Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Radio Melodrama

I took a cab home today.

I don't usually commute and from school; I'm lucky enough to have my own car (an old Honda :/ )but for some reason, I thought it would be fun to go it like an ordinary college student. Jeepneys, on general, tend to make me feel queasy, mainly from the dust and heat (I am very prone to migraines) and cabs, well, let's just say taxis in Manila tend to make even the worst NYC cabbie look like a kitten. It was easy enough, but I did have to lug my big bag all the way, which had almost 30 lbs of stuff inside (it is 'hell week' already for students in the city).

It was the return home, however, that was quite... entertaining. I live around 30 to 40 minutes away from school, depending on the traffic, and many cabs usually take me in without much trouble. I flagged down this badly bruised Toyota, which screeched to halt around five feet from me. I got inside, and luckily, the taxi driver was a pleasant man, quite talkative, really. I told him my destination, and judging from the way he spoke, he seemed pretty familiar with where I lived.

Five minutes in, mister taxi driver asks me in a somewhat sheepish tone if he could switch the radio station so he could catch his favorite radio drama. It wasn't a problem, I told him; so he switches from FM to AM, and lo, I start hearing the most over the top, overwrought, hyper-melodramatic dialogue ever.

The first involved an evil grandmother (who sounded like she had smoked her peace pipe for too long) berating and harshly treating her granddaughter, who was literally crying her heart out. It was difficult to make out what she was saying, but here I've tried to transcribe it to the best of my memory:

'Pero... (sob) Mahal.. (sniff) Mahal ko siya!!! (cries heart out) Hu hu hu! Ma...(sob)sama.. kang.. tao!! (sob)' (sniffsobsobsniff auugh guhuhu raaah, unintelligible noises)

[English: But...(x)I love...(x) I love him!!!(x) Hu hu hu! You...(x) are..(x)An evil woman!(xxx)]

For 15 minutes, there was not one sentence that was not punctuated by a sob, a sigh, a sniff, or an invective against the evil grandmother. I personally did not know whether to laugh or cry, but I found myself gritting my teeth in some instances, especially when the grandmother spoke, that shrill, cackling, vulture-ish voice inciting my inner sap to join in the drama. The driver must have seen me making faces through the rear view mirror (not a very good sight), and offered to explain the whole plot line-- plot ribbons and knots, more likely-- and it went by so fast I had to ask him repeatedly about it.

'Ah kasi, 'yung lola, ayaw siyang ipakasal kay (didn't catch name), kasi, mahirap. Gusto ng matanda, si ganito na lang daw, dahil may utang pa siya dito. So 'yung babae na lang daw pambayad utang niya. Pero itong si apo, ayaw, kaya nag-iiiyak sa lola, pero rinig mo naman na malupit siya, diba. Si lola, malupit sa lahat, pati sa sarili niyang anak. Lalong lalo na sa mga mahirap. Proud ba siya! Hahaha!'

[It's like this, the grandmother, she doesn't want her to be married to that guy (didn't catch name), because he's poor. The old lady wants her to marry so and so instead, because he's rich, and she still owes him. But the girl, she doesn't it (the fact that grandma is intruding into her personal life), that's why she's crying her heart out before her grandma, but as you've heard, she's downright mean. The grandmother, she's cruel to everyone, even on her own children. And she's even proud of it! Hahaha!]

I listened to him narrate the rest of the story, from its unfolding to the present. As I said, there was not a full minute that passed without hearing a sob, a sigh, or a sniff from the radio. Sometimes I ask myself, What's the point of all this obsession over suffering? Haven't we, as a people, suffered enough? You'd think a housemaid would be the last person on earth to listen to her radio counterpart scream and sob from her latest beating; but no, she listens to it, even giggles at it. I don't understand it, really. Maybe it's because of our 'bahala na' (lit. 'It's in God's hands) attitude, or the fact that we tend to be most serious when we are laughing. He definitely seemed to be enjoying himself.The driver eventually stopped talking, allowing me to hear the rest of the glorious melodrama.

I guess, with all the poverty in the world today, it's sometimes good to take a pause and laugh it all off. After all, your life can't be that bad; just be happy you don't have an evil bitch of a grandmother giving you off to be married in order to pay a debt, or an evil stepfather who likes the beat the s4it out of poor people. Yes, it's grossly exaggerated stuff, and I can't help but think that this is also the reason why it is so true.

'Ayan na si Bernardo! Ha, sige, lagot ka ngayon!'[There, it's Bernardo! Ha, wait till her hears of what you did!'], he says to no one in particular. Maybe it was cathartic, or it was just that entertaining. The radio drama eventually ended, but not before advertising cheap brandy, an online classified ads website, and a bad jingle for an even worse cola. Finally, the familiar, booming voice of the announcer announces the name of the cast members, reminding us all that it was (thankfully) just make believe. The show closed with a bad techno remix of Ennio Morricone's theme from 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.'


Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, that's hilarious!

I've also had the dubious pleasure, as they say, of listening to a radio drama in a cab. I didn't know whether to cringe in embarrassment or laugh my head off when a sex scene started and the actors switched to English! I'll take a melodramatic, cackling villain of a grandmother before that, any day!

Archistrategos said...

It IS indeed funny how dramatized sex scenes are always done in English. I imagine it would sound funny in Tagalog. Who could really take 'Hindi makapigil sa pangigigil' seriously and not grin? LOL. I think I'll definitely be scouring the air waves for that radio drama again!