'Be Careful With My Heart's' contribution to TV tradition
Louie Jon A. Sanchez, contributor () - November 28, 2014 - 12:54pm

MANILA, Philippines - In an era where teleseryes only last for a few months or are easily axed if not rating, "Be Careful With My Heart" is an exception.

It lorded over the morning block since its release two years ago, and it seemed to have reclaimed for the Philippine soap opera its traditional form—as one which easily relates to a domestic (and yes, female) market by way of what it calls a “feel good” tenor, and also, as one which practically grew into a successful franchise because of its following. 

I have never seen anything like Be Careful With My Heart in the last 30 years of the Philippine soap opera, which we call in my elective class at the Ateneo de Manila University as the “Teleserye".  The mornings towards lunchtime used to be known as one uneventful block, save for some special cases and mostly children’s show.  Be Careful, I dare say, gathered once again, the primary audiences of the block time for a treat of wholesome kilig and a story that returns to a theme long eschewed from—that of Filipino family life tackled in lightness.

I say eschewed because our teleseryes today have depicted the family in often heavier dramatic situations: the more popular infidelity soaps, for one, feature the family in disarray, and all sorts of dysfunction, which is taboo. While infidelity soaps like The Legal Wife, and even the recently concluded Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real, boldly attempted to transcend the hysterics of washing dirty laundry, Be Careful offered a romantic plot that took its sweet time to flourish. 

Not that it really dragged on (though some skeptics believe that the story should have ended with the wedding of Maya and Sir Chief, which, like most events in the story, took time to be fulfilled).  Time is of the element here as Be Careful indeed returned to the old soap opera’s temporal conventions—like random, chronological time, events in the soap developed into several climaxes, and the romance between the airline magnate and the probinsiyana stewardess had to be carefully built up. 

READ: Be Careful bids farewell, thanks viewers

The build up, fortunately, was compelling enough, and the return to the old mode was a risk to take in the time of fast-paced, tightly narrated teleseryes.  It almost felt like Be Careful would never end.  Be Careful returned to the Philippine soap opera conventions of Flordeluna, Analiza, Agila, Valiente, and even Villa Quintana, Mara Clara, and Mula sa Puso.

I wrote about Be Careful in a weekly magazine last February, Valentine’s season, and I examined its being phenomenal.  I thought about kilig, that loving energy exuded by the pair of Richard Yap and Jodi Sta. Maria, who I believe should be given more airtime, being a powerful actress.

Be Careful would easily remind us of Hollywood's Made in Manhattan, but it proves to be of an authentic Filipino origin, because of another aspect of plot deemed timeless in our culture: the aspiration of the probinsiyana to (and in this case, literally and figuratively) fly. 

Unlike many probinsiyanas depicted in our popular culture, Jodi’s Maya is street smart and spontaneous.  People easily resonated with her dreams, as well as her plight, because she was believable.  The widower Richard, on the other hand, represented a man who would readily give everything for his family.  It was a match made in heaven, though the romance didn’t immediately manifest.  The soap took its time to grow the love, and it was a good thing that time was indeed Be Careful’s friend.

This love that took time to blossom created the wholesome kilig affect that is quite missed, apparently, in current soap operas.

Some viewers may find it exhilarating to see Be Careful finally come to a close.  After all, the nation had already seen enough of not only the prolonged blossoming of romance of the protagonists, despite their given differences, but also their braving the odds to keep a family. 

We have seen it all with Sir Chief and Maya, from womb (the birth of the twins) to tomb (Divina Valencia’s sudden death).  But I’m also sure that it won’t be the same for some who were so glued to the story, which might also be theirs. 

However, what we may conclude in this much-talked about conclusion is this: that this soap opera has dared to tap into Filipino cultural lightness, as a means to veer way from the heavy drama of contemporary teleseryes.  This lightness, this comic belief, needs to be explored more in the Philippine teleserye, which today seems to be only laden with acute melancholy, aside from the usual formulaic modes.  The world is still beautiful, and the teleserye, as new literature, may become a means of re-exploring the native comic imagination.

And this, I think, is the humble contribution of Be Careful With My Heart in the teleserye tradition.

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