TYPE OF REVIEW : GOOD OL’ REVIEW
No spoilers. For Hindsight Review, click here.
GMA Network has long been regarded as the leader in local fantasy series. Even the network’s detractors who deride its drama programs concede that they do much better fantasy productions than their rival networks. So it is no surprise their latest presentation, Mga Lihim ni Urduja, follows in the footsteps of its predecessors. And also moves to elevate the local genre even more.
Mga Lihim ni Urduja is inspired by the legendary Filipino warrior princess of a 14th century land believed to be present-day Pangasinan. The series, however, is set in the present day as police officer Gemma Davino (Kylie Padilla) and jewelry designer Crystal Posadas (Gabbi Garcia) are recruited to help retrieve Hara Urduja’s heritage jewelry which may hold mystical powers. Fate brings Gem and Crystal together as they are actually direct descendants of Urduja.
Gem and Crystal’s clashing personalities aren’t the only thing that might throw the operation awry. They must also go toe-to-toe with a group of ruthless and deadly bounty hunters also in search of the jewels as well as the secrets the priceless items hold.
Mga Lihim ni Urduja has a sumptuous mix of sleek, modern visuals and stunning period details as it regularly blends scenes of the present day with scenes of 14th century Urduja and her people.
Those scenes of Urduja, especially right at the start of the very first episode, are absolutely striking. Well-choreographed action is paired with detailed historical touches to once again make something from the past feel very accessible to modern audiences. Sanya Lopez is perfectly cast as Urduja with her beauty and athleticism.
Being able to tell Urjuda’s story with a bit of fantasy and modern storytelling really allows for a wider audience to understand and appreciate the vibrant history of the Philippines that often gets brushed aside or worse, forgotten.
The modern-day scenes play out like a slick action adventure. Kylie Padilla and Gabbi Garcia are a perfect pairing with their contrasting, but complementary personalities. Especially as they face the danger posed by the bounty hunters.
Vin Abrenica and Michelle Dee lead the team of hunters and their performances as cutthroat and ruthless individuals really help provide the series the tension it deserves. There is also a bit of underlying sexual tension too that adds to the overall vibe of their story. Kristoffer Martin, Pancho Magno and Arra San Agustin complete the bounty hunters and together they are able to present a familiar sort of “cool” ragtag group that you know is dangerous, but can’t help but be enamored by.
Mga Lihim ni Urduja is able to touch upon themes of family and friendship as well. Especially as it relates to the legend of Urduja. And of course, with its female-led cast, a strong statement on women empowerment without it feeling contrived or half-hearted like many pandering attempts in the west, perhaps.
With the announcement that the series is meant for and will conclude with 50 episodes, you can be sure the story will remain tight and well-paced. This first week of episodes already set the tone very well and successfully introduced our main characters while still leaving a lot of mystery left to unfold.
Taking over the timeslot from Maria Clara at Ibarra provides big shoes for this series to fill. But so far, Mga Lihim ni Urduja takes many of the things that made the former series successful. By blending together the past and present in a sort of whimsical adventure, it allows for the story to be accessible while also being unique and different from the usual Filipino teleserye offerings.
Right out of the gate, it is a well-cast, well-produced series with lots of exciting potential for the next nine weeks to come. Sleek production and a story with depth and substance, Mga Lihim ni Urduja looks to be another winner for GMA Network. And Filipino television in general.