"Impressions," TV Times, 4-10 June 1978
Having sustained a weekly cultural show with a decidedly limited appeal for more than nine (?) years, perhaps Armida Siguion-Reyna can now be excused for deciding to go into a popular format with a self-imposed limited topical range. Mga Kuwento ng Pag-ibig is, well, mga kuwento ng pag-ibig. In its narrowest sense, such a title can only mean one thing. Dare we hope, though, that Mga Kuwento ng Pag-ibig can still take a much broader view of its subject matter and move on from the merely sentimental to the substantial?
"Ang Kuwento ng Pag-ibig ni Emma Sanchez," which we caught last week on its replay, is a little story with a delightful comeuppance for the egocentric Filipino male. Emma Sanchez, a victim of sex-role stereotyping and society's double standard, is a middle-aged wife who suffers silently through her husband's countless liaisons. But not to be outdone herself, she has her fantasies and her dreams, even if she prefers to submerge them in dutiful loyalty to her husband and to her role.
She learns to keep herself to herself, too. She and her husband drift away from each other, their sexual and emotional vocabularies and rhythms becoming, in time, more disastrously different. But she is a thoroughbred in the old sense of the word. So she keeps her lips sealed against her own pain even as she accepts each blue-and-white artifact her husband gifts her with after his every dalliance.
In the end, she is forced to buy her own release from her emotional enslavement. And she does it with the same blue-and-white pattern her husband had himself established as a part of the marriage. In the process, she touches the very core of his manhood and, with one consequential move, gives him a glimpse into the depths of her enslavement, into the essence of her pain.
Had it not been with a blue-and-white and an orchid, Emma Sanchez would have bought her happiness nevertheless, with whatever other symbol of her receding marriage she could find. The difference between Emma Sanchez and other lovelorn TV heroines is that while all the latter may cry buckets of tears in abject humiliation and suffering, or lapse into unending hysteria, or stare silently into space in gutless self-pity or incipient madness, Emma Sanchez sat down to plan out her final and telling move with reason and logic. In this sense, she joins a sisterhood of contemporary women who, although with one foot still firmly set on the traditional and entrenched values of family and society, manage to make a personal statement about their life and themselves.
Emma Sanchez, in her own way and with her own weapons, liberated herself from the total enslavement to which Filipino society had in the past doomed wives like her, choosing to make of herself neither a martyr nor another man's mistress but a woman--intelligent, confident, self-possessed.
There is, of course, a grain of artificiality in the telling of this neat little story. By its very decision to go light--almost airy--on dialogue but heavy on the pauses, the "Emma Sanchez" episode deliberately chose to go down the stilted path. Even the camera's movements, except for those shots when the box wavers and the editing becomes patently uncertain, is carefully choreographed, like the emotions Emma Sanchez chose to hide beneath the modern trappings of her existence. Of course, those modern trappings, as in any production by Armida Siguion-Reyna, are opulent, rich, contrasting in color and magnitude with the deliberate atmosphere of repression that surrounds the tight little teleplay.
But after "Emma Sanchez," what? Shall Mga Kuwento ng Pag-ibig continue to limit itself to more stories like it? Or shall the series move on to bigger stories of love--not just between man and woman--but primarily between man and life. There are a million such stories out there--of passion, lust, joie de vivre, heroism, madness, fear, poverty, loyalty, rapture, rage, death--and all of them track back to the undeniable root: man's love for life.
Mga Kuwento ng Pag-ibig, we hope, will find its way to those roots.
No title in original published column