When we were children our yaya often listened to soap operas on the radio. Surigao, back in those days, did not have free TV yet, the signal did not just reach our far-flung city. So radio was the widest and most accessible form of entertainment. While the city did have its own radio stations, entertainment was mainly provided by the radio stations from Cebu that regularly broadcast the soap operas.
We call them drama, for some unknown reason, even if they were comedies. One of the more popular radio shows then was Ramini, Ang Batang Bronse. It was pretty much the precursor to TV's fantaserye that is all the rage these days.
The most popular comedy show however was Goot da Wonderpul (I'm not sure how it's spelled though), which starred the wildly famous Goliath and Esteban (if I remember it right… again!). Goot da Wonderpul was a phenomenon; people of all ages listened to it with such devotion. I have no memories of its plot except for its magical goat that somehow affected everybody's life.
Its schedule was right after lunch. During its timeslot the entire neighborhood was on a standstill with the latest antics of the two main characters pervading the air. The next day, I remember the maids discussing the fate of the two main characters when they would gather at the common deep well while washing clothes. They had such deep concern for Goliath and Esteban like they know them personally.
Two other hit programs were Kini ang Akong Suliran (translated to something as This is My Problem/Dilemma) and Handumanan sa Usa Ka Awit (or Memories from a Song). They were the version of TV's Dear Ate Helen wherein a letter sender's life would be played and a host would dispense advice when the episode culminates.
While perhaps Flor de Luna was popular among the lucky few in urban centers who had TV, the radio programs were the more prevalent diversion for most of the people in the barrios. The shows were well-known in Visayan-speaking communities in the Visayas and Mindanao. I learned from Sarah that even their maids in Davao and Cotabato listened to the radio programs.
I'm always amazed at the power of media over peoples' minds. It is surely potent and efficient in shaping perceptions of a mass of people. In the case of the radio soaps however, I feel that they (or at least those who make them) are acting irresponsibly at most times. All right they provide entertainment, which is not bad at all. But how about quality?
Much of the plot of these soaps hold on to the usual defects of mass culture, namely subjugation of women, feudalism, violence, religion (IMO), fatalism, passivity, etc. Listened closely by a population of largely uneducated people, these programs perpetuate these precepts rather than make an effort to change them. This I notice more on the asymmetries in gender relations. Not to mention that most of these soaps are rehash of previous plots.
Looking at it now, I don't see any difference between the plot of the radio soaps I use to dabble with during my childhood and the current TV teleserye/teledrama (or whatever they're called). They are the same mindless programs that perpetuate all the wrong values and attitudes. Rather than instilling change on people's mind they have put much premium on commercialism. The radio and TV executives know indeed that they get more audience response (hence ratings) if they stick to the formula. God, we do have a long way to go.
Photo Credit: DP Challenge