A supermarket producing a webseries? Sure! Puregold, one of the Philippines’ largest supermarket chains, produced Ang Babae Sa Likod Ng Face Mask (The Woman Behind the Face Mask). The romantic comedy stars popular TV host/comedienne/beauty queen Herlene “Hipon” Budol as a young woman who must overcome her insecurities and lack of confidence as she finds love.
Herlene of course rose to popularity first as a contestant and then as a host on Wowowin where her sometimes self-deprecating humor about her looks endeared her to and charmed audiences. Though originally used as a put down against her, Herlene took ownership of the nickname “hipon” or “shrimp,” referring to the idea of someone with a “hot” body, but not-so-hot face, Herlene draws from that experience to bring the character of Malta to life.
Malta experiences insecurities over her looks. Especially as over the years, blind dates have ended with her potential suitors running the other way upon seeing her face. Neighbors and bystanders insult and mock her about being a hipon. Nonetheless, Malta tries to live a good life working at a coffee shop and helping her mother (Mickey Ferriols) who runs a small sari-sari store at home. During COVID, Malta considers mask protocols as heaven-sent. Now, she’s perfectly happy keeping her face covered up and avoiding any potential harsh comments from people.
One day, Malta meets handsome restauranteur Sieg (Joseph Marco) when he comes into the shop for a bite. It’s love at first sight for Malta, while a recently heartbroken Sieg seems interested as well. The catch? Sieg meets Malta with her mask on. And while they begin chatting over the phone with video calls, Malta decides she must keep the mask on and not reveal her face to Sieg for fear he runs away scared like all the other guys in the past.
Sieg genuinely likes Malta. But Malta lets her insecurities and lack of confidence get the best of her as she continually finds ways to avoid removing her mask or meeting Sieg in person. Of course, those accumulated lies stack up and Malta must truly face Sieg, once and for all, even if it means she loses the guy she has developed true feelings for.
The series is thoroughly sweet and fluffy. Each of the series’ 13 episodes run anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes long. And those minutes go by quick. The wholesome, kilig vibes are present throughout. Powered by a charismatic performance from Joseph Marco and an endearing, charming performance from Herlene Budol.
Joseph Marco of course has plenty of experience as a leading man. And that very much shows here as he is able to match Herlene’s energy, while complimenting her strengths and making up for any potential weaknesses she might have as a rookie actress.
Herlene has a natural sense of comedic timing. It’s one of the reasons she has charmed so many people since first appearing on Wowowin. She is able to take that and deliver in funny scenes. Jokes and gags safely land thanks to Herlene. While she hasn’t had any professional training or even workshops, she is a natural performer. She’s proven that she’s got the dramatic potential too with appearances on GMA’s Magpakailanman. A role in that anthology series served as her acting debut and was one of the series’ most watched episodes that year. And while she has a lot of room to continue to grow and develop, she is able to balance the comedy and drama very well.
She is able to share a great chemistry with Joseph Marco, who has much more experience in a variety of roles, than Herlene. It seems to be a natural chemistry. And in an interview, Joseph Marco commented on how he was happy to help Herlene learn and grow as an actress while being impressed with her drive and discipline to do so.
Ang Babae Sa Likod Ng Face Mask certainly won’t be mistaken for a series produced for television broadcast. It is a webseries through and through. But that isn’t a knock on the series. The format and platform (all episodes debuted and are available on YouTube) are a perfect fit for the easy to watch and (more importantly) enjoyable story. One that has plenty of surprises too.
The series is a great showcase for Herlene Budol ahead of her leading lady TV series debut in 2023. And ultimately, it is good vibes all around with the right amount of comedy, drama and kilig romance to make for a fun viewing experience.
Watch the entire series on PureGold’s YouTube Channel: