Never have we seen a teleserye premiere as grandiose.
The glory of an Italian backdrop with scenic shots reminiscent from Hollywood epics surely gives a pleasant surprise to local viewers. Add to that the chaos of a Middle Eastern city torn by war, wherein the rendition was cunning and thrilling that ended in tragedy.
From the pilot episode itself, Dolce Amore looks so excitingly promising—as production values, creative elements, and even the casting itself are so inherently impressive.
It takes us first to the heartwarming tale of Serena (Liza Soberano), who is the heiress of the opulent Marchesa family, and her journey from the unfortunate realities of war to the extravagant castles of privilege before eventually searching her roots in Manila, where she meets and falls for a poor orphan yet hardworking Tenten (Enrique Gil).
It started with a heartbreaking, tear-inducing scene depicting the ravages of war in the fictional state Askovia, where a fleeing Uge and Alice Urtola (Andrew E and Sunshine Cruz) and their two daughters are being forcibly evacuated and brought back to the Philippines. With the war-torn country in chaos, special forces assisting the evacuating civilians decided to separate women and children from the men, thus Alice and her kids, one of them an adorable infant in her arms whom they named Monica, tearfully leave Uge on a military truck.
As they proceeded on the desert-like terrain leaving Askovia, Alice tried to comfort her daughters by singing the song closest to her heart, Rey Valera’s “Kung Kailangan Mo Ako.” But little did they know there were enemy guerillas lurking in the shadows ready to ambush what they thought was a convoy of soldiers, and were en route to disaster. The guerillas hit the truck with a rocket-propelled grenade, apparently killing all on board. As the rebels checked and realized with remorse that they had killed innocent civilians, they heard cries of a baby and discovered the infant, whom they took away without any sign of other survivors, including Alice and her other daughter.
Eventually the baby girl ended up in a refugee camp. And, a rich and prominent Italian tycoon Roberto Marchesa (Ruben Maria Soriquez), who tries to extend his help to Askovia’s refugees and war victims, saw the baby girl and was immediately enamored. He decided to adopt the adorable infant.
As he reached his mansion in Bologna, Roberto was met by his Filipina wife Luciana (Cherie Gil), who detested the adoption without her knowledge and told him to take the child back where she came from. Roberto was furious: “No, I will not do that. Because this is the only way that I’m going to be a father because, sadly, I had the misfortune of marrying a wife who cannot bear a child.”
Roberto named the baby girl Serena and became the Princess of the Marchesa palace, who is able to get anything she wants, whenever wherever. Yet, kind-hearted and compassionate just like her real Filipina lineage. In fact, Roberto’s entire staff of governesses and helpers are Filipinas, owing to the fact that his family had long considered them as reliable and trustworthy with Roberto himself raised by a Filipina nanny. This led to his special affection towards Filipinos, even appreciating its literature—a children’s book titled Ang Ordinaryong Prinsesa, which he handed down to the eight-year-old Serena (Hannah Lopez Vito) in fun bedtime stories he himself reads to her. It became Serena’s verbose guide to being free-spirited—a princess who didn’t care about being a princess and followed what her heart wanted.
And truly, those things her heart wanted include encounters with her own similarly free-spirited Filipina nanny, a gregarious and witty soul named Yaya Melds (Frenchie Dy).
Their encounters would bring so much happiness to Serena, including having those breakfast meals with daing and sinangag and those joyful soccer matches with fellow kids at a nearby field.
It was after one of those soccer matches that she made her most disdainful discovery when she arrived back home—overhearing Roberto’s mother, saying she was just an adopted child. While she was devastated and retreated to her room, Roberto followed her and assured her that even if she wasn’t her real child, she is still his daughter whom she loves so much. Roberto then confronted Luciana and asked her why she didn’t do anything to assure Serena of her love even if she had been a foundling. With again Serena overhearing their argument, Luciana said she could not possibly love someone who was just forced into her life. Serena then rushed to a comforting and assuring Yaya Melds, who said: “Yung sa mama at lola mo, di ko kayang sagutin. Pero ang papa mo di ba mahal na mahal ka niya? Di mahalaga kung ilang tao ang nagmamahal sa yo. Ang importante may nagmamahal sa yo. Hindi nasusukat ang tao kung ilan ang nagmamahal sa kanya o ilan ang kaya niyang mahalin. Ang mahalaga kaya mong magmahal ng totoo. Yung pagmamahal ng walang pag-iimbot at higit sa lahat, walang kondisyon.” She then sang to Serena a familiar song, “Kung Kailangan Mo Ako,” which was then sung by Alice, alive and crying as she looks at a picture of her baby Monica, Serena’s real name, her own princess she lost in the tragedy in Askovia. “Happy birthday, anak,” she said.
Caring and responsible kid
Discovering that she is not a real Marchesa surely have caused utter sadness to Serena, but for an orphan kid named Tenten (Marc Santiago) in Manila, being adopted is something he really wants to happen. Just like Serena, he loves reading, including the same book our princess is passionate about—Ang Ordinaryong Prinsesa. He is also a caring and responsible kid, who looks over his fellow orphans, and much loved by the orphanage cook Taps (Rio Locsin) and her husband Dodoy (Edgar Mortiz). A chance comes up after a couple was to have been searching for a dependable older kid to adopt and this brings much joy to Tenten and Taps as finally the sweet and charming boy will finally have a family to call his own, much to the dismay of Dodoy, who has been attached to the kid.
With such an entrancing story, it is definitely even more emphatic to induce grand cinematic visuals and lavish production design by Norico Santos into the final cut. The shoots in Bologna were particularly impressive with elaborate and scintillating photography and camera work revealing the breathtaking landscapes that makes the show an impeccable feast for the eyes. Dubai was just as impressive a production stage for the chaotic Askovia with the production genuinely depicting the sentiment, horror and sadness of a war-torn state.
It was also a fine cast to deliver the pilot episode—from a delightful Frenchie Dy to that celebrated archetype of villains Cherie Gil, who were effective in revealing their soon-to-be viral characters on primetime. Fil-Italian Ruben Maria Soriquez was also a revelation in being the compassionate Marchesa patriarch with an effectual yet engaging portrayal. And of course, Rio Locsin and Edgar Mortiz delighting the audience with their heartwarming thespic presence.
But what really made the best impact, especially to the feelings of overseas Filipinos, was how Andrew E and Sunshine Cruz made their introductory act as Serena’s real parents—all with their convincing and moving portrayals. And, child actors Marco Pingol and Hannah Lopez Vito making those young versions of Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil’s characters very engaging and acceptable before the looming transition.
Directors Cathy Garcia-Molina and Mae Cruz-Alviar surely had their work cut out for them, given the challenge of putting it all together in multiple locations that are oceans apart. But, they delivered well and produced something that will truly be special and unforgettable for teleserye watchers. And a big factor is the storytelling by head writer Mark Duane Angos and writers Enrique Villasis and Mary Pearl Urtola that even leaves us to tears.
Indeed, one gritty, elaborate, ambitious project that will surely become ultimately rewarding and pioneering for the craft and the industry.