Playing brothers who are separated in their childhood, Dingdong Dantes plays Daniel, raised a city boy with a comfortable lifestyle; while Dennis Trillo plays Miguel, raised in a poor fishing village where they struggled to make ends meet.
Photo by Regine David
Sibling rivalry
Kara Ortiga (The Philippine Star) - November 24, 2018 - 12:00am

Leading men Dingdong Dantes and Dennis Trillo play long-lost brothers in the new action-packed television series ‘Cain at Abel.’

MANILA, Philippines — Dingdong Dantes and Dennis Trillo are sitting next to each other in a quiet room. A little bit too quiet in fact, and strained for a schedule packed with back-to-back promotions. It’s an overcast Tuesday afternoon when we meet them, and Dantes, 38, greets us with a firm handshake. His face is taut and serious, eyes still glimmering with that familiar boy-next-door charm of his youth. Trillo, 37, has a softer boyish façade, a soft-spoken demeanor. But at first blush, the sight of the two men working together is winsome in its own right. They are, after all, GMA network’s leading talents, one safely established as primetime royalty, and the other hailed as the “drama king.”

Just a few days ago, their new series Cain at Abel aired its pilot episode on GMA. The show has nothing to do with biblical lore, nor any of its previous adaptations. The lead characters aren’t even named Cain and Abel.

Instead, Cain at Abel is a modern, action-packed family drama about two brothers, Daniel and Miguel, who grew up in different worlds, separated by fate when they were children. Daniel (played by Dingdong Dantes) was raised by his father, a city boy with a comfortable lifestyle. Miguel (Dennis Trillo) was raised by his mother in a poor fishing village where they struggled to make ends meet.

Years later — plot twist! — Daniel and Miguel unknowingly cross paths in a heated event, and then they become drawn together by the things they have in common: fathers who tore them apart, mothers they both yearned for, and love for the women in their lives.

’Yung istorya nakatutok sa dalawang magkapatid na lalaki. Dito iikot ang kwento,” says Dantes. “It is the central plot of the whole teleserye. Para sa akin, kakaiba talaga siya. And the fact that I will be working with Dennis Trillo after a long time and of course, si Solenn (Heussaff) fresh from Alyas Robin Hood, we’re going to explore something else here. Most of the people in the cast, like Sanya, first time ko makakatrabaho kaya these reasons excite me.” Solenn Heussaff joins the cast, taking the role of Abigail, the bold, sophisticated and adventurous lover of Daniel; Sanya Lopez plays Margaret, the principled, responsible and inspiring girlfriend of Miguel. Also joining the ensemble are Eddie Gutierrez, Chanda Romero and Dina Bonnevie. For Trillo, it’s both the people and story that excite him, “Bukod sa makakatrabaho, ’yung project mismo exciting siya dahil ngayon lang ako ulit gagawa ng action-drama sa TV. ’Yung makasali ako sa show na ito, makatrabaho ulit si Dong, at siyempre ’yung buong kwento, malaking project siya talaga kaya masaya ako na part ako ng programa.”

There is reason to be excited when a leading network pairs two of their primetime stars — though it’s not the first time they’ve worked together, teaming up in Endless Love (2010), Etheria: Ang Ika-Limang Kaharian ng Encantadia (2005) and Twin Hearts (2003). The stars even went to the same grade school, where Dantes fondly recalls jumping around the rock garden (the last time he actually did big jumps, he jokes). To play brothers this time around requires uncanny chemistry; fortunately the two were already comfortable with one another.

“What does ‘brotherhood’ mean to you,” we ask them, as they take a lingering pause. “Sa akin, pwede kasing hindi siya by blood,” says Dantes. “Kasi it means meron kayong pinagdaanan together na hindi madali. Siguro pag biological (ang brotherhood) madali ’yung usapan, ang pinagdaanan niyo is ’yung pagpapalaki sa inyo. Pero sometimes we refer to others as brothers na hindi mo talaga kadugo because you share a common thing together na you experienced, whether masaya o mahirap. Basta something that siguro defined you as a person. Na pwede mong i-share dun sa tao na ’yun.”

Para siyang bond ng dalawang tao o ng grupo na merong pinagdaanan na experiences na hindi lang basta ordinary na relationship,” adds Trillo, who doesn’t have a brother by blood himself, but says his cousin helped define this for him. “Para sa’kin para siyang covenant eh. Ganun siya ka-sacred.”

Tsaka hindi lang siya nandiyan at convenient times,” adds Dantes. “Kasi minsan pag kaibigan pwede ka pang huminde eh, pag inconvenient sa’yo. Pero pag sinabi mong ‘brother,’ ‘kapatid,’ through thick or thin — nandoon ’yung unconditional factor.”

Under the helm of directors Don Michael Perez and Mark Reyes, Cain at Abel attempts to tell this compelling tale of love and brotherhood bound by selfless sacrifices — a role that Dantes and Trillo are familiar with because the two are family men themselves, musing on how being fathers helped them play roles like these.

“Well ako nakarelate ako sa role ko kahit papano kasi meron din akong son na almost kasing age nung totoong anak ko. So medyo nagamit ko ’yung mga experiences ko para mas maging kapani-paniwala ’yung role ko sa show.”

Dantes says, “Ako naman siyempre mas lumawak ’yung understanding ko sa lahat ng bagay nung naging father ako. So kahit saan, kahit sa characters, kailangan talaga maayos ’yung ginagawa ko.”

When asked if they’ve learned anything new about one another since they last worked together, they look at each other quizzically. “Nalaman ko na matindi pala siya tumalon sa mga ilog,” says Dantes of Trillo, as the room erupts in laughter. He was referring to a stunt that Trillo himself pulled off: leaping from a bridge into the Pasig River for the show.

“Marami kaming first time na ginawa. Maraming intense na action scenes, may car chase, nagpasabog kami ng mga kotse…” says Trillo, trailing off.

Mga kotse,” emphasizes Dingdong proudly.

Naghabulan kami sa mga matataas na building…” continues Trillo, before Dantes adds comically, “Di ko mahabol si Dennis, bilis tumakbo eh! Karipas ng takbo talaga eh!”

Magnanakaw kasi ako dito,” responds Trillo. “Sa isang eksena ninakaw ko ’yung briefcase niya so naghabulan kami sa kalsada, sa busy na highway talaga. Tsaka ginawa namin ’yun parang guerrilla shoot lang so mabilisan, kaya kailangan maganda ’yung timing naming pareho. Mga totoong kotse ’yung pinapara namin.”

In the Book of Genesis, the older brother Cain kills his brother Abel when he finds that God has favored the younger brother’s sacrifices. On this note, we end our tête-à-tête asking the two leads how they personally deal with feelings of jealousy. Dennis pauses before answering: “Ako siguro para maiwasan ko ’yung jealousy, para maiwasan kong maramdaman ’yung emotion na ’yun, iniisip ko lang na dapat maging kuntento ako kung ano meron ako. Maging satisfied sa kung ano nangyayari sa buhay ko para hindi ko na iniisip ’yung inggit masyado.”

Dantes completes the thought. “Normal talaga ’yun sa tao na magkakaroon ka ng ganun eh. Pero at least magandang makaramdam ka rin ng ganun kasi parang it questions what you have and what you don’t have. Kung ano ba talaga ’yung kailangan mo lang, ano ba ’yung sapat para sayo. Kasi minsan magandang makakita ka ng labis, para alam mo kung ano ’yung kulang. Pero malalaman mo rin sa proseso kung ano lamang ’yung karapat-dapat.”

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