Filipino audiences have a strange and maybe unhealthy fascination with infidelity. The prevalence of soap operas and feature films featuring husbands and wives traipsing about with other men and women… and men and their continued commercial success in the Philippines is material for a long Media Studies dissertation.
Teleserye after teleserye after movie after teleserye, the same story over and over (with sometimes, even the same actors); like many Filipino stories, the cheating spouse has become overused and played out.
But also like other familiar Filipino soap opera tropes, a series or film can come along to try something different and take a fresh approach.
GMA’s Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real surprisingly did that.
When first announced, the excitement over the return of Maricel Soriano to episodic television was tempered by the idea that the series she’d be starring in would revolve around her being the victim of a philandering husband.
In the months before, ABS-CBN’s The Legal Wife and TV5’s For Love of Money already covered what seemed to be the same exact material. But as Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real trudged forward, things unexpectedly took a different turn.
Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real was surprisingly quiet and reserved. It was classy and mature. That is, as opposed to being trashy and low brow. The series didn’t exist to titillate. It didn’t glamorize the idea of getting into a hot man or woman’s pants. It wasn’t hypersexualized or even sexy at all. You could say it was quite the opposite.
And that’s a good thing.
Many recent Filipino dramas and films tend to somehow glorify the other woman or man. One teleserye proclaimed the protagonists were having A Beautiful Affair in the midst of cults (or something or other). Amazing Race Philippines host ( ;) ) Derek Ramsay has been, maybe unfairly, typecast as the hot, sexy husband women can’t resist and who himself can’t resist temptation.
But Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real wasn’t sexy in the slightest. And that’s not a bad thing.
Instead of relying on one-liners or batuhan ng linya or rolling on the floor catfights or sexified patalbugan between the wife and the kabit, Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real aimed to be a grounded, realistic portrayal of a marriage and a family in turmoil. And taking it a step further, what happens when a man goes so far as to commit bigamy and betray and lie to pretty much everyone around him.
That’s not to say the series didn’t have biting, social media-ready lines of dialogue like Maricel as Millet Real’s “Why don’t you research before spreading your legs?” Or have trending viral clips like the unprecedented slapping during #BagyongMillet.
And the unexpected back and forth between Robert Arevalo and Tommy Abuel.
But even those big, over the top confrontation scenes (which were pretty few) were still very much grounded in reality and believability. You sure as hell know that a scorned wife would act just like Millet did in that scene. And those same viral sensations were not the biggest reasons the series was good as it was.
The series effectively used longer, dialogue-heavy scenes to convey the characters’ emotions and where we were in the story at the time. It wasn’t a heavy drama, in the traditional sense. It was a tempered drama that developed naturally and had a clear beginning, middle and end.
It helped that the entire cast was full of talented veterans and promising young talents. Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real may be one of the first dramas in a long time to effectively use their entire cast to the fullest.
Coney Reyes, Robert Arevalo, Tommy Abuel, Celeste Legaspi, Jaime Fabregas and Susan Africa were never left behind, both in story and performance. That the parents in the central conflict got as much meaty material is a big accomplishment. And one that contributed greatly to the overall story.
Alessandra de Rossi has always been an actress that deserved better material than was given to her. But here, she played an unlikely supporting sidekick to Maricel’s Millet that was uniquely refreshing. Rodjun Cruz, Diva Montelaba, Dominic Roco and Marc Abaya rounded out the supporting cast as the siblings and friend witness to the turmoil. Marc Justine Alvarez as Tonton played a much bigger role in the final few weeks and maybe showed why he would’ve been able to handle more material as well.
But the lead actors did a fine job to ultimately give the show the heft it needed to rise above the pack of illicit trysts, hands up skirts and in pants and hair pulling.
After last year’s disappointing Genesis, this series was just what Dingdong Dantes needed to remind everyone of his strong acting. He carried the role in a way that made you almost sympathize with him, but most of the time made you shake your fist at the obvious idiocy of his actions.
Lovi Poe has been one of the most promising young actresses and has proven so in many a drama series in the last few years. But here, she was able to stand beside a veteran like Maricel Soriano and hold her own. Lovi Poe has been able to cover a wide range of roles from the sosyalera to small-town provincial teacher. So her strong performance here as a hardworking and caring, but maybe naive young woman should come as no surprise.
But Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real was definitely a showcase for Maricel Soriano to show that she’s still got it. Her strong, award-caliber and more than believable performance was infused with her signature mataray delivery that only she could do. It was an interesting journey for Millet. Going from scorned wife to lioness on the hunt to hurt and confused and finally a woman who was ready to give unconditional love, Maricel Soriano needed to deliver a wide array of contrasting emotions and she hit every mark by giving a strong and sometimes restrained performance.
Yes, it was a happy ending for all, but Anthony Real paid the price. While not all victims of infidelity and betrayal would be as accepting or give such unconditional love, we saw how these characters realistically responded to scandalous chaos and the pain and suffering one stupid decision can bring for a whole group of people.
They were able to put the “real” in Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real. One line may best sum up the series: “May pinagaralan ako.” Indeed, the series will be remembered as a freshly mature and classy take on what has become an overused premise in Philippine drama. Helped by strong performances and production, that they were able to make such a premise realistic and engaging without resorting to cheap sound bites or viral-ready clips makes the series one of the year’s best.