To say that the August 20 pilot episode of the teleserye debut of Julia Barreto and Joshua Garcia Ngayon at Kailanman is explosive would be an understatement, really.
After all, in how many first episodes can you have all at once a funeral for a don, a mammoth inheritance at stake, five murders, a stolen baby, and extreme fast-forward to several years later to have three young children fighting for their lives. Too much, too evil, too soon but also too intriguing.
The ABS-CBN series opens with the love affair of Rebecca (Iza Calzado), a gorgeous barrio lass and Rodrigo (TJ Trinidad), heir to a great fortune who has chosen to cast aside his family and wealth to enjoy an idyllic life with his inamorata whom he has an infant daughter with and has proposed marriage to.
When his father Julian Cortes dies, he was summoned to the family estate in Manila where he eventually learned that he is the sole heir to a P400-million fortune much to the dismay of his steely-eyed stepmother Carmen (Rosemarie Gil) and his stepbrother’s wife Stella (Alice Dixson) who cannot believe they are getting nothing.
Anxious that her fiancé has not returned after a week as he had promised, Rebecca sought him out in his family’s mansion in Manila with a cousin and her infant daughter in tow. She is shocked to find out he died, supposedly in an accident.
On their way to seek answers from authorities, Rebecca’s vehicle were pursued by gunmen, one of which, Joey (Manuel Chua), shot her and her cousin dead but spared the child.
Fast-forward to several years later, it was revealed that Joey raised the child as his own with his wife Lia (Mercedes Cabral). The stolen baby is now called Eva (Sophia Reola). She grew up to be a spirited girl who enjoyed country life and the warm company of her adoptive parents. It was revealed, however, that the couple had all along anticipated that the day would come when the child’s survival would be discovered and they devised an escape plan.
One day, Joey returned injured, pursued by gunmen who shot him dead in his own home after he refused to tell them about Eva’s whereabouts. Lia and Eva fled but with the hired killers on close pursuit, Lia stalled them to buy Eva time to get into a boat. Lia sacrificed herself and got killed.
Alone and scared, Eva drifted off to sea, at the mercy of a raging storm. She hits her head on the boat and faints.
After the third gap, we are shown what has become of the family of Rodrigo’s step brother Hernan (Christian Vasquez) and his wife Stella. One of their sons Oli (nezzar Piti-Ilan) is sickly and favored but the other, the spirited Inno (Andrez del Rosario) constantly vies for his mother’s affection.
After going out of the house with Inno one day, Oli faints. It was later revealed that the day outing had aggravated his illness and now requires immediate bone marrow transplant for which Inno is his only match. To vindicate himself, Inno subjects himself to the extraction during which he almost dies because of allergy to anaesthetics.
In that life and death moment, Inno finds himself under clear blue skies on an island with Eva. The two of them see people stepping into a pale blue light. Inno wants to go but Eva stops him, bringing them both back to life.
Still at sea, Eva’s boat was spotted by fishermen. A preview of the next episode shows she has been rescued.
Social media was ablaze with comments from stunned viewers who were shocked as characters were killed off one by one.
It remains to be seen if the characters that had been killed off really died.
The casting is stunning for this teleserye that airs weeknights after FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano. The only way a studio can pull off an epic drama like this with a fairytale-like plot and wickedness to boot is to stupefy the audience with star power. ABS-CBN assembled a stellar cast that is impossible to ignore.
The photography and locations are also breathtaking. Nevermind for the meantime that the rural scenes depict a fantasy barrio life only seen in Amorsolo paintings. The visuals are enough to keep you hooked.
It’s a teleserye and in the world of telenovelas, bigger is always better. The more exaggerated the dialogue, the more titillating. Several viewers during the advance screening were talking about how excited they were about Rebecca and Stella’s confrontation in the future. Yes, deep in their hearts, Rebecca lives.
I guess it’s only bad if Ngayon at Kailanman does not own up to its grandeur down the road.
But for now, so what if Stella wants to talk loudly about the expansion of their pearl farm atop a dramatic staircase, in a chic outfit, in hair and makeup. And so what if for a simple barrio lass, Rebecca looks fresh as a gumamela in fashionable country wear and groomed eyebrows?
And so what if there are more murders in one episode than in one season.
Ngayon at Kailanman promises to be an indulgent escapist viewing experience. With such a keyed up pilot, the challenge for it will be to keep giving viewers more. And by more meaning more intense drama, more exotic locations, more unnatural beauty, more more fabulous outfits, more gorgeous photography, and more confrontations.