Jul 19, 2007

Anghelita vs Ysabella

Up against each other on early primetime television in the two big networks are two programs that are of different genres — although both have heavy elements of drama: Mga Mata ni Anghelita on GMA 7 and Ysabella on ABS-CBN.
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Mga Mata ni Anghelita, a drama fantasy, is the TV version of the hit Julie Vega film of the late ’70s. Three decades later, the tale surprisingly still works. Maybe it helps that it has a rustic setting — in a sleepy town where time seems to have stood still.

It stars Kristal Reyes as the ill-fated child Anghelita who in the beginning was without sight, but was lent a pair of eyes by the Blessed Mother and putting Lucy Torres in the role was perfect casting because she really looked like the Virgin Mary in her scenes. Anghelita is believed to be the bearer of bad luck and so she is outcast forever, being pursued by the townspeople. She finds refuge in the parish priest, Pen Medina, the hunchback Marvin Agustin and a woman sympathetic to her plight, Tuesday Vargas.

Even if the material of Mga Mata ni Anghelita is old, its age refuses to show because of the fast-paced scenes and you see so many things happening in just a single episode. As a viewer, you are forever curious to find out if Anghelita is going to be whacked again by the wicked character of Sheryl Cruz and what new travails await her. And it helps that child star Kristal is not cloying and neither does she play it cute. Physically, she looks pitiable and your heart goes out to her.

Over-all, Mga Mata ni Anghelita has great casting, boasts of a good narrative, has brisk pacing and — thanks to the setting — has an unmistakable provincial charm about it. It is definitely an improvement over the film version and the updated TV series is a lot more exciting, too.

Ysabella on ABS-CBN, on the other hand, is realistic modern drama that revolves around cooking and is undoubtedly inspired by films like Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), Babette’s Feast and other movies about food.

Unlike Mga Mata ni Anghelita, Ysabella is as modern as modern can get. To begin with a great part of the story is set in a TV studio since the lead characters host a cooking show.

Originally, it is just Derek Ramsey who is the TV star, but Judy Ann Santos, a girl who inherited the cooking talent of her late mother (played by Rosanna Roces), is accidentally discovered and they become co-hosts.

What I like about Ysabella is that it is an original story. It may have drawn inspiration from here and there, but basically, it is not like all the other shows we see on TV now — remakes (I swear — all these are starting to come out of my ears!).

Most interesting is the character of Coney Reyes, who supposedly got rich and successful after stealing the chicken recipe from Rosanna (she died early in the story of Ysabella, but is now churning out a terrific performance on Natutulog Ba Ang Diyos?). It’s an offbeat role that Coney plays here and she is doing a fantastic job with her cold and frosty ways. Her tussles with in-law Carla Martinez are getting more and more colorful with each episode. It’s just a pity that her assistant in the story, Pokwang, isn’t given much to do (maybe not yet) because I know that this female comic also brims with talent.

As for Judy Ann, the role fits her perfectly and she’s believable playing the part because we all know that she cooks and understands food. Besides, she had always been a terrific actress — with a whole slew of acting trophies to show. On television right now, there is no doubt that she is the medium’s best and most prized actress.

That she breezes through her performance and is very comfortable with her Ysabella character helps make the viewers glued to the program. The storytelling is also energetic and the shots very creative. Ysabella is glossy and you appreciate the outstanding production values poured into the show.

However, the part where the character of Judy Ann kept throwing up in the early episodes didn’t sit well with me. Once, twice was okay. But more than that already made me want to throw up. So enough, please. Remember, this is a show about food and is shown around dinnertime.

And then maybe, the character of Derek can also use a little more charm. Although they are now falling in love with each other in the story, truth to tell, they don’t have chemistry. Besides, you and I already know in whose arms Judy Ann would eventually end up with.

We may have to wait a little before our heroine ties the knot in the story with main leading man Ryan Agoncillo (who is again a “natural” in Ysabella, just like in Kasa, Kasali, Kasalo) but we just have to be thankful that the roads leading to the ending are paved with exciting episodes that get to be more and more delicious with each telling.
STAR BYTES By Butch Francisco
Philippine Star

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