Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo
Inasmuch as I would like to believe (and I would like everyone who reads this column to also believe) that I have a very cultured and highbrow taste in arts and literature, I must admit that I really do enjoy a good telenovela/soap opera. I’ve always enjoyed them. Not all of them. But enough of them so that they leave a lasting impression on my mind.
I remember when I was in grade school, Si Goot da Wanderpol, was all the rage one summer. Why anyone would find a goat that pooped out gold entertaining is beyond me. And yet, all my friends and I watched it. I vaguely remember watching Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, and Dysnasty mostly because there was nothing else showing.Then, another summer, I watched Santa Barbara, an American soap opera and much later on Days of Our Lives. In high school, too, there was the Mexican telenovela of Thalia-Maria la del Barrio. I never got to finish any of them because after a while I just lost interest whenever a particular storyline would come to its conclusion and well, life just sort of caught up with me.
These days, I follow a couple of Indian serials-all of whose titles took me about a month to learn to pronounce. I find their culture so fascinatingly exotic. And yet, their storylines are still surprisingly familiar-the dominating mother-in-law, the young couple who lives with their parents, the extended family member who sows intrigue, the young girl who dreams of a career. Of course, their contexts are different and colored with their own cultural identity but really, I could very well call it Filipino. Or maybe, it should just be, for lack of a better word, human. Because, at the end of the day soap operas and any other form of popular culture just talks about what makes human beings tick. And the ones that are able to crossover to multiple countries and cultures are about the basic human concerns-family, friendship and love.
There is something very comforting in knowing that there are just some experiences that transcend cultures and traditions. People talk about how small a world it is and how underneath we’re all just the same but a lot of the times my worldview gets limited to whatever is around me. Whenever I read a news story, it always just gives me the numbers-this many people were killed, that many people are trapped in a cave, this certain percentage live below the poverty line, this number of casualties have been reported. And it’s easy to forget that these people have their stories, their families, their personal dramas. And that we can find the same things funny and cry over the same dramas. And well, (aside from the entertainment factor, of course), watching soap operas and tv serials remind me of that. That I do belong to the human race. That I am not just a citizen of my country but of the world. That I should care about what happens to people on the other side of the world. Because, well, that’s what being a human being really means.