By Nestor U. Torre
The premiere telecast of Judy Ann Santos’ comeback drama series, “Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala,” made a good first impression, because it was brisk and to the point—unlike many other teleseryes that start their storytelling a couple of generations before their protagonists make their initial appearance as children or young adults—!
Happily, Judy Ann and company have no time for such circuitous shenanigans, and get right to the heart of their series’ central conflict—between her cash-strapped farming family and a wealthy admiral who wants to get his hands on
their land, to further expand and enrich his business empire.
Since they don’t want to sell, the admiral’s son (Sam Milby) is forced to resort to unusually underhanded tactics: He make Judy Ann fall for him, effects the purchase of the prized property—and then breaks her heart. So, in only one
telecast, a lot has happened or been hinted at in terms of imminent development—and, that’s all to the good!
Judy Ann also does well in the series’ opening telecast, except for the fact that she still looks a bit too “prosperous” to be sufficiently believable as a cash-strapped young woman who is forced to work abroad to be able to send her younger brother to a good college. Her tinted hair further makes her character look not as pitiful and hard-up as required.
Otherwise, the actress comes up with a focused and spirited portrayal, effectively paving the way for the pertinent development of the series’ “woman empowerment” theme.
On the other hand, Judy Ann resorts to too many “for the fans” gambits that make her characterization not as focused as it should be—like her “funnily” nervous reactions to hunky Sam’s yummy bod, her ditzily prattling “monologue” as
she prepares breakfast for him, etc.
Now, we understand that a drama series needs occasional “comic relief” touches, but their extent, placement and timing here sometimes obtrude and distract.
More potentially harmful is the poor judgment that the series demonstrates when it combines shocking drama, violence and “comedy” in the scene in which Sam gets stabbed (!) by Judy Ann’s bogus OFW recruiter, as he collars and struggles
with the fleeing culprit. This is a very awkward mix at best, and shouldn’t be resorted to, because it subverts the key plot moment’s import.
For his part, Milby gains some brownie points for at least trying to intone more dialogue in Filipino than is his usual Fil-Am wont. In terms of characterization, however, he may have a major problem in this new series, because the rich guy he plays has to come off as a dodgy combination of hero and heel.
He’s basically a nice guy, but he’s a womanizer and has a weak spine, so when his autocratic dad (Tirso Cruz III) pushes him to resort to any and all means to buy Judy Ann’s family’s farmland, that’s exactly what he does, even if it means hurting her deeply.
That’s a difficult character and motivational mix to pull off, but some actors would love the challenge, precisely because it’s a really tall order.
In Sam’s case in the series’ first telecast, however, he seems to shirk the tough thespic task and its complex ramifications—and just tries to pass muster by coming across as “taciturn” and “troubled.”
Alas, there so much more that can be done with the complex role, so if the actor continues to avoid facing it head-on and full-throttle, he could end up being inadvertently yet thoroughly upstaged by his much more “knowing” leading