Text IRENE CURTIS
MANILA, Philippines—IN My Husband’s Lover, Lally was fighting to give her two children a “complete family” but how exactly should she have done it? Vincent wanted to finally be true to himself and to the world, but where would that have left his wife and kids? Eric deserved to be with his beloved – but didn’t Vincent’s family deserve the same?
An all-too-normal case of infidelity and broken families, the only reason this scenario set televiewers on fire is that, as one OFW chef Pinoy Star talked to put it, “hindi kasi normal, kasi yung lover ng lalake, lalake din.” (It’s not normal because the husband’s lover is also a man.)
And so the debate begins – are Filipinos ready for TV shows that highlight a reality that most believe goes against the moral norms of Filipino culture?
When MHL piloted last June, it came under the scrutiny of the Catholic Church back home, with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Youth (CBCP-ECY) urging TV networks to consider the impact of shows with controversial content – such as in MHL’s case – on young viewers, especially since, it says, Filipino culture places importance on morality and moral issues.
In reaction to CBCP’s statement above, Malacañang stressed that the Philippine and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) would act quickly on any complaints by parents about the show. (There had been none.) Interestingly enough, MTRCB approved MHL without cuts and simply rated it as requiring Strong Parental Guidance (SPG). A Journal report also stated that at least three MTRCB officials applauded during a review of its pilot episode.
“TV is for business – what’s important is money,” said Father Angel Luciano, CICM, chaplain for Filipino migrants in Singapore, about GMA 7’s decision to produce MHL. “It’s a pity that television standards have gone down – infidelity and immorality are glorified.”
Watching an MHL trailer clip shared by PS, he stopped midway. “Separation is normal [in the entertainment industry]. [And now] they are justifying their crooked values as normal,” he remarked. “The writers and producers [of this type of show] are always saying, this is life. Whoever accepts this [kind of] life and does not do anything about it is surely doomed and then society will perish.”
Online, Pinoy Star’s Facebook post showing the MHL trailer earned mixed reactions. Richard Sicat Roxas wrote: “Puro kamunduhan ang palabas ngayon sa TV kaya dumarami ang nari-rape na babae at ng bakla… ang mga bata, mulat na sa kamunduhan. (TV today is full of lust that’s why many get raped and by gays… even the young kids know all about lust already.) Another posted a Bible verse, Isaiah 5:20, which talks about punishing those “who call evil good and good evil…”
Yet some countered that Filipinos are now open-minded about such a sensitive issue. Widow and mum of four Malou Khoo, wrote: “This teleserye was written with taste. Pinoys are already mature viewers. I don’t think this will diminish our morals or life values, knowing that this is reality.”
… Or stopping the hate?
“My Husband’s Lover’s intention is not to promote gay and lesbian relationship, but more of a reflection that this is happening now,” said MHL program manager Helen Rose See. She clarified that the show doesn’t focus on sexual relationships, nor go beyond anything that would offend both religious groups and the gay community.
Actually, the show has affected a lot of OFW televiewers – male, female, straight or otherwise – in a positive way. There are those who feel MHL actually shows younger viewers a more “human” side to its two male lead characters, which is overlooked in usual portrayals of this sector on Filipino TV and movies.
“It’s a brave move by GMA 7 to showcase this show on primetime TV in order to broaden society’s thinking, especially homophobic individuals,” said senior visual designer Antonio Bautista of Singapore. Seeing how the lead characters’ choices and actions impact not only themselves, he said: “It made me realise that I need to consider a lot of things and be more sensitive when making decisions in life.”
“Just as we receive sex education in school, this show enlightens everyone – including young minds – that such relationships are not just about sex. Seeing what these characters go through, it may actually guide the youth to not discriminate against people of different gender orientation,” said Nhel Fajardo, who works in the hotel industry in Dubai. Bond Martinez of Singapore echoes this sentiment: “The show helps shape the mindset of those who have no full awareness of the realities such people live.”
Out of those PS interviewed, most agree—regardless of their opposing views—that the core value most televiewers relate to from watching MHL is the significance of family and familial relations.
“It’s all about family and peer pressure, of building relationship within the family and outside of it, of building trust between family members… especially for those who haven’t come out of the closet yet –MHL shows the reality faced and endured by all people – the closet gay, the parents, the spouses, the siblings, kids, etcetera – involved in such a situation,” said Martinez.
Ready or not?
“In general, Pinoys won’t be OK with this kind of show coz it’s against the norm, especially older people,” said university art lecturer Hazel Malagonio. She admits there’s still a “gulat factor” when she watched Eric and Vincent’s scenes as a couple, but insists that she simply needs to be more exposed to such themes to eliminate the shock. She notes though: “If they keep showing such shows, it would eventually have a positive impact in terms of awareness and acceptance, but as in now na? I don’t think matatanggap kaagad.”
Both supporters and naysayers agree that MHL requires highly matured thinking and so, while it’s a good introduction of the issue to young teens, “well-informed parental guidance” is mandatory.
“Excessive exposure to gore, violence and sex in media has desensitized everyone, including kids, to these themes. But the goal is not to desensitize viewers about homosexuality,” said hotel manager Ellen Ariete, mom of four boys aged 3 to 15. “The objective, if we are to expose older children to this kind of show, is to make them more sensitive, that is, fully aware and—not pitiful, mind you—but understanding of the Third Sex.”
Still, there are parents who would rather not let such themes be shown on daily TV. “Kung anong makita ng mga bata sa TV, akala nila OK lang at pwede ring gawin ng kahit sino. Nasaan ang values sa show na yan? Good values na dapat siyang nakikita nila?” asked HSW mum Daisy Tagle. “Tayo, alam natin na dapat simula pa lang, naging honest at nag-isip muna ng mabuti yung mister bago magpakasal? Pamilya o lover? Nagpakatotoo na lang sana. One choice! Kasi sa pinapakitang ganyang sitwasyon at mga desisyon ng mga karakter, ang nakikita kong pinaka-apektado diyan, ang mga bata. Tapos ipapanood mo sa bata? Siempre, negative magiging dating sa mga anak na makakapanood.”
(If kids see wrongdoings on TV, they think it’s OK for everyone to do it. We adults know that the husband should have been honest and thought out his decision before marrying. Your family or your lover? He should have been true to himself. One choice! Because based on the decisions these characters have been making, anyone can see that it’s their kids who would be most affected. Of course, any kid watching that would have a negative impression and understanding of the whole situation.)
Evidently, the debate on this sensitive issue has reached an impasse. Whatever long-term positive – or negative – impact My Husband’s Lover will have on Filipinos’ attitude towards the topic remains to be seen. And so we leave it to you, dear readers: Do shows such as My Husband’s Lover glorify immorality or will it stop the hate?
Originally published in OFW Pinoy Star magazine’s September 2013 issue. Subscribe here now.