MANILA — Even before its premiere, the teleserye “Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin” has had a tumultuous journey, following ABS-CBN’s forced broadcast shutdown that accelerated the network’s digital migration, and amid a worsening pandemic that has halted entire industries.
“Sobra-sobra ‘yung challenges na kinaharap ng show,” its director, FM Reyes, told ABS-CBN News during the series’ recent media conference, ahead of its August 17 debut.
The project marks numerous firsts, in terms of feats and roadblocks it overcame.
“Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin” is the first teleserye to utilize ABS-CBN’s sprawling sound stages with an all-Filipino crew, after the network tapped Hollywood professionals to train units here in the last few years, according to Reyes.
It’s also the first new drama series of ABS-CBN during the pandemic. Originally scheduled to premiere last March 23, “Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin” was delayed indefinitely as the first community lockdown cast uncertainty as to when it could resume production.
Kapamilya Channel, the cable channel where ABS-CBN continues to air a number of its programs, will also debut its first new teleserye with “Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin.”
“And now, kami iyong magtutuloy ng laban sa digital platform,” Reyes said, referring to Kapamilya Online Live, ABS-CBN’s free streaming on YouTube and Facebook which was launched to reach more viewers online in Channel 2’s absence.
The widescale digital shift was the result of the Duterte administration’s denial of ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise. The political move also caused the retrenchment of thousands of employees and entire units, amid an already dire employment crisis due to the pandemic.
“The fight is not just for us,” an emotional Reyes said. “It’s for the 11,000 people who lost their jobs. This is our little way of fighting for you. I’m so sorry.”
Addressing members of the press, the director said: “I’m so thankful sa inyong lahat na um-attend dito. You are our brothers and our sisters in this work. Malaki ang kinalaman ninyo sa naging success ng ABS noong umeere siya sa free TV. I would like to thank you because nandito kayo bilang kapatid ulit para tulungan kami na ituloy ‘yung kabuhayan namin.”
“Hindi madali na papasanin namin lahat ang krus na ito. But it makes it easier knowing that if we make it well in this platform, we will be helping a lot of our co-workers to again have their jobs back.
I’m so sorry for my outburst.”
Screen icon Maricel Soriano, who is among the lead cast members of “Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin,” expressed optimism with the digital debut of the series, and what its success could mean for ABS-CBN.
“Naniniwala ako na itong bagong bubuksan nating pintuan, ito ‘yung magbibigay sa atin ng bagong liwanag. Hindi tayo magpapatalo,” she said.
‘RESPONSIBILIDAD NAMIN ANG ISA’T ISA’
Reyes sang a similar tune when it came to other challenges the project had to grapple with: the lockdown restrictions and the significant story revisions that resulted from it.
Under eased lockdown measures, filming is allowed but with strict safety protocols. ABS-CBN, Reyes said, provided stringent guidelines that included testing, self-quarantine, fixed 12-hour work schedules, and lock-in tapings.
On set, that meant wearing face masks round-the-clock (actors only take them off when cameras are rolling), and physical distancing even while shooting scenes. Close physical contact, like kissing or hugging, is also prohibited, leaving the creative team to rely on “daya” or illusion, with the help of camera angles and blocking.
“I told myself, ‘Hindi ako puwede patahimikin nito, I have to go on living,’” Reyes said, as he recalled agreeing to resume helming the series. “Hindi titigil ang mundo natin dahil dito. We are blessed because there is work.”
As the leader of the production, Reyes said he has given his team a “daily, hourly” reminder: “We have to take care of each other.”
“Responsibilidad namin ang isa’t isa. I think that’s a critical point. Everybody should be honest, iyon din ang advocacy ko sa kanila,” he said, noting that any slight symptom calls in the on-board medical staff to trace its cause.
NEW NORMAL, NEW STORY
These significant changes extend to what’s seen on screen, in the intertwined stories of the characters Marissa (Jodi Sta. Maria), Ellice (Iza Calzado), Gabriel (Sam Milby), and Lucing (Soriano), according to JRB Creative Production head Julie Ann R. Benitez.
“With our situation, with the pandemic, sobrang naapektuhan talaga ‘yung istorya,” she said. “Good thing, sa adjustment na ginawa namin, we are very confident na mas lalong napaganda ‘yung naging direksyon ng kuwento. Maganda ‘yung kinalabasan.”
Reyes agreed, citing as an example the restriction of not having actors aged 21 and below on set. A substantial part of the series’ first book, he said, includes characters whose ages range from newborn to 7 years old.
Recounting that he found the script “so beautiful” when it was first presented to him, Reyes said he was “devastated” with the revisions that would eliminate that aspect of the story.
“Feeling ko ang ganda-ganda nu’ng parte ng kuwento na ‘yun, pero kailangan i-redo. But they surprised me, kasi after ng ilang brainstorming, pagbalik ng script, binasa ko, it even became better,” he said.
“Kasi in the absence of the characters of the children that will bind both women (Marissa, Ellice) and itong husband (Gabriel) na nasa gitna… Sabi ko, ‘Oh my god, it’s turning out to be more of a French film, where the center are the characters talaga.’”
Reyes then urged the creative team to research on films that have similar treatment, where the story is presented through character study.
“Kasi, hindi tayo puwede maglokohan sa set. Alam nila na strikto ako pagdating sa where the character is coming from, and where it’s going,” he said.
The trailer of “Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin,” the same that was released for its original March release, sees the brewing rivalry between best friends Marissa and Ellice. Apparently motivated by greed and envy, Marissa goes to extreme lengths to take Ellice’s wealth, and even her husband.
Sta. Maria, who plays Marissa, said viewers can expect the same level of quality that has been identified with ABS-CBN, even with the digital pivot.
“Whatever naman ‘yung ginagawa natin sa television is more or less the same sa ginagawa natin sa digital ngayon. It’s just that we were forced to migrate to the digital platform,” said Sta. Maria, who has been a Kapamilya for over two decades.
Addressing loyal followers of the network, she said: “As we go through this season of transition and change, hindi maiiwasan na meron kaming pangamba, pero nandiyan din ‘yung saya at excitement. Nandiyan pa rin kayo kasama namin. Maraming salamat sa inyo na hindi kami iniiwan.”