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Animated conversation at a restaurant in New York

‘A murder convict naka-escape daw, and on the prowl’

Alegria A. ImperialOverheard at lunch, from behind us in a restaurant on Amsterdam in New York. Turning my head—I guessed right, apparently visiting moms of Filipino nurses working in a hospital close by. Their conversation pitched as each grabbed the floor from the other, throwing in cinder to burn this alleged virtual criminal at a stake, in their minds, that is.

One of them worried about Tia Doring, who has been deeply distressed about this dark saga of love spurned. From snatches of the conversation, you learned that she has been partly disabled by osteoporosis, hence, this once-volunteer in parish feeding programs, had been lending, squandering even, empathy and sympathies to both real and virtual lives in a slew of TV series, this latest on TFC, which she follows at a New York apartment a grandniece shares with her.

screenshot of the The Filipino Channel show Tubig at Langis
screenshot of the The Filipino Channel show Tubig at Langis

“So evil with no redemption in sight, masyado nang gawa-gawa (contrived), hindi na kapani-paniwala,” her niece at the table quoted her. Tia Doring apparently thinks through 85 richly lived years, so much so that her disbelief in the characters though suspended in parts—like the faithful wife, forgiving her husband’s just-once deathly mistake with an obsessive witch disguised as a shy lass, and love’s depth proved fathomless by this woman’s vitriol—has nearly snapped several times.

Take this: “Has any of you known a querida this bold?” she’s known to have often asked. To her dismay, the family in Bulacan, also privy to this dark story, has confirmed that, indeed, “the other woman” no longer slinks veiled in dark alleys. “Is this how Filipinas today go after whatever worth they perceive in a married man, even if takes them to the gutter? Maybe, it’s really about time we, of my generation fade out,” Tia Doring has been heard, sighing.

another screenshot of the still-running from the 1970s CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless
another screenshot of the still-running from the 1970s CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless

Halfway through my chicken wrap, this next opinion streamed to our table: Anyway, none of this woman’s schemes has chipped the protagonist’s marriage vows, even with his own aunt’s collusion, as what her male cousin described nakakadiri—having a child by another man, claiming it’s also his; the wife caved in, though, over this horrendous shot of venom. “She’s human after all,” said one of the women.

Next heard at our table, a recap of this recent episode, “What a relief that this love-crazed woman has been finally arrested after a death-bed confession by the victim,” referring to that other man, who she used to have the second pregnancy—and fearing exactly just that, had stabbed him with a smashed beer bottle on a garbage-lined wall somewhere under limpid streetlights of Balik-balik. But she has escaped.

“Why has not your Tia Doring ended early on her involvement to reverse this plummet to hell, anyway?” the woman from behind us continued. The answer—see, as this woman’s obsession seemed to bloat with toxic thoughts, fanned by extreme jealousy like an imagined scene of the family knitted again, possibly now at dinner focused on the baby, the couple’s first after fertility treatments, so has a virtual neighborhood gripped by its characters’ desparation just can’t abandon them, like Tia Doring.

waiting room in a New York infirmary—note the wall TV, on which a drama series entertains patients
waiting room in a New York infirmary—note the wall TV, on which a drama series entertains patients

So tempted by now, if it were not impolite to butt in, I’d share bits from spirited debates I’ve had with my sister on some fiction basics: tops, if an audience begins to get involved in the story, it means “suspension of disbelief” so critical to the viewer, has been shattered. And why would this be significant?

Because we surrender our reality in the hands of a masterful novelist if reading a book, or script writer, producer and director, as in the case of a movie or a teleserye, who encapsulates our joys, fears and tragedies, resolve these within hours or a few months—where it would take years in real life, if ever—hence, releasing us as we experience a catharsis, and find redemption. To fail in this would be a breach of trust.

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