Wednesday, April 30, 2008

REMOTE TVictim #1: UGLY BETTY, viewed over Studio 23, Tuesday, April 29

(This blog series is my take on various TV shows that I don't watch on a regular basis. I review just one episode, and will most likely not do so based on context or series "mythology." What you are about to read is rather shortsighted, often biased, and probably loopy. Please do not be offended if I diss your all-time favorite TV show at one point, or if I adore the ones you hate.)

Ugly Betty isn't ugly. She's just frumpy and unadorned next to the likes of Salma Yayek and Vanessa Williams in their sleek designer wardrobe and matte make-up. I kinda like her as a heroine, because she gets to place herself firmly in multiple worlds--her ordinarily comfy home, and her ultra-glossy office. In this particular episode, she goes to a male strip dancer's club to investigate her boss' (Salma Hayek's Sophie) amorous past with a nordic heartthrob-cum-stripclub dancer. What brought this on? She's concerned for her former boss (Daniel--don't know the actor's name, sorry), who was cornered into proposing to Sophie with a few manipulative words, gestures and events. It turns out that Betty was right: Sophie reveals all in a morning talk show that Daniel was a successful "experiment", her proof that a headstrong, devious woman can siphon a proposal off a confirmed bachelor if she just knew the steps. The result: a magazine cover story entitled "From Fling to Ring in 60 Days." Humiliated, Daniel leaves the studio, but not before Sophie sort of confesses that "You're more than what I thought you were."

I actually cried right there.

Frankly, this episode can pass for a romantic comedy flick, starring the likes of perpetually perky Drew Barrymore and perpetually ditzy Cameron Diaz. I think it's a well-written one hour, very compact, and insightful, especially for me who don't follow this series. I'm not sure, but did America Ferrera win a Golden Globe or an Oscar for this role? She deserves it. The ensemble cast is a director's dream, I bet. They may be stereotypes, but they wear their roles really well. Towards the show's end, just before Betty throws her "I quit" line to Sophie, she defends her previous boss and officemates, saying something like, "they may be shallow and self-absorbed, but at least they know it, and they don't pretend to be anything else." Cat fight, next episode?


(Make me leave. Make me.)
The following is just about the most annoying pop-up I've ever received in my life:

"Privacy Violation Alert! Some program is secretly sending your private data to
untrusted internet host."

Untutored in these things as I am, I allowed my annoyance to turn into panic, as I proceeded to follow directions (mostly "click ok") that will allow me to get rid of the "71 threats" to my system. Then I was prompted to pay $75 in extermination costs. That did it. I clicked "continue unprotected" and braced myself for the worst.

Of course, my colleague, a walking anti-virus machine who took pity on my hapless plight, zapped the threats with an inocuous CD. So that's that. But this momentous event in my life as a blogging newbie set me to thinking: if only the other viruses and threats in my life were just as easy to annihilate. I'm not terminally ill or anything, but I know have some bugs in my system that eat away at my sanity and productivity, and if I don't "click ok", some malicious host or other might succeed in corrupting me one of these days.

Take for instance, my growing dislike for the house I grew up in for 36 years. For the past couple of years, I haven't felt that "home sweet home" feeling. Not that our house, a bungalow with spacious, faded bedrooms, 1-car + motorcycle garage, and pastel lavender gate was decrepit or in need of major repairs. My brother, and my daddy, when he was still alive, were always prompt in keeping the ceilings painted, the gate hinges oiled, and everything else that falls under "maintenance." With my daddy's death benefit, mama had our sofa and armchairs reupholstered. Me? I have always been Glade-spray happy, commissioned to keep tabletops polished and smelling all lemony. That was then. Now, I have lost my housekeeping edge.

I have also come to despise the neighbors. In this, I know I am justified. What decent, concerned neighbor would allow his dog to shit on our driveway? How about indiscriminately sending volleyballs, basketballs, shuttlecocks and frisbees into our front yard? Then they have the gall to ring the doorbell so one of us inside the house will pick up their stray bullets. Later on, when we stubbornly refused to answer the bell, one of them will even reach into our gate handle so he can get the offending item himself. When we very nicely called their attention to these "inconveniences", they would act as though they were the offended party, as though trespassing and disturbing the peace was their right and privelege. It's pitiful that I wasn't keen on going home because the neighbors were out on the street, spiking a volleyball.

It's a dreadful, counter-productive feeling, one I didn't want to entertain in the first place. It has festered in me so badly, that I am willing to relocate tomorrow, no, right now, to a more private enclave where I can walk the streets without being torpedoed by a volleyball. I took a tripping via internet, and was able to download some model homes further south in Daang Hari, Muntinlupa. If I could rob a bank tomorrow, I'll have a brand new house for sure.

But the truth remains that I'm still here as I've always been in almost four decades. You know how some viruses are so miniscule, so insignificant, that you can just cough it out, or delete it, hoping it'll be better the next day? I hope this is all there is, for I do feel guilty for treating my parents' house, their 1970's dream home, this way. I sincerely hope that this crippling, wanton virus will go away. Or I will.

Monday, April 28, 2008


(That's me pondering on a career switch.)

My cousin sent me an ominous text last Saturday: "By any chance, may balak ka bang magpalit ng job (do you have plans of changing your job?)?" That floored me. No offense to the "job" I've got now, but I admit that i have a short list of "other jobs", or "alternative careers" stashed in my subconscious somewhere, sometimes pestering me in the middle of a seminar, or while observing a class. Here's that short list:

1. NOVELIST. I read somewhere that you have to write the way you read: with gusto, with attention to detail, with appreciation for style, and with the cockiness to say, "I can do better than this." But I haven't read anything about finishing what you started, and I suspect it's because it's so self-explanatory. I'm quite guilty in that category. I have a dozen or so word files with five paragraphs going nowhere, and when I hit a wall, I tend to abandon the task completely. But I'd love to write a novel someday. Most likely it will read like a rip-off of all the novels I've read since college--from Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude to F.Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, to Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. I imagine it to be nightmarish, pathetic, loony. Is there a market for such a thing? The key is to start and finish the thing. Maybe if I can do that, I'll have a reason to hang up my principal's shoes for good, and tour the world promoting my loony bestseller.

2. PRODUCTION ASSISTANT. My brother tells me that I make really great coffee. Isn't that a prerequisite for production assistantdom? Never mind the fieldwork and the fact that you serve so many bosses, it's hard to follow what orders from whom. Imagine the perks: hovering close to Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera, praying that they'll ask you to carry their lounge chairs or charge their cell phones; going on location in Palawan, scrambling across rocks, looking for an outlet to plug the charger, or the coffee maker...what joy. But like any seemingly insignificant part of a production, the PA could claim the same victory that Dingdong and Marian bask in when the show does well in the ratings. The PA can say, "I was there. I made them coffee. I belong." I'll trade my 5-year school development program for a stint in Dyezebel.

There. Didn't I say it was a short list?

Sunday, April 27, 2008


( I wrote this script for Kencare Learning Center's Christmas celebration and 12th foundation day. It was performed by the cutest, smartest kids I've ever come across: the Kencare kids.I'm publishing the excerpt here. If a school or children's theatre org wants to perform it, just let me know!:) Above photos: 1. Twinkle Toes, my favorite characters; 2. reading rehearsals of the cast.)


Scene : A modern dance studio
Characters : Female ballet teacher, little ballet dancer
Action :
A ballet teacher and her student execute the final steps of their practice performance. The little girl invites her teacher to have Christmas dinner with her family.The teacher remembers a fairytale entitled “The Magical Dancing Shoes,” and tells her student all about it.
Lights on for Teacher Lily and her student, Jasmine, as they execute their final ballet steps to the music of
Teacher Lily applauds her student.
Teacher Lily:
Very good, Jasmine! You are so ready for the program on Christmas Eve!
Really, Teacher Lily? I practiced very , very hard.
Teacher Lily:
You must be very tired then. You’d better go home. Who’s going to pick you up?
Jasmine :
Papa and Mama. But I’m not tired yet. We’re going to the mall to buy my ballet shoes.
Teacher Lily:
But you already have a pair, don’t you?
Jasmine (sadly):
I lost them in school, Teacher Lily. So now we have to buy another pair. I simply can’t dance without my shoes!
Teacher Lily (thinking):
Hmmm. That reminds me of a story my mother used to tell me when I was your age.
Jasmine (excitedly):
Really, Teacher Lily? What story is that?
Teacher Lily:
It’s about a girl…a princess who lost her dancing shoes.
How sad! How did she lose her shoes? Did she find them again? Were they magical shoes?
Oh do please tell me the story!
Teacher Lily (teasingly):
But your parents are about to pick you up. There’s no time.
Oh please Teacher Lily! They’re gonna be late because of the traffic. Please tell me the story.
Teacher Lily :
Oh alright. Let’s see. The title of the story is… The Magical Dancing Shoes.
Lights fade out. Exit Teacher Lily and Jasmine. Lights on for (SINGER), as she sings, “ONCE UPON A TIME..” Instrumental music continues while lights go out, after the singer exits the stage. Set up BACKDROP OF ROYAL HALL. Very bright lights on for LORDS AND LADIES, passing around Christmas décor. LORDS AND LADIES lipsynch and dance to “DECK THE HALLS.”


Scene : Dancetopia, the Kingdom of Dance,royal castle interior. King and Queen sit on their throne. They watch the Princess and other members of the court dance on the great hall
Characters: King Tenorio, Queen Melodia, Princess Rina, Twinkle Toes, Lords and Ladies, Contessa, Big Toe, Tiny Toe
Princess Rina leads the Court in a grand rehearsal for the much-awaited Christmas in Dancetopia. King and Queen look on proudly. The practice is interrupted by the Contessa and her daughters, Big Toe and Tiny Toe, who threaten to disrupt the celebration. After and exchange of words, The King and Queen reluctantly invite the Contessa, who is the Queen’s elder sister, to stay the night.

Herald (announcing):
Make way for the King and Queen of Dancetopia! (Everyone clears a path in the center. All Lords and Ladies curtsy as the King and Queen pass them. King and Queen stand in front of their throne.)
King Tenorio (jovially):
People of Dancetopia, welcome,welcome,welcome! What say you my Queen?
Queen Melodia (regally):
I say let us continue with the Christmas spirit (the people cheer). But wait! Where…where is our daughter, the Princess Ballerina?
Princess Rina (hurrying to her parents side):
I’m here! Sorry, I’m late.
Queen :
As usual.
Princess Rina:
Oh, but I’ve been practicing, Queen Mother!
King :
Oh yes, yes, the Christmas Eve Dance! Are you sure you’re ready for that, Princess?
Of course. Would you like to see a…a…preview?
Why not?
Herald (announcing):
Ladies and gentlemen, the royal rehearsal!
Princess :
Wait! First, let me summon my back-up dancers…the Twinkle Toes! First, let me call on…Sopranita! Yoohoo! Come over here!
Sopranita (entering a la concert diva)
I’m heeeeeeere! (in a high voice)
Princess :
Next, let’s call on Altina!
Altina (entering a la diva):
Present (in a low voice) !
Now, here’s Lullabye!
Lullabye (entering like a bird or butterfly):
Hello, everybody (twittering like a bird)
Three down, three to go…where’s Rhumba?
Rhumba (flamenco dance entry):
Arriba! Arriba!
Where’s Perlita?
Perlita (pearly shells entry)
Mabuhay (waves like a beauty queen while dancing hawaiian)!
And who can forget…Tarantella?
Tarantella (quick step entry)
Alright ladies, Shall we?
Princess and Twinkle Toes in formation for ensemble ballet number. At one point, Twinkle Toes step aside as Princess
Dances solo. After the dance, there is wild applause
King :
Splendid! Marvelous! Magnificent!
Surely, I was moved. I am now convinced that everything is ready for the Christmas Eve Dance! Oh, what a truly amazing night it will be! The night when our dear Princess will inherit the magical dancing shoes!
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA music intrudes. A fearful hush befalls the crowd as the Contessa, followed by her daughters Big Toe and Tiny Toe, move to the center.
Contessa (sneeringly, fanning herself haughtily) :
Bravo, dear sister Queen, bravo! Your special project, the so-called Christmas Eve dance, will soon be upon us. How exciting.
Big Toe:
Tiny Toe:
What do you want, Contessa?
Why, nothing, sister queen. Well, maybe there is ONE thing, like an invitation to your special event?
Queen :
As I recall, you don’t dance. You HATE to dance. So we thought you wouldn’t mind if you weren’t invited.
Contessa(shows hurt feelings):
Aw, sis. I could have just…sat down in a corner to watch the dancing. Especially my very popular and charming niece, the Princess Rina.
Thank you, Auntie…Mother, can’t Aunte come to the dance?
Queen :
The King and I will think about it.
King :
That we’ll do. We will let you know tomorrow, Contessa.
Big Toe & Tiny Toe:
What about us?
But of course you’re welcome too. Tomorrow you’ll have our decision.
Dear sister, you sound like you don’t trust me.
After stealing MY dancing shoes when we were children, and selling it to the wicked witch with two left feet? How can I trust you?
That was a long time ago. How you keep a grudge. Just because you’re a queen now, you can step on my rights?
Why you…you… (the sisters advance on each other, gearing for a fight.
Big Toe and Tiny Toe:
Yes! Yes! Yes! Cat fight!
King (coming between Queesn and Contessa):
That’s it. That’s enough. You, Contessa,you and your daughters will sleep here tonight as our guests. We’ll talk about your invitation tomorrow.
Whatever. (Aside to the audience) I don’t care if I’m invited or not. I just came here for ONE THING. Well, TWO… actually…
That’s settled? Then continue with the preparations!
Christmas music fades up as lords and ladies pass around the décor. Then lights and music out. Narration follows, through the voices of Teacher Lily and Jasmine.
Oh no, Teacher Lily. I’m sure Contessa is planning something evil.
Teacher Lily:
As a matter of fact, she is! You see, the Contessa feels bad about the Christmas Dance, not just because she wasn’t invited, but because on that night, the magical dancing shoes will be passed on to Princess Rina. Those shoes have been passed on from generation to generation, and whoever owns these shoes receive special powers as well.
What powers?
Teacher Lily:
Well, why don’t you listen to the rest of the story, and you’ll find out?

Scene II

Scene : Royal chamber where magic shoes are kept
Characters: Contessa, Big Toe, Tiny Toe, King, Queen, Princess Rina, Sentinels, Twinkle Toes
Action: The Contessa and her daughters put the sentinels to sleep and sneak into the chamber where the magical dancing shoes are kept. After many clumsy attempts, the Contessa succeeds in getting the shoes. She leaves a note bragging about what she will do with the shoes. The King, Queen and Princess discuss the only way in which the shoes can be retrieved, and that is by seeking the counsel and protection of the Fairy Queen, who lives in an enchanted forest. The Princess does not show her parents how afraid she is. The Twinkle Toes arrive to cheer up the Princess, and promise to go with her on her dangerous journey.

Mysterious Nutcracker music fades up and under. There is no backdrop, but on centerstage is a glass case containing the magical dancing shoes. The shoes are gold in color, and lie on a red velvet pillow. Light shines on these shoes, while the rest is total darkness. This goes on for a full minute,, until the Contessa and her two daughters arrive at the scene, tiptoeing, comically circling the glass case, until all three stop on stage right. They speak in loud whispers.
Well, daughters, we have put the guards to sleep. The entire castle is asleep. Even the cates and the mice are asleep! Now it’s time to do what we came here to do.
Tiny Toe:
Big Toe:
No, silly! We came here to get the shoes.
Tiny Toe:
Oh, yes, yes, the shoes. I forgot.
Now, don’t forget, you must sound like the Princess when you speak the magic words. Ok Big Toe, practice first. Say the magic words.
Big Toe (in a raspy voice):
Shoes so light, shoes so bright, may you please be mine tonight!
Make your tone lighter.
Big Toe (trying very hard to sound light, but fails):
Shoes so light, shoes so bright, may you please be mine tonight!
You sound like a creaky elevator! You, Tiny Toe. You try.
Tiny Toe:
“Shoes tonight, shoes so mine, please you may be bright and light!”
You got it all mixed up!
Tiny Toe:
“Shoes so light, shoes so bright, shoes so tight, the fit’s not right…?”
Grrrrr…you two are hopeless! Come with me. I’ll do it myself (drags her daughters towards the glass case). I will say the words, then the case will lift. Now you, Big Toe, grab the right shoe, and you Tiny Toe, grab the left. Got it?
Big Toe and Tiny Toe:
Got it, Mother!
The Contessa moves beside the case. Her daughters mix up her directions again. Big Toe goes to the left side, and Tiny Toe goes to the right. The Contessa says the magic words, mimicking the Princess’ voice.
“Shoes so light, shoes so bright, may you please be mine tonight?”

Nutcracker music fades up to a crescendo, and the glass case is lifted from its base. Big Toe and Tiny Toe grab the shoe nearest them, then realizes it’s the wrong shoe.
Big Toe and Tiny Toe:
Oops! I got the wrong shoe! (They toss the shoe to each other, but fail to catch it. )
No! No ! No! Silly Toes! Don’t do that! Be careful! (But the sisters drop, accidentally kick, and do all sorts of clumsy things to the shoes. Exasperated, the Contessa stops them from doing any more damage).
Contessa (in a hoarse, angry whisper):
You, Big Toe. Stay in that corner. You, Tiny Toe, stay in that corner! (She picks up the shoes herself). Oh, look at these precious shoes! I waited all my life to possess these shoes…and now, and now…they’re mine, all mine! Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! (SFX Thunder, Lightning effects, dramatic suspenseful music. The Contessa breaks into song, to the tune of “I GOT TWO SHOES”)
Mission accomplished, my daughters…let us go now…oh, wait. First, I must leave a little love letter…(puts the letter on the velvet pillow)…There. Away we go, and enjoy the powers of these magical dancing shoes!
Exit Contessa and her daughters. Lights out, and melancholy Nutcracker music fades in and under. Daylight slowly fills the stage, and two sentinels enter to find the glass case empty.
Sentinel 1:
The magical dancing shoes…they’re gone!
Sentinel 2:
Where could they be? Who could have taken them?
Sentinel 1 :
We have to tell the King and Queen.
Sentinel 2 :
But…they’ll be mad at us. We’re supposed to guard the shoes, and now they’re gone.
Sentinel 1:
But we have to tell them. We have to! Let’s go! (They leave in a huff, then return with the King, Queen, and Princess Rina).
Princess (seeing the empty case):
It’s true then…the shoes are gone!
Who could do such a thing?
Queen (seeing the note):
There’s a note (scans it, then frowns). As I suspected. Listen :
“Dear Sister Queen and her royal family,
Sorry, but I got your precious magical shoes, and I’m not returning them. Now, there will be no more dancing, ever again! I will use the shoes and be the most powerful being on earth! Everything I step on will turn to gold! Everyone I kick will obey me forever. And you can do nothing about it. I will wear the shoes one hour before Christmas eve. And then my powers will take effect.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!

Contessa “

I can’t believe she’d do it again, steal a pair of shoes!

Not just any pair of shoes. The shoes that our daughter was supposed to inherit on Christmas Eve.
I don’t really care whether I inherit anything or not. I’m more worried about her threat to kick people, and to stop people from dancing! Oh, we have to do something, Father, Mother! We have to get those shoes back before she wears them on Christmas Eve.
But how? The Contessa’s mansion is guarded by Teenage Mutant Ninja Squirrels! No one can get past them!
Wait…there is a way…but…
But what, my dear?
Queen (looks apprehensively at her daughter):
The Princess…must cross the Enchanted Flurry Forest, and seek the wisdom and protection of the Fairy Queen, Fleurella. She will speak to no one but the heiress of the magical dancing shoes.
Then I will do it! I will seek Fleurella, then I will get the shoes back.
My daughter! The forest is full of dangerous animals. And the Flurry Fairies are mischievous beings. I will not allow you to set foot on the forest!
But Father, there is no other way! Let me do it! I will take the Twinkle Toes with me. I won’t be alone.
As much as it pains me to let her go, my King, we have to, since it’s the only way.
I promise to be careful, Father.
King (sighs):
Alright. When will you leave?
A.S.A.P.! There is no time to lose!
Alright then. Sentinels, go fetch the Twinkle Toes.
Sentinel 1:
Your Majesty, we are so sorry about the shoes!
Sentinel 2:
We were put to sleep by the Contessa and her daughters.
I do not blame you. Go!
Thank you, your Majesty! (Exit sentinels).
We will leave you now to prepare for your trip. Your Mother and I have much to do. Take care, my daughter.
Be brave and wise, daughter. Come back to us safe.
Thank you, Father, Mother, I will (Exit King and Queen).
I didn’t show Mother and Father, but I am afraid. I know what I have to do. I know where I have to go. But I don’t know what will happen…No, no, I mustn’t be afraid. Let me think of a way to keep from being afraid…
Lights shift to SINGER as she sings, “ I WHISTLE A HAPPY TUNE .“ After the first verse, the 6 Twinkle Toes enter to dance to the song. Afterwards, exit SINGER, and the Twinkle Toes surround the Princess.
Have you heard? Are you willing to go with me?
Twinkle Toes (huddling like cheerleaders):
Y-E-S, Yes, yes we are! We will go with our Princess, near or far! (The Princess and Twinkle Toes giggle and exit.)
Lights out. Narration voice over is heard.
Teacher Lily:
And so, Princess Rina and her loyal Twinkle Toes set off towards Flurry Forest to seek the protection and wisdom of the mysterious Fairy Queen, Fleurella.
Who is Fleurella? What sort of protection will she give the Princess?
Teacher Lily:
She alone knows the dance steps that will confuse the Teenage Mutant Ninja Squirrels, who closely guard the Contessa. The princess will greatly benefit from knowing these steps.
What about the forest…what’s it called again?
Teacher Lily:
The Flurry Forest. Oh it’s a mysterious place, filled with dangerous animals and mischievous fairies.
Will they stop the Princess from seeing Fleurella, or will they help her?
Teacher Lily:
You ask a lot of questions, young lady. Let me just continue with the story. So now they Princess Rina and her Twinkle Toes have reached Flurry Forest, where the trees seem to watch them with secret eyes, and those forest animals just waiting to pounce on them…

-End of excerpt-

/mre 10/06/06

Saturday, April 26, 2008


School is a great place to be when you’re in high school.
Since freshman year, and well into our sophomore year, my classmates and I have bonded, invented crazy nicknames, crammed for tests, and cheered for our softball team that haven’t even won anything yet.
In our junior year, we dreamed of what we would wear to the prom.
We (the girls) would all audition for the role of Sisa in Noli Me Tangere.
We (the officer trainees) would scramble from all over the campus to get to the tipon on time (Sir, thank you, Sir!).

I’m a senior now. And it’s different this time.
This time, there’s a baby at home.
It’s different, because I don’t have time to linger with my friends after classes anymore.
“I have to go home.”
They don’t get it. I used to take the last service trip home. Now, I’m the first one aboard.

Weekends at the mall are no longer in my itinerary. I do get to see a movie once a month or so, but that’s nothing compared to the back-to-back-to-back films my friends and I used to watch not so long ago. I tell them, “The baby needs me.” They don’t get it.

I lessened my extra-curricular activities this year. Last year I planned to run for Student Council President (I was already the Vice President), and we had already formed a party during the summer break. I backed out, thinking of all that responsibility, and the time I will have to spend working as president---if I win. “ I don’t have time to be an officer this year. I have to stay with my baby.” They didn’t get it then.

Yes, school is a great place to be when you’re in high school—especially in the senior year. But this year, I have come to realize that being home, staying home, is just as great when you have a very good reason to be home. My reason for wanting to be home early, as often as possible, is to take care of an ailing loved one.

That loved one is my mother, and I call her “Baby.”

My baby has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease early this year. It’s a disease that affects the movement of the muscles. Every movement is slow and awkward, even painful at times. Often, her hands tremble uncontrollably, and I have to hold them in mine until the tremors stop. There are many simple things she can no longer do on her own, like walking and taking a bath. I do these things for her now. She cries a lot, especially at night, so I tell her funny stories, and sing her to sleep. I do all these things for her, even if there’s a caregiver who looks after her while I’m in school.

My friends ask me,
“Don’t you miss our fun times together?”
“Don’t you get tired of taking care of your mom?”

I explained it to them:
“She loved me and took care of me when I was small and helpless. When I had fever, mumps, measles, amoebiasis and chicken pox, she never left my side. Now she’s helpless and sick. I love her, and I will take care of her. I will never leave her side.”

Someday, they will understand.


Mama was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in August of 2005. Since then, our family, my brother and I, particularly, have been knocking ourselves out, trying to make sense of what pseudo-sympathizers call “rich man’s disease,” looking for doctors (now Mama has five-a neurologist, a psychiatrist, an internist, an ophthalmologist, and a rehab doctor), caregivers (struck out four times, the fifth, our current one, is now Mama’s soulmate, so she’s good), funds (no weekends for my brother and me), and answers (???). PD is already a big bad force to reckon with, but Mama’s recurring depression, brought on by a childhood of isolation and self-doubt, and more recently by family tragedy, is the whammy that’s most difficult to challenge.

There are happy changes, though. The trembling, drooling and choking are now a distant memory. Her voice is now audible, her speech patterns, less repetitive. Her once-69 pound frame must have doubled in the last 11 months, thanks to a steady, physician-approved diet of wheat bread, Koko Crunch, milk, white meat, rice, mixed vegetables, papaya and pears. Though wheelchair-bound, she shoots hoops every morning, plays Scrabble and Upwords, writes song lyrics from memory, and scribbles wrestlers’ names as though they were her best friends.

Her hectic day isn’t complete without the roster of TV programs waiting to be pressed on the remote control. She’s a certified “Kapuso” (GMA 7 network fan), starting the TV marathon with “Sis,” (lifestyle/showbiz talk show) followed by “Eat Bulaga,” (noontime variety), and “Daisy Siete” (afternoon soap). She crosses over to the rival network (ABS-CBN) for “Game Ka Na Ba?” (game show), then to sister network QTV’s live broadcast of “American Idol”, then it’s back to GMA for the primetime shows, the highlight of which is the wildly popular Pinoy version of the trendsetting Mexican telenovela, “Mari Mar.” Curtains are set to fall on the series by March 15, after a record seven months on the air. But Mama feels no remorse. She has tons of other programs to choose from, including the testosterone telenovelas that “WWE Raw” and “Smackdown” provide on weekends. Yes, she can relate with my cousins’ five-and-six year-olds when they talk wrestling.

“Mari Mar” may have moved my mother to tears on several occasions, but it is the likes of Jeff Hardy flying off ladders, Rey Mysterio doing his patented “619”, and Triple H spewing forth water and hulking over opponents that really captivate her. I remember we were in the hospital, March of 2007, and Smackdown was on. In her semi-drugged state, she recognized the Undertaker amid montage clips of graveyards and tombstones. My aunt was aghast at the morbid images, frantically switching channels before Mama hallucinates again. But before and since then, television has never done any harm to Mama and her state of mind. She’s smart enough to know that television is just an elaborate illusion, an inexpensive (okay, so cable subscription can be pricey) way to be entertained for hours on end. Once a movie buff who can sit through “double-features” in cinemas, she has learned to accept that TV shows are now her best ally against boredom and immobility.

Mama’s love affair with TV programs is her antidote to a physical and psycho-neurological condition she cannot control. I would like to believe that she’s not the only one, as network ratings wars indicate. For the average Filipino technophile, a portable DVD player and seasons 1 and 2 of “Heroes” or “Prison Break”, pirated or otherwise, are bound to satisfy his daily fix for missed episodes. For the low-income Manila resident, TV is the one thing that knits his family (and TV-deprived neighbors) together, as they cheer for or squabble over Manny Pacquiao delayed telecasts or squander their prepaid phone credits trying to win SMS text promotions concocted by noontime programs. For millions of Filipinos, TV is not just an antidote, but an anaesthetic that numbs their pangs of hunger and fears for the future, if only for a while.

TV has also become instrumental in bringing politics to the Filipino household, whether its members like it or not. Jun Lozada is now a household name, the latest in a string of whistleblowers who blew their shrill whistles on live television. “J.Lo” has since instigated a mass media frenzy that has led the University of the Philippines to launch a book entitled “Corruptionary,” and the country’s catholic bishops to be divided on the president’s fate. Who needs telenovelas when the plot thickens everyday in the Senate, in Malacañang, and the streets of Ayala?

Let’s switch back to “Mari Mar”: Sociologists have analyzed the success and mystique of the title character, the people around her, and the world she lives in. Mari Mar, the giddy, beach-loving, illiterate provincial lass who rose and fought her way to the top, is seen as the poster child for feminism. Sergio, the brooding, indecisive love of Mari Mar’s (and every other female in the story) life, and Angelica, the evil sister, are the two main characters that tweak the heroine’s most raw emotions. The themes of true-love-never-dies and good-triumphs-over-evil are no-brainers. It is the preoccupation with just one source of evil that has made the Mexican remake a study in socio-political relevance. Case in point: Angelica has practically killed off every minor character in the series, all in the name of hatred, revenge, and narcissistic love. No wonder everyone blames her for their misfortunes. A hauntingly similar scenario is playing out in the political theatre, where everyone’s misfortunes are blamed on the Madame in Malacañang. This is no longer feminism, but a fascination for someone-to-blame. We Filipinos can put our finger on that, besides the remote.

As for televised wrestling and boxing matches, cockfights and word wars, we are no different from the global, bloodthirsty voyeurs who will keep the beer flowing until someone is pinned to the mat. Mama has said it eloquently and robustly, when perennial troublemaker Edge taps out in agony after three seconds with his neck in John Cena’s vise grip: “Buti nga sa’yo!” Now I am a true believer in the healing power of television.