If Pope Francis is on Twitter, then why shouldn’t God be on Facebook?
This bold yet novel idea is the premise of a new ABS-CBN afternoon soap, whose teaser went viral in December. The video tweet saw promising teen singer-actress Janella Salvador (who happens to be the daughter of Miss Saigon alum Jenine Desiderio and former Rage band rock star Juan Miguel “JM” Salvador) as newly orphaned Sophie Cepeda ranting on Facebook how she misses her deceased parents, how she feels alone, and how “#GodIsNowhere.” As she posts that final hashtag, she just as soon gets a “Friend Request” from no less than God.
On Tuesday, the rising 16-year-old star excitedly talked about her first solo drama series—aptly titled, Oh My G!—at the ABS-CBN Headquarters in Quezon City, with a promise that her generation will both enjoy and learn valuable life and spiritual lessons from the show.
“Oh My G! (the youth’s short cut for the phrase, “Oh My God”) is a feel-good teen series that will not give its viewers ‘in your face’ lessons about God,” Janella, who is both articulate and clearly immersed in her age group’s lingo, explained. “It has everything teenagers like me look for in a show—romance, struggles in school, struggles with friends—but in a different way, it also tackles how we, the youth, see God today in the age of social media and the Internet.”
Writer/director Roni Velasco revealed that while Oh My G! technically premiers within the papal visit on Monday, January 19, the very timely story was inspired by a request made by some Carmelite nuns to ABS-CBN president Charo Santos Concio.
“They asked Ma’am Charo to create a story inspired by the teachings of St. Teresa of Avila [regarded as “a reformer of the Carmelite Order”—Wikipedia]in celebration of her fifth birth centenary in March. I feel both blessed and honored to be in charge of this project, as Janella fittingly is to be chosen as the lead character.”
The maverick director (Skylight Films’ Tuhog, 2013; Maalaala Mo Kaya episodes, 2010-2011; 2010 Star Cinema’s box office hit I Do; and 2009 breakout indie film Last Supper No. 9) further seconded Janella’s promise that the show “is not trying to be preachy, but we’re definitely trying to reach out to young people.
“I do believe it is important to ask how the youth see God today so [parents, teachers, and spiritual advisors] can guide them in their struggles. At sana magawa namin na maibahagi ang kuwento ng Diyos at kuwento ni St. Teresa of Avila sa paraang makaka-relate ang mga bata,” she continued.
Newly awarded Metro Manila Film Festival 2014 Best Actress and Oh My G! cast member Janice de Belen (who was a teen soap star herself via the iconic Flor de Luna in the 1980s) also joined the exchange as made a very significant point in the importance and necessity of a show like this for today’s parents.
“As a parent,” began the single and devoted mother of five children [one by teenage boyfriend Aga Mulach, and the rest by ex-husband John Estrada], “you truly hope that the values you impart to your children as you raise them are values they will keep and live out when you’re not around.
“But let’s face it,” she paused. “None of us parents really know what our children do when they’re in school or when they’re out with their friends, which is why Oh My G—its message and revelations—will be very helpful to parents like me, and why the show is really very ‘now’.”
Joining Janella and Janice in the very promising series are Marlo Mortel, Manolo Pedrosa, Sunshine Cruz, Dominic Ochoa, John Arcilla, and Edgar Allan Guzman, with the special participation of Eric Quizon and Maricar Reyes, who portray Sophie’s parents. Paco Sta. Maria co-directs the project with Velasco.
Incidentally, Janella, who was proud to declare that her faith and relationship in God is “very strong,” is also featured in the special 2015 Papal Visit album titled We Are All God’s Children from Star Magic. She recorded the song “Give Thanks” in the 12-track CD.
Oh My G! begins airing on Monday before “It’s Showtime” on ABS-CBN Prime-Tanghali. For more information about on the show, log on to www.abs-cbn.com, or follow @abcbndotcom on Twitter.