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Reality TV

June 8th, 2008

In the early 70’s when you travel by the rough and rugged highways along rural areas in the Philippines, you can seldom find TV antennas on top of the roof of houses. If there are any, you can count only around three houses with TV antennas attached on its roof. One is the Mayor’s house, the second one is his brother’s house, and the third would be most likely the Chinese who owns the town’s only hardware and who happens to be the Mayor’s cousin. Owning a TV set was a form of luxury before that only the rich can afford. About this time there were no DirecTV yet, but nobody cares as long as they can watch a movie every now and then.

On the following decade, portions of the highway were already cemented, and the buses a bit bigger but still provide the same discomfort to its passengers. The rural landscape also changed with the passing of time. The once forested areas has become bald. On towns where there were only three TV antennas a decade before, you can find an additional five roof having TV antennas of their own. Still there were no DirectTV during this period. What could not be offered by Direct TV then was compensated by the introduction of the Betamax.

The next decade was marked by a massive migration of rural people working abroad. Almost 2/3 of the population in any rural town in the Philippines had a wife, mother, husband, son, daughter, brother or sister working as sea or land based workers overseas. Due this, the rural landscape experienced a sudden face lift overnight. Old, wooden and dilapidated houses were renovated or completely remodeled into modern architectural structures. Videoke bars sprouted like mushroom in town centers. Farmers gave up their traditional farming implements, exchanging their trusty water buffaloes to modern hand tractors. On the roof of houses, new gadgets and peripherals for communications have also sprouted. While almost all roof already had TV antennas, one can now find disks for Sattelite TV and antennas for radio communication.

And if you stop at the town and ask further, the house that has the Sattelite TV disk is owned by the Congressman who is the brother of the former Mayor. The other house with a disk belongs to the former Mayor’s son who is now the incumbent Mayor. And the third is owned by the Chinese cousin of the former Mayor who now not only owns the biggest hardware in town, but also the town’s only Cable TV Company.

In a third world country like the Philippines, the TV has become one indicator of progress. Anyone, especially those in the rural areas, who had moved upward even by one step in the social ladder, will choose to buy a TV set first before any appliances. That is Philippine’s reality TV.

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