Himala! I wrote last month how awesome it was this last year without regular Filipino programming on our television. But here I am, back from the Philippines all but two weeks and GMA Pinoy TV has been turned back on.
Indeed, watching Filipino programming during our month-long vacation did make us miss it a little. Though only a little. Even Filipinos are fully swept up in the Hallyu wave, not only getting more excited about Koreanovelas on ABS-CBN or GMA, but even watching channels like Channel M which air subtitled Mnet music programs and tvN dramas. (Psy deserves a little credit for the invigorated interest in everything Korea in the Philippines, no question.)
The rest of the credit can go to Filipino teleseryes continuing to be uninspired retreads of the same storylines or mismong remakes of teleseryes that’ve aired not even a decade in the past.
Which is one of the reasons GMA’s My Husband’s Lover deserves a good look.
The new soap takes Filipinos’ strange (and cringeworthy) obsession with infidelity and puts a major twist in the proceedings.
Introduced in a very unique way, we have Carla Abellana as Lally telling us, the viewer that this is her story. And that story? How she’d find out her husband Vincent (Tom Rodriguez) is having an affair… with another man.
The other man is Eric del Mundo, played by Dennis Trillo. Eric is Vincent’s first love. And when Eric travels to the United States during high school to care for his ailing father, Vincent finds a new love in Victor Basa’s David. But Vincent chooses to stay in the closet and ends up marrying Lally after he gets her pregnant. That helps him keep his secret, especially from his intensely homophobic father and from a society he fears would not be kind to him.
But suddenly the old feelings for Eric return, especially when the openly gay Eric returns to the Philippines. As Lally puts her all into becoming a good wife, Vincent tries to juggle his true feelings.
And so ends the first week.
The Philippines is an interesting country. It is a place where openly gay entertainers are embraced in mainstream television and film, but are rarely depicted in scripted drama unless they are flamboyant comic relief. A society where it wouldn’t be difficult to find someone who has at least one openly gay or lesbian relative, but laughs and points when tsismis rags want to out celebrities.
That all makes the fact that My Husband’s Lover is the first Filipino drama series to feature a gay relationship as the main story all the more notable. But don’t think the series is some kind “issue-serye.”
The series may be tackling a sensitive social issue, but don’t expect it to be preachy and pretentious. Maybe the best thing the series has done in its first week is treat its story as if it were like any other teleserye.
Indeed, the story itself is very simple, but taking on a bold (not in the Filipino porn-y way) approach to the same ol’ Pinoy storyline is refreshing in a tired Filipino television landscape.
While you’re not going to see two men kissing on free Philippine TV anytime soon, that anyone would even attempt a regular drama series centered on a gay couple is an accomplishment in and of itself and worthy of applause.
It helps that the series is off to a solid start as well, successfully laying the groundwork for the inevitable future conflict as well as giving just enough of each of our three main characters to want to know more about them.
Visually, the series has a crisp and glossy look and they use the HD to its full potential, adding to the series’ already established freshness.
And such a careful story needs a good cast and that’s what it gets in Dennis Trillo, Carla Abellana and Tom Rodriguez.
Tom Rodriguez gets his first lead role as in-the-closet Vincent. Though his first week has consisted of him mainly trying to find different ways to demonstrate his inner struggle, he accomplishes his most important task; making you understand that struggle and feel for him, but also not taking away our right as viewers to say “Hey, cheating’s bad!”
Dennis Trillo is no stranger to this type of material. His role as a transgender woman in the film Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita earned him several Best Actor awards. After a strong outing in the successful Philippine adaptation of Temptation of Wife, this series should serve as a 2nd straight opportunity for him to prove he is one of the best actors in the Philippines today.
And while Carla Abellana has had steady work since her debut in Rosalinda, she hasn’t had many truly breakthrough performances since due in large part to the types of projects given to her. Here, she hopefully has the opportunity to show how truly talented she can be as she has in her feature film roles. Lally is still young and naive in the first week of the series, so hopefully that serves as a contrast to when we’ll get to see her as a stronger, more mature woman. And see Carla get her chance to sink her teeth into juicier material.
Overall, My Husband’s Lover is off to a strong start, presenting a brave, bold and fresh take on a favorite Filipino soap plot.