By Ibarra C. Mateo
Set in Dubrovnik, a city in Croatia fabled for its limestone streets, baroque buildings, and the “endless shimmer of the Adriatic Sea,” the newest ABS-CBN Primetime Bida television series “Make It with You” brings to primetime slot the narrative of overseas Filipino workers.
Make It with You stars Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil, who are staging their television comeback after almost two years of absence.
Soberano is “Billy,” a clever young lady who does odd jobs so she can save enough money to send to the Philippines. An added twist: she also works as a “match-maker”, a job that allows her to go to fancy restaurants, savor expensive dishes, and receive gifts, which she sells to her circle for more money to remit to her family. Scheming Billy is not averse to making more money out of people’s loneliness and miseries.
On the other hand, Gil is “Gabo”, a Filipino who joined a group of migrants packed inside a long-haul truck to illegally enter Croatia. Gabo is initially presented as a person trying to find his bearing.
Since Make It with You only premiered on Jan. 13, 2020, we do not know much about the two lead characters. A mix-up, however, led to the meeting of Billy and Gabo in a café.
Real-life couple Soberano and Gil are supported by Herbert Bautista (Billy’s father), Eddie Gutierrez (Billy grandfather), Ian Veneracion, Pokwang, Katya Santos, Fumiya Sankai, and Vangie Labalan. Bautista is also making a TV comeback after years of being the Quezon City mayor.
What interests me in Make It with You is the television station’s gamble to let one of its most bankable love teams (and among the most loved and appreciated in the industry) to shift to more mature roles of migrant Filipinos working or trying to find their souls in the Croatia, a country in Central and Southeast Europe and along the Adriatic Sea coast. Ordinary Filipinos may not be familiar with Croatia.
Croatia and Slovakia, according to a report by ABS-CBN News posted on Nov. 28, 2018, are interested in hiring Filipino workers for their hospitality industry jobs.
The Philippine Association of Service Exporters said about 1,000 workers are initially needed in Croatia and 600 in Slovakia, the news report added.
Maybe ABS-CBN’s foray in Croatia is a strategy for it to gain foothold in Central and Southeast Europe, where OFWs may soon flock. Maybe the OFW stories in Central and Southeast Europe offer a new twist to the trite tales of OFWS sacrifices and struggles.
Cinematographer Dexter Dela Peña’s deliciously gorgeous shots of Dubrovnik streets, walls, old buildings, and Adriatic Sea were arrestingly refreshing for a teleserye. Parang cine ang cinematography!
Dela Peña’s past credits include Baby Ruth Villarama-Chuck Gutierrez “Sunday Beauty Queen” (2016), Atom Magadia-Anne Prado-Magadia’s “Dagsin” (2016), and Villarama-Gutierrez’s “Jazz in Love (2013).
The tandem of Cathy Garcia-Molina and Richard Arellano direct Make It with You.
In the pilot episode, the two directors allowed the audience to absorb the picturesque Dubrovnik, with the camera closely following the blue and red pairs of shoes of Billy, with the two pairs of shoes possibly indicating the “two lives” Billy traverses. Many scenes were almost bare of dialogues, but the build-up of tension was palpable.
The psychologically and emotionally costly process of settling down in a new locale, a situation encountered by almost all OFWs, was shown with Gabo being robbed of his belongings, forcing him to collect plastic bottles which he sells to a recycling outlet. Undocumented and hungry, Gabo was also depicted as desperate for a job.
We will find out, as the television series unfolds the stories of Billy and Gabo and the small Filipino community in Dubrovnik, what kind of OFW narratives, (or discourse if one is allowed to use the heavy word) will be discussed and tackled by Make It with You.
Will the OFW narratives be palatable and “relatable” to millions of Filipinos watching ABS-CBN shows? Abangan.