Philippine television is rarely groundbreaking. Once in a while a series comes along that manages to capture the audience with a fresh story like last year’s May Bukas Pa or a show tugs at the heartstrings like currently airing Momay. But usually, Philippine TV is full of tired clichés and paint-by-numbers dramas.
So it is refreshing when a show like Magkaribal comes along that doesn’t stick to formula.
It may not be groundbreaking television, but it is different from the rest of Philippine primetime. The series tells the story of two young sisters who are tragically separated and grow up in opposite worlds, but whose paths will cross in the future when hope and dreams and thoughts of revenge take over.
Anna and Angela grew up in Manila’s Divisoria district, known for flea markets and cheap buys. Their mother is a seamstress and their father begins working abroad where he ends up meeting top fashion model Vera Cruz with whom he begins an affair.
Tragedy strikes when everything comes to a head and their father leaves their mother for Vera. Their mother is killed in an accident when confronting Vera and now they are left to take care of themselves, running away from possibly getting put in the care of the state.
Life on the streets gets little Angela sick and when they need money, 15 year old Anna turns to prostitution. She gets the money she needs, but tragedy strikes again as the hospital Angela is at goes down in flames.
While Angela survives the fire, Anna now feels alone and angry, knowing all this is thanks to Vera’s homewrecking. She ends up in the care of a fashion designer, Ronaldo Valera who vows to groom her to be the heir to his fashion empire.
Meanwhile, Angela goes back to the streets where she eventually gets adopted by a couple who live in Divisoria, the woman herself a seamstress.
They grow up. Anna is now Victoria Valera, an international fashion model. Angela, now Gelai is a seamstress alongside her adopted mother in Divisoria. Their father and Vera are married with a daughter, and Vera herself, reigning over her own fashion empire.
As Gelai dreams of becoming a famous designer, she will soon cross paths with the woman that ruined her family. And she and her sister reunite without knowing who the other really is.
So begins the story, three weeks in and it has already been a fun ride.
Despite its very dramatic start, the series easily found its groove with a nice balance of lighthearted humor and romance with the dramatic fierceness of the fashion world.
I could care less about fashion, but thankfully you don’t need to care about it to enjoy the series.
Magkaribal sets itself apart from the rest by avoiding things we’ve already seen before; no overdramatic screaming matches, no scene chewing performances, no forced action sequences, no predictability. And best of all, it is not a chore to watch. You actually have fun watching the series instead of being frustrated (which is what you feel when watching most Philippine TV).
It also has a very appealing and very capable cast led by young drama vet Bea Alonzo and in her first television series, Gretchen Barretto. Joining them are Derek Ramsay, Angel Aquino, Enchong Dee, and Erich Gonzales.
Magkaribal has had a very enjoyable and promising start. Let’s hope they can maintain the quality throughout its run and avoid falling into the same pitfalls of its primetime predecessors.