Philippine drama can be classified into different forms and genres, with the most popular being the teleserye. The teleserye is a television form of melodramatic serialized fiction. It is rooted from two words: "tele", which is short for "television," and "serye", a Tagalog term for "series." Teleserye is now used as the generic term for most Filipino soap operas on television, although the term officially came into existence in 2000 when Philippine network ABS-CBN aired its first official form of teleserye, Pangako Sa 'Yo. Prior to this, Filipino soap operas were called either "telenovelas" (and some are still referred to as such) and "soap operas."
Teleseryes share some characteristics and have similar roots with classic soap operas and telenovelas, yet the teleserye has evolved into a genre with its own unique characteristics, often working as a reflection of the social realism of the Filipinos. Teleseryes are aired in prime-time five days a week, and often replays during weekends. They attract a broad audience which crosses age and gender lines, and they command the highest advertising rates in Philippine television. They last anywhere from three months to a year, or even longer, depending on its rating.
Other forms of Philippine dramas include serials and anthologies, which are usually shown on a weekly basis. These dramas are also intended to air a finite number of episodes usually lasting one season depending on the ratings.
Soap operas in The Philippines originated when Gulong ng Palad was first heard on the radio in 1949. The genre then expanded into television in the early 1960s. The first Philippine TV soap opera was Hiwaga sa Bahay na Bato in 1963, and was produced by ABS-CBN. Liwanag ng Pag-ibig, Prinsipe Amante, and many others soon followed. <ref>60 Years of Philippine Soap Operas</ref>
The "soaps" were usually shown during daytime, however in 1996, soap opera programming was moved to primetime due to the popularity gained by the Mexican telenovela, Marimar, which aired in The Philippines on RPN 9. This marked the start of the telenovela craze in The Philippines. Major networks followed the trend by showing local and foreign telenovelas in their respective timeslots.
In 2000, ABS-CBN, made a milestone move in television when it introduced Pangako sa 'Yo, which has since been known to be the first official teleserye, and Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay. These teleseryes set the standard for present teleserye productions in The Philippines. This new genre became a big hit in the country, and its popularity was soon spread to other countries. Because of this phenomenon, subsequent soap operas shown on television have regularly come to be referred to as teleseryes.
Classical Philippine Drama
The underlying theme of any teleserye tends to focus on love in all kinds of dimensions: love between couples, families, and friends. A popular plot-line revolves around a love story between two different individuals; most often an affluent individual who falls in love with someone from the "other side of the tracks," so to speak. Often the couple is separated by ill-fate, with their romance being often contradicted by a third party, usually meddling parents or relatives.
Another popular storyline revolves around a character's search for a loved one: a parent, a child, or a long lost friend; stories tend to start at the beginning of the main character's childhood. These storylines usually begin showing the child being separated at birth, or at a very young age, due to some unforeseen circumstance. In some instances, the protagonist may change places with the antagonist, or the main character may meet separated family members at another time in their lives.
Feelings of love, betrayal, jealousy, social status, and revenge are usually the underlying elements that abound in popular storylines, and story arcs build around main characters, and/or the different family members and generations.
Among the most common twists in the storylines circling around a romance between couples is that they may find out that they are actually related; brothers and/or sisters who were separated at birth. Or conversely, characters who have grown-up as siblings may find that they are, in fact, not related after a climactic event and/or situation.
Teleseryes are notorious for adding new characters to an already convoluted plot-line. This often adds more of a twist to the overall story. For example, the lead female character may meet a new love interest. This will eventually create a rift between the lead characters.
Sometimes teleseryes uses the "multiple lives" storyline to add more twists: a main character, who may be known as dead, may all-of-a-sudden show up out of nowhere one day; a technique that is popular in the classic American soap opera.
Villains are created to make the life of the protagonist especially miserable. Old Filipino soap operas portrayed very rude, violent, greedy, almost sociopathic villains who have come to be tagged as "Kontrabida," derived from the words "kontra" ("against") and "bida" ("the lead character").
Villains in teleseryes have changed from the old soap opera-like versions to a less violent, less vengeful character. Instead, "villains" in teleseryes tend to build on issues such as insecurities, lack of true people skills or true love, or being misunderstood. While less violent, the teleserye villain continues to wreak havoc on the lives of protagonists through mental tactics, and/or more subdued actions.
Stories usually end with villains meeting a spectacularly violent, gruesome, painful and gory end. Most complications will reach a resolution, and protagonists end up on top: winning the prize, getting married, having a child with a loved one, and or landing the lead job in a corporation.
The predictability of teleserye endings, however, has become an outstanding issue leading audiences to complain about repetitive and predictable plot-lines and endings. Because of this, scriptwriters have endeavored to change the endings of certain teleseryes to provide an additional twist, or a mark of added originality.
Modern Philippine drama
In recent times, many "classic" love stories that were popular during the 60s, 70s, and 80s have seen a resurgence on the small screen. These "old" storylines are sometimes transposed, and often re-showcases the main characters in their new incarnations: usually through a child, or another character who may share the same characteristics as the former. Some dramas give importance to storylines centering on the showbiz industry, with arcs portraying former friends or siblings fighting for fame and popularity. Still, the main topics of the dramas center around feelings of love, jealousy, family and revenge. Newer series depict serious themes, with contrasting comedic elements.
Unpredictable twists are still a huge part of the modern day teleserye, and can be used to further extend a series. Some twists focus on having the protagonists as "scapegoats" for the wrongdoings of the villain, causing further suffering to the main protagonists.
The endings of modern story-lines are sometimes quite different from what has been classically written. These days, story lines sometimes showcase a noted change in a character: often a villain who later faces forgiveness from the protagonist. Or instead of the obnoxious demise of a villain, the antagonist is often brought to justice and subsequently imprisoned. Also, some protagonists actually die, and do not survive the tumultuous lives they have lived. Modern drama serials have also opened up the possibilities for a series return through cliffhanger finales.
ABS-CBN has since started the exportation of their dramas, most likely classical dramas as they often have a universal message. Pangako Sa Yo (The Promise) is one of the most successful Philippine dramas abroad. Sana Maulit Muli was also aired in Taiwan. GMA Network's Boys Nxt Door, a teen melodrama, was the first Philippine TV series aired on a local broadcasting network in Korea, and their show Mga Mata ni Anghelita was aired in Mexico. Both networks have maximized the use of online streaming to promote their series' abroad. ABS-CBN has also introduced a website called ABS-CBN International Sales, for easy access to their shows.
- List of Philippine television shows
- List of programs previously broadcast by ABS-CBN
- List of programs broadcast by ABS-CBN
- List of programs broadcast by GMA Network
- List of shows previously aired by GMA Network