Philippine television drama

Philippine television drama, also known as teleserye, Filipino telenovelas or P-drama, is a form of melodramatic serialized fiction in television in the Philippines. Teleserye is rooted from two words: "tele," which is short for "television," and "serye," a Tagalog term for "series" and "drama" for drama.

Teleseryes share some characteristics and have similar roots with classic soap operas and telenovelas, yet the teleserye has evolved into a genre with its own unique characteristics, often working as a social realist reflection of Filipino reality. Teleseryes are aired in prime-time five days a week. They attract a broad audience crossing age and gender lines, and they command the highest advertising rates in the Philippine television industry. The series last anywhere from three months to a year, or even longer, depending on their rating.

Other forms of Philippine dramas include "serials" and "anthologies," which are usually shown on a weekly basis. These dramas are also intended to air a finite number of episodes usually lasting one season depending on the ratings.



Soap operas in the Philippines originated when Gulong ng Palad was first heard on the radio in 1949. The genre then expanded into television in the early 1960s. The first Philippine TV soap opera was Hiwaga sa Bahay na Bato in 1963, and was produced by ABS-CBN. Larawan ng Pag-ibig, Prinsipe Amante, and many others soon followed.[1]

The Radio Serial was also the longest-running spanned serial that spanned for decades by the co-writer and revival writer Loida Virina in the mid-1970s. The story was also made into a soap starring Marianne Dela Riva as Luisa and Ronald Corveau as Carding in the decade where rising soaps began. It also made stars out of the young Romnick Sarmenta and also Beth Bautista who was a model and famous actress in the 1980s. The soap also starred veteran actress and character actress Caridad Sanchez whose time in showbiz has spanned for more than six decades until today.

From 1972 to 1986, however, in the advent of the martial law period imposed by the former Marcos regime, ABS-CBN was closed by the government, leaving RPN-9 and GMA as the only two commercial television networks in the country. In the 1970s and mid-1980s, RPN-9 and GMA emerged as Philippines' fiercest rivaling television stations, and were the only domestic networks allowed to broadcast nationwide for most of the time being.

The late 1970s and 1980s oversaw two of the country's most iconic rival television dramas that stood out to their popularity until today. RPN-9 produced Flordeluna, starring award-winning actress Janice de Belen. The cast also included "Drama King" Dindo Fernando and award-winning actress and director Laurice Guillen. At the same time, GMA produced the hit tale Anna Liza starring child actress and FAMAS awardee Julie Vega. This marked one of the biggest rivalries in Philippine showbiz history between Vega and de Belen (despite being highlighted as bestfriends offscreen). However, Anna Liza was cancelled in 1985 due to Julie Vega's death and as a result, the series had an unfinished storyline and a two-hour special. Both series were already controversial from the start due to the rivalry as well between the fanbases of Vega and de Belen.


Until the late 1980s, most of the popular Philippine television dramas had been broadcast in afternoon timeblocks. At the same time, ABS-CBN resumed operations after the expulsion of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 and regained its lead among rival networks in audience ratings by the end of the decade. By the 1990s, however, a new wave of international television phenomenon would soon sweep the Philippines as well. This started with the 'Telenovela Craze' due to imported Mexican dramas shown in the country. Largely credited to the so-called Las Tres Marias or Maria Trilogy of telenovelas produced by the world-leading Televisa and starred by Thalía (starting with Maria Mercedes shown in ABS-CBN and Marimar shown in RPN-9, both as primetime shows), major networks had began to reschedule locally made telenovelas into primetime slots to encourage more Filipino audiences to watch at night and for advertisers to invest more on these shows. By the mid-1990s, melodramas surpassed sitcoms (both in number of shows produced and in nationwide audience ratings) as the most dominant form of primetime television in the Philippines.

The 1990s television dramas boosted the careers of several actors and actresses that became household names in the Philippines during and after the end of their shows' original runs. However, there were key long-running dramas that stood out due to its popularity. For example, the ABS-CBN drama Mara Clara, running from 1992 to 1997, gained nationwide popularity due to the intense rivalry between Judy Ann Santos as the protagonist Mara and Gladys Reyes as the evil antagonist Clara. The series became the longest-running post-Martial Law telenovela in Philippine television history, and had experienced frequent timeslot changes before settling into the standard 7:00 P.M.-8:00 P.M. primetime block by late 1995. Mara Clara is also credited for being the country's first ever successful telenovela to spawn a similarly successful movie (under the same name). Santos would later on continue her television success between 1997 and 1999 with her most iconic drama series to date, titled Esperanza. A film was also made after this drama's finale in 1999. A 1998 Esperanza episode currently holds the record for the all-time highest rated single episode for any Philippine television series.

The telenovela Valiente ran from 1992 to 1997; its first 3 years on ABS-CBN, and 2 years on GMA-7. Judy Ann Santos remains at the time the "Primetime Queen" of Philippine television and earned the title "Queen of Soap Operas" for her roles in Mara Clara and Esperanza. But in mid-1997, another series, Mula Sa Puso, gave fame to the second "Primetime Queen," Claudine Barretto where she played the heiress Via in the 2-year-long soap, together with her leading men Rico Yan and Diether Ocampo, and Princess Punzalan as Selina, the most influential character of the series. Punzalan's antagonist performance was highly regarded among the best on Philippine television, setting standards for future Filipino telenovela villains. The intense rivalry between the characters of Punzalan and Jacklyn Jose (as Via's mother Magda) became an icon for most of the succeeding decades on Philippine television. Simultaneously running with Esperanza, both programs pioneered crossover episodes among Philippine telenovelas during the same period, and Mula Sa Puso spawned another successful movie after its finale in 1999.

Meanwhile, rival network's GMA retained and even popularized their afternoon serialized dramas form in the same period such as Villa Quintana with lead stars Donna Cruz as Lynette Quintana and Keempee de Leon as Isagani Samonte with Isabel Rivas as Stella Quintana which airs from 1995 to 1997. This was followed by Ikaw Na Sana with lead characters Angelu de Leon as Blanca Rosales Perez / Susan Saavedra and Bobby Andrews as Rafael Huico with Gladys Reyes as Angela Rosales which airs between 1997 and 1998, and a film was made after this drama.


Modern Philippine television dramas have begun to evolve to today's modern form called teleserye, a portmanteau of the Filipino words "telebisyon" ("television") and "serye" ("series"). The term originated from the ABS-CBN hit drama Pangako Sa 'Yo, airing from 2000 to 2002 and starring Jericho Rosales and Kristine Hermosa. Also known for the heated rivalry in the show between actresses Eula Valdez and Jean Garcia, Pangako Sa'Yo is dubbed as the country's first ever teleserye due to its pioneering cinematic production and modified story structure distinguishing it from previous Filipino telenovelas. It was broadcast internationally in many networks across Africa and Asia, and remains the most successful Philippine television series internationally. Pangako Sa 'Yo remains as the record-holder of the all-time highest rated series finale episode for any locally made program in Philippine television history.

The massive success of Pangako Sa 'Yo inspired ABS-CBN to produce (in mid-2002) its leadout teleserye, Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay. Already concluded in 2003, the show introduced the highly acclaimed tandem of John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo as one of the country's most successful long-established television and film loveteams until today. Also known for the iconic performance of Lorna Tolentino as the protagonist twins Lorrea and Lorrinda Guinto, it became the nation's first ever local television series to become a finalist to the Best Drama Series category of the International Emmy Awards in 2003, marking the rise of the Philippines on the world television programming stage.

Rosales and Hermosa, along with Diether Ocampo and Angelika dela Cruz, would altogether star in another teleserye classic, Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas. Airing between 2003 and 2004, Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas became the world's first ever drama series allowing its viewers to choose the story's ending through text messaging. It also followed Pangako Sa'Yo as one of the first few Filipino dramas exported, marking the start of Philippines' rise in international television programming exportation. The show was considered a solid competitor to another groundbreaking teleserye in ABS-CBN's Basta't Kasama Kita, airing around the same period as of Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas. Starring Judy Ann Santos and Robin Padilla, the show was notable for its depiction of the country's National Bureau of Investigation and for being the country's first ever local television series to broadcast a live series finale episode in 2004. This introduced the live format of series finales among fictional series on Philippine television - a feat only few teleseryes had accomplished until today.

ABS-CBN's fortunes would soon increase with Saan Ka Man Naroroon starring Claudine Barretto on lead role as triplets Rosemarie, Rosenda and Rosario. The show was critically acclaimed and became one of the few groundbreaking shows of the 2000s in the Philippines starring a female lead character, as well as the country's first teleserye with at least two characters portrayed simultaneously by one actor. Barretto would consequently gain prominence for her lead role on Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan a timeless love story of the undying love of Angeline Crisostomo/Angelina whose mistakes that appear in the present had also happened in the past; it uncovered the lies and the love of all around her which was actually reincarnated into the present. She is also the lead star of the popular teleserye Marina. Airing in 2004, the show popularized the fantasy theme throughout most of the incoming teleseryes in the Philippines. ABS-CBN's dominance on Philippine television ratings would soon be challenged when rival GMA Network produced an all-fantaserye primetime slate by 2005, through the successful broadcasts of female-lead shows such as Encantadia and Mulawin.

ABS-CBN would soon emerge as one of Asia's biggest exporters of television dramas by the mid-2000s. Several of its popular teleseryes in the early 2000s include the 2006 remake of Gulong ng Palad; its cast included Kristine Hermosa as Luisa, TJ Trinidad as Carding and Cherie Gil as Philiomena "Menang" Medel, the corrupt town mayor and also the main antagonist of the series. The role of Mimi was given to Andrea del Rosario and Rio Locsin as Caridad "Idad" Santos. The series was popular amongst international viewers, through TFC. In 2007, the remake of Maria Flordeluna starred young actress Eliza Pineda as the titular character. It also starred Albert Martinez as Leo Alicante, Eula Valdez as Mary Jo Esperitu and John Estrada as Gary Alvarado. The series ran for 93 episodes and won the PMPC Star Awards Best Television Series in 2008, and popularized the trend of remaking classic child-starred Philippine telenovelas of the past.

To pit against its rival network, GMA Network started producing their own set of primetime soap opera starting with the top-rating drama series, Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin starring drama actress Angelika dela Cruz which aired from 2001 to 2002 and Sana Ay Ikaw Na Nga starring Dingdong Dantes. It was successfully shown in Malaysia and other Asian countries. Another was the political drama, Kung Mawawala Ka also became one of the most loved powerful dramas which revolved on politics and even on issues of corruption. Starring Eddie Garcia as the show's main character (and lead antagonist), it also showed the dramatic abilities of actresses Hilda Koronel, Liza Lorena and Gloria Diaz as the powerful wives. The series ran between 2001 and 2002 and also won a PMPC Award from the Philippine Movie Press Club. It was also the most popular GMA-made drama (as well as the most successful single telenovela) pitted against the ongoing television drama Pangako Sa 'Yo which also reached its end in 2002.

In the mid-2000s, however, original programming temporarily declined for Philippine television in favor of film-turned-TV remakes. Prominent shows under this genre include Panday which starred Jericho Rosales and Heart Evangelista, and the remake of Mga Anghel na Walang Langit and Kampanerang Kuba which starred Anne Curtis, all made by ABS-CBN. GMA earned ratings foothold against its main rival ABS-CBN during this time when it brought life to Darna, a role reprised by the most famous Darna of all time, Vilma Santos (in the late 1970s and early 1980s), and starring Angel Locsin in its first television remake. The "sineserye" genre was introduced on Philippine television in this decade through Bituing Walang Ningning which starred Sarah Geronimo and Angelika de la Cruz, reprising the iconic roles of Sharon Cuneta and Cherie Gil won prominence and also produced a concert. It also came to be known as having "The Grand Finale" as this introduced the format of series finale stretched to 5 days on the final week on Philippine television. Bituing Walang Ningning remains the all-time highest rated regular musical television drama series in the Philippines.

By the late 2000s, GMA-7 and ABS-CBN would soon embark on one of the country's most heated rivalries for the most watched television network. GMA aired its 2007 remake of the international telenovela MariMar which starred Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes. The remake, highlighted as one of the world's most successful international remakes of any former Latinovela, boosted GMA's short-term dominance as the most watched television network in the country during the year. Meanwhile, during the second half of 2000s, three ABS-CBN-made TV series became viral: the remake of the 1977–1985 soap opera Gulong ng Palad, the teleserye Sa Piling Mo and the series Maging Sino Ka Man. The latter became the most popular teleserye internationally after Pangako Sa'Yo, improving Philippines' reputation among the world's largest television drama producers, and boosted the careers of John Lloyd Cruz, Bea Alonzo, Sam Milby and Anne Curtis.


The year 2008 marked the international success of the Philippine remake of the world-hit Colombian original telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea. Starring Bea Alonzo, it became the most successful Philippine remake of any Latinovela since the 2007 Marimar remake starring Marian Rivera on GMA Network. Alonzo's portrayal gained widespread prominence through most of Asia on her titular character. In 2009, the series remake of AnnaLiza was shelved which was to star Maja Salvador and Jason Abalos, but finally revived again in 2013 (with child star Andrea Brillantes in the title role). Together with the earlier success of the 2007 remake of Maria Flordeluna and the 2010 remake of Mara Clara, starring new generation actresses Julia Montes and Kathryn Bernardo, ABS-CBN popularized the concept of revival of previously massive hit telenovelas of the previous decades on Philippine television.

By the 2010s, ABS-CBN and GMA Network would rival in their claims as the most watched network in the Philippines. While GMA Network appeals to most of the viewers in Mega Manila (through their shows that are said to be Manila-centric in setting) beginning the mid-2000s, most primetime shows from ABS-CBN appeal widely to other regions in the country, particularly in the sought-after audiences of Visayas and Mindanao. Local media experts attribute this trend to ABS-CBN's return to original Filipino programming. This was initiated by the success of the 2009 teleserye May Bukas Pa. Starring Zaijian Jaranilla as the iconic Santino, the show became the most successful child-starred Philippine television series since the 1985 demise of the original Anna Liza of Julie Vega on GMA Network. May Bukas Pa also became the first Philippine television series to have lasted at least one full year (since Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan in 2001-2003), ending in 2010 as the most watched television program of the 2010s on Philippine television.

2010s also marked the start of broadcast of teleseryes induced with storylines known to have reflected some of the controversial issues facing the Philippines nowadays. For instance, Julia Montes and newcomer Coco Martin starred in the 2012 ABS-CBN hit Walang Hanggan. Known for tackling issues on adultery and infidelity among Filipino households, the romantic drama featured the primetime return of veteran actors Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta, and also gained wide popularity in most of Southeast Asia during its run, becoming the first Philippine television series to become the most consistently watched in each of its broadcasts on a weekday basis throughout its run. This also marked Martin's rise among the country's foremost television actors, as well as one of the first few known successes upon transition from the independent movie industry to mainstream media industry.

Another popular ABS-CBN teleserye was the 2012-2013 series Ina, Kapatid, Anak. Known for the heated on-and-offscreen rivalry of both actresses Kim Chiu and Maja Salvador during its run, as well as the primetime comeback of veteran actresses Cherry Pie Picache and Janice de Belen, the show gained national prominence for its open discussion of mother surrogacy - a topic previously but highly prohibited on Philippine media - and using the University of the Philippines (the country's national university) as its main setting. Salvador would later team up with Angel Locsin in the highly acclaimed 2014 series The Legal Wife in the same network. The show, which also talked about infidelity and adultery, marked the primetime comeback of Jericho Rosales and the first ABS-CBN primetime show by newcomer JC de Vera, and became viral due to its controversial open-ended series finale among Locsin, Salvador and Rosales' characters.

GMA Network, however, scored a major milestone by being the country's first ever television network to air a gay-themed primetime series. In 2013, the short-lived but popular teleserye My Husband's Lover, starring newcomer Tom Rodriguez, as well as Dennis Trillo and Carla Abellana, emerged as a hot topic of national conversation due to their portrayal in the show, which discussed about homosexuality - a widespread but controversial topic given the country's longstanding Catholic values and teachings. It has also gained prominence for being a widely viewed show despite being pitted against the simultaneously running Ina, Kapatid, Anak that has also since become a hit in and out of the Philippines.

The family-oriented ABS-CBN daytime romantic drama Be Careful With My Heart (aired by ABS-CBN), starring Jodi Sta. Maria and Richard Yap, became the longest-running teleserye that ran from July 9, 2012 until November 28, 2014 with a total of 622 episodes. The show has since become the most successful Philippine television series on daytime block, both domestically and internationally in the 2010s, as it gained popularity in other countries in Asia such as Vietnam and Indonesia. Sta. Maria would later team up with Angelica Panganiban, Ian Veneracion, Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla in the widely talked-about 2015 remake of Pangako Sa'Yo (still under ABS-CBN), which garnered mixed reviews but wide commercial success in one of the first few successful remakes of 2000s Philippine telenovelas.

Philippine television dramas reached Latin America beginning 2016, courtesy of Bridges of Love (that ran from March 16 to August 7, 2015 on ABS-CBN), starring Rosales, Salvador and Paulo Avelino, under the title Puentes de Amor, the first Philippine drama aired in Latin America, which began on April 25, 2016 on Panamericana Televisión in Peru. The same year, Martin starred in the currently running 2015 series Ang Probinsyano, gaining national attention for its bold portrayal of the country's ongoing anti-illegal drugs campaign despite renewed nationwide television censors by the MTRCB.

2010s also marked the renewed popularity of long-term afternoon dramas on Philippine television after a temporary decline in the late 1990s. From 2014 to 2016, GMA broadcast The Half Sisters which starred teen actresses Barbie Forteza and Thea Tolentino. Also noted for the performances of veteran actors Jomari Yllana and Jean Garcia, the show became the network's most successful teleserye in and out of the Philippines since the 2013 final episode of My Husband's Lover. ABS-CBN followed suit in 2015 when Julia Montes topbilled the afternoon teleserye Doble Kara. The show was moved in early 2016 to the 3:20 PM time slot after its noontime show It's Showtime extended their time occupation then it competed the remake of Sinungaling Mong Puso in its rival GMA Network. Due to its continuous high ratings, it was extended and became the network's first teleserye to air for more than a year since the 2014 final episode of Be Careful With My Heart. Its leadout teleserye Tubig at Langis, airing in 2016, earned nationwide popularity because of the intense rivalry of lead actresses Cristine Reyes and Isabelle Daza as Irene and Clara, respectively.

During the same decade, the live format for teleserye final episodes returned on Philippine television for the first time since the finale of GMA's 2007 Philippine remake of Marimar. ABS-CBN earned national attention in 2016 alone for concluding the runs of shortlived but otherwise popular teen-oriented primetime shows On the Wings of Love (starring newcomer tandem James Reid and Nadine Lustre) and Born for You (featuring the primetime debut of Janella Salvador and network newcomer Elmo Magalona). Both series were consistent topics on national conversation and earned popularity in the Philippines for doing their respective series finales live (and on real-time).

Impact of teleseryes

The range of popularity of Philippine drama since the early 2000s had spun overseas, becoming popular throughout Asia and Africa, and has appealed widely to overseas Filipino communities in North America as well. Several of the Philippine teleseryes had emerged as among the most watched television programs in even difficult markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Considered one of the country's most vital economic and cultural exports, they are often dubbed into local languages, and sometimes has English and other foreign subtitles displayed when imported into those markets.

ABS-CBN is among the pioneering television producers in Asia to have exported their classical dramas, several of which reflect the reality of Filipino (and other similar Asian) societies, and have a universal message. Pangako Sa 'Yo ("My Promise to You") is one of the most successful Philippine dramas abroad. Prior to topping the national television ratings in China in the mid-2000s, the story gained wide popularity to more than 1 billion viewers alone in Southeast Asia and Africa. ABS-CBN also introduced a website called ABS-CBN International Sales,[2] for easy access to their shows.

Other ABS-CBN shows like Sana Maulit Muli (Taiwan), Lobo (dubbed as She-Wolf: The Last Sentinel), Tayong Dalawa, Dahil May Isang Ikaw, Kahit Isang Saglit, Katorse, the 2010 version of Mara Clara (remake), Magkaribal and Walang Hanggan were also exported. These were followed by simultaneous broadcasts of shows such as Ina, Kapatid, Anak, May Bukas Pa, Forevemore, On the Wings of Love and the currently airing television adaptation of Ang Probinsyano at around the same time in the Philippines and overseas by the mid-2010s as a result of their popularity in and out of the country.

GMA Network followed suit through Boys Next Door, a teen melodrama, which was the first Philippine television series aired in South Korea (which is considered among one of the top rival exporters of television series in Asia). The 2007 Philippine adaptation of MariMar was aired to wide popularity in Thailand, Malaysia, China, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Hawaii. Other GMA shows such as Habang Kapiling Ka, Kahit Kailan, Bakekang, Muli, Impostora, Mga Mata ni Anghelita and Dyesebel were also released in some countries in Asia. Both ABS-CBN and GMA are considered top exporters of television dramas to most of Southeast Asia and Africa in the recent years.

In recent years, Philippine television drama has gained international recognition from international award-giving bodies, cementing the reputation of the Philippines among the world's most prolific television drama producers. Most of these nominated dramas were from ABS-CBN. It started with Lobo, winning the Best Telenovela category in the 30th BANFF World Television Festival. Several dramas were also nominated in the International Emmy for the telenovela category, including ABS-CBN's Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay, Dahil May Isang Ikaw, Kahit Isang Saglit and GMA's Magdusa Ka and My Husband's Lover. Magkaribal of ABS-CBN was recently nominated in the 2011 New York Festivals TV and Film Awards. Another show, Eva Fonda managed to win awards from the Seoul International Drama Awards where also the lead actress Cristine Reyes managed to get a nomination as Best Leading Actress and a special award for the show. Angel Locsin and Jodi Sta. Maria were the first 2 Filipino actresses to be nominated at the International Emmys for Best Actress in a Drama Series for their respective roles in the 2009 series Lobo and the 2015-2016 remake of Pangako Sa 'Yo.

See also



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