When I was in my early teens at the onset of the Reagan 1980s, the most popular television shows were “Dallas,” “Dynasty,” and “Falcon Crest,” probably in keeping with the zeitgeist of materialism and excess. All three series were about rich and powerful families and all the sordid and distasteful things that happened to them.
Also in those days, I very much enjoyed the novels and articles of the American writer Dominick Dunne: “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles,” “Fatal Charms: And Other Tales of Today,” “People Like Us,” “An Inconvenient Woman,” “The Mansions of Limbo,” and the others. I so delighted in them that I could easily visualize the characters in real life and effortlessly remember entire passages in the books.
As I grew older and as my circles grew ever wider, I realized that I did not need to watch American television nor read American books for that sort of entertainment [ not that I have stopped 😛 ]. It was all happening in Manila all along. And it was happening right before my very eyes…
Over lunch for two, the matriarch of a grand clan spoke plainly of her many problems…
“My brother wants to run for mayor of our hometown next year and he is demanding that we release Php 500 million from the family funds to totally ensure his victory. I think he is going to buy every single vote. Oh, the money is there, no problem, but why should we release it just like that? He is not the only one in the family. We work hard and honestly for our money. It shouldn’t be wasted.”
“My sisters and I went to our lawyers yesterday. We want to know how we can effectively block his unreasonable demand for funding. TOO MUCH!!! The next step is to hire bodyguards, perhaps Ex-Army straightshooters, for us and most everyone else in the family. If he doesn’t get what he wants, he’s perfectly capable of shooting and killing even us, his siblings.”
“And then he got into big trouble with four of his business partners. He is threatening to kill them and they are threatening the same. They already sent him a “barong tagalog” and a coffin. But he is fearless, really fearless!!! In fact, I don’t know what planet he came from. I had to act before it all blows out of proportion and we all get killed. I called Gloria, Mike, Noli, Manny, Johnny, and several others to help me smooth it out. Thankfully they did. I called the political favors back so now it is I who owe them favors. Hay…”
“And then there was this one government official who would not back down. He even refused to grant me an appointment. It was a good thing that mutual friends knew he had the hots for this young actress. But she was playing “hard to get” and refused to have anything to do with him. I sent an emissary to her, with the message that I would pay anything, any amount she wanted, for her to entertain the official’s attentions and if necessary to go to bed with him with the condition that she must get him to decide IN MY FAVOR. She quoted Php 40 million and I agreed. She not only got him to decide in my favor, she even became his mistress and enjoyed his largesse. She made money from both of us!!! But then, both the official and I got what we wanted. So all’s well that ends well.”
“And the matter of all those illegitimate children!!! My God, he’s like a dog in heat: children in every corner of town!!! He has many more illegitimate children than his legitimate ones. My poor legitimate nephews and nieces… what will be left of his estate to them, practically “nada”!!! Can you imagine all these exotic creatures — some of them are sooooo dark! Eeewww! —greeting and kissing me “Tita!”??? “Esas son hijas de las criadas, nada mas!!!” Worse, they will be carrying our family name!!! Ay, just thinking about it will give me a cerebral aneurysm!!!”