Judy Ann Santos’ recently concluded drama series, “Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala,” began with so much promise that it’s pertinent and instructive to reflect on what it actually left viewers with when it ended last month:
At the top of our checklist or “report card” is the series’ avowed theme of “female empowerment”—how clearly or strongly did it cumulatively ring out and shine through?
It did have a strong impact in its top female protagonist’s story of vengeance and retribution, against all odds. However, it was too melodramatically achieved, and at times Judy Ann’s assumption of vengeful power, thanks to the unexpected help handily provided by the characters played by Amalia Fuentes and Gretchen Barretto, was too easily pulled off.
As a result, the key thematic intention of female empowerment wasn’t sufficiently “earned” on a realistic level, so genuine empathy and “learning” didn’t convincingly result.
Judy Ann had greater success in vivifying her character’s love for her young son, who was forcibly taken from her by her decidedly bipolar husband, played by Sam Milby.
Speaking of Sam, the series was also a major career move for him, because it required him to speak more Tagalog—and almost forcibly yanked him out of the bland, boy-next-door rut that he’s been inhabiting for too many years now.
We applaud both gambits—but, in terms of actual progress, we must note that it’s generally been more superficial than significantly quantifiable.
Sam still needs to get his Tagalog problem completely out of the way, so he can concentrate on not just getting the words out correctly, but also being able to really think and feel in the language.
As for his ascent or descent into “darker” characterization, the shift was commendable, because all actors do need to grow. But, it was only occasionally believable and compelling because Sam went for type rather than the specific person of his violent screen persona.
The series’ other super-cruel character, Sam’s father, was played by the acclaimed actor, Tirso Cruz III, but even he was unable to make much sense of the deadpan monster he was tasked to portray.
The character was so unrelievedly evil that, when his back story was told for viewers to better “understand” how he had gotten to be that way, it was too late.
As a result, the revelation of his cross-dressing proclivities, on top of his many other quirks, struck us as more inadvertently comedic than movingly and instructively pathetic.
But, we were still relieved that the character had been assigned to Tirso—because, if a lesser actor had attempted to tackle it, his portrayal would have been such a mess!