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Pintada the Painted Face Takes a Bow

There you go. Lysa Alvarez, a.k.a. Ma’am Lysa, finally returned to the town of Cervantes in yesterday’s episode. The return, announced during the culminating night of the town fiesta, was as grand as dramatic entrances can get.

With her friend Noel Crisostomo – played by Lemuel Pelayo – having received an award from the Mayor of Cervantes for his efforts to boost the town’s economy, the awardee surprised the townsfolk by crediting his successes to her ideas and called her to join him onstage. She walked slowly to the middle of the stage, the burnt side of her face painted with elaborate designs in keeping with the fiesta’s Pintada Festival theme. This, I believe, partially explains the teleserye’s somewhat exotic title.

The first time I wrote about this teleserye, it was still very much a school-based story. It has moved on from that; although Martin del Rosario’s character of Sev Sandejas has been thrust into the school setting previously occupied by Denise Laurel’s character Lysa.

It has been six years since Lysa was wrongfully convicted of homicide. How time flies; and especially so in teleseryes.

The story continues to be captivating; and I suppose it has come to the point when the audience begins to anticipate the time when Lysa will be exonerated of wrongdoing and those who conspired to send her to jail will be made to pay.

Her trial was skilfully handled by the writers. The arguments, especially those made by the defence, were believable. The story built up to the point when the audience was lulled into thinking that Lysa would be acquitted; but that turned out to be no more than false hope.

She was found guilty. While the prosecution’s case was admittedly circumstantial and so lacking in substance, a Mayor whispering into a judge’s ear for the verdict to be opposite of what should be is the sort of thing everyone suspects actually happens in city halls here and there every now and again. I thought that was handled very skilfully again.

That said, I also thought the writers were in too much of a hurry to send Lysa to jail. Considering how strong Lysa’s lawyer’s convictions were that the verdict was rigged, the lack of an appeal was perhaps curious. Money or the lack of it? Nah, that’s lame!

I gave a lot of thought to whether the quickness with which Sev’s infatuation with Ma’am Lysa turned to disdain would hold water after she divulged the attempted rape by his father. In the end, I decided that love and hate are, indeed, opposite ends of the same emotion; so I thought that bit was possible as well.

For some reason, I get the feeling that I’m missing a few things. I’m starting to wonder if it’s a regional station thing or what; but on a few occasions, I just had this feeling that I missed an episode when I was certain that I did not.

For instance, I’m a bit lost about how exactly Lyza’s relationship with the Crisostomo character came about. One moment Lyza was giving fellow inmates rudimentary education; the next she was free and allowing herself to be coaxed into a plan that would help her regain custody of her siblings.

Did I miss anything? Considering how intricately Sev’s infatuation with Lyza was built up, the almost out-of-the-blue arrival of Crisostomo has given the story huge sink holes.

I’m also a bit lost about the Atong character. This is Sev’s friend who inadvertently witnessed how the elder Sandejas was killed by Karen Sandejas – played by Bernadette Alison – with Sev’s Mom Carol – played by Alma Concepcion – also inside the Chemistry lab.

Jess Mendoza played the role of the conscience-stricken Atong adequately; but I am not comfortable with the relative ease with which Karen intimidated him into silence. I don’t know if it was the writers’ intention to portray the police as ineffectual; but I worked for decades with teenagers and there are no more natural squealers than teenagers who are on edge.

The way Atong was quickly despatched from the story was, perhaps, teleserye stuff. In fairness, it is a teleserye. I’m sure they will resurrect Atong at the appropriate time. Meanwhile, I’m just at a loss about why the character who holds the key to Lysa’s anticipated exoneration has been kept completely off-screen.

At this point, I suppose the emerging question for consideration by most viewers is if Ma’am Lysa gets involved in a love triangle with her former student Sev or if she becomes romantically linked with the character Crisostomo. Love triangle... Hmm... This is also where the story becomes formulaic; but what the heck, too late to back away now.

Besides, the series continues to be well-directed and, more importantly, under-acted as how I feel it should always be. None of the numbing sigawan-sampalan that other seryes are so fond of and which I categorically detest.

So, I know I am seeing Pintada through because it can be such a joy to watch, the horrendous commercials and teasers on the regional feed notwithstanding.

In true teleserye fashion, what can I say but... abangan!

[Postscript: Sev Sandejas as a tattooed high school teacher in a small-town school? Schools are supposed to be hubs of liberal thinking; but they can be anything but. I don’t think so, then.]