Monday, June 11, 2007

Family feud

This is my column today.

The rich and famous are not different from you and me—this much we know from the very acrimonious and very public war that the Crespos and the Bektases have been waging for a few weeks now. Of course, instead of a mere handful of nosy neighbors and interfering kith and kin, they have the whole media and the whole country as witnesses to their emotional hara kiri.

Family members fight. We all know this. There is no familial bond—yes, not even the deepest and most profound affection—that is strong enough to withstand the corrosive power of greed, or hatred, or hurt. The most cohesive family can blow up into smithereens when a property dispute rears its ugly head. The most ideal couple with marriages seemingly made in heaven could go kaput when irrational jealousy comes into the picture.

A family feud is not an unusual thing. But a family feud gone public is one of the ugliest things in the world. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Even if the emotional screeching and the trading of all kinds of lurid accusations appeal to our inherent curiosity, the truth is that it is difficult to empathize with individuals who choose to wash their dirty linens in public. Particularly when they begin talking about really private matters, attacking each other with bare fangs, claws and axes and when they are butchering whatever little is left of each other’s reputation.

It makes for interesting and absorbing small talk over coffee, but it also makes you want to grab the characters by their shoulders, give them a good shaking, and tell them to go fix their problems in private.

Unless of course the issues become socially relevant as it just did on the War of the Bektases.

Suddenly, what has previously been mere fodder for inside pages landed on the front page, in screaming headlines.

The latest twist in the long drawn-out real-life soap opera is that Ruffa Gutierrez Bektas has finally come out with the admission that she was a battered wife.

The gory details are shocking because while Ruffa Gutierrez Bektas is known for her tendency to exaggerate her worth in this planet and therefore bent to throwing major emotional outbursts, being physically beaten black and blue is not something that most people would expect to befall someone of her stature. Nor is it something we expect her to even put up with in the first place.

But now we know domestic violence is something that happens to anyone, even to former beauty queens and those who live in gilded cages. Domestic violence is a fact of life. It happens to many women.

Based on Ruffa’s account, her husband often beat her nonstop. One such beating lasted 14 hours. She’s been locked up in a cabinet. She’s escaped to Manila from Istanbul (where she resided with her Turkish husband) with a fresh black eye, welts and bruises on her legs and body. No wonder her feisty mother expressly disallowed her to go back to Turkey to be with her husband.
Already, there are those who doubt the veracity of her story. The reasons being bruited about are many, all of which are neither here nor there. First, she is an actress and therefore simply after the publicity. Second, she and her husband are rich, civilized people. Third, if her story were true, why did it take so long for her to come out with it? These reasons do not make sense.

Unbelievably enough, there are already those who offer the idiotic theory that she must have provoked the violence and therefore deserved it. It is as if violence is an automatic and uncontrollable reaction to a provocation and that wife beaters don’t have any choice in the matter.

As someone who has counseled a friend who had been a victim of domestic violence for six years until she saved up enough courage to face up to her abusive husband and dump him, I can empathize with Ruffa’s situation.

Obviously, just like my friend, Ruffa was in denial for sometime. Victims do make a good job of masking reality, justifying the violence with their own twisted reasoning. My friend even thought she deserved the beatings or that it was just a phase her husband or all married couples go through.

I am not a fan, but it’s a good thing Ruffa has finally saw the writing on the wall and read it correctly—no one deserves to be physically beaten. Certainly, violence is not among the rights of a husband.

In the television interview I caught Saturday afternoon, Ruffa made an appeal, reminding us that she is the victim in the story, and what’s more, that she is the Filipino in the whole sordid mess. The latter initially struck me as rather simplistic; empathizing on the basis of nationality sounds naïve and shallow.

But on second thought, it made sense. Under the guise of providing balance to the story, local media has been spending huge amounts to put the spotlight on Yilmaz Bektas. One television station even went all the way to Istanbul to get his side. He is given access to local television through overseas call and e-mails that are read on local shows. We are giving inordinate attention to the man.

It is time to put a little perspective to the whole sordid mess. Regardless of how one feels toward the Gutierrezes (okay, I admit I find them annoying—even Ruffa), let’s not forget who the victim—and the Filipino—is in the story.

***

How time flies fast indeed. This column marks my first anniversary as a columnist for this paper. Writing a regular opinion column wasn’t on my “to do” list while growing up (although “writing a book” was number 5 on the list), but it has been a great adventure so far. Thank you, everyone.

2 comments:

exskindiver said...

Happy Anniversary Bong.
Did you ever do #5 on your list?

Ruffa's story is sad.
Domestic violence shows no boundaries when it comes to the demographic socio-economic breakdown.
I hope she stays safe from now on.
~chesca

snglguy said...

Blated Happy Anniversary, Bong.

Sorry for saying this, but I can't find myself sympathizing with Ruffa and her stage mother.