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JESSICA ZAFRA | My Husband's Lover
The online news portal of TV5

We hadn't planned on watching GMA's new gay drama, but when the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines warned that "it should observe moral standards," it sounded too interesting to pass up.

There have been many gay melodramas on Philippine television, but this is the rare occasion where the gay characters are played by men. Usually the gay roles are filled by women, so their behavior looks..."normal" to the audience. But cast men as apparently straight characters who happen to be in love each other, and hackles will rise.

So we tuned in to My Husband's Lover this evening, which was tricky because the network doesn't tell you exactly what time their shows start. You're supposed to turn on your TV and wait.

At 9:40 p.m. the show commenced with a "Strict Parental Guidance" rating from the MTRCB. (This rating was repeated after the commercial break.) Then an instrumental version of an old Kuh Ledesma song came on and it blared for the next 45 minutes, stopping only for commercials. The volume would decrease to allow viewers to hear the dialogue, then start blasting again like a Hans Zimmer theme to a Christopher Nolan movie.

My Husband's Lover is about a man who is married to a woman but is really in love with another man. Yes, it's practically a documentary. No thanks, we have enough examples (Tantanan niyo na si Jun Encarnacion, ano ba, namamahinga na siya). The actors playing the lovers do not telegraph their gayness to the audience in the stereotypical manner—mincing about, speaking baklese, gushing over their make-up. They act like straight guys, and that's probably what distresses some viewers. ("They're fooling us! We thought they were hetero!" and "What a waste of good genes!" When Brokeback Mountain came out, we know married women who freaked out because the lovers looked, sounded, dressed, and went on trips together—just like their husbands.)

In tonight's episode, Eric (Dennis Trillo) is in the hospital, having taken a beating in a bar or something. Vincent (Tom Rodriguez) pays him a visit and professes his love. Eric's mother (Chanda Romero) reminds Vincent that he is a married man—"married to a lie" is how she puts it (Good line). For a Tagalog telenovela the acting is fairly subdued. The confrontation scenes—the high points of any Tagalog drama—are within the bounds of sane behavior (We didn't notice any sampalan), but it's only the second week.

Eric's mother functions as the show's conscience—she loves and accepts her gay son, but disapproves of his affair with a married man. She admonishes his lover not to deceive his wife. The rest of the story unfolds from the perspective of Lally (Carla Abellana), who is married to Vincent. It is the suffering woman's take on the affair. Clearly the producers anticipated the flap over the subject matter, and covered all their cultural sensitivity bases. Over the years we have rolled our eyes at GMA telenovelas (Blackface?? in the 21st century?), but it seems they have really thought this through.

Of course My Husband's Lover will provoke controversy. It was designed to do precisely that, and the CBCP walked right into the setup. My Husband’s Lover is an occasion for the audience to discuss a social reality that it prefers to file under “Comedy.” Drag queens doing comedy bar humor are not threatening: they are curiosities that allow straight people to demonstrate how open-minded they are.

But people who look like the audience (well, the good-looking audience members), sound like the audience, fall in love like the audience: Aaaaaaaaa, threat to the natural order! Hoy mga bakla, you’re supposed to tell us straightaway, so we know how to behave in your presence, treat you differently, and make vaguely patronizing statements like “I love the baklas, all my friends are gay.” You’re not supposed to be just like us.

Well they are just like us. Deal with it.

Danton Remoto, I just stole your column.