If you’re looking for the best Philippine drama series to come along in a long time, look no further than ABS-CBN’s Momay.
Philippine drama is filled with clichés, stereotypes, and tired stories. Throw in remakes of not only foreign series, but Philippine series that originally aired as little as two years ago. The lack of originality on Philippine television and even in feature film, monopolized by the two major media conglomerates in the country has steadily dumbed down the Filipino audience into a lowest common denominator-type attitude when it comes to entertainment; promoting instead the faces and name recognition of its manufactured stars than on any semblance of story in their series.
Which is what makes it all the more special when a series like Momay comes along.
Though based on a classic Filipino comic, the new series has been tweaked to serve as a vehicle for breakout child actress Xyriel Manabat, who first endeared herself to audiences in Agua Bendita.
Back then, I said networks shouldn’t be afraid of having young stars leading programs, as they usually click with viewers. And now networks are embracing the novel concept.
And while that program was like a breath of fresh air, it too has unfortunately fallen into the depths of typical Filipino soap opera clichés. Thankfully, Momay is poised to be different. And if they avoid falling into that trap, it could be the best drama series the network has put on the air in a long time.
Momay tells the story of a 6-year old girl, Miley, who lives a happy and simple life with her parents and younger brother, JJ. JJ nicknames his older sister “Momay” referring to her acting like a mother to him. Miley’s father is the owner of a successful amusement park. Enter evil Aunt Hillary, who wants the amusement park all to herself, jealous that her adopted brother, Miley’s father, was given the park instead of her. Miley’s father dies of a brain tumor and Hillary sees this as an opportunity.
A disgruntled employee of the park sets fire to the family’s home, hospitalizing Miley and JJ. Miley dies after Hillary turns off her life support system. With her husband and daughter now dead, Miley’s mother runs away not to be heard of again, leaving JJ in the care of his evil Aunt and spoiled cousin, with just his Uncle on his side.
Meanwhile, Miley ends up in a beautiful garden, a purgatory with other children who have died, but not yet moved on. She meets an angel who explains what is happening and tells her that she needs to return to Earth to help her family. The angel tells her things will not be the same once she returns to Earth, but all Miley wants to do is be there for her family.
And so begins her story as Momay finds her home abandoned and things not as they were when she died. She begins her search for her brother and mother with the help of a little boy who can see earthbound spirits.
Momay does several things right. It balances heartwarming family drama, with humor, mystery, and romance. It includes faith and religion, important in Filipino society. And six-year old wonder Xyriel Manabat adds the immense charm that completes the series as a thoroughly enjoyable 30 minutes, five days a week.
The series is simple, yet fresh. It is well-rounded and downright cute. An episode this week was a certified MaGMCM and the show’s theme song alone tugs at your heartstrings already.
But what makes the series so good is that it is different and new in the midst of tired stories and the nth iteration of kidnappings and shootouts and love triangles that seem to pepper every single series Philippine networks have put on in recent memory.
As long as Momay maintains the perfect balance that it has right now, it will end up being a huge winner and a bright light shining in a sea of the broken records of the current Philippine TV landscape.