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Juan de la Cruz Does Not Hold Back Punches

Samuel, the Haring Aswang, is wary that his nephew Omar the Hunter has been killed by the Taga-bantay and thus refuses to answer the call purportedly coming from Omar’s cell phone. Instead, he sends a text message, “Omar, ikaw ba ‘yan?”

At the other end, members of the Kapatiran excitedly bid Juan, who has Omar’s cell phone in his palm, to send back a reply. But Lolo Julian, wise old head on his shoulders that he has, warns everyone of a trap.

“Omar was blind,” he gently reminds everyone. In other words, how can he read a text message.

And I was, like, ay oo ngâ pala! This, in a nutshell, is why I love watching the primetime series Juan de la Cruz. The writers thoughtfully consider the what-ifs and do not assume that everyone in the audience is mentally challenged.

The acting is top class; the photography cinema quality. Most of all, the story is pleasantly fascinating and great attention is paid to detail. It is no surprise that Juan de la Cruz reaches out to a wide audience of diverse age, gender, social class and education.
The series is by no means an intellectual affair; but it does make the audience think. This is in stark contrast to the storylines not only of other television series but also of movies that are so shallow that anyone with two cents’ worth of intelligence can always second-guess what will happen next.

Thus, I also love Juan de la Cruz because it respects its audience.

I am habitually always on the lookout for weaknesses in plausibility whenever I watch a series or movie. With Juan de la Cruz, so far I have found none of significance.

There was this minor scene when Lolo Julian gave Juan a bracelet that was supposed to be handed down from one Taga-bantay to another. I thought the writers might have slipped because, in that case, Juan’s mother Amelia would have taken the bracelet with her to her grave.

In the next line of the dialogue, Lolo Julian had a perfectly acceptable explanation. In my head, I silently applauded the writers for the attention to detail and how skilfully plausibility was restored.

The only notable weakness – if at all – that I can recall from having watched the series – and I have not missed a single episode – was when Eddie Garcia introduced himself to Rosario as Father Jules. Those who watch the series, of course, know that his erstwhile pseudonym was Brother Jules.

It was more a senior moment on the part of Garcia and something that the editors remarkably – if comically – missed.

I was briefly concerned when teasers were first shown about the impending entry of Shaina Magdayao and company into the show as engakantos that the writers were pushing the very same plausibility that I was talking about earlier a tad too far. On the other hand, aswangs and Taga-bantays always fall under the category fantasy; so what harm can engkantos do?

To be fair, the set – or graphic effects – used to show the land of the engkantos was as good if not outrightly better than anything on an Enteng Kabisote film. Even the portal for crossing over from one world to another did not come across as yet another cheap Pinoy attempt at CGI.

On the other hand, nothing about Juan de la Cruz is cheap. The main cast is powerful enough as it is: Coco Martin, Erich Gonzales, Albert Martinez, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Gina Pareňo, Joel Torre, Arron Villaflor and Neil Coleta.

Now, consider the names who have been brought in to play guest or further supporting roles: Gretchen Barretto, Eddie Garcia and now Magdayao. Barretto’s cameo has been curious at best. Her character has not had any real significance to the story.

Garcia’s Lolo Julian, on the other hand, has simply grown into the story. I was particularly impressed by how he uncloaked himself as an older Taga-bantay when his grandson Juan was taking a severe mauling at the hands of Omar inside this abandoned building. That was very neatly done!

Magdayao as the engkantada is, of course, still only beginning to unfold. I will have more to say about her the next time I write about Juan de la Cruz. I must say in all seriousness, however, that she looks lovely with pointed ears.

Now that Juan has started to draw strength from, of all things, the anito in the possession of the clan of aswangs, some of the stunts have been fun to watch. I believe they are using ropes to make Juan leap higher and do acrobatics, pretty much like they do in Hollywood-made movies.

One of his leaps, however, did not seem natural. I suppose they are still trying to come to terms with the technique. The stunts may seem mundane; but if I am not mistaken, the ropes are meticulously erased digitally so that they do not show onscreen.

Hardly surprising, Juan de la Cruz’s share of the audience has hovered above 35% and has reached 40% and higher on a few occasions. This is simply massive! It means all the other stations have to fight for viewership over the remaining 60% for the time slot.

On the other hand, the series does not hold back on its punches, both literally and figuratively. While Juan the character gets stronger as he prepares to take on the clan of aswangs, the producers continue to bring in big names to augment an already star-studded cast.

The acting is top class; the photography cinema quality. Most of all, the story is pleasantly fascinating and great attention is paid to detail. It is no surprise that Juan de la Cruz reaches out to a wide audience of diverse age, gender, social class and education.

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