TYPE OF REVIEW : HINDSIGHT REVIEW
Some spoilers. For my First Impression Review, Click here
It has been a fun ride with GMA Network’s Mga Lihim Ni Urduja. In the headline of my First Impression Review, I mentioned the series having “sleek substance.” And that remained true throughout the 48 episodes, even if the series might have slowed down (or maybe sped up too fast?) a little toward the end.
Overall, Mga Lihim ni Urduja just had this cool, slick vibe. A lot of swagger in the way it told its story. And that’s for both the modern-day fantasy-adventure-heist side of the series as well as the legend and historical side as well.
The way the series was able to seamlessly blend those two sides is a testament to the creativity of the team that brought the story to life. Having a refreshingly Filipino take on a familiar premise like treasure hunting or mythical powers is such a welcome sight. Especially when the foundation of the entire series is firmly rooted in Filipino culture, history and folklore.
The first half of the series featured a lot more visits with Urduja. And again, Sanya Lopez was perfectly cast in the role with some excellent set design and creative, new production environments transporting viewers to pre-colonial Philippines.
Like with Maria Clara at Ibarra, I appreciate the creative way Urduja was able to tell these historical and period pieces by fusing them with modern-day stories. It really does help these stories previously reserved only for the classroom to be more accessible and a lot more fun for everyone to absorb and enjoy.
But at the same time, seeing how wonderfully and vividly executed those scenes of Urduja were, it still makes me hope for the day we will be treated to perhaps a more direct and full-length adaptation of such historical and legendary stories. Of course, with the same amount of visual and narrative creativity and effort.
Back in 2011, GMA Pinoy TV had this awesome TV bumper commemorating Bonifacio Day and I posted it on YouTube:
After seeing it, it made me want to see a shiny, stylized, cool live action or even animated retelling of the Philippine Revolution. And other moments in Filipino history or folklore too. I feel like Mga Lihim ni Urduja gave us a glimpse of what that could look like. And it was awesome.
Now, this early focus on the legend of Urduja definitely helped to allow the rest of the series to focus on our present-day characters and their stories. We would of course continue to check in with Urduja, especially as the series’ endgame was finally revealed in the final week or two.
But the revelation that Gemma, Crystal and Onyx were not only all descendants of Urduja, but siblings as well, opened up even more story potential that I think was well-realized by the end.
The stories of family, friendship and bonds as well as the unconditional love in those relationships delivered some wonderful and relatable character moments. Those character moments help you to care about the story’s more fantastical aspects. And again, those two sides work hand in hand to bring together a fuller and more engaging experience.
Kylie Padilla and Gabbi Garcia continued their also perfect pairing. Like I mentioned in my First Impression Review, their contrasting, yet complimentary personalities work so well together, whether it’s in dramatic moments or in more lighthearted moments.
One of the bigger surprises though is their chemistry with Vin Abrenica as Onyx too. Once the big reveal took place, it allowed for a great dynamic to develop between the three of them, filled with conflict and compassion. And that allowed the last week or two to be that much more affecting. The climactic moments felt more emotional that they might have been otherwise. And that helped to free up the action scenes to be as explosive as they could be too.
The rest of the cast also deserve their kudos. A very strong ensemble. Michelle Dee, Kristoffer Martin, Pancho Magno and Arra San Agustin continued to exude that dangerous charisma throughout. And it even made me wish to see them in their own spin-off. Maybe seeing them going on different heists around the Philippines. Or even the world! (Calling GMA Network!)
Other standouts include Billie Hakenson (actually a revelation!) as the kickass, but traitorous Astrid and Gina Pareno as the heart of the story, Lola Merly. Meanwhile, Zoren Legaspi as essentially the Final Boss was absolute fun. You could see through his performance all series-long how much he relished his moustache-twirling, though multi-faceted villain role. That progression from the first time we meet him as one of his characters until the final episode was great fun.
The direction of Jorron Lee Monroy also deserves much praise. There was a lot of talent in front of the camera, but definitely also a lot of talent behind the camera and behind the scenes as well. The stunning and glossy visuals and purposeful direction brought all the pieces including the excellent ensemble cast and the creative writing and concept together for something that looked unlike anything you normally see on Philippine TV.
And ultimately, that is such a welcome sight to see. Mga Lihim ni Urduja was a fun, exciting ride. Even if the series might have been a little too different for some viewers, it is one example of how there are still so many unique stories to tell on Philippine TV. Even familiar stories, but in truly refreshing ways and with new approaches. Urduja showed there is so much potential just waiting to be tapped. And one hopes it won’t be the last of its kind on local television.