06 February 2013

Good Start to Juan de la Cruz, the Serye

I do not watch prime time teleseryes. But I am making an exception this one time. Between the three of them, the trio of Kabayan, Korina Sanchez and Ted Failon convinced me last Monday night not to switch off the television set and see what the fuss about the new soap Juan de la Cruz was all about.

Frankly, I thought the cartoon introduction was a tad too long; although I must admit that it must have been very entertaining for children.

For the benefit of those who did not watch the opening episode, the introduction laid the background for the rest of the series and narrated how the aswangs once ruled the land until a Spanish friar arrived with a bakal na krus which could turn into a sword and which thus became a weapon against the dreaded creatures.

The krus was handed down from one generation of guardians to the other until the present day when the last female guardian found to her chagrin that her beau, who would give her a son, was in fact the haring aswang. The latter schemed to get into a relationship with her to get his hands on the bakal na krus.


However, Juan de la Cruz does not have those lengthy stares into nothingness mixed with sad music like in other seryes that producers struggle to prolong as prelude for the next break for commercials. In other words, the pacing is reasonably fast and this has made for better viewing.
A bit Twilight-ish, yes; but, in fairness, Amelia the last guardian did not take significantly less than nine months to bear her child. The child would be none other but Juan de la Cruz of the teleserye’s title, who would be left in the care of a priest as Amelia unceremoniously bowed out of the serye after a mere episode.

On her death bed, Amelia in her swan song bade Father Cito to ensure that the boy grew up close to the Lord and along the path of righteousness so the he could fight the evil that was written into his genes courtesy of the haring aswang’s chromosomes.

A bit cliché-ic, of course; but the serye is being shown at a time slot when there are probably millions of kids glued to the television set. Too much depth is probably not a good idea.

After two episodes, Juan has become a young boy raised in the convent but already having to deal with the challenges being posed by the need to stay on the right side. He is shunned by kids his age as well as by majaderas who frequent the church under the guise of being manangs.

And the story is still unfolding…

I sat up from my sofa when Albert Martinez’s hand morphed from a normal hand to one with sharp claws in the first instalment. I have always been a fan of computer-generated effects and I thought that short shot was as good as anything one sees in Hollywood movies.

That was, however, as good as it got. The other morphing scenes were clumsy, even amateurish.

I also thought that Zsa Zsa Padilla’s face after she changed to being an aswang looked a tad like a Halloween mask gone really bad. Was that look supposed to be a vicious snarl as one would imagine an aswang to have? It looked like a friendly grin.

If I am being honest, however, I have found the serye quite charming. Better effects will help; but it is really the story and the acting that has been captivating. The writers, in my opinion, are outdoing themselves injecting charming little scenes into the story.

For instance, as Juan knelt on balatong on a bilao as punishment for playing with hosts in mock Communion, the boy tried to wiggle his way out of his situation by telling the priest that he was only copying Fr. Cito because the latter was his idol.

The balatong scene was a pure gem! Who still does that these days? It was such an anachronism that it was so funny! The balatongs, if I may say however, looked more like jolens.

Then there was the scene when little Juan tried to help a magpepenitensiya by dousing his lacerated skin with alcohol.  And he thought he was only being helpful!  How funny was that!

When Juan tried to punish himself by kneeling on balatong without any prompting from anybody, the scene was another one of sheer humour!

There were also bits of subtlety that I appreciated because they left something for the viewer to figure out. For instance, I thought the scene when Fr. Cito held onto a pillow as he briefly thought of smothering the baby on the bed was beautifully done.

No words needed to be spoken. Just the act of picking up the pillow spoke volumes about the internal struggle that the priest was undergoing.

The lighting and camera angles, I must also say, are cinema quality. The serye is not perfect, but then few Pinoy productions really are.

However, Juan de la Cruz does not have those lengthy stares into nothingness mixed with sad music like in other seryes that producers struggle to prolong as prelude for the next break for commercials. In other words, the pacing is reasonably fast and this has made for better viewing.

The cast is also quite heavyweight. Albert Martinez is Samuel Alejandro, a.k.a. the haring aswang. Zsa Zsa Padilla is Laura Alejandro; and I suppose she is the reynang aswang. Fr. Cito is played by Jaime (I almost typed Cesc; how silly was that?) Fabregas.

The lead roles are played by Coco Martin and Erich Gonzales. Who have not even appeared in the serye as yet.

And I think I am already captivated and will see this one through…




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