Goodbye, OTWOL
Stefan Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - February 26, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - On the Wings of Love took its last flight out last night. And to commemorate the hit ABS-CBN Primetime Bida series, Supreme’s Stefan Punongbayan and Irish Dizon sat down with the series’ director Antoinette Jadaone and a few hardcore JaDine fans named Ysa Cascante, Noelle Capili, and Charo Limaco-Puyo. Over a bar table in Ortigas and more than a few drinks, we relived the best and most heart-wrenching moments of OTWOL. Here is the drunken, verbose, and straight-to-web comedy that transpired.

Irish: Can I just say that OTWOL is the first teleserye in a long time that I had any interest to watch?

Stefan: Me, too, actually. First time kong ma-invest nang husto sa teleserye. I and my mom just used to hate-watch primetime dramas. The problem with other teleseryes is that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Nag-iba lang ang names ng characters. Itong OTWOL ang hindi natin nakita noon at kulang sa local series.

Irish: Honestly, may cool factor siya. It’s fresh and intelligent. Alam mong pinag-isipan.

Charo, 38, digital marketing consultant: It’s fresh and light. Hindi siya yung typical soap opera na may pinapatay or may mahaderang kontrabida. I’m not the type who watches teleserye, but now I’m in an OTWOL Viber group. After a long day at work, I look forward to getting home and watching it kasi it makes me feel in love again. It has even made me look forward to Mondays, lalo kasi binibitin nila kapag Friday.

Ysa, 19, student: I remember what Lino Brocka said once, that he would never insult the intelligence of his audience. Then came OTWOL, a teleserye that’s so anchored to reality na wala ka nang choice but to empathize with the characters.

Stefan: What are the teleserye conventions you think you’ve successfully broken, Direk?

Noelle, 21, fresh graduate: Bukod sa walang kidnap-an?

Antoinette: Yung spoken word, noong ipinasok ko. It was Deo Endrinal’s idea, not mine. Nakita niya kasi si Gege (Juan Miguel Severo) na mag-perform. Mga Basang Unan went viral noong time na yun. So sinabi ni Deo, bakit hindi ko siya i-cast para sa spoken word? I was sceptical at first. Ako kasi yung nag-cast kay Gege na friend ni Jigs, initially for comic relief. Ang nangyari ay it somehow took the place of music sa pag-weave ng montage.

Stefan: That was a first, ano? It has turned out to be so successful as a device. First, napapabilis niya yung pacing ng story. Second, na-gel niya all the subplots together. Nag-serve as a backdrop, and so much more.

Antoinette: You couldn’t have imagined spoken word on TV. Hindi mo rin in-expect na there would be an artform na mapo-popularize locally by a TV show.

Irish: Ikaw, Noelle, did you want Leah to end up with Clark or with Simon?

Noelle: Sabi ng utak ko, Simon. Sabi naman ng puso ko, si Clark. Simon has qualities that might get Leah to come around and pick him. Pero yun nga, sabi ng puso ko, si Clark simply because marami na silang pinagdaanan sa US at dito. There’s really no easy answer.

Charo: It’s hard to pick between the two. Kapag nag-root ka sa isa, but when you see the other guy having a hard time, you begin to reevaluate your choice.

Stefan: It’s the flaws. Let’s be honest, minsan gusto rin nating sabunutan silang lahat. At any given time, one or even all the characters in the sequence are selfish. Gayundin, maganda kasi the series pushed the envelope. It took Antoinette to present flawed characters because we Filipinos are used to watching flat, perfect, and idealized ones. Yun bang lagi na lang may dichotomy na absolute na mabuti at absolute evil.

Noelle: It speaks to us kasi tayo yun. We’re all flawed.

Charo: Ako, if I were Leah, I’d pick Clark. No question na. He gave up everything. He was perfect and his insecurities came out only because of me. As a viewer, though, there was a time that we didn’t want them to end up together anymore. Para bang, “Oh, this is too much. He deserves better.”

Stefan: Alam niyo minsan, when I went to Maginhawa where students and yuppies usually go to eat, may narinig akong spirited debate sa kabilang table sa isang restaurant. Is Leah self-centered or is Clark holding her back? On Leah’s part, where exactly would we draw the line between independence and selfishness? ’Yan na yung impact ng show — nag-spark ng discourse. Anyway, I’m on the fence kasi pareho silang gago more often than not. Mahilig silang magsumbatan, maghalikan, at magsumbatan ulit.

Noelle: At maging indecisive.

Stefan: Yeah, exactly. They make a sport out of those things.

Charo: My friend who is also in that Viber group thinks Leah knows what she wants and she’ll do anything to get it, even if it means may maaapakan siya. “Collateral damage” was the term he used. Lahat ng iba, collateral damage para kay Leah. It’s all about “me me me me me!”

Stefan: But she’s a millennial. Kahit noong umpisa pa naman, may ambisyon na siya. There was a hint of selfishness. Leah didn’t go to the US just for her family. She was there primarily to pursue the American dream. She even left her choir behind. Whatever happened to those people?

Ysa: There’s always a mix of old and new sa OTWOL. Nandiyan yung pagiging millennial at ang traditional values. Minsan nga, napagka-clash ang perspectives, pero wala namang tama o mali sa dalawa kung tutuusin. There are many grey areas. Masyadong complex yung show para maging black and white. Iba-iba yung kakampihan mo at different points. That’s why it’s so engrossing.

Irish: Naisip ko lang, when it got extended, na originally for three months lang yung show, it’s both good and bad. It’s good that you still get to see them, but then the story had to be stretched — too thinly at times. May part na minsan napapaisip akong sana hindi na lang nila pinahaba kasi nagiging pilit din. At the same time, okey rin kasi nagkakaroon ng diskurso, tulad noong napag-usapan kung gaga ba si Leah na in-entertain si Simon. Totoo naman na all she thinks about is herself.

Stefan: But even Clark is far from perfect. I mean, he has a huge ego. Nagpapaka-knight in shining armor pa.

Irish: How is that a bad thing?

Stefan: Haven’t you heard? Chivalry’s dead. I can take you to the gravesite. It’s like Clark was holding her back by being too nurturing.

Irish: He wasn’t holding her back! He was just supportive of her career! Hindi niya bine-baby. In the first place, they met in San Francisco na kanya-kanyang buhay.

Charo: Maganda ang intentions ni Clark. Masyado lang flawed si Leah, nagmukha tuloy na sine-save siya ni Leah.

Stefan: Anyway, Tonet! Do you have any other influences, like directors, for the series?

Antoinette: Mostly romcom films. Doon kasi ako nanggaling, sa romcom na pelikula. Bilang hindi ako nagdi-direct noon ng TV, pelikula lang yung alam ko. Yung orientation ko ay kung anong alam kong romantic comedy, that was my basis for directing the TV series.

Stefan: I really appreciate the effort of introducing hip elements into a teleserye. References like Richard Linklater’s films, etc. May episode noon na in-interrupt sila ng gypsy na manghuhula. It was Before Sunrise. May episode din na nakahiga sila sa damuhan na parang poster ng Boyhood. Plus, just recently, there was a Ghost reference that was very hard to miss. Sa halip na pottery wheel, kahoy at chisel lang. It’s like she’s appealing to another bracket din in the process. Yung art fair pa at yung pagtatrabaho sa advertising. These are what the hip youth know and do. Kaya rin siguro may na-transcend na boundaries.

Irish: Did you expect it to be a cultural phenomenon, Tonet?

Antoinette: Nope, not at all.

Irish: So ano yung reaction mo noong nakikita mo na mga CJ De Silva, mga gifted children? Parang, “Sorry, ha. We have a gifted child in our fandom.”

Antoinette: It was surprising. Not really overwhelming, but surprising.

Stefan: Ah, so it was unintentional din na it has managed to transcend boundaries like social classes, etc? There was initially a single target demographic? OTWOL has really outdone itself. Even indie kids and people I know who go to such places as Today x Future watch the show, or at least have become JaDine fans.

Charo: I think everything fell into place because it was the right director, the right management, and the right cast.

Stefan: Let’s talk about the show’s flaws. Yung kay Jigs, it was a complete turnaround, but I found it too drastic. Parang, di ba dapat may kaunting katarantaduhan pa ring matitira sa katawan niya?

Noelle: Tita Jack’s role. Sinabi na tibo raw siya, na lesbian. I was expecting her to find a partner. Siya lang mag-isa, kinikilig para sa relationships ng iba. Ayan, she became a token lesbian character.

Stefan: Maybe MTRCB had a hand in it. Alam niyo naman.

Ysa: The PNP uniform and sexy dance issue. I feel that OTWOL didn’t have to dignify them. They shouldn’t have apologized and written that thing into the script. Hindi lang naman OTWOL ang gumagamit ng ganoong idea, pero yun ang tinira ng PNP.

Irish: Help me flesh it out. There were characters that seemed like caricatures. For example, Jigs and Tolayts. May ganoon ba talagang mga tao? May martir ba talagang tulad ni Tolayts? Do you get me? Hindi kasi ako naniniwalang may taong one-dimensional. Tolayts has perfect love. Mahal niya si Tiffany kahit may anak, kahit sinusungitan siya. In fact, Tiffany was abusive. Yun lang, minsan may characters na masyadong malinis.

Stefan: Parang lahat naman sila, hindi flat characters.

Irish: Tolayts!

Stefan: But he’s like the friendzoned guy who’s only nice to Tiffany because he thought he had a chance. Like, he girlfriendzoned Tiffany first.

Irish: He’s nice to everybody. Anyway, my point is some characters are presented in a very good light, like si Clark. Tatang is the perfect dad. May iba namang pinasama masyado, like Nanang noong umpisa. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, pero teka lang, bakit parang laging babae ang may issues?

Stefan: Fine. But even martyrdom is a flaw.

Irish: It is, but to a certain extent. What I’m saying is kahit flaw ang martyrdom, mas glaring ang flaws and issues ng mga babae. Parang puro babae ang masasama sa OTWOL. You end up rooting for the guys, except for Simon.

Stefan: But why do you think are they presented in such a way?

Irish: Exactly. I think kaya pine-present yung guys in a positive light is because...

Stefan: The magic word is “patriarchy.”

Irish: Yes. Plus siguro gusto nilang ipakita na kaya ring manggago ng mga babae, since this is a fresh teleserye. I don’t know, it’s just a theory.

Noelle: I want to talk about the cast. Ang perfect lang. Parang walang puwedeng pumalit. Like, there couldn’t have been a better cast for those roles. Sina Joel Torre, at kahit si Albie Casino.

Stefan: Tonet is an actor’s director. Maganda na na-launch niya ang TV career ng ilang actors na usually sa theatre mo lang makikita. I mean, maraming teleserye na gumagamit ng theatre actors, pero itong OTWOL, wow. Rak of Aegis sequel?

Noelle: Direk, whose character development do you like most? Yung hindi mo akalaing magugustuhan mo habang nagpo-progress yung show?

Antoinette: Yung kay Clark. We managed to create a character na ka-in-love-in-love talaga. Parang that’s the man you want to have. Hindi ko naman in-expect na magiging ganun siya. Siguro magaling din si James (Reid). He’s a great actor. Mapapapaniwala ka talaga niya. Pagdating sa set, he’s really Clark.

Noelle: Since Diary ng Panget, sobrang nag-improve din ang JaDine mismo.

Stefan: Napalabas ng OTWOL yung ibang side nila. Their acting became more nuanced. Never mind if those roles were written specially for them. Without OTWOL, I think they would have ended up as some run-of-the-mill onscreen couple. Na-outdo nila ang mga sarili nila.

Ysa: There are scenes na quiet lang and subtle but their emotions are palpable. Effective yung restraint. Walang confrontation every time, so you can really feel the tension building up and about to explode, and when it does, it becomes cathartic.

Irish: Basta ang galing ni James Reid at ang yummy ni Paulo Avelino. Sana lang ‘wag na siyang magsalamin.

Stefan: I completely agree.

Irish: OTWOL tackles so many things: diaspora, marriage, extramarital relationships, etc. Ano yung pinakagusto mong iwan sa amin?

Antoinette: (Laughs) Oh my God! Ite-text ko na lang, mga p*ta kayo!

* * *

Tweet the author @Watdahel_Marcel.

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