On the Phenomenal Success of ‘Ika-6 Na Utos’

‘Ika-6 Na Utos’ is an afternoon drama that airs weekdays in GMA 7’s Afternoon Prime. It features the now iconic characters of Emma (Sunshine Dizon) as the wife who tried her best to transform herself for the better after discovering that her husband, Rome (Gabby Concepcion), was having an affair with her friend, Georgia (Ryza Cenon).

Mistress-themed series is not a new concept in television; thus, it is hard to pinpoint specifically the formula of the success of ‘Ika-6 Na Utos.’ In one interview, Dizon, who plays Emma, said that the relatability of her character relies on the fact that she actually experienced what her character has gone through. Therefore, people see her as a real-life Emma. Ryza Cenon, for her part, thinks that her role is a practical manifestation of betrayal that also happens in real life.

In the case of afternoon dramas like ‘Ika-6 Na Utos,’ its phenomenon relies on the Catholic upbringing of Philippine society that regards infidelity as a taboo that is not to be discussed. However, this situation is not necessarily empowering to women, because as society continuously keeps quiet about the issue, double standards of society are also not addressed. Men can do as they please, while women battle to survive the harsh realities brought about by infidelity.

Interestingly, the infidelity taboo that people keep quiet about is openly discussed in television. Therefore, it is probable thatĀ telenovelasĀ become the medium that gives voice to the rather voiceless portions of society who only gets the opportunity to speak when supporting their favorite characters.

Essentially, the biggest achievement of ‘Ika-6 Na Utos’ is the manner it tries to address, albeit occasionally flawed, the disempowered status of women in the character of Emma, who could actually be any one of us. People root for her the same way they hope they could emulate what Emma does.

Television dramas mirror the realities of everyday circumstances in society. However, the political economy of media imposes that whatever sells is to be emphasized. Unfortunately, a woman fighting another woman sells.

Unfortunately for ‘Ika-6 Na Utos,’ although the central characters are women, it still relies on the patriarchal notion that puts men above women especially in battles confined in the domestic sphere. In other words, the drama still focuses on how Emma and Georgia fight each other although the ultimate mistake is committed not by them, but by the Rome.

It would be refreshing, though, to finally have a series that will not just portray infidelity in the context of trying to empower the protagonist but will also combat patriarchy by creating scenarios that will unite, rather than divide, women in addressing infidelity by attacking who the real source of the problem is.

However, no one can deny the fact that ‘Ika-6 Na Utos’ has made its impact in popular culture. Thus, there must be something that viewers found relevant in the series.

It is not to say that ‘Ika-6 Na Utos’ is flawed in itself. Patriarchy, or the the privileged position of men in society, is historically existent especially in Philippine society, ever since the Spaniards imposed that women must be confined in the domestic sphere. Therefore, ‘Ika-6 Na Utos’ is merely a manifestation of this historical reality that puts women in a disadvantaged position.

There is still room for improvement, though. In the next series that will be as phenomenal as ‘Ika-6 Na Utos,’ may creative teams come up with an output that will not only mimic harsh historical and societal realities but will also do something to strive to influence mindsets that these realities are wrong.

Team Emma or Team Georgia? This too should stop. Women must not be pitted against each other. Of course, for dramatic effects, this is effective. Female characters, on the other hand, must be substantial enough to not just fight each other but also try to look for redemption other than winning the affection of one man. Women definitely hold more power than that.

Crazy about popular culture, pre-colonial, and Spanish-era studies. Fan of Christina Aguilera and Katrina Halili.