Ene 16, 2015

Annotation 2: Bautista’s “Flights”

Now that we’ve set up the contest between the reality TV genre and that of the short story [1] [2], we can deal with some specifics.

In the story, the behind-the-scenes is foregrounded, the show “Ang Munting Hiling” represented by the male crew rather than its metropolitan female host we see in “Wish Ko Lang”. After the first phone call, Brian Justimbaste meets two crewmen “with backpacks, a tripod, and each had a camera slung on their shoulders. They looked like they had two bottles of Red Horse on their way here.” It would turn out that they had each downed three.

The character is a nobody even in his own eyes but not a nobody in the sense that usually interests reality TV (ex: rural folk, or from the slums, a has-been who has drifted from the limelight to do someone else’s laundry, the sick or elderly, etc). Brian does seem to share something with the usual reality TV subject matter: estrangement from family. There’s only one mention of it in the story, when a crewman goes to the fridge and sees a frame on or near it:
“This your son?” he asked, his fingers touching the silver frame.
“That one’s me during my elementary recognition.”
We cannot automatically assume the presence of family in the photo. The father almost certainly isn’t on the frame, else the crewman would not have made the mistake (unless they look entirely alike, which is a possibility made possible by the visual gaps offered by written narrative). Maybe the mother’s in the frame. Maybe a parent, or other family member, took the shot. It’s also possible that they were all absent here, the photograph taken by the official photographer (cued, as it sometimes happens, by a small pinned ribbon on the Barong). The presence of this photograph (holding as it does these possibilities) could either be nostalgia for family or commemoration of its absence.

No activity from family members, and no mention. Even if the show did mention it, Brian does not when he recaps the show in the last paragraph. In this sense, the first person perspective serves the perfect lens: we get to see what Brian frames in and leaves out, how he chooses to see his life.

Choice figures also when the protagonist’s problem (what qualifies him for the show) is finally discussed:
He discussed everything about the trip this coming Sunday. They would feature me, Brian Justimbaste, 23, single, currently employed at San Gabriel Press, as someone who almost committed suicide. He said these in between sips of his coffee. 
I understand that this creates drama, which in turn would create sympathy from the viewers.
“Then we’ll be showing reenactments about the aforementioned suicide—may I ask which way would you prefer, if—”
“Drowning. I’ve always wanted to drown in a bathtub . . .”
Other than the form of suicide, or suicide in itself, the other choice here is whether or not to broadcast the “drama” at all, a choice to be made—with different though paired set of motives—by the program and its protagonist.

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[1] Bautista, Kevin Moses E. “Flights.” The Sunday Times Magazine. 22 Jan 2012: B4.
[2] Annotation 1.