‘Pangako Sa ’Yo’ redux



IN 2009, I had written about my predisposition to enjoy the local soap opera via a piece entitled “Sa Ngalan ni Yna, ni Mara, ni Olivia, at Ysabella: Channeling Amor Powers in Defending the Soap Opera,” for the now defunct Metakritiko.

It now seems so dated, given the daring of 2013’s My Husband’s Lover (GMA 7) and this year’s The Rich Man’s Daughter (GMA 7), given the spate of seryes that deal with Catholicism, and the archetypes of good and evil, with kids as central characters (ABS-CBN’s Nathaniel, for example) or Pari ‘Koy (GMA 7) with a priest in the lead.
Neither did that 2010 piece discuss the sexy soap, the one that isn’t on primetime and seems to be inspired by the more adult Mexican telenovelas.

Yet with the revival of Pangako Sa ‘Yo one is reminded not so much that soaps repeat themselves, but that certain stories will always appeal to an audience not because we are embroiled in the culture industry, but because television has become more creative about portraying love and kilig, the revenge of the weak, and the fall of evil.

The power of Amor versus Claudia
This could only be more difficult to do with an iconic soap such as Pangako Sa ‘Yo, given characters that resonated beyond its teen leads, and into the present. Thanks to Eula Valdez and Jean Garcia.

There is no rivalry of soap opera characters that has surmounted the success of Amor Powers versus Claudia Buenavista, and that has everything to do with the two actresses who played them, but also how complex the two were written into this narrative of rich boy falling in love with poor girl. Before Pangako Sa ‘Yo, the parents of lead teenstars in soaps (and in film) were secondary characters, mere backdrop for the love story expectedly made complex by the generation that precedes it.

It doesn’t seem like much given the more complex soaps of today, but for the year 2000, it was pretty important: “Pangako Sa ‘Yo was the show that took the soap opera beyond just the love of its young leads to that of the stories of their mothers Amor and Claudia. This would gain a cult following, not just with the masses but with the middle to upper classes, owing to Amor Powers’ rise from poverty and oppression to becoming powerful businesswoman with a kind heart.” (2009)

But this was all about about Valdez as Amor and Garcia as Claudia, both of whom worked beyond the stereotype of villainess, layering their characters with complexity: women who love to a fault, are unapologetically ambitious, and who know to forgive, especially the self.
They were not evil to the core, but victims too of circumstance. They could move from bida to kontrabida in a heartbeat.

That was the gift of these characters to the local soap opera, as it was the magic of the Garcia-Valdez tandem.

Now on a 2015 version, this is a gift that keeps on giving, thanks to writers who have been able to reimagine this story for the present, keeping it relevant and believable. Of course comparisons cannot be helped. Jodi Sta. Maria has already established Amor to be more complex, not merely wanting revenge but emotionally wrought by this return to her past – a welcome thing given the pa-tweetums character that she was relative to Sir-Chief.

Angelica Panganiban’s Claudia though seems to be struggling between the babaeng bakla that it was in the past, and the woman she is supposed to have matured into, falling back half the time on a seeming simple-mindedness that is out-of-character for a villain of this caliber, and then the other half on being palengkera who’s removed from the realities of tsismis probinsya-style.

But one has hope in Panganiban; anyone who’s watched her get into the hang of Banana Split would know she’s got more up her sleeve.

Angelo and Yna Forever
The magic of the Angelo and Yna love story meanwhile was that while it was supposed to be central narrative, it became equal to their mothers’ stories in the course of the original Pangako Sa ‘Yo. It seems to be something the current show has learned from, and so they seem to be constantly working on balancing the two stories, which thankfully has allowed for Yna’s and Angelo’s characters to have more depth, separate from their (adoptive) parents.

Where before all the couple had going for them was their love for each other, here there is a resort business that they would like to rebuild from the ashes, as well as a love for cooking food that ties them together. Where Yna has inherited her mother’s cooking skills, Angelo wants to go to culinary school but is discouraged by his parents’ (political) ambitions for him. Where before Yna had no skills whatsoever, going into the Buenavista home to work as a maid, in 2015 Yna has some smarts going for her alongside her kindness. There is also a maturity that was not in the original Yna, making her relevant without losing the poor girl who cares for her adoptive family.

Angelo, at least at this point in the story, has also become more complex, where the rebel without a cause is transformed into one who has the balls to decide he will have nothing to do with his parents, both of whom are revealed to be corrupt in their own ways. There is also a sense that he is smarter than the Angelo of old, stoic and distant on the one hand, vulnerable and sensitive on the other.

The appeal of course has everything to do with Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo playing Angelo and Yna, with a chemistry that outdoes that of the original actors (Kristine Hermosa and Jericho Rosales). It helps that the director of this new version treats the love story like it’s a rom-com, complete with nakakakilig montages of the time they spend together, which thankfully leads to conversations that go beyond love, towards their individual crises, and given the circumstances that have brought them together. Where Bernardo has already become Yna in the course of two months turning interestingly feisty and meek when needed, Padilla has only recently become Angelo, the one who is brooding but kind, defensive but sensitive. To say that it works would be an understatement.

Suffice it to say that one cannot wait for what else will happen in this Pangako Sa ‘Yo, and that says a lot for someone who actually followed the original version in 2000. It’s always wonderful after all to find strong complex women on television, ones that hew much closer to reality than to fantasy and camp.

ABS-CBN should give its writers a raise.


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