sana dalawa ang puso and the concept of duality

Over the years, themes of duality have been explored and exploited in film and TV. ABS-CBN’s early 2018 offering, Sana Dalawa Ang Puso, is its latest endeavor to go down this familiar path. Not to be instantly judged as a misstep though, because every generation seems to give birth to an iconic duo - bitter rivalries between polar opposites, tragedy-stricken twins separated at birth, archetypes of good and evil caught in everlasting battles – they sometimes end up becoming the pairs that define a generation. Duality is a rich motif. Rivalries are entertaining when done right, and sometimes even when not. Twin-centered series never go out of fashion - admittedly it is fun to watch especially when twin characters are being played by the same actor/actress, adding a layer of cinematic wonder to the scene.

Sana Dalawa Ang Puso is a promising rom-com which may or may not adhere to a tried and tested formula, but what's clear is that it clings to a recurring theme: the number 2. From its title, to its official hashtag (#nalilitwo), to Jodi Sta Maria playing two different characters. Two faces, two pairs intersecting at some midpoint, two romances to follow – this is duality at the most obvious level, but the theme runs a lot deeper and in more subtle ways.

For a better understanding, let’s have a quick recap of the events so far.

The Switch

Lisa Laureano (Jodi Sta Maria), the only daughter of a cosmetics mogul, is about to take the helm of the family business. As the company faces its downfall, her father comes up with an unexpected maneuver: merge with their biggest competitor. In exchange for the merger that will save their faces, Lisa finds herself a helpless pawn as she is forced to marry the scion of the competition, who is also her bitter ex, Martin Co.

Martin Co (Richard Yap) is one of Manila’s most eligible: young, wealthy, and wildly successful. The merger and forced wedding align with everything he wanted in life, as he has long been smitten with Lisa. The short relationship they had in their youth ended in a falling out and he is yet to earn Lisa’s forgiveness, a feat he can’t seem to accomplish because Lisa’s attention is somewhere else. Unknown to Martin and Lisa's father, she is actively running shady schemes to outwit them in their game of control.

Leo Tabayoyong (Robin Padilla) enters the picture, an undercover window cleaning serviceman assigned to the Laureano building. A series of encounters bring him and Lisa close, and he shows Lisa a world so much different from her own. His simple life of freedom is a distraction which highlights Lisa’s helplessness in her impending wedding and marriage to Martin.

Mona Bulalayao (also Jodi Sta Maria) is a barrio cockfighting kristo. As she flees her past, she runs into Lisa, and with this encounter comes the biggest shock of their lives: they look exactly alike.  Immediately Lisa sees an opportunity: she can escape from her father to arrange her own merger. If she succeeds, her company will be saved, and she will not have to marry Martin. The only way she can do this is with Mona's help. After a rushed makeover, Mona takes Lisa's place in the company, in her family, and in Martin’s doomed union.

Martin, Leo and Mona - all their paths converge with Lisa as she plays the biggest con of her life in her bid for freedom and happiness, but at what cost?

The show taps into the morning demographic, the same crowd ABS-CBN won over with Be Careful With My Heart. I didn't like BCWMH (mainly because Maya is overly sweet, beyond what is humanly possible) but I am hooked with S2P. My mother serves a daily episode recap along with our breakfast. Our favorite is Mona, she is just a riot. Put her in a scene with  Sharamdara the rooster and we're all set.

How does S2P stand out from its overplayed genre? Does it freshen up our idea of duality, or will it be just another  forgettable kambalserye?

First of all, we aren’t even sure if Mona and Lisa are in fact twins.

Mona has unclear birth origins and her parents keep it a secret, with a ruby encrusted necklace being the only clue to her identity. There's a chance she is related to Lisa, whose mother died a long time ago. But at the same time, S2P opened with the premise that every person has at least seven lookalikes in the world. It might just be a big coincidence, a cosmic joke played on Mona and Lisa. Does this mean ABS-CBN is veering away from the “separated-at-birth” structure? They might be twins, or may be just lookalikes. It’s too early to say, and honestly, this uncertainty is part of the charm.

To understand that charm deeper requires a closer look into each of the characters. Mona and Lisa symbolize the full spectrum of being a female. Leo and Martin represent the traditional and modern ideas of masculinity. As we navigate their ins and outs, a puzzle reveals itself, and all pieces will begin to take shape and fall into place.

The Players

Lisa is not your typical damsel in distress: her castle is the Laureano Group of Companies; her father is the wicked captor; but her knight in shining armor is not necessary, because Lisa is not going to wait for a savior. She will take matters into her own hands with her vicious “Boss-Ma’am” business persona.

Mona is the quintessential Filipino heroine, starting from the bottom and struggling through her journey. While Lisa represents the end goal – beautiful, ultra-feminine, powerful – Mona is the exact opposite: simple, oppressed, lacking in graces. Their only common denominator is that they are both strong females with indomitable fighting spirit. Mona will transform and emulate Lisa to encapsulate the Filipina ideal: strong, beautiful and happy. Lisa has had a taste of the simple life with Leo, and this just might be the escape she is longing for.

Leo is the ultimate Pinoy machoman man, complete with swagger and savior complex. He takes responsibilities left and right. His unbreakable sense of integrity takes him places, both good and bad. But att the core of his rugged exterior, he is just the utmost gentleman.

Martin is a big man-child lost in a world of adults, babied by his parents, caring yaya and loyal bodyguard. He is just going through the motions to fulfill his functions and obligations. He wants to be taken seriously, to triumph at something. Lisa is his hardest defeat yet. With no one else to turn to, he befriends the woman he hired to care for his prized rooster. That woman is Mona, and though they only talk via text, Mona inevitably falls for him.

Compare and Contrast

S2P plays on duality in two ways: parallels and opposites.

Leo and Mona are outsiders to Lisa and Martin’s world. Their lives mirror each other in two ways: familial love and constant peril. Their only access to Lisa and Martin is though their manual labor jobs. Both were born to disadvantage, clawing their way to get to the top through honest work. When they finally meet, will they appreciate this quality in each other?

Lisa and Martin are equals. Both born into money, both well-educated and successful in their own right, both a prime catch in a society where charity fundraiser galas are a weekend thing. Do their similar backgrounds automatically warrant a match? Or will it result to one of those failed marriages we every so often read about?

Lisa represents the upper echelon of society with her immaculate image while Mona, well, she hypes up fighting cocks, plays the mascot in costume parties, and plucks underarm hairs in her spare time. Will Lisa’s journey be in the complete opposite direction as Mona’s, spiraling down to the levels of poverty and simplicity she is not used to? Maybe we are yet to see Lisa riding a jeep or eating kwek-kwek, but as of last week, we have already seen Mona, disguised as Lisa, making her grand entrance in a black evening gown and everyone stops for a gaze.

Leo and Martin's professions convey their biggest difference in terms of our ideas of masculinity. Leo does manual labor work as a guise, but in truth he is part of a covert military operation. Martin studies how to market cosmetics. Leo courts danger with his undercover job, while Martin is preoccupied with his wedding. Leo puts his life on the line every day, relying only on his fighting skills. Martin mulls over his lovelife and texts Mona, “Ganun ba talaga ang nagmamahal, nasasaktan?”

Lisa and Martin, as part of the ruling elite, only interact with “the help” as far as they are concerned. It’s only when they get a taste of the real world beneath their pedestals that they will truly live. Mona and Leo are broadening their horizons, reaching places they were never a part of before. And these crossovers are what the fans are waiting for.

In exploring each character and their plight, it’s easy enough to draw where they’re coming from, basing on their opposite and parallel personas. The real fun starts when you try to guess where they are going next.

The Performances

Watching Jodi is a masterclass in acting. Her Lisa is the epitome of class and elegance, while her Mona simply steals every scene she is in. With Robin, you get what you sign up for, and his brand of machismo completes this puzzle. Richard, if anything, showed more versatility. He is yet to shed off his Daddy image (my mother still refers to him as Sir Chief) by playing Martin's character, who is supposedly much younger than the BCWMH character he came to be most known for, but he is doing that successfully. Torn between love and embarrassment, Richard's Martin deals with Lisa with desperation and constant heartbreak. You just can't help but feel sad for him, because of all four, he is the most miserable.

The series plays out like, surprisingly, like a fast-paced movie. It's far-removed from the saccharine sweetness of BCWMH and from Jodi's slapfest with her Amor Powers stint. With ABS-CBN's current serye lineup, it's the only one you can call feel-good. It's the kind of serye that doesn't dish out all its tricks at once. It gives some and then saves some. Three months into its run and we haven't even heard the theme song yet (meanwhile, the afternoon triplet-serye plays its "Ako'y ako na di dapat mawalan ng pag-asa" theme like a broken record).

S2P's strength is how it delivers the laughs so effortlessly, so naturally. It feels so light, but at the same time, well put together. We all know the show did not write itself. And we all know, easy-watching is hard-writing. This tight little package of a story, neat and tidy with no loose ends, is the product of thinking minds. This is not something you come up with over a weekend.

At the center of it all is pure comedy gold. Jodi does physical comedy well. She is the lifeblood of this whole gig. As one grandma of an officemate put it, this is the only time she liked Jodi. This is the truest testament of good writing and good acting: to change a lola's opinion of an actress.

What I appreciate most about S2P, apart from its carefully crafted meet-cutes, is how it breaks stereotypes for both men and women. Martin runs a makeup company. Leo lives in an all-girl household. Lisa takes action to grab her chances at freedom. And Mona, in cockfighting? You can't get any more badass than that.

What's next?

Fast-paced as it is, at this point the story is yet to complete its initial course. The characters have barely met and so far, only Lisa has met all three. Alliances are still being made and rivalries are just about to manifest. The dice have been cast but we're only seeing a few faces. As more combinations are thrown, we can look forward to more changing dynamics: will Mona meet Leo and eventually relate more to him? Will Lisa have a change of heart and let Martin win her over? Each pairing is as valid and promising as the other.

But the most important question lies in the title. It implies how a person deals with oneself when faced with making an important choice between two (again, the magic number) loves. A love triangle is forming, but who are the players? So far we have Mona with Martin, and Lisa with Leo, so what’s the problem?

In popular folklore, a doppelganger, a replica of a living person, is considered a bad omen. Meeting your own means impending death. Does this lend an answer to the question? Will things take this serious turn?

Sino ang maghahangad magkaroon ng dalawang puso? Sino ang #nalilitwo?

3 comments. Post your comment here.:

Mr. Tripster said...

Wow... And i really mean it. Impressive review. When I saw the length of this entry, I said to myself that this teleserye does not deserve to be showered with your attention through your time and cerebral efforts. And i have never ever given any thought that our teleseryes have actual philosophical depth. Probably it's just me, or TV stations have finally decided to create quality TV programs...

Glenn Tabarejos said...

And I thought no one will read this post so when I saw your comment napa-Ahh sabi na eh, kung may magbabasa nito, ikaw yun! Thanks!!!

khantotantra said...

napanood ko to sa bus noong papunta akong quiapo.

Yung nahuhulog na si Mona kay Sir Chief pero di pinagbabawalan sya ni nikki valdez.

Kung may time nga lang, maganda nga syang panoorin. Di dramatic at light lang toh.

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