Review: ABS-CBN’s Princess and I – A Quaint Little Attempt at a Fairy Tale

Princess and I has two things going for it; the talented Kathryn Bernardo as the lead and one of the title characters and the beautiful location shots of seldom-seen on TV Bhutan. Otherwise, ABS-CBN’s newest drama is something we’ve all seen before.

Princess and I begins in the fictional Asian kingdom of Yangdon where King Anand (Albert Martinez) has married Filipina doctor Isabel (guest star Precious Lara Quigaman), who eventually gives birth to their daughter Ariya. But Ashi Behati (Gretchen Barretto), also of royal blood and wife of Yangdon’s 2nd highest ranking official, covets the crown for her own son Jao and plots to get rid of both Isabel and Ariya. She is able to make Isabel disappear and send Ariya to the Philippines where she gets taken in by a poor family and given the name Mikay.

Unknowing of her royal lineage, Mikay grows up a street and school smart young girl as her father is left a lonely king with Ashi Behati steps closer to having her son take over as ruler of the kingdom. And of course, Mikay is ready to fall in love and soon embark on what should be a roller coaster of a journey to finding out her true identity.

Aside from the royal aspect, this is all something we’ve seen before. A privileged child separated from her family only to grow up in a poor family until she learns of the riches that await her. It’s foreign setting of Yangdon by way of Bhutan gives it that one thing that makes it not another retread. And if anything, this is the closest the Philippines will get to their own royal soap opera the likes of which are so prevalent in the neighboring Korea, Japan and China (many of which have become popular in the archipelago as well).

Now one hopes this will be a much better star vehicle and much less of a clusterfrak as Mara Clara was for Kathryn, who truly broke through with short, but impactful roles in ABS-CBN’s Magkaribal and GMA’s Endless Love.

But Princess and I has the makings of a standard Filipino soap. Standards and formula the Filipino audience eats up.

The first week was quick-paced, bogged down only by the unnecessary Filipino/Tagalog “dubbing” of whatever language the characters of Yangdon speak. Instead of making up nonsense words for an entirely new language with subtitles translating the dialogue, having the Yangdon people speaking in Tagalog would probably be more accepted and less laughed at than the faux-dubbing that makes the series look almost like one of those parodies of Japanese films. At least try to make the “dubbing” appear more natural. It can be done with real Japanese and Korean dramas which are oh so popular in the Philippines, why not at least sync the dubbing with the mumbo jumbo the actors are actually speaking in scenes.

While the first week setup was solid, yet far from groundbreaking, the faux-dubbing being the biggest and most memorable takeaway from the series is not a good thing.

This first week did, however, reinforce the notion that Filipino dramas with children as the main characters and center of the action (in non-violent situations, mind you) are many times much more interesting and enjoyable than when the characters eventually grow up. Led by Casey Bacayo and 100 Days‘ Louise Abuel as the young Mikay and Jao, respectively, the scenes of the kids juggling being kids with responsibility (whether royal or not) were great. And are especially enjoyable when the young talent are naturals at what they do.

Like Agua Bendita which collapsed as soon as its title characters grew up or like Iglot and Biritera which slow down and become less interesting when taking focus away from the kids and instead on stereotypical “grown-up” soapiness, Princess and I may run the risk of turning a fairy tale into a standard Filipino teen angst drama

With a solid cast, Princess and I isn’t reinventing the wheel, but great foreign visuals and the opportunity for a young talent like Kathryn Bernardo to shine make up for any hilariously bad dubbing and run-of-the-mill writing the show may have.

0 thoughts on “Review: ABS-CBN’s Princess and I – A Quaint Little Attempt at a Fairy Tale

  1. yo, musta? nice review. alam ko na polar opposites tayo pagdating sa mara clara (i consider it the best series recently), but like you, i also have high hopes for this one. salamat nga rin pala sa pagbasa ng sarili kong review non (sopa at patatas, if you also remember).

    siguro, the thing that i hope they take a cue from mara clara would be the deeper character explorations and analusis that they did in that one. though magkaiba tayo ng views dun, we both (and cheezmiss. remember her?) notice that.

    now, for this one. i do hope that that they do go beyond a teenybopper story. sayang kasi sina gretchen barretto at albert martinez, and the story itself, kung hanggang sa ganong level lang siya. i also hope that they build the leading men character well, such that the pairing that they choose to focus on later feels reasonable for the story and not just made up for the fans (warningan na kita. expect mo nang ipaflood ka ng kathniel fantards habang nirereview mo ang series na to). sa ngaun kasi, ung character pa lang ni jao ang merong good build up.

    teka, suggestion lang. bat di mo i-tackle yung isang criticism na bakit daw hindi na lang sila gumawa ng fictional philippine kingdom para daw maipakita naman yung pinoy culture? i already talked about that sa isang forum, but i would also want to see your thoughts.

    1. Hehe, yes I remember.

      I agree, for this kind of show, the story about the kingdom and Gretchen’s greed and attempt to power grab have been introduced as an integral part of the story, so dapat hindi lang pa-cute lang ang focus ng story.

      I’m definitely not familiar with any current loveteam fandoms, but when it comes to that, I hope they develop each of the three “options” fully so in the end you really don’t know who she’ll end up with. I know a little of that was present in My Binondo Girl (though I didn’t watch the series, maybe it wasn’t lol).

      And you bring up a good point. I know this is ABS-CBN’s attempt at the kind of fictional royal soap similar to the Koreanovelas about fictional current day Korea as a monarchy. It could fill a full post later on, depending on how they tackle all that political side of the story. But I do know ABS-CBN is on some kind of “filming abroad” kick where they want every series to film out of the country whether they need to or not. To show off? I guess, but at least it makes sense here, even though they could’ve put the same effort (with less cost, but more interesting) in creating a current day Philippine monarchy.


      1. with binondo girl, from what i have read, the writers did indeed already have a definite story from the start of kim chiu and jolo revilla’s characters ending up together in the series. but when jolo got sidelined because of sickness, they had to compensate by focusing on another pairing. luckily for them though, they built up the other two leading men characters sufficiently well, such that nung nagfocus sila on the kim-xian pairing, it didn’t feel like it was just shoehomed to fill that gap.

        that’s what i am hoping for in the series. though from the looks of it, it is more likely that it is a kathryn-enrique pairing as the official couple, with daniel padilla acting as the rival (wish he could actually match up with kathryn and enrique in the acting department for it to work) and khalil ramos as just the unlucky childhood friend.

        as for the fictional kingdom thing, i think it’s the difficulty of writing a comprehensive alternate history of the philippines for a kingdom to exist in and make it more believable that’s the problem. having done a few such attempts myself (for a sci fi story that i was writing) i tell you that it is really not that easy. i had to scrap the idea because it was too hard to make it realistic. with them using a country that already has a real kingdom as the setting it would be much easier, since you can think of this as a what if scenario with yangdon replacing bhutan if it exists in real life.

        curious off topic observation: napansin ko na wala kang review ng walang hanggan. though i think alam ko kung bakit and your views of that series is probably similar to mine. julia montes’ character katerina seems to be the only one that’s really interesting (and has significant character depth) in that one (she kinda feels like an amalgamation of mara and clara’s traits to me).

    2. I agree. Dapat gumawa na lang sila ng fictional Philippines kingdom. In the long run, parang tumaas lang ang rating ng show e bigla na lang ang settings nila sa Korea (hindi na Korea) e closed rooms with Korean furnitures which I guess ay inupahan nila sa Philippinas. Wala ng budget ika nga sa umpisa at sa ending lang nagporsige.

      1. Tapos recently lang yata pati yung Hari balik Pilipinas na para wala na silang upahan na fake Korean rooms. San na napunta budget nila.

  2. what is happening to PRINCESS AND I teleseria??? and panget na ng story 🙁 dapat c jao at mikay ang magkakatuluyan. HAAY what a way to ruin the story!!!

  3. I barely watched this teleserye by November and December because the writers decided that after 1 month without Jao, Mikay moved on and fell for Gino. What a crock. And Behati is still around doing evil. One wonders if Jao will ever know Behati’s and Shivadji’s lies.

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