Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sa Ngalan ng Ina - An Epic Drama Worthy of a Superstar

When Mayor Armando Deogracias (Bembol Roco) decided to seek higher office, he didn't bank on his ambition costing more than he expected. Incumbent Governor Pepe Ilustre (Christopher de Leon) and his minions weren't pleased. One fateful night, during a campaign sortie, a bomb was thrown at the stage where Armando and daughter Andrea (Nadine Samonte), who's running for Mayor, were making speech! Though Andrea was spared from the explosion, Armando wasn't so lucky. He was rushed to the hospital. When doting wife Elena (Nora Aunor) arrived by his side, he had expired.

The catastrophe threw the bustling town into a frenzy. Who plotted the dastardly deed? Before the dust settled on this political arena, the grapevine has pointed its finger at the Deogracia's political rivals, the Ilustres. Was the paraplegic governor responsible? Or was it a strategic device of the governor's wife, Lucia (Rosanna Roces) who's as beautiful as she's cunning?

This fortuitous turn of events turned the Deogracias household upside down. And as fate would have it, Elena, the reluctant, albeit unsuspecting widow is suddenly jostled into the tumultuous political platform. After all, aren't widows potent instigators of change? Despite her reservations, Elena is aware of the grave repercussions if she were to decline the position. And everyone else is on tenterhooks from the expeditious sway of events.

In 2002, ABS-CBN launched a great singer to stardom – Carol Banawa - for a teleserye called “Bituin”. She played Melody Sandoval, a singer who rose to fame despite the odds. But one salient detail in this “Pangarap na Bituin”-styled drama was the participation of an icon, a name that can never be omitted in the annals of Philippine Show Business – Superstar Nora Aunor!

But in the fracas of building up a star, the station myopically sidetracked the Superstar’s participation. She was relegated to second tier-territory. In fact, as the series went on, La Aunor’s character was reduced to a mere afterthought! And what a shame that was; an embarrassment of gargantuan proportions, for how can the Queen be relegated to a minor throne in favor of a newbie who, though talented, will never approximate the scope of grandeur and legacy that is Miss Nora Aunor? Roughly a year later, Ms. Aunor decided to pack it up and seek greener pasture elsewhere! In fact, she left with a broken back and a crashed ego, she thought she was done and over with!

But time has a way of mending iniquities. Directors Mario O'Hara and Jon Red's "Sa Ngalan ng Ina" is fixing the aberration. Nora Aunor is back in a panorama that befits her talent and stature. In ABC-5's miniseries, the story revolves around Elena and every character gravitates and orbits around her! It's taken time to finally field a vehicle that once again showcases La Aunor's enviable thespic facility.

Yes, those expressive eyes once again pull the ponderous punches, as when, in her grief, Aunor (as Elena) laments with her slain husband's 3 favorite "barongs". The framing of the scene is well conceived - she's seated on a bed beside her sister Pacita. There's a door on the foreground, adequately spotlighting a widow's grief! It was like watching an intimate act from a chamber play on stage! And why not? Director O'Hara is as much a famed theater director as he is a film megman. There are remnants of her Richard Merck-era grunts, but Ate Guy's emotionality is corporeal, earthy, and palpable as when she once appeared before a crowd, declaring to spiritually desperate people that there was no miracle after all! Walang himala indeed!

The series' supporting characters are nothing to scoff at: Eugene Domingo, who plays Pacita (Elena's younger sister) is a calming presence; a wonderment of sobriety in Elena's turbulent world; Rosanna Roces, as Lucia, is the perfect mischief-maker, the miscreant who'll stop at nothing to protect the interest of the Ilustres; Ian de Leon, playing the security officer of the Deogracias, is an ambiguous character when it's revealed that he shares Lucia's bed. And Christopher de Leon's Governor Pepe is a sketchy character; he's hard to read for now. We do know that Pepe and Elena once shared intimate moments.

Among the younger cast, Karel Marquez and Eula Caballero make the grade! Marquez, who plays Carmela Ilustre (Pepe and Lucia's only daughter), looks exceedingly beautiful, yet her comeliness never distracts from the dilemma that she's in, i.e. she's the girl friend of Elena's son Angelo (Edgar Allan Guzman, who plays a police officer). Their tale provides a Romeo and Juliet predicament. I'm not familiar with Caballero, but so far, she displays a sympathetic affect as Pacita's daughter. This, in itself, is a triumph considering the crowd of reliable veterans she's working with. Otherwise, it's easy to get lost in this privileged company!

Though Alwyn Uytingco, who plays the volatile Alfonso Deogracias (Armando Deogracia's son), is never awkward, his performance isn't as forthright as it should be, which is a shame since we expected a lot from him. I have a feeling he'll get into his usual competent groove as the narrative unravels in the coming episodes.


The series isn't spared from weak performances, the most glaring would be the lovely Nadine Samonte, playing Armando's daughter Andrea, a lawyer who's running for mayoralty vacated by her father. Nadine figures in several highlights, constantly leering at her stepmother Elena (she's Armando's second wife). Nadine populates her performance with sneers and smirks, throwing her lines with utter disgust, yet they all end up perfunctory and one-dimensional. As eye-catching as she is, Nadine is a blank canvas devoid of real and insightful emotion. Her conversations with Elena (well, she's always talking down on her stepmom) come off vacuous, like a girl who's in a constant bad temper. Now that's a shame again, considering she's "consecrated" a sundry of highlights!

Didn't Samonte star in Rod Santiago's "The Sisters" prior to this series? That should have provided her with adequate experience, i.e. "dry run". In one scene, she trades barbs with Elena. She declared: "Tatlong gabi akong umiiyak para sa ama ko." Elena replied with: ""Di ko mabilang ang luhang galing sa puso." Despite the mawkish line that Aunor was made to deliver, she owned the silliness with stark earnestness, while Nadine's was not dissimilar to a child reciting a nursery rhyme! It was a painful scene to digest.

Another sore point is Raquel Villavicencio playing Vice Governor Dorinda Fernando. Now whoever gave her the illusion she could act should be burned at the stakes! Yes, we heard she won a major award from the recently concluded Cinemalaya festival (the same festival group that awarded a disputable supporting trophy for Jim Pebanco's abhorrent and absolutely dreadful turn in Lamangan's "Patikul"), but goodness gracious, Villavicencio is such a disgrace! Even when she's spouting a potentially powerful line like, "This is a politically motivated violence," it becomes such a mundane drivel with her! Moreover, when Villavicencio was made to deliver a speech on stage as she tries to persuade the crowd (that she should take over the governorship instead of inexperienced Elena), she appeared weakly sniveling and tentative, and curiously unconvincing. She bears no gravitas expected from a seasoned politician. How she became vice governor escapes me!

There's a certain carelessness in a few scenes, like when the bloodied mayor was rushed at the hospital. While emergency measures were being given to the fatally wounded politician, you would know something was amiss at the E.R. Now, here's a bleeding patient, with blood gushing on his shirt, but where's the intravenous fluid? You wouldn't wonder why the patient eventually expired. The incompetence of the medical staff is daunting! Don't tell me they don't have "dextrose" in that institution? Or was it a veterinary hospital the poor mayor was rushed to? LOL


On the plus side, the production is top caliber. They commissioned Mr. Ryan Cayabyab to compose the theme song, a song that's melodically rich it cajoles the auditory senses. You never hear such soaring theme songs anymore, but soul-less covers ("Mahiwaga", "May Bukas Pa"). The song is beautifully sung by Basil Valdez whose rich lilting voice deserves to be heard again by a prime time crowd! Moreover, during the first episode, almost every scene had a propitious staging, most of them involving large crowds. The scenes have been briskly paced and mindfully staged like snippets from some epic masterpiece! Who can accuse them of scrimping production expenses? The atmosphere created therein concocts a distinct narrative macrocosm, making "Sa Ngalan ng Ina" a unique television experience worthy of our patronage.

I've always thought of TV5 as a refuge of 2nd-tier personalities who can't find employment elsewhere, and for a while, I knew I was right. After all, how can you think otherwise when they're fielding god-awful TV dramas like "Star Confessions" (I caught 3 horrible episodes). But with a class act like "Sa Ngalan ng Ina" providing a hopeful and inspiring gleam on TV land, there's no doubt TV-5 has joined the big leagues! That, my dear, is to our advantage!

Cheers to the one and only Superstar - Miss Nora Aunor!




Dorinda is as hammy as her alter-ego! She can't even give a believable campaign speech!

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