MANILA — "Top ka, Mico! Top ka!"
So went a memorable line from the pilot episode of "Hello, Stranger," which rang true Wednesday night as the boys' love (BL) series indeed topped Philippine trends on Twitter.
Within minutes after its premiere on producer Black Sheep's YouTube and Facebook pages, "Hello, Stranger" ranked among the most talked about topics on the social media platform.
An hour later, its official hashtag, #HelloStrangerEP1, secured the No. 1 spot in the local trending list, with comments ranging from praise for the cast's acting, to "kilig" over the interactions of the "ship" now dubbed #XavMi.
In the lockdown-set first episode, Mico (JC Alcantara), the top student of his class (hence, the line), is assigned to partner with a varsity basketball player, Xavier (Tony Labrusca), for a class project.
At first mischievous and apparently carefree, Xavier admits to Mico he has been struggling with his subjects, risking his slot in the varsity team. Mico promises to help him, while Xavier promises to cooperate and be a diligent partner.
Their frequent video calls for their task lead them to get know each other. Mico learns that Xavier has a girlfriend, and lives alone because his family is in the US. Xavier, meanwhile, is amused with Mico's formal demeanor — and choice of outfits — and gets glimpses of his being a responsible son, juggling chores with his studies.
"Hello, Stranger," written by Patrick Valencia and directed by Petersen Vargas, comes amid a wave of BL productions in the Philippines, following the massive success of the Thai series "2gether" early this year.
For the creative team, "2gether's" popularity signaled that the Filipino audience is now ready for gay love stories with mainstream treatment; that is, through romcom lens, and more importantly, normalized.