Telenovelas: When fantasy backfires
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - April 24, 2013 - 12:00am

There is a time and place and perhaps even a purpose for everything, even “telenovelas”. I have to confess that I rarely watch them except in instances when someone I know has a part, or something out of the ordinary takes place.

Recently something out of the ordinary took place in a telenovela and as stressful as the incident may have been for parties involved, I’m glad that the extra-ordinary situation actually became a good learning experience for many.

In one relatively recent episode of the top rating telenovela “Ina – Kapatid – Anak”, two of the lead characters were portrayed getting into vehicular accident that resulted in the passengers being seriously wounded. While the episode might win an award for dramatic effects, a number of viewers were surprised and very concerned that the vehicle, a Chevrolet Cruze, used in simulating the car accident failed to deploy its airbags. Shortly after the episode some people posted and sent out tweets regarding the failed air bag scenario, which in turn was seen by a few motoring journalists.

As a result, the car company received quite a number of calls inquiring why the said vehicle model did not deploy its airbag and questioning the safety of the particular model. I guess some people got so absorbed that they forgot that the whole thing was an “imaginary scene” in an imaginary drama made for television. But then again that’s what you get for not having a technical consultant while putting together an “imaginary accident”. At the very least they should have consulted their highly paid lawyers who might have spotted the potential lawsuit or PR nightmare.

At the very least the vehicular accident should have been staged in a manner where viewers are clueless as to what car was being used or the producers should have included the cost of deploying air bags. Of course if the air bags were deployed then the beautiful actresses would not end up cut and bleeding and therefore no drama!

The car manufacturer Chevrolet Philippines eventually found themselves managing a three ring circus: having to reassure buyers that the car model was safe, restraining motoring journalists from going to town about the very negative portrayal of the brand, as well as politely communicating with ABS CBN about the serious damage that was caused to the brand and the car model.

The good thing was that the executives from the car company were not trigger happy in condemning the TV Network or calling in an army of lawyers that could have made life miserable for network executives. By calling attention to the serious mistake of the production people involved, the car company contributed by reminding people that telenovelas must not only be entertaining but also factually correct regarding technical matters particularly with safety and brand recognition. Cars are not mere props but products that reflect a company’s image and history.

The perfect ending to this telenovela backfire came in the form of a very sincere public apology presented by one of the lead characters which so impressed the people at Chevrolet, first because of the sincerity of the apology, and second because it proved that even though ABS CBN is one of the biggest and most influential networks in the country, “they are not so big as not to be able to acknowledge a mistake” and to do what is necessary to correct it.

These are the stories worth telling.

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Still on a car related matter, several people, particularly motoring journalists are on the warpath against “parking lot operators”. It seems that I’m not the only one who is shocked about the extremely high prices that parking lots have been charging lately.

For the longest time a Makati hotel has been notorious for their minimum P200 charge for parking. What sucks about it is the fact that the parking slots at this hotel are so narrow you often need a can opener to get out when you get squeezed in by big SUVs and vans. Recently I found out that this hotel near CCP and now anpther in Pasay have also been charging P200 for parking fee.

I also learned from my fellow Motoring journalist Ron de los Reyes about the P500 for 3 hours parking in the Burgos circle area and P1, 500 for over night parking at another area near Villamor golf course. I never thought I’d see the day, but we are now fast approaching the point when someone will soon be printing or posting “The Metro Manila guide to affordable parking”!

Unfortunately, we can’t count on the lazy butts in Congress to do something about it because very few of them actually go through the nightmare of parking. Their drivers and their #7 or #8 license plates “allow” them to illegally park as they please so they don’t have to pay parking fees!

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I don’t know why  TV networks have singled out the sins of Vice President Jojo Binay’s convoy for beating a red light, but don’t spend any airtime portraying police officers who do the same repeatedly?

Anyone who has a Facebook account will notice that for the one post on Binay’s sin, there are probably at least ten if not 20 posts about policemen riding motorcycles without helmets, riding with guns tucked in their waist but not in uniform as well as entering one way streets or parking in no parking areas.

Just to be clear about it, I am not anti-police. In fact it is because I want the members of the PNP to be the right models of discipline that I call attention to the minority of policemen who disregard the very laws by which they arrest ordinary citizens.

Incidentally, the Chief PNP or the head of the PNP-NCRPO might want to instruct their personnel conducting checkpoints to thoroughly inspect taxicabs not just for guns but also for deadly weapons. Many checkpoint operatives don’t bother with taxicabs but many drivers are known to have knives, ice picks, etc. allegedly to protect themselves from robbers or carnappers. In truth these weapons have been used more in road rage incidents than in fighting off robbers. How come cabs no longer have the protective cage and no two way radios so they can be monitored. What are the people at the DOTC doing about all these? Oh, I know, they compose letters to the editors. I guess that counts as working.

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