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Pintada: A Believable School-Based Story

Not that I have suddenly become the ultimate authority on teleseryes, but I very much recommend the late afternoon Precious Hearts Romances offering Pintada to anyone who cares. This soap opera is the replacement for Hiyas, the series that I used to loosely watch before the regional news on ABS-CBN.

Unlike with Hiyas, with which the story seemed almost incidental to the endless stream of commercials and teasers, with Pintada the ads are kept to a reasonable level. Moreover, while Hiyas was at best pleasant and cute, Pintada actually dares to appeal to the intellect.

What a pity that the series airs at a time slot when those who can best appreciate it are still in school. It is a love story, of course; but in a wider context, it also examines the intricate and even complex relationships that spawn and flourish within the walls of a school.

I am no authority on the local entertainment scene; so I have no way of knowing the pedigree of the series’ actors. That said, although all the actors are unknown to me, I find the level of acting impressive. I have never appreciated the typical Filipino actor’s penchant for over-dramatizing the mundane. That is why I can appreciate the laid back and realistic performances of Pintada’s actors.

Granted, there have been few scenes of high drama so far; but those that came along have been tastefully acted and brought no nosebleed. The best acting, they do say after all, is when it is as though one is not acting at all.

To the casual viewer, Pintada may be no more than just another love story. It is anything but. It actually dips its fingers into a subject that those who work in school – as I used to – know is a source of controversy: an amorous relationship brewing between a teacher and her student.

Denise Laurel plays the role of Lysa Alvarez, an alumna returning to join the teaching force at St. Martin’s. Sev Sandejas, played by Martin del Rosario, is a troubled teenager who gets ditched by a girlfriend his age and then pursues instead the newcomer Lysa.

After making amorous advances towards the latter, who has recently moved into his neighbourhood, he discovers to his embarrassment that she is, in fact, his teacher.

Not that this little inconvenience can convince Sev to drop his interest. He continues pursuing her and this, needless to say, makes the odd couple the favourite subject of the grapevine. This is not incredible at all. I know for a fact that this can happen in a school.

Although Lysa has behaved with all the dignity as one can only expect from a teacher, she nevertheless continues to be targeted by malice from Sev’s jealous ex-girlfriend and fellow employees jealous of her youth, beauty and the fact that she seemed to be getting an awful lot of praise from school owner Albert Sandejas, played by Ricardo Cepeda.

The older Sandejas turns out to be one of the story’s complications. First of all, he is Sev’s father; but married to another woman, not Sev’s mother. If you get my drift…

As happens, all the attention he has been paying Lysa turns out to be no more than a case of DOML – Dirty Old Man’s Lust. He tries to rape Lysa and gets himself killed when a fire breaks out in the Chemistry lab.

In the same incident, Sev gets hit by a projectile; Lysa gets fallen over by a wooden beam while she tries to save Sev; and she gets the side of her face burnt to lay the ground, I suppose, for the painted face in the series’ opening splash and to also explain the title of the story.

The story is, of course still unfolding. An official synopsis says that Lysa will become a recluse. We will see how the story goes.

Either the story is extremely well-researched or the writer has worked in a school. So much about the story is not only believable but also quite realistic.

For instance, that Lysa is taken under her wings by one of her former teachers is so typical. So too are the intrigue and jealousy that began to surround her almost as soon as the school year started. That she has her own clique of loyal friends as well as antagonistic fellow teachers, that is realistic as well. Even the loan she makes from the school cooperative, don’t I just know that to be realistic!

While the main plot of the teacher-student relationship is something naturally frowned upon, it does happen as well and true to form discussed in hush-hush tones around the grapevine.

What has impressed me the most has been Denise Laurel’s authentic portrayal of a young teacher trying to keep a veneer of professional distance whereas, in fact, the amorous teenager is not only goodlooking but really just a few years her junior.

Martin del Rosario, who I believe is new to the industry, also excelled in the dramatic scenes. In doing the flamboyant teenager scenes, however, he was a bit of a work in progress.

The soap is not perfect, of course. Sandejas’ attempted rape of Lyza in school while there were students and teachers still on campus could probably have been given more thought. That was dramatic; but not realistic at all. Even crazed rapists try to find some dark and seclude talahiban somewhere.

Other than minor anomalies such as this, the teleserye is actually very, very watchable. While it is obviously not a big budgeted production, what it lacks in big names and picturesque locations it more than makes up for by taking on a bold topic, eliciting great performances from its actors and having a realistic story that the average viewer can relate with.