'Serye' without a 'kontrabida'
MANILA, Philippines - It's a striking detail of "My Husband's Lover" that the center of this gay-themed story is a woman.
This was underscored in the GMA teleserye's much anticipated episode of Friday, July 12, with its story geared up by Lally Soriano's learning about her husband Vincent's affair with his great love, Eric del Mundo.
Watch the episode here:
Suzette Doctolero, headwriter of the popular serye, affirms the poignant significance in this story of the Lally character, as portrayed by Carla Abellana.
For this assignment for Rappler, actress, producer and writer Giselle Tongi-Walters met recently with Doctolero to talk about "My Husband's Lover," particularly the creative process behind the show which is just as engaging as its story.
"Carla's character is the center of the story," Doctolero said. "One of the reasons why I wrote 'MHL' was this – I consulted a friend of mine who's straight, and I said, What if I write a love triangle between two men and a woman, and the two men in this case are the lovers. Will you watch it?"
It was no surprise to Doctolero that her friend assumed this affair would be merely transactional to one of the two men, the other being earnestly gay.
"That's my friend's concept of the bading – the bading as you see in the beauty parlor," she explained. "And this common idea about the bading or gay lifestyle is represented by the wife Lally, who is so naive in her understanding of gays.
"She doesn't know that this very manly guy who's her husband is bading. She doesn't know this bading has an affair with this guy who also looks lalaking-lalaki (very much manly). And there's no money involved in this relasyon (affair) but love. It's an eye opener for her."
For Doctolero, Lally's perspective serves as everybody's eyes, looking in from outside the gay community – just as the public's focus has sharpened on the current issues regarding the LGBT.
In that sense, "My Husband's Lover" captures the zeitgeist. It's a complex serye too, because of the inherent humanity of the characters.
"There are no kontrabida in this soap if you watch it," Doctolero said. "All of them are caught in a conflict brought about by a situation and their decisions."
Even the "kabit," as she called the third party in this story, not implying at all "mistress," "has his reasons and we understand him. In fact, people love the Dennis Trillo character" – who is intriguingly named Eric del Mundo: Eric meaning "ruler" and del Mundo (variant of the Spanish mondo), "of the world."
"When I watch this show, I don't see Dennis Trillo or Carla or even Tom [Rodriguez, as the husband Vincent]," said Doctolero. "I see their characters, and I guess viewers sense a certain compassion toward them that the actors also sense and so they become inspired in their performances."
Doctolero expressed her admiration for the actors, particularly Dennis and Tom. "Dennis really studied [his part as] an effeminate man. It's plain to see in the characterization and nuances."
Another facet of the show that sets it apart from the melodrama tradition, as G Tongi pointed out to Doctolero, is the noticeable "pagtitimpi" or restraint among the characters – which the scriptwriter attributed to their background.
"They're middle-class and educated, for one thing," she said. "They're civil, and they were raised from a Christian foundation."
That foundation is indeed curious to note. It should be looming like a guilty shadow over the lovers' thinking and sensibility – except that this is a very determined pair, and modern that way, such that they have abandoned their upbringing long ago.
Is Philippine society, for that matter, stepping away further from this heritage and becoming part of the post-Christian milieu?
The Catholic Church could be pondering over that question in this now more open environment before its eyes.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philipppines has weighed in on this show.
All things considered, the characters are "not butangera [quarrelsome] or anything," Doctolero said. "And I'd much prefer characters who don't [create a scene], because it's not totoo [real]. The peg for this show would be to tell something realistic, based on such relationships as they really evolve."
"My Husband's Lover" is now on its 6th week, and despite the crucial plot point of the July 12 episode, it won't end yet anytime soon.
But this story is already fully formed in her imagination ("Naluto ko na siya"), Doctolero said.
"I have my own way [of writing a story]. When I do a concept, I already know the ending. In fact, it's all very detailed, it's like I already wrote the whole novel. So when I pitch this to my team, they already know [the whole story too]."
There was talk about extending the show when "MHL" started rating. Doctolero remembers being consulted as to whether the show could be extended "without sacrificing the content. 'How far can you bring this?' they asked me."
She laid out a timetable that this article is constrained from disclosing. "After that, that's it. Instead of extending a show, all because it's rating, it's better to end a show with its integrity intact – something people will remember." - Rappler.com