14 August 2013

Doris Bigornia’s Edifying Mutyâ ng Masa

It is perhaps a sad indictment of the Filipino audiences’ viewing preferences as well as ABS-CBN’s corporate thinking that this edifying and educational little program called ‘Mutyâ ng Masa,’ presented by Doris Bigornia, is not on primetime. In my youth, a program of this calibre would have been the perfect excuse to gather the entire family in front of the boob tube after supper.

The program is conceptually simple, yet therein lies its brilliance. Bigornia walks the streets of the metropolis with her camera crew and strikes up conversations with whoever takes her fancy.

It can be a young man pushing a make-shift trolley along the rails of the PNR; a group of students playing basketball in a crowded university campus; one of a horde of seafarers lined up applying for a job; or, as last Tuesday, a homeless child at the baywalk.

Sometimes, the person Bigornia picks is shy and walks away. But she is dogged and either pursues the person or hops on seamlessly to the next person until she finds somebody willing to talk in front of the camera.


This, in a nutshell, is what Bigornia does in Mutyâ ng Masa. She finds these little stories that must seem mundane those who live them but which, in fact, offer colourful insights into how others go through this daily grind that we call life.
The show is partly about Bigornia herself. She is intelligent, incessantly talkative and knows the streets like the palms of her hands. More importantly, she knows the ways of the streets; and the streets know her.

Last Tuesday, for instance, she had started to introduce one particular street and had started speaking to the camera when an acquaintance off-camera must have called out to her. She momentarily broke off from her introduction and waved to the acquaintance, “Ay nandito ka pala!”

But after the brief acknowledgment, she seamlessly returned to her introduction and to what she was saying to the camera earlier. I appreciated it that that little segue was not edited away because it only added credence to Bigornia’s image as a person of the streets.

One cannot help but admire how she draws out nameless Juan de la Cruz to tell his or her story so that, before long, he or she is no longer a nameless Juan de la Cruz. It is a skill and a gift at the same time, the ability to make ordinary people comfortable enough to tell their life stories in front of a television camera.

Mostly, thus, Mutyâ ng Masa is about the man on the street himself.

A 1980 movie entitled ‘Ordinary People’ starring Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. The movie told the story of a simple American couple trying to come to terms with a troubled teenage child.

It gave a stark message to the moguls of Hollywood that beautiful stories abound in the simplest of settings; even right inside the homes of ordinary citizens. One just has to be willing to find them.

This, in a nutshell, is what Bigornia does in Mutyâ ng Masa. She finds these little stories that must seem mundane to those who live them but which, in fact, offer colourful insights into how others go through this daily grind that we call life.

The show is educational not only because it showcases the different dimensions of life itself but also because it aspires to teach its audience empathy. It is also inpirational in the sense that it shows how much strength there can be among those who have so little.

Mutyâ ng Masa is not for those who like pretty things; as indeed, the show does not shy away from showing the grime of big city living. In fact, Bigornia takes her audience right through where it is sleazy: down a narrow and unsightly alley or, perhaps, into somebody’s cramped and makeshift home.

Yet, Bigornia tempers the daily grind by finding simple little ways to uplift the lives of those she features: a makeover for an elderly street sweeper; a surprise reunion of a seaman with a girlfriend he has not seen for weeks; or a cellular phone for an ice cream vendor so he can communicate better with a family he does not see very often.

When the recipients of Bigornia’s little gifts smile or shed tears of gratitude, it is always edifying to the audience. The gifts are, in all honesty, quite mundane; but they will make those who have more appreciate what they have for the simple reason that for others, they are not ordinary at all.

What a pity that the show is not on primetime so that it can educate the hearts and minds of those who have more but take what they have so for granted.

For the benefit of those not familiar with the show, it airs every Tuesday afternoon starting at 4:15 on ABS-CBN.

Acknowledgment: Photos captured from video on http://www.iwantv.com.ph/.

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