Be careful: ‘Ser Chief’ classy ladies’ killerBy Allan Policarpio
One rainy night in the last week of June, a social worker from New York with her friends, the most prominent lady dentist in St. Luke’s Global City, her mother-in-law and her medical mentor converged at a palatial house in Victoria Valley, the site of a shoot for an episode of “Be Careful with My Heart,” the teleserye.
The wide-eyed bunch breathe in the cinematic details, the production design and the cast. But they only had eyes for “Ser Chief” aka Richard Yap, the lead actor who hardly acts—he’s not going to be an action star anytime soon that’s for sure—but has swept ladies off their feet wherever they are in the world, across all economic classes.
Why? Whatever it is, the soft-spoken, bespectacled and clean-cut Yap has got “it,” which arouses the ladies’ so-called “kilig” to the max. Sigh.
ABS-CBN’s “Be Careful with My Heart,” the weekday drama—with a weekend rewind—has made fans out of unlikely teleserye viewers.
Inspired by Jose Mari Chan’s pop ditty “Please be Careful with My Heart,” the series shot to No. 1 on daytime TV, thanks to a combined feel-good plot and a winsome cast of characters.
The comparative ratings released by both AGB Nielsen (Mega Manila) and Kantar Media (nationwide) for June 24 to 28 show that “Be Careful” holds a considerable edge over its main competitor on GMA 7, “The Ryzza Mae Show,” hosted by child sensation Ryzza Mae Dizon.
For that time period, “Be Careful’s” daily ratings ranged from 23.3 percent to 25.9 percent on AGB Nielsen, and 23 percent to 25.2 percent on Kantar Media. On the other hand, “The Ryzza Mae Show’s” ranged from 15.1 to 16.3 percent on AGB Nielsen, and 10.5 to 12.1 percent on Kantar Media.
According to Kantar Media’s overall program rankings, also for June 24 to June 28, “Be Careful” was the only daytime show that made it to the top five for the whole week.
Hayley Almazan, a 40-year-old operating room nurse living in Toronto, Canada, was going through a tough time early this year when a friend urged her to watch the show.
“She said I’d get a good laugh. And I did … I got hooked,” Almazan said. “I don’t watch anything else.”
Almazan said she has given up watching TV two years ago, with all the gratuitous sex and violence onscreen. “Be Careful,” she said, was the sole reason she picked up the remote again.
The show airs at 1:30 a.m. in Toronto on The Filipino Channel (TFC).
“Be Careful”—which shares some plot similarities with “The Sound of Music”—tells the story of Maya (Jodi Sta. Maria), a provincial lass who dreams of becoming a flight attendant. She comes to Manila where she bumps into widower Richard Lim or Ser Chief (Yap), a businessman in the aviation industry. In exchange for Richard’s help, Maya agrees to be his children’s nanny.
“I watch it during my ‘relaxation time.’ It’s light and charming, but it makes me cry at times, too,” said corporate lawyer Pia Zobel-San Diego, who makes sure to find time to watch the show either on her TV phone or on the Internet, when she comes home. “My colleagues and I actually talk about it during meetings.”
Marlyn Javier, 50, a finance manager and accountant at a construction company, is so obsessed with “Be Careful” that she makes sure she’s free at 11:45 a.m.
“Honestly, it’s really the highlight of my day. I even move my meetings for it,” said Javier, who collects everything “Be Careful”—DVDs, soundtracks, news and magazine clippings.
“I meet with a lot of auditors and lawyers as part of my work. Surprisingly, a lot of them also watch the show,” she said. “Dealing with money and people can be tedious, but seeing Maya and Richard handle their problems with so much positivity inspires me.”
Before following “Be Careful,” 27-year-old architect Marie Lou Chris Camarillo, was not much of a fan of local soaps and preferred watching foreign TV series instead. She initially found “Be Careful” to be baduy, but gradually had a change of heart after watching episode after episode.
“I used to think that all teleseryes are the same—crying, kidnapping, shouting … but ‘Be Careful’ is different. I get stressed at work, but after watching the show, kinikilig at happy na ’ko (I am thrilled and happy) at the end of the day,” Camarillo said.
Occupying the late morning time slot, “Be Careful’s” original target viewers were housewives and their househelp, according to Jeffrey Jeturian, who directs the series’ episodes together with Mervyn Brondial.
But as the TV series went on, Jeturian, also an acclaimed filmmaker, said he started receiving text messages from his friends, requesting that the show be moved to prime time, so they need not sneak out of their work just to watch it.
“One of them works at a bank, and fears that she may get fired if caught watching the show on her phone,” Jeturian said. “Then one time, while on a location hunt in Nasugbu, Batangas, we dined in a popular restaurant, whose owner is a big fan of the show. She told us that at 11:30 a.m., she shuns all her appointments.”
Via TFC, overseas Filipinos have also caught on with the craze. “There’s a steady stream of balikbayan asking us if they can visit our set and meet Ser Chief,” he said. “Our running joke is that Ser Chief has become a tourist attraction.”
According to the “Be Careful” staff, the cast went on a world tour and held shows in the United States, Canada and the United Arab Emirates. They’re also slated to visit Singapore, Japan and Europe.
Given that most professionals are not really inclined to watch drama series, especially the local ones, Jeturian said that having such audience was an achievement. “And they’re not ashamed to admit that they watch the show,” he said.
Asked what could have possibly attracted professionals to “Be Careful,” sociologist and pop culture expert Dr. Gerald Abergos posited that some of them perhaps relate to Ser Chief, who has to balance his time between career and family.
“The show is a sort of escape for these professionals; it’s like a fairy tale if you will,” he said. “And I think it’s comforting for them to see that while Ser Chief is away, there’s someone like Maya who loves and takes care of his children.”
Teddy Dullano, a 30-year-old systems applications and productions consultant at a multinational IT corporation, echoed Dr. Abergos thoughts, saying that he indeed sees himself in Ser Chief. “It’s about his time management. You have to give equal importance to your family and loved one—’di lang puro work (not all work),” he said.
Abergos said Maya’s unwavering resolve inspires some professionals who religiously watch “Be Careful” to strive even harder. “Filipinos readily embrace success stories … In real life, success stories can be few and far between, kaya masaya tayo kapag napapanood natin (that’s why we’re happy when we watch them),” he said.
A service level manager at an international IT corporation, Louiezhel Borja, 29, said that watching Maya keeps her motivated. “I admire Maya’s perseverance; she doesn’t let her humble background get in the way of achieving her dreams. If she can do it, there’s no way I can’t,” said Borja, adding that “Be Careful” is her “alarm clock” before going to work at 3 p.m.
But for Jodi Sta. Maria who plays Maya, there’s really no big secret why “Be Careful” manages to attract not only housewives, but also working professionals. “It’s something we can all relate to,” she said, adding that “everyone falls in love.”
“Or maybe they see the show as a stress-buster. Kikiligin at tatawa lang sila (They’ll just laugh and be thrilled),” added Sta. Maria, who is being considered by the International Labor Organization and the Department of Labor and Employment to serve as poster girl for the “kasambahay law.”
The unexpected success of “Be Careful”—which will be turned into a movie by Star Cinema for this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival—is something Sta. Maria still can’t believe and explain. For the 31-year-old actress, playing the role of Maya “was just another job” when it was first offered to her.
“It has always been heavy drama for me, so I was just really excited to be doing a romantic comedy. I didn’t know the show was going to be this big,” she said. “‘Be Careful’ became a hit because of all the people working on- and off-cam—the writers, directors, production staff, crew. This is a group effort.”
Asked until when “Be Careful” will last, Jeturian gave a rather vague response: “As Ma’am Charo (Santos-Concio) said, ‘forever.’ Seriously, if ever it will end this year, there can always be a book two.”
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