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Cultures of moralities in the land of ‘Husband’s’ lovers

IF we are to believe the press releases, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is bristling over a TV drama that is taking the country by storm. The silly title notwithstanding, My Husband’s Lover is the most talked-about TV series now. Its story has captured the attention of the general audience. The theme—a fodder for bigotry in the media for many years—has become deathly serious. GMA 7 has taken matters in its own hands and creates a serious drama about two adult males played by good-looking, straight-acting (if not straight) actors.

Those who have been weaned on action films are laughing: these two actors, Dennis Trillo and Tom Rodriguez, could easily have a career doing action films; they should not be doing this gay revue. But they are, and this time straight viewers are bristling with rage: two men, their eyebrows intact, their lips without any color, and their movements as male as any peacock’s. These are serious actors and the characters they portray are serious about their love affair. They can’t be gay!

The drama is a serious take on homosexuality. But can’t homosexuality just remain fabulous? Vincent Soriano and Eric del Mundo—the characters Rodriguez and Trillo play, respectively—are just too much. Fabulosity could have saved the story of two gay males finding love, but the men and women behind the show opted to be human. The characters are gay and, we sense, will die gay. They will not reform, even if the father of one of the gay men is a homophobic retired general. Would a military man be on the side of the Church this time? If faith will not bring this homophobic father to the side of those who hate gays, then at least his bigotry would.

Human errors and eros are not easy to take. Overnight, the gay theme is considered a sensitive matter because it is treated seriously.

When Dolphy (bless his soul) was sashaying in the most outlandish costumes, no institution bristled. The world laughed, and laughed out loud. Why not? At the end of any Dolphy gay adventure, his persona assumes the rigor mortis of a male always on the verge of impregnating any woman or girl. Then his gay character gets married and becomes a father. But think again: in Dolphy’s gallery of gay characters, it is never said he would morph again into a gay man. You know, like a monster.

This is the crisis of every one of us watching the story of two men in love unfold.

When gayness is curable, no one raises his voice or protests. But when gayness threatens a marriage—that’s another matter. This is too much. This is already a breach.

A debate is ensuing in faculty centers, in business clubs, among hip and cool and macho fathers. One father says he is going to prevent his son from watching the telenovela. He does not tell us his reason, but we guess he is scared his son will grow up and choose to marry a man. It is, at best, a simplistic position, a logic defied only by the fact that homosexuality is not an artifact from the moon; it is with us and has been, well, since time immemorial.

Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is not something you decide to stop one day upon the order of your mother. Only the mother of Charice, perhaps, has ever decided to stop being a lesbian because she heeded her mom’s advice.

How will the story of Eric and Vincent be played in the context of a culture of morality, a phrase attributed in news to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle? Culture as a monolith, while engaging itself with political power, fades when the concept is placed against the notion of cultures and, for that matter, the moralities embedded in cultural systems.

There are as many moralities as there are cultures. Which culture are we talking about? Cultures, large as they are, are sites of discrimination. In many cultures, women are taught to be subservient. In many cultures that support patriarchy, language and thoughts define the supremacy of men over women. In many cultures, acts of ritual violence, such as scarification and female circumcision, are part of ordinary life. These ceremonies remind women the limited sphere within which their voices—and their bodies—would be heard or paid attention to.

We, too, partake of cultures and differences. There are cultural practices that organically favor a particular class or gender. Would these cultures offer a place for morality?

What scares us about Husband’s lovers is what they are putting on display. Eric and Vincent are your regular guys, attractive and struggling with their own careers. They are managing their life, not their lust. They do not parade with feathers on their heads. Fidelity and openness are the source of conflicts in their lives, as are for men and women who enter relationships.

As film theorists put it, films and, for that matter, shows on TV do not reflect realities. Rather, they provide a place where various sectors could comment on issues and contest claims. Let everyone talk of Eric and Vincent and not just one individual. I see no need to protect the minds of the young. The young are busy texting messages of all kinds. The young are caught in their universe of “selfies.”

In the meantime, these words are again attributed to Tagle: In fiestas you find the drunkard, the gourmand and the gossip. I am now scared of fiestas.






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