“SANTINO” (The November 2009 episode)

By: Tonyboy G. Gilana

One of the most beautiful, most educational, most meaningful, most poignant, most timely and most relevant shows in Philippine television today is the award-winning ABS-CBN teleserye “Santino”, a story of a young boy, known in his town of Bagong Pag-asa as an orphan, and was adopted by a wonderful group of monks led by their wise leader Father Anthony. Unbeknownst to many he was actually sired by the Mayor of the town (which at present is still unfolding in the story’s plot, and people are holding their breaths). The most important asset of the boy Santino is that he is favored by God, who appears and comes to him in the form of Jesus Christ and whom Santino fondly and lovingly calls “BRO” (short for Brother, or in a respectful address, Kuya). BRO gifted him with the power of physical and spiritual healing. Mayor Enrique, on the other hand, grew up out of sad, tragic and unfortunate circumstances until he became a town executive.

And people in Bulan, just like many others, perhaps all over the country, always look forward to the time slot after the evening news. Sometimes, during office breaks, the employees talk about the previous night’s segment. A few days ago, during a seminar-workshop on local government best practices, former Irosin Mayor Eddie Dorotan, now Executive Director of Gawad Galing Pook, took some important points from the show and made it a part of his discussion. Oh, so, he is watching Santino also. Our Municipal Administrator makes it a point to daily watch the show, whenever he is free, with his son. And, if I have time, I watch it together with my wife and my two young daughters, Theresa, 5, and Bernadette, 2.

I also watched other teleseryes before, some good, some violent, some too long-winding, many are too eccentric or too self-centered and many, forgettable. To me, none comes close to the show’s striking and wonderful balance of portraying the conflict between good and evil, and how ( in the many secondary and supporting episodes), despite the so many trials, pains, sacrifices and sufferings gone through by Santino and the monks, good prevails and overcomes evil. Santino was able to convert so many people to turn back to good and to God. Out of his mouth, which actually is an inspiration from his conversations with BRO, and by his humility, purity, innocence, constancy, faith, love, truthfulness and by his example, those whom he met turned away from faithlessness, hopelessness, despair, hatred, fear, apathy, indifference, jealousy, and other vices.

And the good thing is that, the main plot remains cohesive: of Santino’s search for his roots, even as he is being ably guided by his foster parent, Father Jose, and the monks, and being watched over by BRO. There is the continuous conflict and tug-of-war between good and evil, even as Mayor Enrique, whom Santino has momentarily influenced to change, has now relapsed into his former evil self and schemes due to circumstances that dragged the latter to some desperate situations.

In this month’s episode, the story revolves around how Mayor Enrique, desperate for money to pay off debts, was caught red-handed by Santino (who was brought by his foster father Jose to his kitchen-workplace which, unknown to the latter actually caters to a gambling den operated by the Mayor’s brother, Robert), when the boy accidentally bumped the former, and down came the attaché case revealing bundles of gambling money or payola.

The incident came to the knowledge of the Bagong Pag-asa constituents, and this caused a very big uproar, controversy and a public clamor for the mayor to resign. The mayor became the target of angry mobs, almost daily.

One Councilor Arnaiz, an arch enemy of the mayor, who on earlier times was grievously aggrieved by Mayor Enrique and was seeking revenge for his misfortunes and the death of his family ,and who at the same time is politically ambitious, seized upon this chance and opportunity to inflict his vengeance on the latter. He stood ready to file a corruption case against Mayor Enrique, and sought the permission of the monks to use Santino as the star witness. But the monks would not allow Arnaiz to use the child for his revenge and for his political ambitions.

Councilor Arnaiz insisted on the mayor’s corruption, that the mayor is guilty, and that, he said, there is a public clamor for justice. He said that he represents the sentiments of the masses of Bagong Pag-asa. But the monks’ leader Father Anthony, protective of Santino and sensing the Councilor’s motives of vengeance and political ambition, incisively asked him,“ Sigurado ka bang hindi mo ito ginagawa para lang makaganti? Sigurado ka bang hindi mo ito ginagawa dahilan sa ambisyun mong palitan si Mayor? At pag natapos na ang lahat, pag natapos na ang kaso, pag nahalal ka na, pag Mayor ka na, ano na an mangyayari kay Santino? Paano na ang trauma na dadaanan niya?”

Councilor Arnaiz, ignoring the supplication of the priest, consumed by personal motives, simply answered, “ Ah basta, bahala na magsubpoena kay Santino ang Korte!” And left.

Oh yes, how easy it is to accuse and point fingers at people. And of course, how difficult it is to account responsibility for our own actions of wrong-doing!

I will not dwell in deeper philosophical reflections on this matter of Councilor Arnaiz and Father Anthony and Santino. But it can well apply to our own personal and political situation, not only in Bulan, but in the whole country. With election time coming, our people must indeed be wary and cautious and be wise enough to check on the motives of those seeking office, especially if they attempt to portray and profess themselves as immaculate, perfect or clean, or that they represent the sentiment of the people. Funny, but there is one political group in Bulan whose perennial election slogan haughtily shouts something like, “Wara kami digta! Wara kami bisyo! Mga listo nan may halangkaw kami na inadalan, mga propesyunal kami! (Kaya kami an botohan niyo)”— and yet, many elections over, the electorate repudiated and frustrated them. On the other hand, the candidates who were humble enough to admit of their shortcomings, about their colored past, of their humble education, came out triumphant. This is Bulan’s true experience in the last six or so elections!

We must realize, therefore, that nobody is perfect. Even Santino had some lapses in the virtue of obedience.

BUT. With a deep faith and by prayer, I believe God, or BRO, will help and inspire us to choose wisely, and guide us. Of course, we also have to put in our efforts that shall be complemented by God’s light.

Anyway, we are learning a lot of lessons from Santino. The teleserye is still unfolding and may be a long way from ending, I hope. Eventually, I think, maybe, (unahan na natin ang directors) Mayor Enrique and Santino, the main protagonists in the story, will come to finally discover that they are father and child. Mayor Enrique will eventually turn to goodness and to God. Foster father Jose will gladly give up Santino despite his great love for the boy. Mathilde, will deliver her child by Mayor Enrique, and give herself up to the police for the accidental death of Malena, Enrique’s real wife. Robert, Mayor Enrique’s brother will finally be exposed and caught by the police for all his evil schemes. And the three Tsismosas, Kimberly, Rosaly and Jennifer, comic characters, but notorious rumor-mongering hags who have the habit of spreading news and gossip like wildfire that often harmed and injured people’s dignity and reputation shall change for the better. And BRO will say Thank You!

To all, a happy, meaningful and introspective viewing of Santino!

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