While marooned in a hotel in Baguio and waiting for other people to get dressed so we could get a decent lunch, I decided to take advantage of cable tv and came across this weird drama anthology episode or perhaps a telesine—I have no idea which since there were no bumper voiceovers announcing, “And now we return to another episode of…” No clues whatsoever. All I know is that it’s a hybrid of several stories: Mannequin, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Faust, Shrek and Blusang Itim thrown in for good measure.
So Chin Chin Gutierrez is this Really Beautiful Woman named Angela Legaspi. She keeps a larger than life portrait of herself on her living room wall. Romnick Sarmenta is her man servant slash driver, and Melissa Mendez, made ugly by this blotch of black, warped skin and a limp, is her distant cousin slash confidante slash voice of morality and reason.
Chin Chin is living The Life—go to parties, look absolutely stunning, break hearts for breakfast. She’s so beautiful that men literally go crazy and kill themselves over her, to the detriment of the women in their lives. The mother of one such man barged into Chin Chin’s house and announce that she has come to avenge her son, who was about to be ordained as a priest, but went to a party and met Chin Chin, became enamored, and then proceeded to shoot himself in the head when she walked away from him. Then the mother throws acid on Chin Chin’s face. She screams. She howls. She looks at the mirror and voila! She’s as beautiful as ever. She rushes to her garage and looks at The Mannequin, whose face is now ruined by acid.
There sits the secret of her beauty. The Mannequin suffers the worldly wear and tear that was meant for Chin Chin. It shows the blackness of her heart, how ugly her soul really is. We learn that Chin Chin used to look like Melissa Mendez. Horribly ugly and with that black splotch of hairy skin on her face. That’s how we know they’re related. But somehow, some time back, Chin Chin struck a deal with The Devil. He will make her beautiful. She would be rich, admired and adored for her famed beauty, but he after some time, he will come and take her soul. Unless—there’s always an “unless”—a good soul falls in love with her and expects nothing in return. So off she goes living The Life, moving from town to town, looking for love, looking for The One With a Pure Heart. Sometimes all she finds are lotharios for hire. Like Jay Manalo, for instance. She fancies him and when he realizes that, he proceeds to ask her to pay his rent money, his son’s medicines, etc. So she walks out and proceeds with her search, but ending up being abhorred for her loose ways and spreading infamy.
Sometimes, The Devil possesses Romnick or Melissa to remind her of The Deal. After the acid splashing incident, she realizes that whatever she does, she might not find TOWaPH and the devil would forever own her soul. She also realized that if she prayed, the devil couldn’t possess Romnick. So she repents. She donates all her riches and her nice party dresses to the poor. What the poor would do with red cocktail gowns, we don’t know. The town spreads the tale of her change of heart and comes flocking to her door for more help.
Then she meets Emilio Garcia, who is this nice rosary toting boy. Chin Chin in her plain rags is walking down the street. A car slows down and the window opens. “Are you Angela Legaspi? I’ve heard so much about you.” He gives her the rosary blessed by the Pope. He proposes marriage to her. She is torn: Here is a nice rosary toting boy who seems to be Pure of Heart. But he doesn’t know the real her. Melissa Mendez convinces her that this is her chance. That time is running out and soon The Devil would come and claim his due. So they set the date.
On the day of their wedding, Emilio Garcia wears his tux and looks at the mirror. Then his reflection changes into this brooding figure and his voice lowers by about an octave. “Do you think you can escape the curse by marrying her? She is not Pure of Heart. She used to be a loose woman, the way you were a lost man. She is also cursed. Nyahahaha!” This prompts him to send her a letter in his stead. When Angela was handed the letter at the altar, she just knew. Their wedding day was supposed to be the day The Devil will claim Angela’s soul—and Emilio’s as well.
The Mannequin still sits there in the darkened garage, repugnant and still, the silent witness to the deep dark history of a woman who only wanted to be beautiful and be loved.
We don’t know who wrote it, if it was a one shot episode or what. We suspect that perhaps it was some sort of Holy Week special--you know, like those drama pieces acted out by Eat Bulaga! cast members, meant to con us into repentance and ambassadors of world peace.
Meanwhile, the next movie starred Alice Dixson as this ugly disfigured woman with a dark past who accidentally commits murder and has to escape and then meets Tonton Gutierrez who mistakes her for another woman named Roselle and so befriends her and offers to pay for her plastic surgery. Tonton takes her out shopping for nice clothes and brings her to this mansion and then tells her not to object when called by another name. She wakes up and finds Ariel Rivera by her bedside and claims to be her husband. He has just arrived after years of working in Saudi and probably wants to play hookie with his wife. Alice Dixson is frightened. Why do they keep calling her by that name? “My name is not Roselle!” But nobody believes her. Meanwhile, Tonton Gutierrez drives to the airport with a woman who curiously looks like Alice Dixson. They hold hands. “Homer/Ariel wouldn’t know the difference. I told the doctor to make her a face exactly like yours. We will have a nice life together.” They hold hands.
We were glued in front of the television. Omg, they got this banana cue vendor to pose as the adulterous wife of an OFW and she doesn’t know! The writing credits revealed that the man who wrote the screenplay was the same guy who behind the soap wherein Maricar de Mesa played Olga and spent the entire show running after Carlos Miguel and trying to pry him away from Cecilia, who suffered from amnesia and went crazy and became ugly and had to have plastic surgery to become beautiful again. So Olga also had plastic surgery to look like Cecilia and she sometimes wore a mask which made her look exactly like Carlos Miguel’s paramour.
I don’t know what it is with Pinoys and their absolute belief and trust in cosmetic surgery as a cure-all for ugliness caused by curses, genetics, or the plain misfortune of having another woman throw acid on your face. If you believe every show and movie you watch, you’d think the Philippines is the world’s capital offering the best plastic surgery ever. And that's before the entire Vicki Belo boom.
But, of course, with a story steeped in The Great Pinoy Tradition of Plastic Surgery and Amnesia, how can you refuse? We just have to know what happens next.