ABS-CBN’s Budoy is a somewhat brave new series about the title character, a 20 year old young man with Angelman syndrome.
It is brave that the network actually developed a series centering on a character with a developmental disability. But only somewhat because the series actually says more about the limitations of Philippine creatives than it does about raising awareness about a very real disorder that affects many.
Budoy appears to be well meaning in premise, but the series in its first week has come off as too heavy-handed, pretentious and overly preachy. A scene that had Janice De Belen (as Budoy’s adoptive mother) addressing a crowd of witch hunting townspeople ready to throw the title character in jail for something he didn’t do would be the kind of moral grandstanding that’d make David E. Kelley proud.
The extremes of the kontrabidas and villain characters (towards Budoy for now) lend themselves for the other extreme that is moral high ground when a balance of more realistic push-back from prejudiced people would serve the purpose of this so-called “advoca-serye” a little better.
Which is why Budoy can’t help but write from a Philippine soap opera checklist; the big, bad corporate elite, the separation of parent and child (either by natural disaster or intentional sabotage), a destined “one true pairing,” and the various Filipino soap character stereotypes.
The problem is, that’s what sells and its not going to change anytime soon. But if you’re going to proclaim yourself an “advoca-serye,” it’s got to be more than your typical soap.
Gerald Anderson does a respectable job so far as Budoy, and it’s no surprise since he’s already had an award-winning performance as a young man with Tourette syndrome on Maalaala Mo Kaya. He is able to make Budoy endearing enough to care even without the extreme good vs. evil/black and white morality of the first week.
Zsa Zsa Padilla as Budoy’s real mother also shares one of the few sincere moments of the first week (Friday’s episode) when she unknowingly first meets her son again. There is no doubt Padilla’s role here will be much better than her participation in the misguided Idol, her last regular series role. Janice De Belen should be able to turn in equally moving performances if they keep the Kelley-esque speeches away.
Overall, while Budoy may be well-meaning and at times endearing, it sadly gives way to the pitfalls of typical Pinoy soap opera when it is obvious the series wants to be something more. And it only dilutes any well-meaning message the show may aspire to have.