Thursday, September 8, 2011

TV facts, TV fictions, TV lies

Business Mirror / Reeling
Wednesday, September 7, 2011

AS I started writing this, professional boxing promoter Bob Arum had just finished talking about Manny Pacquiao and the fighter’s vision of delivering “his people” (his being the boxer) from poverty. The speech was supposed to introduce Manny Pacquiao before the cheering crowd in New York during the US leg of the press conference announcing the fight between the Filipino southpaw (even us nonsports writers develop an acumen for the vocabulary) and the Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez. For those not following the calendar of the life of Pacquiao as an athlete, they were surprised to see last week Juan Manuel Marquez arriving in Manila and being billeted in Manila Hotel and not fighting at all, what followed was the Manila stop of the series of press conferences hailing this big fight.
Marquez was charming; Pacquaio was late. If we listened to the news, it seems Marquez arrived in this island to be confronted by the reality that his erstwhile opponent had gotten bigger, socially and economically and politically. Pacquaio at present has more handlers, more managers, a bigger entourage. But Marquez charmed the island. And Pacquiao’s remiss was never reported greatly. Everybody loves a winner. Besides, as Bob Arum put it, Pacquaio is now entitled to call all Filipinos “his people.” We are this boxer’s people.
Whenever Manny Pacquaio fights, the discourse is about a man fighting for his people. Shall we see it also as a fighter fighting for more money? Why not? But we do not want these vulgar claims; we’d rather that the fight is really for the glory of the nation. Indeed, why not?
In the meantime, if we believe media reports, the “Pambansang Kamao” or National Fist (Is this official? Of course I am not serious with this question!) did not make it to the Mass at the Manila Cathedral that was to be said expressly (is this an appropriate term for a Mass the intention of which is made specific?) for him and Marquez.
Manny Pacquiao had indeed become greater than the game he plays. His press conferences become big deals with screenings of his previous fights; the blessing from above is also invoked.
In the meantime, too, Manny Pacquaio has to face his TV commitment, a show GMA called Manny Many Prizes. This show bolsters the charitable Manny, the Manny with many money to give as doleouts left and right. Is this the Manny that, put together with the Manny of Bob Arum’s speech in New York, composes a personality that may become our president? I hate to ask the question. I dread to know the answer.
I believe though that after that fight—win or lose—our Pambansang Kamao is going to be a lot richer while the many of us become even poorer. Not that Manny causes our people’s (can I say my people?) poverty. It’s just that we feel poorer each time Manny takes home his fees earned from being pummeled and becoming the national puncher.
As I write this, I am suffering from Amaya fever. It is caused by following the series and searching for whatever nationalistic fervor and pride the costume fantasy/narrative is supposed to be. The TV series is impressive; the attempt is commendable. I will always take an effort like this over the endlessly impossibly contrived confrontations between lovers, between mothers and sons, between mothers and daughters, between our versions of heaven and hell. The problem is that Amaya has gone confrontational also. I am encouraging my mind to think of events before the coming of the Spaniards so I could connect the dramatis personae in this TV program and those characters when the Baybayin ruled our societies. Did  our ancestors, assuming that we do have links to them, really spoke like some Tagala Pharaoh’s daughter, stilted and high-camp and all? Think Anne Baxter.
I was told and it has been told also that some teachers are assigning their students to watch Amaya so that the children could learn more about our pre-Spanish societies, given the dearth of materials dealing with those periods. There are, of course, materials about that period, or where else would the consultants of Amaya derive their interpretations and conjectures. These information, however, are what are called “fragments” and do not come in chewable chunks. Generally.
For the more enterprising and creative teacher, there is Dr. William Henry Scott who has distilled some of the information through his book Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society. A greatly engaging book, the documents talk not only about gender and taboos but also about sexual gadgets used by, well, our ancestors.
The idea that Amaya or a TV series can fill historiographical is a novel act but also one fraught with danger.
We have heard already complaints—some very scholarly and not merely hysterical and unfounded gripes—how Amaya has distorted some terms like binukot. Much as I rally against distortion, I still believe TV fiction can use some terms and imbue them with different meanings and frame them in altogether new context. What I would question though is how Amaya displays text on screen, giving the impression that there is some kind of essentialist meaning to the term. Does the device play a trick on us to tell us that there is historical accuracy being exhibited even if there is none?
In one of the promotional interviews of Amaya herself, Marian Rivera, the actress, raves about the authenticity of the concepts and terms used in the series. She mentions iluy in particular. Well, Ms. Rivera, in our household, we use still the term to denote mother. It is a Tigaonon/Ticanon term used by the people (my people! Why not? Pacquaio has his own people). There is nothing distant or exotic about the term because it is inside us and it is still being used. I am almost tempted to say: See, how limited Tagalog/Pilipino language is. There, I actually said it.
As I write this, the anguish and sadness and fire and brimstone had died down in the secret society called NFF, which is maintained by those who respect and not merely admire Nora Aunor. Last week, the discussion was about a blind item about a great actress who had gone back to her ways—particularly her gambling ways. It was, like any blind item, not blind but a blatantly wide-eyed, as in credulous, attack on the popularity of a person. We just cannot take it when  someone is so popular again and media-potent again. Anyway, the item was seen as referring to Nora Aunor going to the casino. The discussion was rabid, as when family members react against some malicious comments from outsiders. Interestingly, the discussants remained steadfastly friendly all throughout and even after the debates. In the end, it came out that Nora never had time to go to the casino.
I respect and I do understand those who love and admire Nora Aunor when they get hurt because people criticize the actor or create rumors, tapping in the process the old histories about so-called unprofessionalism and other ills. I wish I could also be like them, But, as I relayed to the NFF members, I am not bothered at all when some writers display their forked tongues and spill acid and toxin from their minds and mouths. I could not care less. I believe that the small brains and petty prose of these inept writers, both from tabloid and broadsheet, will forever remain miniscule against the formidable psychology of Nora Aunor as an artist.
Nora was never a simple person. She never will be. The epiphany regarding Nora is that she has a mind of her own. She is not as sociable and as open as the other celebrities. I see nothing wrong with that. I am starting to believe that the reason I worship at the shrine of the arts of Nora Aunor is that while her person is inaccessible, her artistry is supremely available.
The “Ate Guy” may shortchange some with her volatility (always with reason as I found out years back) and tempestuousness (she has earned the right to have this trait) but the “Nora Aunor” never fails to deliver to us peerless pieces and priceless performances. Those who favor her art know that when her light and shadow cross the silver screen, she would create for us reflections, but more than the reflecting and the refracting, she could break the silver in that screen, and show us the lies and the truths, the shards and the brittle sordid facts behind the glistening surface. Contrary to what others say, great artists, like Nora Aunor, do not hide behind their arts; they reveal and open through the arts more and more realities.
These are more than I could ask for. These are already more than I could demand from this Diva Assoluta.

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