In a continuum where several entities are in a constant conflict trying to establish themselves as the center, individual traits are scrutinized and placed behind a peephole of unabashed peering and merciless critique. Although the concept of devolution has been the menu for the day in the Philippines, until this time it has remained a mere lip-service because the center remains in Manila and will remain so in this lifetime or the next.
Maynila (Larawan Ng Bansa), formerly Maynila, is a program hosted by then Manila mayor Lito Atienza who is now the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. It aims to teach life’s lessons, mostly trivial and bromidic, through badly acted and sloppily produced skit-like melodramas whose settings are places of interest in the country’s capital. The program airs every Saturday, from 10:30 to 11:30 am at GMA-7.
The program proudly tags Manila as the representation of the country, the larawan ng bansa. Something almost as close to buffoonery and artlessness may do it sarcastically, as in a parody, but not in a tone of innocence and great consequence. It is so serious in its object to teach righteousness and morality that it has become humorless and insipid, aggravating the lack of any aesthetic redemption.
The casts, mostly novices, seem like acting for a public high school production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. They believe that their quiddity as actors is to look cute on screen, nothing more, nothing less. The plots of the stories were taken from recycled, boring stories that have been buried in the 80s but were hopelessly resurrected by the program’s writers.
I wonder why Lito Atienza still hosts the program when the city’s current mayor is the former senator and presidential aspirant Alfredo Lim. Although I have nothing against Atienza being the face of the program complete with his all-too-hard-sell hosting methodology and distracting floral shirt, politicians, especially if they are not good-looking enough to be on television, should be better off doing what they are supposed to be doing – governance – not grandstanding.
But what makes this program an utter mistake is its claim to be the larawan ng bansa, a claim almost arrogant in tone and shameless in its arrogance. It fails to consider the experience of those outside the center, creating further, bigger rift that is already existing between Manila and the rest of the archipelago. The Filipino experience will never be that of a Manileno alone inasmuch as this rubbish of a program claiming to be the larawan ng bansa does not in any way represent the artistic sensibility of the people in the rest of the country nor the issues confronting the people living outside the national capital.