Saturday, October 8, 2011


Philippine Daily Inquirer
Friday, October 7, 2011

Nora Aunor’s latest and perhaps last comeback to the local TV-film scene should, by rights, be a major entertainment event. Not just yet another turgid, florid melodrama, but a production with a theme and significance commensurate to the iconic actress’ proven worth.
The good news is that her prime comeback vehicle, the month-long TV5 miniseries, “Sa Ngalan ng Ina,” is shaping up to be such an event. Perceptively megged by Mario O’Hara, the series is more than just a convoluted and prolix family drama, it’s a seething study of politics, Philippine style, with all of its dark and dangerous twists and turns – and telling insights into the Filipino psyche.

Morality tale
As the new series’ cautionary political morality tale swiftly unreels, a well-loved gubernatorial candidate (Bembol Roco) is killed at a political rally, leaving his widow (Aunor) to (like Cory Aquino) carry the torch. In so doing, she reveals that she isn’t the meek pushover many people thought she was.
Other revelations in the series’ first three episodes include the fact that the widow had a past relationship with the governor (Christopher de Leon) who’s now her political foe (and the suspected mastermind of her husband’s murder). It’s also intimated early on that he isn’t guilty, but his ambitious wife (Rosanna Roces) could very well be.
As the plot dramatically thickens, the series’ significant themes emerge and glisten, exciting us with the possibility that “Sa Ngalan ng Ina” could be as exceptional as it has promised to be. On the local teleserye scene, where self-serving melodrama instead of authentic drama rules, that really is an eventuality worth celebrating.

To be sure, some “danger signs” are evident that may limit or detract from the series’ worthy objectives. There appears to be too much emphasis on the other and young members of the slain politician’s family, and some of the young actors assigned to those roles are not up to the thespic task at hand.
Also less than choice is the rather standard way that the production stages and handles its “political” scenes, which betrays a lack of “actualized” insights in the process that the story seeks to expunge.
Some production details are similarly and distractingly inept, like the “dramatic” veil that Nora is made to wear in the funeral scenes, which threatens to “drown” her slight frame and upstage her in a major way. And the decision to make Rosanna wear a brightly colored outfit at the funeral was similarly too “TH.”
But, these are details. What matters most is the firmness of the series’ plot, character and thematic development, and that’s coming along relatively well – so far. In addition to the gathering strength and force of Nora’s lead portrayal, Bembol also did well in his all-too-brief appearance, and Rosanna, Eugene Domingo, Karel Marquez and Alwyn Uytingco are also coming on strong.
Unfortunately, Christopher tried to get by with mannered “voice acting” in his early scenes. By the third telecast, however, in his first long scene with Nora, he managed to drop the melodramatic “act,” and the thespic chemistry between them was stirring to behold. We hope that, from here on in, the actor will continue to give us seminally focused moments like that, instead of mannered approximations thereof.
Other thespic “grace notes” thus far were provided by Nora’s speech at her first rally, Leo Rialp’s subtle political machinations, and the exceptionally telling scene between Eugene and Alwyn, ostensibly just a small and offhand interlude at mealtime, but in fact an eloquent expression of their unique relationship and what they felt about what was happening to their family and to their town.
It is grace notes like these that tell us that more than just simple storytelling is happening in this series, which could end up as one of the year’s best extended dramas – and proof positive that Nora Aunor still has what it takes, and is here to stay.

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