A teleserye for OFWs

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - If my memory serves me right, ABS-CBN has this penchant for shooting scenes of its teleseryes abroad. And I mean this in a good way as it gives realism to the dramatic portrayal of what a Pinoy immigrant or overseas worker is going through in finding greener pastures. Top-of-mind examples are Green Rose, Vietnam Rose, My Binondo Girl, Walang Hanggan and Dahil Sa Pag-ibig. It also reflects the vast influence and coverage of the Kapamilya network in reaching out to our kababayan everywhere else in the world. Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo (If You Will Leave Me) was born out of that tradition. By the way, the Shaina Magdayao-Jake Cuenca-Bangs Garcia starrer will premiere on April 16 after Mundo Man ay Magunaw.

“Perhaps, it’s just a coincidence that some scenes of recent teleseryes of ABS-CBN were   shot abroad,” offers Manny Palo who will co-direct Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo with Lino Cayetano. “Like my last teleserye Green Rose, we shot in South Korea for 12 days. And the two teleseryes (Walang Hanggan and Dahil Sa Pag-ibig) now being aired also shot scenes in Milan and Rome. For this teleserye, we shot first in Dubai and after two months, we traveled to Doha. It’s the first teleserye shot in that place. Alam mo naman ang ABS-CBN ay hindi nagtitipid sa programa nito. (We’re not shortchanging our audience.) If the story requires (to have an out-of-the-country shooting or location), we go there to make (the scenes) and the series look real.”

That’s what direk Manny and his team did for Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo. They went to Dubai and Doha, Qatar, where the third largest group of Overseas Filipino Workers works and lives there, to set up their cameras and record the stories of these modern-day unsung heroes through the characters of Shaina, Jake and Bangs. But before they headed to the Middle East, the Kapamilya team made sure that they had a solid story to bank on.    

“Before a concept or story gets approved (by the bosses), it will go through a process,” recalls Manny. “First, we do research on the story. We don’t just talk or discuss it over and then proceed to create a narrative. For (Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo), me and (my) writer went (on our own) to Doha and Dubai (to meet OFWs and observe them) before we presented the concept and before the script was crafted. We interviewed and talked to OFWs about their lifestyle, working conditions and struggles on the personal level to make the basis of the story somehow true to life. The objective of the teleserye is when OFWs watch it abroad they won’t say that it’s not our life, we don’t live in (that place) and it’s far from our experience and sensibilities.”

This tried-and-tested formula always generates stories that never fail to touch every viewer’s heart.

Asked about his newfound discoveries on OFWs, direk Manny replies, “The common experience is the issue on fidelity. Like in Doha, it is prevalent that men and women are involved with someone else other than their wives and husbands. (It seems that they have this saying) that what happens in Doha, stays in Doha. Everybody knows that this friend of him, or cousin of him or sibling of him has another woman or man. We also explored the OFWs’ day-to-day experience (encompassing their) working conditions, trials and struggles from the moment they applied for work in Doha and until they reached Doha, and the cases OFWs got involved in.”

Direk Manny adds that “seven out of 10 cases” that Pinoys get embroiled in are love cases according to a labor attaché. It only shows that Filipinos engage in extra-marital affairs despite the strict Islamic law in Doha, prohibiting one to covet thy neighbor’s wife or husband. However, this reality will be overshadowed by the reasons why many Filipinos decide to leave their families behind and work abroad. Their motivation is to give their loved ones “a better future” and “a decent and comfortable life.” This is one message Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo will impart with the audience, says direk Manny. The soon-to-be-aired afternoon drama series also incorporates the history of OFW migration in the Middle East in the story. Televiewers will see the labor camps of Pinoys and how they maintain two to four jobs. They will also learn how Juan dela Cruz deals with illegal recruitment and lack of cultural briefing (on living in a First World city, adapting to a new climate and learning the local language). The teleserye encourages the government to take a look at these issues and challenges it to offer solutions.

From left: Shaina Magdayao, Jake Cuenca and Bangs Garcia, stars of the first OFW-serye — Photo by ALLAN SANCON

 “When they told me that (I was tapped) to direct Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo, I felt thrilled and honored,” concludes Manny, a UP graduate who studied a post-graduate course in Film Direction at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune. “I consider it an advocacy, too… What I want is, the story should not only be entertaining. It should also educate people and hopefully move people into action either (those) who are directly involved in the narrative or other sectors like the government to do something about (issues presented). I think a narrative succeeds kapag natumbok mo ito… You are able to address the issue. I think it is a challenge to come up with stories that are fresh, innovative (in terms of treatment and narrative) and relatable.”








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