May 18, 2007

A mother-daughter relationship in perspective

Something Like Life
May 18, 2007

ON Mother’s Day, we were treated to what was perhaps the most spectacular outburst ever made in Philippine showbiz history. Those immortal words uttered by the still unparalleled stage mother of all stage mothers, Annabel Rama, were truly unforgettable and will likely be the gold standard by which all other stage mothers will have to measure themselves. With tears streaming down her face, facial tissue in hand, Annabel—in her trademark Waray-accented Tagalog — implored her celebrity daughter Ruffa Gutierrez on national TV: “Kung gusto mo akong matigok, pumunta ka sa Maldives. Kung gusto mo pa ako mabuhay ng matagal, mag-stay ka sa akin. [If you want me to die, go to Maldives. If you want me to live long, stay with me].”

Emotional blackmail? It sure sounded like it. What kind of mother would directly sabotage her child’s efforts at making a marriage work by saying that she would keel over if the child left her side? To those who missed another stirring performance by the one-time showbiz starlet, Annabel last Sunday was interviewed by a fumbling, verbally challenged Pia Guanio on the state of Ruffa’s marriage to Turkish businessman Yilmaz Bektas. Annabel was trying to prevent Ruffa from going on a vacation with her estranged husband where they were supposed to work out their troubled marriage.

Of course, everybody suspects ulterior motives on Annabel’s part as she tried to put herself between her daughter and a son-in-law whom she admits to have grown to love. Was she trying to force Ruffa—virtually incoherent on another channel, with tears as big as the diamond earrings she wore—to give up on her marriage to Bektas, and resume her very profitable showbiz career? In turn, Annabel would reassume the role as her daughter’s manager and thereby reap the benefits that she had to forgo for seven years? Wasn’t this woman content with the earnings she was receiving from managing the acting careers of her handsome twins?

But for anyone who has ever been a mother, and who has sacrificed so much for her children, and gone to great lengths to keep her family afloat, Annabel’s outburst was quite understandable.

Sure, the accusations from some quarters about her being “materialistic” could be true in part, but Annabel can never be blamed for trying to look after her children’s welfare. And for someone who never had real acting talent herself, Annabel has actually been pulling off what is probably the greatest performance of her life for the past decades—being the strong foundation and guiding light of the Gutierrez family. She has singlehandedly built up her children’s careers despite the fact that some of them probably don’t even have the real goods to justify their huge talent fees.

More than Annabel’s OA threats of dying prematurely, it is perhaps due to those reasons cited above that the well-poised and polished Ruffa decided to stay with her mom and turn her back on her husband. Ruffa was reported to have expressed her continuing love for Bektas, despite the rumors of physical abuse, and to which Annabel herself hinted at. And what kind of mother would she be if she didn’t try to put an end to her daughter’s suffering? “Gabi-gabi ’yan, tumatawag sa akin umiiyak [Every night she would call me crying],” was how Annabel succinctly described the condition of her daughter’s marriage.

Despite all her instincts that her daughter’s union with the English-challenged businessman with a doubtful background was headed straight for the rocks, Annabel, to her credit, allowed the marriage to push through. She perhaps realized how much her daughter was in love with her Turkish Prince Charming, so much so that Ruffa even converted to the Islam faith. Besides, she knew that Ruffa would have the material comforts that the latter could never have, and all her child was to do was sit pretty beside her “Lovee” and bear his children. It may be argued as well that this marriage could have been Ruffa’s way of struggling out of her mother’s firm grip, although we don’t know much of what goes on 24/7 in the Gutierrez household to safely conclude that.

But, surely, Annabel didn’t want her own daughter to experience the hardships that she herself suffered, selling pots and pans to her neighbors while living in the US, just to put decent meals on their dining table. And while Ruffa is indeed beautiful, statuesque and articulate, Annabel knew that an entertainer’s life is harsh, and fame all too fleeting. Just look at what happened to her husband. Naku, mahirap, ’dong!

So with Annabel’s blessing, for seven years, Ruffa did get to live out every young girl’s fantasy of being fabulously married to a handsome rich husband, living in a palatial home and giving birth to bundles of sweet joyful children. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the white picket fence, so to speak, was missing. The harsh realities of a cultural divide finally impacted on her marriage, and while she did try to make things work, Ruffa had to finally admit that despite her strong love for her husband, she was no longer happy. “Hindi ko na kaya [I can’t take it anymore]” was what she answered when Boy Abunda asked if her husband abused her.

After trying to shake off what we imagine as her mother’s tons of advice and dire warnings across miles and miles of fiber-optic cable, Ruffa finally decided to listen to Annabel and come home where she was safe and well-protected by those who loved her. And all her mother wanted was for Ruffa to stand firm in her decision and to choose a life of freedom, though she may not be fabulously rich, instead of a miserable existence with her wealthy husband and his never ending gifts of diamond-studded jewelry. We can just imagine her mother getting tired of repeating herself and advising Ruffa what she should do if she was unhappy with her marriage.

With the bearing of a sage now, Annabel said Ruffa was still young and could start her life all over again. She would surely meet someone who would make her happy. The bad marriage happened. End it. Then move on. Ever the practical woman, Annabel even advised her daughter not to waste her in-laws’ money by making them fly all the way to Manila only for her to tell them that she wasn’t going back to Turkey with them.

And so Ruffa has realized the universal truth that all women must come to acknowledge at some point in their lives. Mothers know best.

UPDATE: As of press time, rumors are swirling around that Ruffa has left for the US—to meet with her estranged hubby perhaps? Oh, well, the heart chooses what it wants. And Annabel Rama will surely live another day to give her daughter—and us—a piece of her mind.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday, in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. TV grab from BusinessMirror)

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