It’s Not Always More Fun in the Philippines, Especially When It Comes to Filipino Adaptations of Foreign TV (Updated April 2019!)

Lack of ideas. Wanting to Filipino-ize a good story. Just part of buying the rights to air the original. Whatever the reason, both ABS-CBN and GMA have increasingly adapted foreign dramas for Filipino audiences to very mixed results. While some have been successful in one way or another, most either fell short or just plain embarrassed itself, especially when compared to the original series.

(Let’s all pray Hana Yori Dango: Pinoy Edition and Hari ng Panaderia/The Baker King aren’t as inevitable as they seem.)

With the Filipino Coffee Prince having wrapped up a good run and Temptation of Wife continuing to grow (both on GMA), let’s take a look at the parade of past Philippine adaptations of foreign dramas, mainly Korean dramas and Latinovelas.

Marimar (GMA)
August 13, 2007 – March 14, 2008
Starring: Marian Divera, Dingdong Dantes
No question, not only GMA’s biggest foreign adaptation, but the most successful of any adaptation of a foreign series so far on Philippine TV. If this were Korea, it’d have been declared a National Drama. The blockbuster Marimar captivated the country even more than the original did and turned the formerly forever supporting actress Marian Rivera into a leading lady and huge star. The series itself may be more notable for its lasting impact than whether or not the writing was any good.

Zaido: Pulis Pangkalawan (GMA)
September 24, 2007 – February 8, 2008
Starring: Dennis Trillo, Marky Cielo, Aljur Abrenica
And maybe the most unexpected adaptation of a foreign series. With the lack of talent and techonology to effectively use special effects on Philippine TV, Zaido just wasn’t the type of project that would fit as a daily drama. The behind the scenes discussions between GMA and Toei might have been more interesting than the actual product. Aljur Abrenica was still fresh off of his Starstruck win to make any impact, but Dennis Trillo and the late Marky Cielo would’ve been great casting if they actually had anything to work with. A weekly series might have worked better, but really, GMA shouldn’t have even tried.

Princess Sarah (ABS-CBN)
November 12, 2007 – December 21, 2007
Starring: Sharlene San Pedro, Sheryl Cruz
You forgot about this one eh? Yes, this did exist. Princess Sarah was a great concept in theory and they did use some beautiful locations. And Sharlene San Pedro could carry any show on her own. But with a series like this, the Philippines just doesn’t have the creatives or the resources to have the scope or vision to do any justice to this classic story. Read the book, read the manga, watch the anime, watch the live action movie, but you could probably take a pass on this one.

My Girl (ABS-CBN)
May 26, 2008 – Sepetember 5, 2008
Starring: Kim Chiu, Gerald Anderson, Enchong Dee
Arguably the first Koreanovela adaptation, the Lee Dong Wook-Lee Da Hae romantic comedy was turned more or less into a teen series that seemed more fit for the Sunday afternoon slot than as a primetime teleserye. The casting of Kim, Gerald, and Enchong made the characters seem considerably younger than the Korean original and essentially turned the show into a (not funny) teen comedy.

Ako si Kim Sam Soon (GMA)
June 30, 2008 – October 10, 2008
Starring: Regine Velasquez
It is one of the most beloved Korean dramas, a fun and funny romp. I’m definitely not a fan of Regine Velasquez in general, but she has a knack for handling comedy very well (as seen on her other series, for when she was a part of it, I Heart U Pare). The series was a mostly faithful adaptation carried by Regine, but maintaining a light hearted tone throughout.

I Love Betty La Fea (ABS-CBN)
September 8, 2008 – April 25, 2009
Starring: Bea Alonzo, John Lloyd Cruz
Bea Alonzo was a good choice for the titular role that had been done by a dozen actresses before her. And Ruffa Gutierrez was an equally good choice as the boss from hell, Daniella. But what started out as a more fun and lighthearted show with a lot of heart, turned into a long and drawn out circle of events that went nowhere. The casting of John Lloyd Cruz also put a dent into what should’ve been a great vehicle for Bea Alonzo on her own.

LaLola (GMA)
October 13, 2008 – February 6, 2009
Starring: Rhian Ramos, JC de Vera
LaLola ends up definitely as one of the better local adaptations and one of GMA’s strongest. The series kept that Latin flavor while still being very Pinoy and most importantly stayed fun and light throughout. This is also one of Rhian Ramos’ best performances to date and she shared good chemistry with JC de Vera.

All About Eve (GMA)
March 9, 2009 – June 5, 2009
Starring: Sunshine Dizon, Iza Calzado, Jean Garcia, Eula Valdez
A forgettable, if not uninspiring adaptation of a solid Korean drama. It was touted as the reunion of the all-time on-screen teleserye rivalry of Jean Garcia and Eula Valdez, but this was definitely no Pangako Sa Yo.

Zorro (GMA)
March 23, 2009 – August 7, 2009
Starring: Richard Gutierrez
The second of the more unexpected adaptations, what is most admirable about the series is it’s the closest we’d ever get to a historical Filipino drama set during the time of Spanish colonization. Amaya would take it a century or two further back of course, but Zorro showed that it was possible to stage a Spanish-era drama series on Philippine TV. As for the show itself, other than the great set design and use of locations, it was pretty much a typical GMA fantasy series. In other words, forgettable.

Only You (ABS-CBN)
April 27, 2009 – August 21, 2009
Starring: Angel Locsin, Sam Milby, Diether Ocampo, Iya Villania
A great cast and a great start gets sidelined by typical Pinoy soap. Though not too off the rails (as we’ll eventually see in future adaptations), Only You missed an opportunity to capitalize on Angel Locsin’s natural charm as well as her great chemistry with Sam Milby to the fullest potential. It also wasted great chemistry between Diether Ocampo and Iya Villania. But it is the waste of what would be, to this day, Angel Locsin’s only opportunity to show she is more than just some sexy action heroine and actually a talented, versatile actress. (Blame the network for offering her more of the same.)

Rosalinda (GMA)
July 6, 2009 – November 27, 2009
Starring: Carla Abellana, Geoff Eigenmann
Maybe not as big as Marimar, but it certainly did what Maria La Del Barrio would fail to do. While making the series very Filipino, it didn’t lose that Latin flavor, that classy sexiness and spice that kept things interesting, while also highlighting the title character played by Carla Abellana. It also didn’t make Carla Abellana the huge star Marian Rivera became, but it was a good launching pad for the talented actress who is still waiting for, but more than deserving of a real breakout role.

Stairway to Heaven (GMA)
September 14, 2009 – December 11, 2009
Starring: Rhian Ramos, Dingdong Dantes
One of GMA’s better and more faithful adaptations, Rhian Ramos goes 2-for-2 with her local adaptation roles. Good chemistry with Dingdong Dantes and a solidly written and produced series are highlights.

Lovers in Paris (ABS-CBN)
September 28, 2009 – December 11, 2009
Starring: KC Concepcion, Piolo Pascual, Zanjoe Marudo
Ouch. Probably one of the most beloved Koreanovelas to ever air in the Philippines, Lovers in Paris was always going to be a tough one to remake. Holding a special place in my heart, I was looking forward to seeing Toni Tonzaga as the Filipina Vivian, able to match Kim Jung Eun’s spunk and palaban performance, as well as handle the more emotional and dramatic material. Zanjoe Marudo was actually my original choice for Martin and despite some’s apprehension to his acting, I thought he was the only actor at the time who’d be able to play that sympathetic, though brooding third wheel. And he’d proven he’s a much better dramatic actor than he was as a comedian. When it came to Carlo, the lack of any leading men the age of 30 made Piolo Pascual the default choice. And even though it wasn’t optimal (as Obama would say), he just fit. When KC Concepcion was handed the prized role, there were plenty of skeptics. But actually, she ended up being okay in the role. What didn’t work though was the writing. Leave it up to Filipino “creatives” (if we can call them that) to turn a sweet romantic comedy into a heavy drama complete with guns and overdramatic crying scenes. It started out as a salvageable project, but ended up a misguided and regretful mess.

Full House (GMA)
November 30, 2009 – February 26, 2010
Starring: Heart Evangelista, Richard Gutierrez
A largely forgettable adaptation of the hugely successful Korean drama and one of the most popular to have aired in the Philippines. Heart Evangelista was perfectly cast as the Filipina Jessie, matching Song Hye Kyo’s great and endearing performance in the original. However, even her valiant effort couldn’t counter the miscast Richard Gutierrez who lacked the charisma Rain undeniably had in the original. Add to that the writing turned overly fluffy and was devoid of any of the charm of the original.

Rubi (ABS-CBN)
February 15, 2010 – August 13, 2010
Starring: Angelica Panganiban, Diether Ocampo, Shaina Magdayao, Jake Cuenca
Rubi was a mostly faithful adaptaion and something very fresh for Philippine TV. Your main, title character was a bitch. A huge, vengeful, catty bitch. And yet, you still loved her. Philippine dramas usually center on a poor, pitiful heroine who will forgive every single person who spat on her face or a forgettably nice girl next door who falls in love. Rubi, the character, was none of that. And Angelica Panganiban’s winning performance made that character. She was sexy, bitchy, strong, yet vulnerable. The series maintained a good enough pace without falling victim to the usual traits of Filipino soaps and today stands as one of ABS-CBN’s better adaptations.

Endless Love (GMA)
June 28, 2010 – October 15, 2010
Starring: Dingdong Dantes, Marian Rivera, Dennis Trillo
An overall solid adaptation. The Korean original is a classic epic and part of a series of dramas. Endless Love Philippines maintained a subdued approach to the series, which might have held it back a little from being a really great series. But the biggest thing to come out of this though was ABS-CBN’s realization that Kathryn Bernardo was a huge talent and they made sure to snatch her back to their stable of stars.

Green Rose (ABS-CBN)
February 14, 2011 – May 27, 2011
Starring: Anne Curtis, Jericho Rosales, Alessandra De Rossi
A heavier Korean drama turned into what looked more like a forgettable early-2000s Filipino drama. Its yellow-green hue was representative of its fuzzy, uninteresting and slow treatment of the original story.

Maria La Del Barrio (ABS-CBN)
August 15, 2011 – March 2, 2012
Starring: Erich Gonzales, Enchong Dee
A complete and utter failure and a crime against both Enchong Dee, but Erich Gonzales especially. An absolute mess. I don’t really need to talk about it further here since I wrote a whole essay on it I was so affected by how horrible it was.

Nasaan Ka Elisa? (ABS-CBN)
September 12, 2011 – January 13, 2012
Starring: Joem Bascon, Desiree del Valle, Melissa Ricks, and a whole bunch of others
An okay, though drawn out adaptation. Something very different for Philippine TV since you don’t see any sort of crime procedurals on the dial, let alone true murder mysteries or suspense thrillers. I remember saying how I’d love to see a Law & Order: Manila-type of series starring Joem Bascon and Desiree del Valle since they were great as the detectives in charge of the central mystery. Their detective work though was much more interesting than any of the incest, familial, conspiracy drama that took center stage.

It’s 2019 and I’ve decided to update this original post to include all local adaptations since 2013!

Coffee Prince (GMA)
October 8 – November 23, 2012
Starring: Kris Bernal, Aljur Abrenica, Max Collins
I had mostly positive things to say after the series’ premiere week. And after its brisk seven week run, I had the same feelings in the end. Kris Bernal elevated what was a mostly fun and fluffy series. Definitely more of a lighter comedy than the original, but done in a way that was easy to watch. Aljur Abrenica was fine and his chemistry with Kris helped. The series also marked Max Collins’ arrival on GMA and her showing what she is truly capable of for the first time.

Temptation of Wife (GMA)
October 29, 2012 – April 5, 2013
Starring: Marian Rivera, Dennis Trillo, Glaiza de Castro, Rafael Rosell
Temptation of Wife tapped into the Filipino fascination with infidelity and was able to make the concept fun, fresh and dramatic. An excellent cast partnered with good writing and production make this one of the better local adaptations.

Maria Mercedes (ABS-CBN)
October 7, 2013 – January 24, 2014
Starring: Jessy Mendiola, Jake Cuenca, Jason Abalos
When it comes to adapting Thalia’s iconic title characters, ABS-CBN is 0-2. (For comparison, GMA is 2-0.) While it seemed like nothing could be as horrible as ABS-CBN’s Maria La Del Barrio adaptation, Maria Mercedes came along with the “Hold my beer” meme. Jessy Mendiola was completely miscast in the title role and lacked the fire and charisma needed to play a Thalia title role. The mistake of casting her snowballed through the rest of the series, from supporting performances to the terrible writing. One of the biggest misfires among local adaptations.

Pure Love (ABS-CBN)
July 7- November 14, 2014
Starring: Alex Gonzaga, Yen Santos
The successful Korean original (49 Days) had an intriguing concept that seemed perfect for Filipino audiences. Alex Gonzaga was fine in the lead role. But the series overall lacked the emotion and depth of the original even though there wasn’t really anything egregiously negative about its production.

Two Wives (ABS-CBN)
October 13, 2014 – March 13, 2015
Starring: Kaye Abad, Jason Abalos, Erich Gonzales
Filipino audiences, for whatever reason, continue to love stories of infidelity. So Two Wives was another perfect series to adapt. With a solid lead cast in Kaye Abad, Jason Abalos and Erich Gonzales, the series itself was merely a paint-by-numbers affair. Everything you expect in series like this, you got it. That may be perfectly fine for some, but it could’ve used an extra bit of spice to truly stand out.

Baker King (TV5)
May 18 – September 11, 2015
Starring: Mark Neumann, Shaira Mae Dela Cruz, Akihiro Blanco, Inah Estrada
Four years after its original airing, I still believe Baker King might be the best, most faithful adaptation of a foreign drama yet. I echo all three of my full reviews for the series. The series did what any local adaptation should do: Be faithful to the original while injecting some Filipino flavor. TV5 was able to do a lot with obviously a lesser budget than either ABS-CBN or GMA could provide. But a great cast, smart direction and tight writing make Baker King the strongest local Filipino adaptation of a foreign series yet.

Marimar (2015) (GMA)
August 24, 2015 – January 8, 2016
Starring: Megan Young, Tom Rodriguez
The Philippines certainly did not need another Marimar adaptation this early. But the result was fine, if not a little forgettable. Megan Young, however, had a different and fresh take on the title role that made Marian Rivera a star. Though not as huge as that first local adaptation of the Thalia title role, this version was a solid performer in the ratings as well. Overall, with a good cast and solid writing and production, it is better than most others on this list.

My Fair Lady (TV5)
September 14 – December 11, 2015
Starring: Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Vin Abrenica, Luis Alandy
Jasmine Curtis-Smith essentially carries this lighthearted romcom on her own with her effortless charm and endearing performance. While the lack of resources was more evident in the production of My Fair Lady than Baker King, the series had to depend on its cast and writing to carry the load. Unfortunately, the writing, though also faithful to the original, couldn’t really capture the charm of the original series. And other than Jasmine Curtis-Smith, the rest of the main cast couldn’t really help elevate the series.

Pasion de Amor (ABS-CBN)
June 1, 2015 – February 26, 2016
Starring: Jake Cuenca, Ejay Falcon, Joseph Marco, Arci Munoz, Ellen Adarna, Coleen Garcia
Having actually watched some of the original (Pasión de Gavilanes) on Telemundo, I can certainly see how ripe the series was for a Philippine adaptation. The overall story is familiar to Filipino audiences. But the main draws here, as it was for the original, were the steamy performances by its main cast. In that sense, the series again captured that sexiness that Latin telenovelas inherently possess and exude. Typical for Filipino soap operas, the writing ended up going off the rails though the longer the series dragged on.

My Love from the Star (GMA)
May 29 – August 11, 2017
Starring: Jennylyn Mercado, Gil Cuerva
The original was a beloved hit in Korea and in the Philippines. And while Jennylyn Mercado was perfectly cast, there was definitely much debate about Gil Cuerva taking on the role of Matteo Do Domingo. I had my own choices as well. But My Love from the Star‘s ultimate shortcomings came in execution. The writing was a faithful, almost direct adaptation of the original, but the visuals and direction were of such subpar quality that it really had a negative effect on the overall experience. Certainly not the worst local adaptation, but Jennylyn’s great performance and the great potential in the series was wasted on poor production.

0 thoughts on “It’s Not Always More Fun in the Philippines, Especially When It Comes to Filipino Adaptations of Foreign TV (Updated April 2019!)

  1. nice rundown.

    i agree that princess sarah was rather disappointing. they made the wrong move of turning the story from a serious one to a fantasy kiddie show. the live action movie (starring camille prats in the 90’s) was a much better work.

    and since you mentioned kathryn bernardo, i can’t help but feel disappointed that ABS is wasting her potential after two great performances (magkaribal and mara clara) by cashing in too much on her pairing with the padilla kid (who honestly is not even able to match her acting skills). she is better off doing individual dramatic performances.

    1. I haven’t seen the Camille Pratts movie.

      And definitely agree about Kathryn. I can’t believe her show is still on and I’m sure they’ll hurry her and Daniel Padilla into another project together soon after.

      1. tsk, i am definitely old, hehehe!

        i would suggest that you download the film. it’s a worthwhile watch. the irony of it is that the film was made by star cinema, of all productions, hehehehe!

        as for kathryn, her pairing with enrique gil actually has more potential in the acting department, kaso with less screaming fangirls, ayun mukhang iaabandon ng management, tsk, tsk, tsk! and princess and i turned into a teenybopper mess in the last couple of months just to please the padilla kid’s fans.

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