Love and betrayal in ‘Cheating Game’s’ 4-way romantic roundelay
The conflict that drives the story of GMA Public Affairs’ first-ever film production “The Cheating Game,” directed by Rod Marmol (“Cuddle Weather”) and starring the “JulieVer” tandem of Julie Anne San Jose and Rayver Cruz, may have stemmed from the reckless actions of an inveterate cheater.
But its repercussions, as the movie deftly demonstrates, go beyond mere heartbreak and recriminations. At the heart of this cautionary tale set in the world of social media and influencers is a four-way romantic roundelay that holds content creator Hope Celestial (Julie Anne) hostage.
Hope has just had her heart broken by Brian Villogo (Martin del Rosario), a sweet-talking Lothario who sees his world crumble when his sex video with a mystery woman is leaked for every “Marites” on the world wide web to weigh in and gawk at.
But Hope quickly gets another lease on love when she crosses paths with businessman Miguel Agustin (Rayver)—on a steep and dusty footbridge on Edsa, of all places! You’d think the film could find a better, “more conducive” setting to initiate love, friendship or hooking up, right?
While the production is rough around the edges, it effectively banks on personable performers tasked to serve a story relatable to young viewers who can’t live without their TikTok videos and Instagram Stories. Completing the main cast is beauty queen Winwyn Marquez as Vanessa, whose lovely and steely presence brings another set of complications to Hope’s fragile love story.
No absolute truths
In our exclusive interview with the film’s director and his four lead stars, we asked the former what his production says about love and infidelity.
“The film is a reminder that there are no absolute truths in our experience with cheating… whether you’re the one who cheated or you got cheated on. More than anything, it exposes something about yourself.
“The movie wants to start a conversation about how painful it is to get your heart broken this way because, among the different facets of our lives, the way we deal with infidelity is how we measure or utilize our intelligence—hindi lang sa trabaho, kundi sa pagmamahal din.”
Asked what he set out to do when he conceptualized it, Rod quipped, “If it’s about cheating, dapat pagkakitaan (laughs)! Seriously, you can turn your bad experience into a motivation to do better. Open yourself up to new opportunities and new people.
“Initially, you may feel that what happened was a consequence of something you did … that you deserved the fate that had befallen you. But you’ll soon realize that isn’t the case, that you deserve better.”
It’s also a theme that resonates with Rayver, who cautioned viewers not to get fooled by pleasant first impressions.
“At first glance, my character Miguel is every girl’s dream guy—he’s a walking green flag. But without spoiling the movie for you, its story actually revolves around his experience with cheating, his connection to Martin’s and Win’s characters, and why he ends up crossing paths with Hope.”
On the other hand, Julie’s character in the movie succumbs to her naiveté. But there’s something about Hope’s vulnerability that the singer-actress relates to.
“Hope is an idealist. She’s a know-it-all whose idealism gets the better of her,” she shared. “I think we all face situations where we feel betrayed by someone we trust, although we cope differently. The film plays out like a warning because as they say, ‘Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you!’
“In my experience, it’s easier to move on if a relationship ended with you knowing that you didn’t do anything wrong. Cheating is a good enough reason for me to get out of a relationship. ‘Pag naloko na ako ng ilang beses, it’ll look like hindi na ako natuto. So in moments like this, I surround myself with people who genuinely love me and care about me.”
But does Julie ever forgive the exes who have hurt her?
“The reason behind the breakup has to be very strong because I don’t easily give up on the person I love,” Julie pointed out. “But if there’s one thing you have to know about me, madali akong magpatawad, pero wala nang balikan ‘yan.”For Martin, his character is a walking red flag who loves himself more than anybody in his life.
“Brian’s theme song in life is ‘Sana Dalawa ang Puso Ko’ (laughs),” he quipped. “He gaslights women and uses his charm to manipulate them. I know a lot of people who get cheated on and end up blaming themselves for somebody else’s fault. They have to be told to put more value on their self-worth and self-esteem. For me, cheating is a deal-breaker. If you do that to me, it’s over.”
Winwyn said she doesn’t share a lot of similarities with her character, Vanessa.
“While I like the fact that she’s a boss lady, I actually had difficulty ‘connecting’ with her because sobrang layo po kami (laughs),” she stressed. “And you’ll understand why if you watch the film.
“My advice to people who are heartbroken is to accept the pain. They shouldn’t pretend that they’re strong … because you can’t always be—you have to feel those emotions before you can truly move on. Cry it all out and seek the things that make you happy. Huwag muna sa ibang tao ilabas ang happiness nila kundi sa sarili nila.”
In line with the theme of cheating in their movie, we asked the actors to revisit the heartbreak they felt the first time their special someone cheated on them. What advice would they give to their younger selves now that they’re older and wiser?
Rayver’s advice to his younger self: “Don’t worry if the relationship didn’t work out. It’ll only make you tougher and stronger. Be patient … because Julie Anne San Jose will eventually come into your life!”
In Julie Anne’s case, she wants to say something reassuring to her teenage self: “I’ll tell my younger self that it’s all going to be OK. Don’t be afraid to love again because someone much better—like Rayver—is destined for you.”
As for Martin, he wants to tell his younger self not to be afraid of the pain. He said, “Let it all out because it’s normal to get hurt like that. There’s nothing wrong about sharing your feelings with friends and loved ones. It’s all part of the healing process. “And take your time. Don’t seek for love on the rebound … don’t use other people to get over the pain. That process will help you realize your worth even more, and that’s what’s more important. If the person you loved cheated on you, then she’s not worth your time and devotion. Someone better is out there just waiting for you to find her.”
On the other hand, Winwyn said that cheating isn’t really all that different from lying.
She mused, “Sometimes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a third person. So here’s my advice to my younger self: Love yourself more and appreciate yourself better. Don’t forgive him just to make peace with him, especially after he lied to you again and again. “If you truly love yourself and know your worth, you’ll be better off without him. Trust me, you deserve to be treated right.” INQ