Philippine television drama, also known as teleserye, Filipino telenovelas or P-drama, is a form of melodramatic, serialized, televised fiction in the Philippines. Teleserye is derived from two Filipino words: "tele", short for "telebisyón" (television) and "sérye" (series).
Teleseryes share characteristics with and have roots similar to soap operas and telenovelas. They have evolved into a genre with unique characteristics, however, and often reflect Filipino social reality. Teleseryes are aired in the afternoon and prime time, five days a week. Their audience crosses age and gender lines, and they have the highest advertising rates in the Philippine television industry. Series last from three months to a year or longer, depending on ratings.
Philippine TV dramas also include serials and anthologies, usually shown weekly. These dramas have a finite number of episodes and usually last one season, again depending on ratings.
Soap operas in the Philippines began with Gulong ng Palad (Wheel of Fortune) on radio in 1949, and the genre expanded into television during the early 1960s. The first Philippine TV soap opera was Hiwaga sa Bahay na Bato (Mystery at the Stone House) in 1963, produced by ABS-CBN. Larawan ng Pag-ibig (Picture of Love), Prinsipe Amante (Prince Amante), and a number of others followed.
Gulong ng Palad, co-written by Loida Virina, was the longest-running radio serial and ran until the mid-1980s. Its TV version starred Marianne Dela Riva and Ronald Corveau and introduced young actors, including Romnick Sarmenta. Veteran actress Caridad Sanchez enhanced the series' popularity.
The government closed several networks (including ABS-CBN) during the 1972–1986 martial-law period, leaving RPN and GMA the country's only two commercial television networks. The lack of a diverse media base aided the emergence of nationwide satellite broadcasting, and competition between the two networks spurred afternoon and prime-time sitcoms and serials. Philippine TV schedules resembled those in the U.S., with networks scheduling shows in daily time blocks instead of separate weekday and weekend programming.
RPN produced María Flordeluna, starring Janice de Belén. Its cast also included Dindo Fernando and actress-director Laurice Guillen. GMA produced Anna Liza, starring Julie Vega. Before the introduction of a TV ratings system in the Philippines during the 1990s, the shows were rivals. Anna Liza, canceled in 1985 after Vega's death, had an unfinished storyline and a two-hour special in 1986.
Until the late 1980s, Philippine television dramas were broadcast during the afternoon. ABS-CBN resumed operations after the end of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, and regained its audience lead by the end of the decade. During the early and mid-1990s, local sitcoms dominated Philippine television with the rise of ABS-CBN's Palibhasa Lalake, Home Along Da Riles, Oki Doki Doc and the political satire Abangan Ang Susunod Na Kabanata and GMA Network's Bubble Gang. International television swept the Philippines, beginning with Mexican telenovelas.
The most popular was the Las Tres Marias trilogy, produced by Televisa and starring Thalía. Marimar and Maria la del Barrio were broadcast in prime time on RPN, and Maria Mercedes was broadcast on ABS-CBN). Major networks began to reschedule Filipino telenovelas in prime time to attract increased advertising revenue. By the mid-1990s, teleseryes surpassed sitcoms in Filipino prime-time television.
One of the country's best-known TV series was Mara Clara, which aired from 1992 to 1997. The longest-running teleserye in the post-martial-law era, it had frequent time-slot changes before settling into the standard 7-8:00 pm prime-time block by late 1995. In mid-1997, Mula sa Puso (another ABS-CBN series) saw the rise of Claudine Barretto. Barretto played the heiress Via in the two-year soap; Rico Yan and Diether Ocampo were her leading men, and Princess Punzalan played Selina (the series' most influential character). Mula Sa Puso was the country's first middle-class primetime series, differing from the telenovelas with protagonists from the lower socioeconomic classes.
GMA retained and popularized its afternoon dramas, such as 1995–1997's Villa Quintana (with Donna Cruz, Keempee de Leon and Isabel Rivas); it was followed by 1997–1998's Ikaw na Sana, with Angelu de Leon and Bobby Andrews. Both were moved to prime time.
Philippine television dramas evolved into teleserye, a portmanteau of the Filipino words telebisyon ("television") and serye ("series"). The term originated with the ABS-CBN drama Pangako Sa 'Yo, airing from 2000 to 2002 and starring Jericho Rosales and Kristine Hermosa, and the rivalry between actresses Eula Valdez and Jean Garcia. Pangako Sa'Yo, the Philippines' first teleserye, was considered a turning point in Philippine television because of its production and fast-paced, multiple-arc plotlines which distinguished it from telenovelas. Broadcast in the Americas, Africa and Asia, it remains the most successful Philippine television series worldwide. At the end of its run in 2002, Pangako Sa 'Yo had the highest-rated series-finale episode of a Philippine show. Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay, which ended in 2003, introduced John Lloyd Cruz, Bea Alonzo and Lorna Tolentino. It was the Philippines' first series which was a finalist in the Best Drama Series category of the 2003 International Emmy Awards.
ABS-CBN's 1999–2001 series, Saan Ka Man Naroroon, starred Claudine Barretto in a triple role; Barretto later starred in Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan and 2004's Marina. The latter popularized the fantasy of most Filipino teleseryes.
GMA Network began producing the prime-time soap operas Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin (starring Angelika dela Cruz), which aired from 2001 to 2002, and Sana Ay Ikaw Na Nga (starring Dingdong Dantes). The political drama Kung Mawawala Ka examined corruption, starring Eddie Garcia, Hilda Koronel, Liza Lorena and Gloria Diaz. The series, which ran from 2001 to 2002, received an award from the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC).
Rosales, Hermosa, Diether Ocampo and Angelika dela Cruz starred in Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas. Airing between 2003 and 2004, it was the world's first drama series to allow viewers to choose a story's ending by texting. A contemporary ABS-CBN teleserye, Basta't Kasama Kita, starred Judy Ann Santos and Robin Padilla. Notable for its depiction of the National Bureau of Investigation, it was the first Filipino series to broadcast a live series-finale episode in 2004. In 2004, GMA Network overtook ABS-CBN in popularity when it introduced an all-fantaserye prime-time lineup featuring female-lead shows such as Encantadia (originally starring Iza Calzado, Karylle, Sunshine Dizon and Diana Zubiri) and Mulawin (starring Angel Locsin and Richard Gutierrez). GMA gained a ratings foothold with Darna, starring Angel Locsin.
The Philippines emerged as one of the world's largest television-drama-producing nations in the middle of the decade. International hits included ABS-CBN's 2006 Gulong ng Palad, starring Kristine Hermosa, TJ Trinidad, Cherie Gil, Andrea del Rosario and Rio Locsin, which was carried on TFC. A 2007 remake of Maria Flordeluna, which had aired on RPN-9 during the 1970s and 1980s, starred Eliza Pineda, Albert Martinez, Eula Valdez and John Estrada as Gary Alvarado. The 93-episode series received the 2008 PMPC Star Award for Best Television Series.
TV adaptations of films included ABS-CBN's Panday (starring Jericho Rosales and Heart Evangelista), Mga Anghel na Walang Langit and Kampanerang Kuba, starring Anne Curtis. Mga Anghel na Walang Langit (2005) was the first family-oriented teleserye produced by the network's Dreamscape Entertainment. The "sineserye" genre was introduced with Bituing Walang Ningning, starring Sarah Geronimo and Angelika de la Cruz.
Late in the decade, GMA-7 and ABS-CBN became rivals. GMA aired its 2007 remake of the international telenovela MariMar, starring Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes. Three ABS-CBN series became popular: 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, the most popular teleserye internationally after Pangako Sa'Yo, starred John Lloyd Cruz, Bea Alonzo, Sam Milby and Anne Curtis.
ABS-CBN produced its most expensive series, Lobo, in 2008. It starred Piolo Pascual and Angel Locsin, the latter's first major project on ABS-CBN after moving from GMA Network. Locsin was the first Filipino nominated for an International Emmy for a lead role. I Love Betty La Fea, a Filipino remake of the Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea, was broadcast that year. Starring Bea Alonzo, it was the most successful Philippine remake of a Latin telenovela since GMA Network's Marimar remake the year before.
The following year saw some of Philippine television's strongest original teleseryes, such as Dahil May Isang Ikaw (featuring Kristine Hermosa,Jericho Rosales, Lorna Tolentino, John Estrada, Chin Chin Gutierrez, Gabby Concepcion, and GMA Network alumni Karylle and Sid Lucero). Lucero is the only Filipino actor nominated at the International Emmy Awards for a lead role in a TV series.
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ABS-CBN and GMA Network both claimed to be the Philippines' most popular network. GMA Network began appealing to viewers in Mega Manila during the mid-2000s; ABS-CBN's prime-time shows attracted viewers in other parts of the country, particularly Visayas and Mindanao. Philippine media experts attributed the trend to ABS-CBN's return to Filipino programming.
The decade featured two successful teleseryes (Dahil May Isang Ikaw and May Bukas Pa). Dahil May Isang Ikaw began during the previous decade and ended on January 15, 2010.
Religious teleseryes dominate the early 2010s and the first year of the late 2010s from 2010 to 2013 and 2015 (January 1, 2010–October 25, 2013; January 19–September 25, 2015), continuing their domination from the late 2000s since the premiere of May Bukas Pa in February 2, 2009. Teleseryes belonging to this category are May Bukas Pa, Agua Bendita, 100 Days to Heaven, Ikaw ay Pag-Ibig, Dahil sa Pag-ibig, Juan dela Cruz, My Little Juan, Oh My G!, and Nathaniel which all were aired on ABS-CBN, with May Bukas Pa also began airing during the previous decade. May Bukas Pa is starred by Zaijian Jaranilla, was the first successful religious series on Philippine television and ended on February 5, 2010, and was followed by a fantaserye series Agua Bendita, starring Xyriel Manabat and Andi Eigenmann. Manabat then starred in ABS-CBN's 100 Days to Heaven which marked the return to prime time of Coney Reyes and Jodi Sta. Maria. 100 Days to Heaven was followed by Christmas television drama series Ikaw ay Pag-Ibig featuring child actors Zaijian Jaranilla, Xyriel Manabat, Mutya Orquia, and Louise Abuel. Dahil sa Pag-ibig, starring Piolo Pascual, Jericho Rosales, Cristine Reyes, Maricar Reyes, and Christopher de Leon, was aired from March 12 to June 29, 2012. 2013 had Coco Martin's Juan dela Cruz, and My Little Juan which is starred by Jaime Fabregas and Izzy Canillo, while 2015 had Oh My G! starring Janella Salvador, Marlo Mortel, and Manolo Pedrosa and Nathaniel featuring child actor Marco Masa.
With the earlier success of the 2007 remake of Maria Flordeluna and the 2010 remake of Mara Clara (which introduced Julia Montes and Kathryn Bernardo), ABS-CBN popularized the revival of teen-themed telenovelas. Mara Clara's success inspired a remake of 1997's Mula sa Puso, starring Lauren Young, JM De Guzman, Enrique Gil and Eula Valdez.
In 2011, a number of actors moved between ABS-CBN and GMA Network. Both networks' hold on prime-time television was challenged by TV5's teleserye Babaeng Hampaslupa, starring Alex Gonzaga, Alice Dixson and Susan Roces. Its 2016 series Bakit Manipis ang Ulap?, produced by Viva Entertainment, starred Diether Ocampo, Claudine Barretto, Cesar Montano and Meg Imperial.
Teleseryes began to include storylines reflecting contemporary Philippine controversy. Julia Montes and Coco Martin starred in ABS-CBN's 2012 Walang Hanggan, which addressed adultery and included the prime-time return of Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta. The network's 2012–2013 series Ina, Kapatid, Anak, starring Kim Chiu, Maja Salvador, Cherry Pie Picache and Janice de Belen, was set at the University of the Philippines and explored surrogate motherhood. Ina, Kapatid, Anak was replaced by Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala, starring Sam Milby and KC Concepcion and marking the return to television of Judy Ann Santos.
Gloria Romero left ABS-CBN and starred in GMA Network's Munting Heredera, whose series finale had a 27.7-percent rating. The series introduced Barbara Miguel, Kyle Ocampo and Mona Louise Rey. Rey later appeared in Luna Blanca with Jillian Ward. GMA Network premiered the big-budget historical drama series Amaya, starring Marian Rivera, Sid Lucero and Mikael Daez. Rivera also appeared in Temptation Of Wife, the Filipino version of a popular Korean series, with Dennis Trillo, Glaiza de Castro and Rafael Rosell. Trillo later appeared with Tom Rodriguez and Carla Abellana in the 2013 teleserye My Husband's Lover, the Philippines' first gay-themed prime-time series.
Maja Salvador joined Angel Locsin, Jericho Rosales and JC de Vera in ABS-CBN's 2014 series, The Legal Wife. It was followed by the 2015 remake of Pangako Sa'Yo, starring Jodi Sta. Maria, Angelica Panganiban, Ian Veneracion, Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla. The 2015 teleseryes Bridges of Love, starring Rosales, Salvador and Paulo Avelino, was broadcast as Puentes de Amor; the first Philippine drama aired in Latin America, it premiered on April 25, 2016, on Panamericana Televisión in Peru.
Salvador starred in the 2017–2018 series Wildflower, which revitalized the careers of Tirso Cruz III, Aiko Melendez, Sunshine Cruz, Christian Vasquez and Wendell Ramos and introduced Joseph Marco, Vin Abrenica, RK Bagatsing, Yen Santos and Roxanne BarceloIt was the first Philippine prime-time teleserye to explore nepotism, human rights abuses and mental illness.
The decade marked the renewed popularity of long-running dramas after the early 2000s. ABS-CBN's May Bukas Pa, which started to be aired in the previous decade and ended in the 2010s decade, aired for 1 year and 3 days (February 2, 2009–February 5, 2010). Be Careful With My Heart, starring Jodi Sta. Maria and Richard Yap, aired for 2 years from 2012 to 2014. From 2014 to 2016, GMA broadcast The Half Sisters with Barbie Forteza, Thea Tolentino, Jomari Yllana and Jean Garcia. Julia Montes starred in ABS-CBN's afternoon teleserye Doble Kara, which ran between 2015 and 2017. Ang Probinsyano, starred by Coco Martin, has been aired since September 28, 2015, attracting national attention for depicting the Philippine Drug War and the Philippine National Police despite renewed MTRCB censorship. GMA Network dominated the late afternoon between 2016 and 2018 with its teleserye Ika-6 na Utos, which marked the television comeback of Sunshine Dizon and Gabby Concepcion and starred Ryza Cenon and Angelika dela Cruz. Kadenang Ginto, also aired on ABS-CBN, premiered in October 8, 2018 and ended in the next decade (February 7, 2020).
Live teleserye finales returned for the first time since GMA's 2007 remake of Marimar. ABS-CBN's On the Wings of Love starred James Reid and Nadine Lustre. Born for You, the first musical teleserye since ABS-CBN's 2006 TV versionion of Bituing Walang Ningning, starred Janella Salvador and Elmo Magalona.
The 2008 ABS-CBN series Lobo inspired two sequels: Imortal in 2010 and La Luna Sangre in 2017; all three starred by Angel Locsin. The network's 2018 series Halik featured Jericho Rosales, Yen Santos and Yam Concepcion. It was replaced the following year by The Killer Bride, starring Maja Salvador and Janella Salvador, which has been praised for depicting the Duterte administration. Cenon moved to ABS-CBN to join Martinez in the 2019 military drama The General's Daughter, starring Angel Locsin. The series marked the television comebacks of Eula Valdez, Janice de Belen, Tirso Cruz III, Paulo Avelino and JC de Vera.
Philippine TV drama became popular during the early 2000s in Asia, Africa and Filipino communities in North America. Teleseryes have evolved from the telenovelas on which they were based. Philippine teleseryes have also attracted audiences in Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Often dubbed into local languages, they are sometimes shown with English and other foreign subtitles.
ABS-CBN and GMA were among the first Asian television producers to export dramas with a universal message, reflecting the reality of Filipino and other Asian societies. Pangako Sa 'Yo is the Philippines' most successful TV series worldwide. Before leading the Chinese television ratings during the mid-2000s, the series was seen by over one billion viewers in Southeast Asia and Africa. ABS-CBN introduced its International Sales website, providing access to its shows. The network shows Sana Maulit Muli (Taiwan), Lobo (dubbed as She-Wolf: The Last Sentinel), Tayong Dalawa, Dahil May Isang Ikaw, Kahit Isang Saglit, Katorse, Mara Clara, Magkaribal, Be Careful With My Heart (Vietnam) and Walang Hanggan were exported. They were followed by Ina, Kapatid, Anak, May Bukas Pa, Forevermore, Till I Met You, Wildflower and Ang Probinsyano.
GMA Network has the highest-rated pilot episodes with Darna and Encantadia in 2005, and made fantaserye a popular genre. The network produced Boys Next Door, a teen melodrama which was the first Philippine television series aired in South Korea. The 2007 Philippine adaptation of MariMar, GMA's most successful domestic television series, was also aired 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, Dyesebel and Encantadia, are still broadcast elsewhere in Asia and Africa.
Ang Probinsyano has had a wide-ranging effect on Philippine pop culture and society. Called the Pambansang Teleserye, the series has been nominated for and received a number of awards The show is widely regarded for tackling timely issues, and has generated controversy for its negative portrayal of the government and its agencies. It was defended, with viewers saying that the government should take heed. The series has been considered a kingmaker, with a high endorsement value in the 2019 midterm elections, and is a desirable platform for actors wishing to run for public office. A party list with the show's name, endorsed by series leads Coco Martin and Yassi Pressman, finished fifth in 2019 and won a seat in the House of Representatives. The series' lead character, Cardo Dalisay, has been called "steadfast and incorruptible". Ang Probinsyano is popular, and has been credited with reviving the action genre in film and television. Netflix streams the show under its international title, Brothers.
Philippine television dramas have spawned adaptations in other Asian countries:
- Impostora (GMA): Impostors, Cambodia, 2012
- Pangako Sa 'Yo (ABS-CBN): The Promise (សន្យាស្នេហ៍), Cambodia, 2013
- Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas (ABS-CBN): Cinta Tiada Ganti, Malaysia, 2018
- Kadenang Ginto (ABS-CBN): Putri Mahkota, Indonesia, 2020
- Love Thy Woman (ABS-CBN): Belenggu Dua Hati, Indonesia, 2020
- Sino ang Maysala?: Mea Culpa (ABS-CBN): Bukan Salah Cinta, Indonesia, 2020
- Tayong Dalawa (ABS-CBN): Angkara Cinta, Malaysia, 2020
- Hanggang Saan (ABS-CBN): Bir Annenin Günahı, Turkey, 2020
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