Anyone who follows the American TV show "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, http://abc.go.com/shows/desperate-housewives) knows that it is not really set in the "sleepy suburban town of Fairview". No, no, no. Wisteria Lane is really a street in the Philippines.
How can anyone miss this basic fact?
Yes, yes, the show is supposed to take place in the "Eagle State". But let me walk you through scenes and situations that, really, can only happen on a Pinoy kalye (Philippine street).
1. Gossiping is THE thing to do.
Need we say more? In Wisteria Lane, every day and every moment is spent gossiping - why did Mary Alice Young shoot her brains out? Who really ran over Mrs. Solis? How did Carlos get so wealthy? What the heck was Felicia Tillman thinking when she cut off 2 of her fingers?
And we go one step further. When we see a murdered corpse here, people find a stick to poke the body with. (You never know if there's cash lying around.) CNN reports a hostage shootout in Manila, we go to the site the next day to take pictures - and we're all smiles because we've transformed it into a local attraction.
2. You're Not Made If You Don't Have A Nice Car.
In "Desperate Housewives", the social strata is clearly delineated by the type of car that each of the lead character drives. Lynette Scavo, always seen as the "poorer one", goes around town with the family friendly option, the mini-van. Bree Van De Kamp, the doctor's wife, drives around in what can best be described as "high-end models" (think along the lines of an Audi). The pricier your car is, the better to rub in people's faces that you are worry-free financially. In one of their scenes together, Lynette can be seen hating the fact the Bree just purchased a brand new car on a whim, and in fact, verbalizes this to her.
A cursory glance of the cars coming out of villages like Forbes Park makes it apparent that the rich, er, showcase their status with their cars - of course, once they leave their glitzy enclave, the irony is that the teeming masses are in buses, jeepneys, and even on foot - most people here will never be able to even own a car, any car.
3. Marriage Vows Are Immaterial.
Gabrielle Solis makes a big show of being Catholic. Bree Van De Kamp proudly claims to be Presbyterian. And yet, these 2 characters - giving the illusion of "happy marriages" - have huge storylines concerning their infidelities: Gabby with her teenage gardener, Bree with her divorce lawyer - before her divorce. Yes, they resolved these loose ends - resolving them in classic Pinoy melodrama fashion - but the damage has already been done.
Everyone in this country knows someone who is born out of wedlock (in local parlance, "anak sa labas"). Mistresses parade around town with nary a care. Even presidential candidates are excused their "macho" proclivities. Gabby, Bree, welcome home.
4. Children Are There To Fill Our Labor Needs.
Tom and Lynette Scavo tell their kids they have no choice but to be the waiters, servers and everything else in their failing pizzeria. Julie Mayer has to balance her mom's checkbook, do the laundry as well as the grocery shopping. If there's work to be done, just call on the kids. In Wisteria Lane, they are indentured servants...until they turn 18.
We need to inform Marc Cherry (executive producer of "Desperate Housewives") that in our lovely islands, children are bound for LIFE. Owing to strong familial duty as well as encompassing Catholic guilt, we are told time and time again that "anak ka lang!" ("you are merely an offspring!") and so parents here have every conceivable right to demand that they be served hand and foot either until death (of either party) or when they decide to "set you free" - which incidentally amount to the same thing. If you refuse to do any of their biddings, watch as parents re-enact a mini telenovela right before your eyes: "Alam mo bang muntik akong mamatay nung ipinanganak kita?!? Alam mo bang nabaon kami sa utang para lang makapag-aral ka?!? Ang bawat hininga mo, ako ang nagbigay sayo nyan!!!" ("Do you know I almost died giving birth to you?!? That we became mired in debt just so you could go to school?!? I own every breath you take!!!")
5. Backstabbing Must Be Done With A Smile. Or A Pie.
One of the most pervasive ongoing themes in the show is how everyone uses whatever means they can employ to get what they want - of course, without the target knowing what has really transpired. In the guise of having a good time (read: getting stinking drunk), Lynette jeopardizes Tom's entrance exam so that he won't get into college for a second time. Bree needs a contractor to fix her house, and proceeds to fix him a spectacular dinner and offers her own son for a date. Gabby performs her marital duties so that Carlos won't go on a humanitarian mission with a nun she sees as a threat to her marriage. Susan kidnaps her new neighbors' dog in order to get them to be indebted to her.
This is the perfect country for them to continue filming the next season. No matter how much we hate someone, we never show it. It is considered bad form to be "honest", an affront to our cultural upbringing. Yes, we can dunk someone's steak in the toilet bowl before serving it to them. What's important is that all is well on the surface - and to Pinoys, that's what REALLY counts. We can't risk an ugly Kodak moment. Saving face is the all-too-important consideration, even as we are relishing twisting the knife in someone's back.
"Wisteria Lane, Philippines" shirts, anyone?