BingBing and her Black Mask

Films are traditionally found in movie theaters. People wait for the actual showing date and fall in line for tickets just to see a movie. But with the advent of technology, films, like all other art forms, are made available almost everywhere. Films can now be seen on TV. Programs such as documentaries emerged. Films can also be downloaded and viewed online through sites such as Youtube and Vimeo. Even through mobile phones, applications have this feature.

But what makes films made for television different? Apart from the medium it uses, made-for-TV films differ in structure. Most films, especially documentaries, are aided by commentaries. Visuals are combined with narration which explains further the story it wants to convey. This is so because TV’s primary audience is the masses. TV has a wide range thus reaches the extremes: the upper class and lower class of the society. Because of this, films have to have a very clear message delivered in a very clear way. Commentaries, therefore, provide this help to the visuals.

Also, adopted from documentaries is a camera technique used by some TV programs – the hand-held technique. This set-up gives the audience the feeling of intimacy with the broadcast text. It makes the audience feel as if they were in the environment where the story takes place. Compared to films shown in cinemas, this technique is not quite often used because the audience in movie theaters are aware they are watching a movie whereas TV gives the feeling of naturalness and rawness in its materials or texts.

Made-for-TV films are also different from films in cinemas because they are divided into sections. This is to make way for the commercials. Usually, they are divided depending on the Total Running Time (TRT) of the program and the number of commercials they have to air on it. In every section also exists the ‘cliffhanger’. Its purpose is to keep the audience tuned in and locked down to their seats.

We may say that some of the structure may differ but made-for-TV films and films in theaters have both the Opening Credits and the Rolling Credits (for film) or the Opening Billboard and Closing Billboard (for TV) to formally start and end the film or program.

Several TV Programs that feature documentaries are now popular in Philippine Television. Programs such as Storyline, Reporter’s Notebook and iWitness are known to provide informative and also entertaining made-for-TV films/documentaries. For this paper, we are going to critique iWitness’ ‘Itim na Maskara: Dokumentaryo ni Sandra Aguinaldo’.

It’s about Bingbing – a girl who lives in a distant barangay in Masbate. She is a healthy young girl like all the girls her age but one thing makes her different from the rest – her face is covered with black, hairy skin. Often teased as ‘aso’ or ‘kalabaw’, Bingbing is kept hidden in their little nipa hut by her parents. She is not allowed to leave their home except when she’s going to school. Her parents think that this is the best idea to protect their child from the mistreatments of the world. They don’t want to let other people make fun of her again and treat her as if what defines her is her ‘abnormality’ and nothing more.

Contrary to parents’ belief that this abnormality is caused by her mother’s ‘paglilihi’ with carabaos during her pregnancy, Bingbing suffers from the rare skin disorder called ‘Hypertrichosis Universalis’ or also called the Werewolf Syndrome. This has found to be curable by doctors. But I think the real suffering of Bingbing really is how she is treated by the people she is surrounded with. Yes, she goes to school. She tries to live a normal life. But at the end of the day, she is different… different only because of her looks. Her teachers protect her from the mistreatments she receives from some of her schoolmates but that is not enough for her to feel good about herself. As a child, she seeks love, attention and acceptance. But because of her abnormality, she still feels that she’s different – different but not special. Because of a number of incidents that she was bullied, she becomes very shy and often chooses to not say a word and just nod. It is probably her defense mechanism from the different pains she experiences. When asked what her wish in life is apart from being a teacher someday, all she wanted is to have a ‘fair’ skin. Only this time that I heard a child wish to have a fair, white skin. But I think, her dream of changing her skin color, especially on her face, is only a metaphor of her desire to be accepted, to be loved and to be normal… not only in her eyes but in the eyes of everyone else.

Social definition of beauty, in one way or another, affects how a person views herself. Society tells who is beautiful, who is to be loved, who is to be accepted. And everyone who doesn’t belong in this circle should strive to be in it, should strive to change themselves – their skin color, their body, their face, etcetera to be worthy of attention, of acceptance, of love.

Bingbing is only one of those many people who suffer the same. Bingbing is only one out of the circle. And if it is not us who open this circle for them, and then who will? After all, what is important is the beauty of within… the beauty which is not seen by the eyes but by the heart.

Works Cited:

Aguinaldo, Sandra. iWitness. “Itim na Maskara: Dokumentaryo ni Sandra Aguinaldo”. GMA 7. 27,September, 2014.

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