TV5’s first miniseries Sa Ngalan Ng Ina (In the Name of the Mother) is certainly being talked about for many reasons. The biggest of which is it is the official comeback project of Nora Aunor, one of the Philippines’ most lauded actresses ever. She’s also one of the most controversial, but one could say it comes with the territory.
But for an actress regarded as highly as Aunor, all eyes will be on whether or not the project is worthy of her stature.
It is safe to say Sa Ngalan Ng Ina fits the bill.
The series is set to be a four week miniseries (which in itself is rare) about a woman, Elena Deogracias (Aunor), and her family thrust into the spotlight when her husband, the Mayor and a gubernatorial candidate (Bembol Roco) is assassinated at a campaign rally.
Sa Ngalan Ng Ina‘s four week run looks to deliver fast-paced story with plenty of political and familial intrigue. What’s different about the series from other soap operas that throw in politics for the hell of it, is that the political aspect drives the real meat of the story and that is the family drama, centered on Aunor’s character of Elena. The four week run should work in its favor, especially more so than series that are ruined by extensions.
Though it’s hard to gush about the performance of the returning Nora Aunor since she actually had little to do in the premiere. She was pretty much limited to two quiet, understated scenes of grief and two other scenes that included her praying via voice over and a scene with Bembol Roco to open the series. But of course, this is only the first episode and we’ve got 19 more to go where surely she’ll take center stage.
But the real standouts in the premiere were Rosanna Roces, Alwyn Uytingco, Nadine Samonte and Eugene Domingo.
It’s no coincidence that they actually had the most material. Rosanna Roces plays Lucia Ilustre as the typical “woman behind the man”/”scarier than you think” political first lady. The character plays to her strengths as an actress and in the premiere, you see her as a sneaky, adulterous, and dangerous woman. And Roces’ performance style and delivery are well suited for Lucia.
Alwyn Uytingco takes on a new role as Alfonso Deogracias, the middle son of Mayor Amang. While the hot headed, prideful, and dark dealing Alfonso greatly differs from his most well known roles as the gay Pip in the Tanging Ina films and more hero/boy next door roles in Maria Flordeluna and Babaeng Hampaslupa (or way back when in Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay), the character is not outside Alwyn’s limits as an actor. He’s shown that he’s more than capable as an actor with acclaimed performances in several indie films as well. But Alfonso is the kind of role that stretches an actor’s abilities, challenging the actor to keep the character from becoming cartoonish and one-note, but also maintaining humanity and keeping the character believable as a man with power. So far, Uytingco’s done that and there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to do so.
Nadine Samonte, long underutilized on GMA, finally gets the roles that are worthy of her talent. As the eldest daughter, Andrea Deogracias, Samonte must convey a strong, intelligent, and very ambitious young woman. But also keep a hint of bitterness, greed, and emptiness. Samonte did all that in the premiere. The two scenes, the first of her on stage at a campaign rally for her mayoral candidacy and the second of her confronting her mother (?) Elena, gave a very good picture of where Andrea comes from. Samonte has always had a strong presence that helps give her characters that little bit of heft needed to command the screen. After a strong performance in The Sisters, this role should give Samonte even meatier material especially with such acting heavyweights.
And finally, Eugene Domingo. No question one of the most multi-talented actresses in Philippine entertainment today. Whether it be comedy or drama, hosting or acting, Ms. Eugene Domingo can do it all. She too only had two or three scenes in the premiere, but in both, you can see and fell the sincerity in her performance as Pacita Toribio, Elena’s younger sister. Pacita is humble, a mother, a confidant, a friend. She is there to comfort and console. In her short scenes with daughter Elsa and later with sister Elena (plus a scene with Alfonso seen in the trailer), Domingo is sure to be heart of the series. She was it in the premiere, a shoulder to cry on, a crutch to lean on. Other actresses would keep the character a supporting or even background character. But Domingo’s sincerity in her performance help make the character an essential part of the fabric of the story.
Now again, this was all just from the pilot episode. But it speaks volumes about a pilot episode when you get all this from just that.
Production value is high, but a sort of quiet, understated visual, much like the performances of Nora Aunor and Christopher De Leon. It’s isn’t loud, nor is it cheap. A realistic, down to earth production style that makes the series accessible even if about rich, political families of the Philippines. You feel that this is indeed the probinsya, that we’re in the countryside of the Philippines.
Though I could certainly do without the allusions to the Marcos-Aquino feud nonsense (perpetuated by the ever-astute Philippine “press”), Sa Ngalan Ng Ina nonetheless has a very promising story and a stellar cast that will surely elevate the already solid writing and directing.