When it was first announced that TV5 would be airing a Cignal/Viva Entertainment-produced Philippine adaptation of Korean drama Encounter, I was shocked and a little confused. Of all the Korean dramas they could adapt, they chose this Song Hye Kyo-Park Bo Gum romantic drama?
It was an interesting, unexpected choice, to say the least. I really didn’t know what to expect. But thanks to some kind pirates (no thanks to TV5 and Viva), I was able to watch the just-aired series premiere. And much to my surprise, I quite enjoyed it.
The trailer that was released a few weeks ago already looked very promising. The fact that this would be a weekly hour-long drama instead of being stripped as a daily teleserye was also a big plus. And so far, it works.
The premiere was a faithful adaptation of the Korean original. Covering everything from the source material’s first episode, Encounter did an actually pretty great job at laying the groundwork for the rest of the series.
Bringing over some scenes line-for-line while getting creative with most other scenes, Encounter feels much more than just a regular soap opera. Its pacing and flow definitely feels like how an hour-long drama should. And for a story like this, it’s probably for the best.
But in being a faithful adaptation, there’s also a bit of a worrying risk for me. While I enjoyed the original series, I also felt like it lost quite a bit of steam towards the end. I felt that they had used all their cards early on and had barely anything left, resulting in essentially filler to bring the series to its 16th episode.
I’m not sure how many episodes this Philippine adaptation will be, but I will wager a guess that there’ll be much more tweaking to the original story in the coming episodes. At least, I would hope so in order to remove parts of the drama that were far too draggy and flat.
What kept me engaged in the original were the irresistible charm and charisma of Song Hye Kyo and Park Bo Gum. You just can’t help but fall for them as much as their characters fall for each other. They have kind of star power that makes you interested in whatever series they are in.
Christine Reyes and Diego Loyzaga certainly wouldn’t have been my first choices for an adaptation. But they do a solid job here. It’s of course unavoidable to compare an adaptation to the original. And I’ll be upfront in saying that so far, Christine Reyes and Diego Loyzaga just don’t seem like they’d be able to carry the show on their own as well as their Korean counterparts did.
That said, both Reyes and Loyzaga manage to do a good job of limiting being merely imitations of the original. Instead, they have a good balance of being faithful to the original performances while still making both characters their own. Thanks to the writing and even more so thanks to Reyes and Loyzaga’s performances, there’s a real Filipino-ness to both characters. They make Selene and Gino feel like their own characters, even to someone who may have watched the original series.
One of the most commendable creative decisions for this adaptation is swapping in Ilocos Norte for Cuba. Obviously, this Philippine adaptation wasn’t going to travel to Cuba or anywhere out of the country (COVID or not). But having Ilocos Norte stand in for Cuba was actually a genius decision.
The sort of frozen in time mystique that Cuba has can also be seen in Ilocos and Encounter was able to use that to its advantage here in a way that makes it, again, very Filipino.
Overall, this first episode of the Philippine adaptation of Encounter was very solid. Its format definitely helps elevate it above a regular daily teleserye. But its production and being a faithful adaptation of the original Korean drama gives it that extra bit of depth. Christine Reyes and Diego Loyzaga are fine so far. But the true test comes later in the series. It will be up to them and the rest of the production team to see if they can avoid the original’s shortcomings. And whether or not this will truly be an “encounter well-worth having.”