downright ridiculous.

Witness the reaction in one TV household which was forced to watch Sapagka't. The matriarch of the family was offended by the lack of discretion and "self-respect" of the participants. The young granddaughter spewed a barrage of insulting asides in equal pace with the storytellers' narratives. The maids were laughing their heads off over what were supposed to be other women's blood, sweat, and tears.

Surprised? Why should we be? There is a brittle barrier between the ridiculous and the sublime. And it is often the way we handle our vulnerability in the face of personal adversity that determines when that barrier will crack. In dogged tales of fortitude and martyrdom, there are great human lessons to be learned and unusual emotional depths to be plumbed. The people behind Sapagka't, if they wish the viewer to learn the lessons and plumb the depths, must think of a different way of presenting such tales on television.

I also suggest that they be more selective in the choice of stories and storytellers. Perhaps even think of a new title and a new format. After all, are there no other woes for women but philandering or dying husbands and wronged or abusive children? Do women feel no problems more serious than those which come to them in their roles as submissive wives and long-suffering mothers? Should a woman's other concerns and other relationships be shunted aside completely? Are women only extensions of their husbands and children?

And why must we allow the use of television to preserve the myth that women through the ages are born to suffer, whether they choose to or not? Is this not the ultimate insult to women and womanhood?

-- NBT

No title in original published column

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