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Paraiso: Beyond the Island Adventure

Not that I am suddenly your teleserye expert, but this afternoon soap called Paraiso has got to be the best among the teleseryes that I have bothered to watch. This declaration is to be taken with a bit of caution because Paraiso is only the third serye that I have really watched after Hiyas and Pintada. Add to this the classic Mula Sa Puso of yore that I only watched loosely so I would not feel an outcast in the workplace, that makes for an impressive grand total of four.

I do not watch the primetime seryes, by the way. They tend to be thematically intense from what little I see of their teasers; and who really wants aggravation before going to bed? These afternoon seryes, on the other hand, can be so light-hearted and charming.

The funny thing is that I almost did not even get started watching Paraiso. I mean, the Crusoe-ic premise of being washed ashore after a shipwreck threatened to have as many clicks, pops and hisses as a seventies vinyl record. You know, the thing that goes round and round on a turntable.

From a light-hearted and even flippant start, now Paraiso has been bringing out the tears and the dagger looks. Without going overboard, which is what I admire about these Precious Heart Romances seryes. The acting is almost no acting at all, so very natural!
But I did; and it turned out to be not merely watchable but really quite excellent afternoon entertainment. That is, if you are willing to overlook the inattention to detail that these seryes rather tend to be guilty of.

Like, how a Malay-looking couple can have a Caucasian-mestizo for a son in stark disregard of the laws of genetics. Or, how a deep wound caused by debris from the shipwreck did not fester despite the absence of antibiotics in this supposed deserted island; and not only that, how it could have suddenly and miraculously healed in so short a time.

Then, there’s the failure to factor in time as a tool to keep the story within the bounds of realism and believability; and thus the viewer is always asking himself either how much time could possibly have elapsed or how the devil could that have happened so quickly.

As with the two previous seryes that I stayed with, I knew next to nothing about the main players. The only thing I had heard about Matteo Guidicelli – who plays the role of Brennan – was that famous bust-up with Coco Martin in 2011. Matt Evans – who plays Justin – on the other hand was also in the primetime news last year after being arrested for alleged physical abuse on his partner.

And Jessy Mendiola – who plays the lead female role of Yanie – I knew absolutely nothing about; yet she was the one who convinced me to stay with the series. Her portrayal of a fresh-faced and bright-eyed young lass from a lower class family who found herself marooned in an island with a goodlooking – but married – man from a well-to-do family was the not only charming but extremely captivating.

To be fair, Mendiola’s excellence was due in no small way to Guidicelli’s own brilliance. The two just simply played off each other with amazing chemistry.

Whilst Martin del Rosario and Lemuel Pelayo of Pintada started a tad on the awkward side but subsequently grew into their roles, Guidicelli has been natural and convincing as Brennan from Day 1. That is no small achievement considering that he is miscast for the role age-wise.

Another thing that has fascinated me about Paraiso has been the number of lovely ladies who have been assembled to play various roles in the serye. Not the cosmetic shampoo-commercial beauties that you see in some of the primetime shows but really lovely women who will look just as good sans make-up and hairstyling.

Apart from Mendiola, there is also Jewel Mische, who plays Brennan’s wife Meagan; Ina Feleo, who plays Brennan’s older sister Amanda; Pintada’s Denise Laurel, who supports as the slutty Cassandra; and the PBB Unlimited Edition trio of Jessica Connelly, Lipeña Pamu Pamurada and newcomer Wendy Tabusalla.

Even Dionne Monsanto, the serye’s britch – short for brat and bitch – is also quite a looker if one is prepared to look beyond the cattiness that her role requires. Of course there is also Evangeline Pascual – who plays Brennan’s mother – and she really needs no further introduction.

Although Yanie was initially far from impressed with Brennan – and he with her – the close proximity and the obvious lack of options on the island eventually led to attraction developing between the two lead characters. This attraction led to Yanie surrendering Bataan – this is a rated GP site – just before they were rescued.

This surrender and the fact that Brennan lives in an altogether different world from the one Yanie knows is the major complication that the entire series is trying to resolve as it goes along.

Paraiso has long since left the charm and flippancy of the tropical island and has gone on to examine interpersonal relationships and human foibles that prove, if anything, that life is far from being idyllic.

Brennan was reunited with his family and promoted by his father to the position of President in the family-owned corporation. Yanie’s mother died and she and her family had to leave their home to return to the province and try to rebuild their lives there.

By a supposed stroke of luck, Yanie would find herself working years later for – of all people – Brennan’s wife Meagan in the hotel that she owns. So here, the inevitable love triangles began. First, that involving Brennan, Meagan and Yanie.  Next is that between Yanie, Justin and Brennan.

Then, there’s the one involving Brennan, Meagan and her old beau Eric, played by Guji Lorenzana. As though things aren’t complicated enough, Cassandra comes in to complicate not only Brennan’s relationship with Yanie but also with his wife Meagan.

Meanwhile, there is also the sibling rivalry that simmers between Amanda and Brennan, in stark contrast to Yanie’s relationship with her brother Sonny, played by Arron Villaflor.

All these complications are challenging the actors, who have all risen to the occasion and shown remarkable versatility. From a light-hearted and even flippant start, now Paraiso has been bringing out the tears and the dagger looks. Without going overboard, which is what I admire about these Precious Heart Romances seryes. The acting is almost no acting at all, so very natural!

I am a bit concerned though, that too many interpersonal complications have been introduced into the serye that may one day be difficult to untangle when the show winds to an end. Paraiso is a charming little show that I would like to be concluded appropriately and not ended abruptly with so many loose ends still hanging.

For the meantime, though, I await how Justin pays back Brennan for all the misery that the latter has caused him.