Monday, September 01, 2003

Life Unscripted

My life is strange. I get strange phone calls. The other day I got a call to teach a private kali class. I said ok.

So on this laborless labor day, I taught a class to a couple on one of those reality programs. I was their "adventure" date. They were both part Pinoy, so why not swing a few punches while they figure out how to score with each other.

I'm a guilty-pleasure fan of reality tv. I admit I was mesmerized even by, "get me out of here, I'm a celebrity" and I even cruise by episodes of "the family" and "paradise hotel," even though I don't even understand the rules of the game, except that most reality show are people in their 20s. Oh, the adventure reality shows like Survivor and others have a wide range of folks, but dating shows or relationship shows, well, they're all the 20somethings.

As a 20-something myself, I wonder about my generation and somewhat wish to hurry up and get to my 30-somethings.

This couple were 20 something. I wondered why they decided to let the nation watch as they piece together their lives followed by camera crews. Then again, they did get free food, limo and hotels. When you're 20-something, you'll do just about anything for "free."

So, being a quiet fan of reality tv, I kind of jumped in just to see how it all works. I found out that as there is a certain amount of denial needed to "watch" reality tv, there is a whole lot more denial when you are "in" reality tv. We had to "pretend" that there was nobody there, yet change where we stood depending on where the cameras needed to be in order to "capture" the moment. We could not at any time mention the show or what folks were really here for nor that the crew even existed. At times the onsite director would ask us to say stuff again. I greeted them 3 times and acted like hey I've never met them before. There's no room for sarcasm in reality tv unless it's a cat fight. I felt like I was being rewound like the tape, forced deja vu.

Anyway, I did it to get a chance to expose the world to kali and what malongs and kubings are and who Filipinos could be. We filmed in front of Santiago Bose's large canvas montages. I did it too because it was a new experience. I don't know if I'd do it again.

A friend of mine used to work at Jerry Springer. His job was to make sure the guests were dressed in decent clothing. I remember him talking about these guests, college students stripping for money. My friend said they seemed like good people, but they always kind of worped them out in front of the camera. Maybe that's just the convex of the lens that creates the distortion, seeing the world through a lens.

Certainly reality tv is only what they give you. The crew said they already shot 19 hrs of film. And the show is only 30 minutes. Life might be unscripted but it's certainly not complete. They edit it down to give the best of the drama, you know.

I did the best I could to ignore the cameras and be the teacher I know how to be, to focus on each of them and not the situation we were in. In many ways, it's a sad place to be. Life is stuttered and stopped, so unlike what I was trying to teach them in the kali, to flow to glide to learn about each other, to give and receive.

When they left, I wished them well. I'm not exactly sure how their relationship will end up, but I hope they find what they are looking for and that it will bring them happiness. It was an odd odd world we had stepped in. I get many students who take my class once or only a handful of times. There are only a few handful who stay with me for years and continue the practice. And I always hope that I'm able to give them what they needed. Whether they stumble in or are brought there by camera crews, there's something for all of us to learn.

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