In 94 episodes, ABS-CBN’s Magkaribal made a very strong case for consideration as one of the best Philippine drama series ever.
While the series wasn’t a multi-year epic soap opera and it certainly wasn’t perfect, Magkaribal maintained a well-written, well-rounded story with a great cast and creative production. At the very least, that is more than most shows can only hope for.
The story about sisters separated by tragedy and unknowingly reunited as rivals (or magkaribal) more than a decade later was excellently plotted in a way that never produced a dull episode. They maintained a consistent flow that didn’t take detours and u-turns like most Filipino soap operas do. And while not being constantly extended contributed to that, the series moved in a way that showed they could have maintained a well-written story for a long time.
There was a clear beginning, middle, and end. No pointless subplots. No hair-pulling missteps.
The cast was strong, all solid and enjoyable performances. Led by Bea Alonzo’s strongest performance in years, the series yielded breakthrough performances from Gretchen Barretto (in her first series role) and most especially Angel Aquino who was a revelation. Enchong Dee and Erich Gonzales took major steps forward with the series as well, moving towards mature roles after two straight series as angsty youth. Derek Ramsay, unlike the rest of the lead cast, was hindered by having the weakest written character. But for what it was, he did fine.
The series also had a very strong supporting cast in Arlene Muhlach, Robert Arevalo, John Arcilla, Mark Gil and a scene stealing Bianca Manalo.
Magkaribal’s setting in the Philippine fashion world helped to make the series new and different. And the creativity of the series in their on-air look and feel from opening and closing credits sequences to the music direction and of course the wardrobe all added up for a refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying experience.
Not since 2007’s Maria Flordeluna has a series defied expectations. From not needing overhype to being the most solid performer for a network in crisis, Magkaribal is and was a winner through and through.
Even with two months left in 2010, Magkaribal is miles ahead of anyone else as the best drama of the year. And really, one of the very best in a long time.