The perks and lures of teleserye
Pablo A. Tariman (The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The fan base of the Filipino teleserye has expanded not just from its predominantly loyal followers (housewives and senior citizens) to young people now cheering the “Honesto” of Raikko Mateo.

ABS-CBN’s Honesto along with Juan de la Cruz, Ina, Kapatid, Anak, Muling Buksan Ang Puso and Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala were in the Top 12 over-all programs of 2013.

Not to be outdone of course was My Husband’s Lover of GMA 7, which catapulted an unknown Tom Rodriguez to virtual TV stardom.

As it is, noontime shows and  daytime-evening teleseryes are probably TV’s richest market rabidly followed as they are by the very young and old alike.

Filipino Movie Queen of the ’60s Susan Roces says teleseryes afforded her new recognition not just from her fans of the ’60s and ’70s but from the very young who call her Lola Genia, her role in the long-running Walang Hanggan, starring Coco Martin and Julia Montes.

“Suddenly actors in teleseryes have become part of the Filipino family,” says Roces who is playing another pivotal role in the soon-to-be-launched soap opera, Sana Bukas Pa Ang Kahapon.

 The movie queen, still regal and charming at 72, added she felt she had been installed as Lola Ng Bayan with her new roles in teleseryes. “Let’s face it, some households have more than one TV sets and viewers watch you in the comfort of their homes, in the living rooms, in their bedrooms and the maids have their own viewing sessions. We are viewed even in the sari-sari stores and many other venues. They cheer the bidas and hate the kontrabidas. Some of them even talk to the characters and warn them during chase scenes, ‘Dali, takbo, aabutan ka na.’ As a senior citizen, the teleserye is just one of my sources of relaxations and I relate to it a lot. Believe it or not, I also cry when my favorite character is depressed.”

Roces said her 2013 was quite productive with all the top-rating teleseryes she has appeared in. “As an actress, I find extra challenge doing teleseryes. There are more cameras grinding around you and the flow of your emotion is unhampered by continuous taping. Thus, I feel good not having to re-live the same sensitive emotion over and over again the way they do it on film. I admit it is not easy for me to cry on television. Thus, my constant request from the director is to shoot all my crying scenes in one take. I don’t like crying in real life.”

Dina Bonnevie, who is also in the cast of Sana Bukas Pa Ang Kahapon, also affirms the drawing power of teleseryes among Filipino audiences. “When you got to the market and grocery, you are stopped by people telling you why the teleseryes ended abruptly when they were rabidly following it. They ask you whatever happened to the other characters. I feel good because most teleseryes now not only entertain but have something to teach both the young and old alike.”

Albert Martinez has the same experience with instant recognition from Filipino audiences. “When I go out, young kids call me Haring Anan ( of The Princess and I) or Haring Aswang (Juan de la Cruz). When you do films, you are limited to the age bracket of the film’s audiences. In soap operas, a big cross-section of the Filipino family is watching you.”

Last year, retired broadcast journalist Cheche Lazaro came up with a TV special analyzing the evolution of the Filipino teleserye.

Titled Si Ser Chief, Si Maya at Ang Teleserye, the TV special gave both producers and audiences a bird’s eye view of what kinds of series would click and likely to be ignored.

Touted the most successful noontime teleserye and now headed for Malaysia, Be Careful With my Heart indeed had an audience acceptance that cut across ages, gender, social classes and race.

Be Careful With My Heart business unit head Ginny Ocampo said many things come into the making of a successful teleserye. “We have an active creative group that decides the direction to which the teleserye should go and what episodes need to be developed or discarded depending on the feedback we get from the audience.”

Another prime time attraction in ABS-CBN was Juan de la Cruz, starring Coco Martin and Albert, among others.

Award-winning screenwriter Ricky Lee, who is creative manager of ABS-CBN, opined the direction of the story almost always depends on the feedback they get from the audience. “Yes, we write the story but most of the inputs in the teleserye we also get from the audience. The teleserye villain gains popular acceptance when he or she becomes widely ‘hated’ as in the case of John Regala of Ina, Kapatid, Anak.”

The Lazaro TV special traced the Philippine teleserye from the time of Gulong ng Palad in the ’50s to the reign of Janice de Belen and Judy Ann Santos as child stars of Philippine teleserye and the time the Filipino favorite soap operas invaded Brunei, Myanmar, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan. It also analyzed the impact of the invasion of the Mexican teleserye import, Marimar.

 In the same Lazaro TV special, De Belen and Santos looked backed to their child star days.

“What the TV audiences didn’t know was that when the soap opera rated high, it also meant working every day and shooting until five in the morning. I will just get a short nap and then I proceed to school later without much sleep,” said De Belen.

Santos admitted her early stints in teleseryes allowed her to learn how to “cry” at a drop of a hat. “What I remember was that I was always crying all the time because the villain keeps badmouthing me with sabunutan (hair-pulling), highlighting most of my scenes.”

In her latest teleserye, Santos said she asked the creative people not to reprise her crying scenes in the old teleserye. “I think the teleserye audiences now have come of age and you can’t offer them the same stuff they enjoyed in the ’70s and ’80s,” said she.

As to why Filipinos love teleseryes, sociologist and theater director Ricky Abad said the Philippines is a country that simply loves good story-telling. “Sometimes the plot would look familiar and when you looked closely, you realize the scenes were reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet and Count of Monte Cristo. But since teleseryes cut through a wide segment of audiences, I think we should try using teleseryes as an educational tool to change attitudes.”

(Sana Bukas Pa Ang Kahapon is under the direction of Jerome Pobocan and Trina Dayrit, and also stars Paulo Avelino, Michelle Vito, Iza Calzado, Tonton Gutierrez and Anita Linda.)

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