First Impression Review: GMA Network’s Inspiring “Hearts on Ice” a Refreshing and Welcome Series for Filipino Audiences

First Impression Review: GMA Network’s Inspiring “Hearts on Ice” a Refreshing and Welcome Series for Filipino Audiences

Minor first week spoilers. Click here for Hindsight Review

I’ve finally gotten the chance to check out GMA Network’s Hearts on Ice and I’m glad I did. Ashley Ortega gets a well-deserved lead role in this family sports drama that ticks all the right boxes. Though it definitely adheres to familiar teleserye formula, it also provides refreshingly welcome twists from the norm. And that makes it well worth the daily watch (or weekly binge!).

Hearts on Ice tells the story of Pauline “Ponggay” Martinez (Ashley Ortega and Arhia Faye Agas). An accident when she was a baby has left her leg impaired and requiring a leg brace. While it has fueled cruel insults from bullies, Ponggay remains positive about life. However, her mother Libay (Amy Austria-Ventura) often scolds her for being too ambitious and even sometimes lays blame on her young daughter for their financial struggles.

When Ponggay learns her mother used to be one of the top figure skaters in the country, her supportive father (Lito Pimentel) secretly enrolls her in skating classes at the mall ice rink. Inspired by the videos of her mother’s athletic ability and artistry, Ponggay makes it her wish to fulfill her mother’s broken dream while also being motivated by her own dreams of success and receiving the love and validation she yearns for from her mother.

Ponggay grows up becoming quite a talented skater. That of course brings about the bullies wanting to bring her down. But also leads her to new friends and, naturally, romance as well.

These first weeks do an excellent job at laying out a very solid foundation for what’s to come in the series. You immediately want to root for Ponggay. That’s thanks in large part to the performances of Arhia Faye Agas as the young Ponggay and of course Ashley Ortega as the adult Ponggay.

Ashley Ortega has been a dependable supporting actress for GMA over the years. And after a breakout role in the thriller Widow’s Web, she finally gets her biggest role to date. And it’s one that is tailor-made for her. Ashley is actually a figure skater in real life. And she is able to showcase both her acting and athletic talent in this series. It’s a well-deserved role for her and she is definitely delivering already, even this early in the series.

A very strong ensemble cast compliments the beautiful visuals. Director Dominic Zapata maximizes settings that aren’t usually seen on Filipino TV. I mean, most people outside of Manila probably have never been in a mall with an ice rink before. But the series is able to maintain this dreamlike aura, especially whenever they are on the ice. And it fuels the series’ inspiring feels without making the series seem distant or unrelatable.

Speaking of, the story itself is very relatable. Though it is a familiar set-up in the teleserye world, the figure skating and really, the sports-aspect in general make it very unique from the typical teleserye.

GMA Hearts on Ice Review

There is definitely a lack of sports-focused television series. Heck, I don’t even know if there are sports-focused Filipino movies either. There’s plenty of “dream big” rags-to-riches type of stories. But those stories are usually focused on the showbiz industry. Those teleseryes coupled with the countless talent searches (and “celebrity” searches *cough* Pinoy Big Brother*cough*) has fostered this sort of “I want to be a star” culture. One where little boys and girls dream of becoming an “artista” over other professions; thinking that becoming a famous celebrity is the only way to get ahead in life.

Though many Filipino athletes have been able to make it big on the world stage in recent years including champion boxers, rOlympic weightlifting champion Hidilyn Diaz, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo and yes, 2x Olympic figure skater Michael Martinez, there are still hurdles that prevent young Filipinos from dreaming big in the athletic arena.

There’s certainly no shortage of athletic talent in the Philippines. But the lack of resources, most especially financial resources, is the biggest hurdle to young Filipinos being able to achieve those dreams. All of the aforementioned athletes have been quite open about their struggles with funding their international sporting dreams. Most especially in their road to the biggest sporting stage, the Olympics.

These early episodes of Hearts on Ice definitely gave a well-deserved focus on those difficulties. And it is most relatable to Filipinos. Everyday Filipinos are no stranger to struggles and difficulties with putting food on the table or paying the bills. Which is why dreams of an athletic career, which itself needs financial support, sadly get snuffed out too early.

That is why a series like Hearts on Ice is so refreshing for Philippine TV. In the sea of entertainment-focused rags-to-riches stories, one that instead focuses on athletic talent and ability is such a welcome change. I definitely hope it can serve as an inspiration to many young (and young at heart!) Filipinos to continue to dream big. And maybe be a wake up call to those in power to find ways to support young athletes and provide them with the resources to grow, develop and eventually show the world what they can do.

These first few weeks have certainly done their part to inspire. Ponggay’s story is inspirational and emotional. It’s the perfect recipe for a Filipino teleserye. Having to fight through adversity is something most Filipinos are no stranger to also. And the series effectively conveys those relatable experiences in a unique (for contemporary Filipino TV) premise.

Though of course, romance is something that will never be absent in a Filipino teleserye. And Ashley Ortega shares a good chemistry with leading man Xian Lim.

But for me, the highlight of the series so far is seeing Ponggay fighting for her dreams through hard work and determination. It’s not the typical showbiz audition or meeting talent managers or things like that. Ponggay and her family must muster up the courage, the grit and the determination to do well and put her in the best position for success. The series puts a lot of stock on hard work being the biggest factor in success. And while there are other factors that might be out of our control, putting your 100% into your dreams and leaving everything on the table (or on the ice, in this case) is just as important as any medal or podium.

GMA Hearts on Ice Review

Overall, Hearts on Ice certainly ticks off familiar Filipino teleserye boxes. But its unique and refreshing approach to those familiar themes allows for it to be a worthy watch. Even a must-watch considering how Filipino television can feel quite overwhelmed with “sameness.” Ashley Ortega leads a strong cast to pair with a well-paced story and excellent direction for what looks to be ultimately an exciting and uplifting series.

5 thoughts on “First Impression Review: GMA Network’s Inspiring “Hearts on Ice” a Refreshing and Welcome Series for Filipino Audiences

  1. GMA already had a sports-themed teleserye last year, titled “Bolera”, about a girl’s struggles in the world of professional billiards. It starred Kylie Padilla, and was also directed by Dominic Zapata.

    1. Yes, that’s right. I wasn’t able to watch it though. But it’s nice to see these kinds of different approaches to familiar themes. Hope to see more sports-themed dramas. I think a good one would be a high school or college youth drama focused on basketball or volleyball.

  2. I almost forgot……

    There were indeed Pinoy movies involving sports, but unfortunately, almost all of them turned out to be comedies.

  3. Ganda nito dahil hindi yung typical kidnapan, barilan, kabitan. Sad na parang hindi kinakagat ng tao dahil baka ma-discourage ang GMA gumawa ng ibang concepets tulad nito. But I love it. Sana meron spin-off with a male figure skater naman.

    Kasi, one criticism I have is based sa mga interviews nila and the show, parang pang-babae lang yung figure skating, ganern. So dapat ipakita na pwede din sa lalake. Hindi lang enough na nag-guest si Michael Martinez. Pero since eto lang ang exposure to figure skating para sa nakakarami, dapat i-present na the sport is for everyone. Hindi lang babae. Also, hindi lang malambot na lalake too, no offense. Any gender or sexual orientation, pwede. It’s such a beautiful sport.

    1. That’s an excellent point! Yes, I also have noticed that they seem to be highlighting figure skating as a more feminine sport. Maybe I can write in the future about my own experience and misconceptions about figure skating and gymnastics. I used to think they were feminine sports or just for women only. But I’ve grown to appreciate both sports now as something that both men and women work hard to excel in. Very inspiring to watch these amazing athletes. Especially seeing Filipino athletes in both sports making noise in international competition!

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