Filipino Telenovela Culture, A Lazy Lifestyle?

Telenovelas have recently become an inseparable part of Filipino culture as many people became glued to their television sets to watch these...

Telenovelas have recently become an inseparable part of Filipino culture as many people became glued to their television sets to watch these mini-series, which basically showcase cliches like a poor girl/boy falls in love with a rich person in a typical Romeo-Juliet setting or superhero/heroine set in a typical Filipino setting.

But historically speaking, Philippine drama has deep roots in our pop culture as ABS-CBN produced the first telenovela in the 1960's entitled Hiwaga sa Bahay na Bato. Many have grown up with Philippine drama and all its kundiman overtones. But with the advent of Mexican/Latin American dubbed shows on TV like Marimar, Rosalinda, etc. Sex and typical haciendero-katulong relations became much common. This typical setting and storyline is very common in most of the shows in television. It was in the early 1990's that the telenovela culture have started to pick up. Years later, Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese soap operas where now dubbed in Tagalog and because of this many women especially housewives are now fans of these stars. Even Korean tourists are surprised that their shows have become staple food in every Filipino dinner. Families gather around and eat dinner while watching Tagalog-dubbed Korean shows.

Right now the television industry seemed to lost its creativity as it openly syndicated foreign shows and claimed it as their own. Such as the case of Zorro, which is supposed to be set in Spanish-era California before the West was won but it was now Filipinized with anachronistic elements. How is it that the weapons used by the Guardia Civil were already 19th-century-era firearms when Zorro existed before rifles were made? Why is that there are samurai, when most Japanese who settled in the Spanish Philippines were already converts (expelled by the Tokugawa shogunate)? These television producers just copied ready-made television franchises without even doing some research.

Of course, locally-produced quality shows should always be made high priority for the networks, but based on the usual ningas cogon of how most Filipino teleseryes start out great and with a lot of hype and special effects in the first few episodes, and end up lagging towards the end with the writers and directors putting less effort into it as time goes by.

With all of these television brouhahas, the Filipinos are taught with wrong values such as the case of love, its ok to leave your husband/boyfriend/fiance because choosing someone else by following one's heart is the right thing to do. People are updated with the showbiz love teams than the current events. Intrigues in supposed love teams are frequent even if these actors are just lovers in the television screen and not in real life. Why is it people go gaga with Dingdong and Marian? Its not because they are both good-looking stars but because the media want to pair them up whether on screen or not. No wonder celebrity breakups are media spectacles.

There is a growing culture of "telebabad," which is a portmanteau of "tele" -- television and "babad" -- rinsing one's laundry. Its a bad one because of the fact that it encourages people to focus their time on television rather than on important household matters. Well I must say Filipinos have also become more of a multitasker wherein they eat their dinner, argue with family members while watching telenovelas.

I've never been shy of saying my disdain for Philippine celebrity culture. Their lame problems and issues are presented on television day in and day out. Their coverage runs from early morning to late primetime, which is only interrupted by the early and late evening news. Sundays are dominated by lame noontime variety shows and afternoon showbiz talkshows.

This is why I hate telenovelas running 75% of the entire television programming because more important television shows and socially-relevant documentaries are left out. Most of the good documentaries are shown late at night.

As for telenovelas, Filipinos keep on importing the same telenovelas while some directors claim they have new shows but l must say its all the same but with different packaging -- same lame love stories. Just like Bollywood never running out of song and dance numbers, we never ran out of boy-meets-girl, girlfriend-got-kidnapped, boy-achieves-his-wildest-dreams, kontrabida-strikes-back, happily-ever-after type of storyline. And oh, the police always comes late.

We have been a distant cousin of Mexico and its not surprising we readily adapt their culture but the culture of macho leading man and sexy, sultry chicas are now the norm. Typical setting is like an hacienda, like this new telenovela wherein this young handsome lawyer falls in love with this probinsyana. This love-team is now groomed to be the successor of the celebrated Dingdong-Marian and Richard-KC tandems.

Classical Philippine telenovelas mainly focus on the miserable life of the protagonist, with a plot mainly focusing on either their love life, the search for their broken family, or both. Meanwhile the antagonists, or villains, usually have a plan to kill or kidnap the protagonists in return for money. Antagonists in the old telenovelas were very greedy, rude and violent. Philippine telenovelas usually begin with the protagonists' past, then moves on to their future, while some telenovelas have a few flashbacks. Twists are also popular, mainly focusing on the protagonists' acquaintances who find out that they were actually siblings or relatives, or love triangles. The story usually ends with the antagonist being killed painfully mainly by a shot or bomb, while the protagonist getting injured, then sent to the hospital (usually ending up safe) and get married and having children in the future. Endings became very obvious and predictable amongst viewers. Casting was also tiresome with the same actor acting as protagonist/antagonist in different series.

Unlike the old school or classic teleseryes, the current crop of shows though focuses on the life of the protagonist, it also expands to the lives of the characters they meet during the series. Antagonists are also on every telenovelas, but less violent compared to the classical telenovelas. New twists are also added to expand the series, which usually lasts 6–8 months. Directors also hire successful reality TV winners or runner-ups, regardless whether they can act or not, as minor characters or someteimes even major characters. The ending too is very different. Unlike the old telenovelas, antagonists have a room for forgivness and reconciliation between the main characters, and nowadays do not die in the end.

QTV has experimented Latin telenovelas but dubbed in Filipino English, reminds me of the cult classic kung fu movies from Hong Kong.

That is why the stereotypes are everywhere like the case of the search for the lost identity of the protagonist as he/she uncovers the secret of his/her existence. He/she is just an orphan or as we Fililipnos would say it, "Ampon ka lang." Typical phrases like "Huminahon ka hijo/hija" or "Por favor" are so common.

On the other hand, the recent addition of Korean telenovelas have indirectly taught us about Korean culture and because of this Koreans have slowly assimilate to our own way of life here. No wonder Koreans have done businesses here in the country already. Even some have set their ideal men as Korean/Japanese/Taiwanese with their colored and spiky hair in anime get-ups. Many even put posters in their room and use these celebrities as primary pictures in their social networking accounts. Filipinos have started to learn to speak Korean and write in Hanggul.

One of the universal feature of Filipino telenovela is the ubiquitous presence of the protagonist crying, every protagonist especially women are usually abused because of the fact most women are portrayed as maids, helpers and even the despicably ugly because they are made to fall in love to the "ideal" leading man -- usually handsome, rich and successful. The classic portrayal of women in telenovela is the ever popular Maria Clara-type character -- innocent, chaste, religious and subservient but the protagonist women in today's teleseryes are more liberated and sexier in the way they dress. They also have stunts and action scenes. But in the end the elements of love, family, jealousy and revenge are always presented.

When I think of telenovela, drama is the genre where it should be classified but now its difficult to classify it as drama because of the presence of action scene, sci-fi, fantasy and even comedic elements.

I'm tired of seeing the same actors and actresses doing the same story over and over again, they also appear on movies and television commercials. Over saturated with these people, no wonder some of these actors/actresses just come and go. While some of them try their luck in the adult entertainment industry just to generate publicity. Some of them have sex videos to boot. The wholesome childstars of yesteryears are now sexy adult stars of today.

Diehad fanboys and fangirls tear their hearts out when they see their favorite love teams in person. Fans club are divided according to love team fandom and network loyalty. Kapuso o kapamilya? Pro-Maryan o pro-Angel? Even Manny Pacquiao has entered the world of telenovela culture.

Even televised Senate and Congressional inquiries gained cult followings like the case of Clarissa Ocampo and "Jun" Lozada. In the end, these guys became heroes overnight while the government remains the villain as the audience (we Filipinos) watched every action.

A war is ongoing as the teleserye/telenovela battle for supremacy between ABS-CBN and GMA seemed to be never ending.

My impressions to these telenovelas varied as I see the sexy Mexican novelas as soft porn, the "hip" Koreanovelas as cheesy, teeny and corny shows and the Filipino teleseryes as watery and tearjearky masochistic nightmare.


  1. "'babad' -- rinsing one's laundry" -- Wrong. You mean "soak," and it doesn't automatically refer to laundry.

  2. thanks for the correction!


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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: Filipino Telenovela Culture, A Lazy Lifestyle?
Filipino Telenovela Culture, A Lazy Lifestyle?
Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger
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