Illustration by Carla T. GamalindaThe “Koreanovelas,” as soap opera from South Korea are known in the Philippines, seem to have gained a spot in the Filipinos’ hearts (and local primetime TV), with quirky and addictive shows like Endless Love, Full House, My Girl and Princess Hours. In fact, these foreign hits have become so popular that television stations are banking on remakes of Only You and Stairway to Heaven to be their current meal tickets. But can the features that define these drama series survive in the Filipino setting?

ONLY YOU: Kitchen drama

The original series was first shown in the Philippines through ABS-CBN and it quickly gained a following.

The Filipino version of Only You revolves around a stubborn girl named Jillian (Angel Locsin) who aspires to be a great chef despite her parents’ disapproval. She wins a contest where the prize is studying in a culinary school abroad. Together with her best friend, Jillian travels to Korea, where she studies under the tutelage of a master chef. Here, she meets TJ (Sam Milby), the son of the master chef. The two have a brief affair, which ends in Jillian getting pregnant. She returns home to start anew, but things get complicated as she sees TJ again after six years, who has now become the owner of a restaurant.

To appeal to the local audience, ABS-CBN changed certain elements in Only You, perhaps to keep the series fresh. Instead of Italy, it changed the setting to Korea, probably as homage to the original series.

Both series are propelled by the plot line of who the baby’s father is. This frustration, coupled with Jillian’s aspirations to be a top chef despite the odds, weighs on Angel Locsin, who delivers creditably. Sam Milby as TJ still has a long way to go — he must shed his awkward acting for serious roles such as this, or else risk jeopardizing the believability of the story.

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STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Too heavy to take flight?

GMA Network has just started showing the remake of the Korean hit Stairway to Heaven on the prime time slot. Making up a new on-screen love team are Dingdong Dantes as Cholo and Rhian Ramos as Jodi.

The story revolves around two childhood sweethearts Cholo and Jodi, who are eventually separated from each other when Cholo goes abroad to study, leaving Jodi behind with her cruel stepmother Maita (Jean Garcia) and stepsister Eunice (Glaiza De Castro). The conniving Maita and Eunice do everything to keep Cholo and Jodi away from each other, even fabricating a story on how Jodi died in a car accident.

If one would look back at the original Korean version, the love blossoming between the young Cholo and Jodi is more convincing in the remake. But the Philippine remake also has awkward moments: it adopts the motifs in the original series of the skating rink and the carousel as backdrops for blossoming romance of the two main characters. But transposed to the Philippine setting, they become alien and alienating.

Garcia and De Castro are good villains, with the latter playing her role with more flair than the lead character. Andrewly A. Agaton and Maria Joanna Angela D. Cruz

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