'My Husband's Lover': Engaging love story

WELL-THOUGHT. 'My Husband's Lover' shows that love exists in its myriad forms.

Image from the 'My Husband's Lover' Facebook page

MANILA Philippines - A colleague of mine gushed in her admiration for “My Husband’s Lover” at a recent office meeting. She went on to assert that it was a “groundbreaking” teleserye.

As the only (known) gay man in the room, I felt I betrayed the tribe when I admitted that I hadn’t seen the show. Of course, I had my doubts, because I thought GMA’s melodramas were either badly written or terribly acted or sometimes both.

So I kept off this program and let the flurry of social media attention blow past. But when the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines came into the picture, weighing in on this serye, watching “My Husband’s Lover” became too tempting to resist.

“My Husband’s Lover” would have been a self-explanatory title except that the “Lover” in this case is also a man, as you all know by now. The story is told from the perspective of the wife, Lally, played by Carla Abellana.

The first scene I saw involved a chance encounter (14:30 to 14:40 of this video) between husband Vincent (Tom Rodriguez) and old flame Eric (Dennis Trillo). They stood facing each other, as in a Mexican stand-off, but without the guns and the skull-drilling sound of an electric guitar.

Strains of an old Kuh Ledesma song blared for the entire duration of this scene (a recurring theme whenever I’d catch the show). Eric’s eyes would go all malagkit upon seeing Vincent who, in turn, looked like he was having a gastric reflux attack. The scene ended awkwardly, which I didn’t mind. Such endings were plausible and believable.

The next time I caught its telecast, Eric, in a flashback to a previous episode, is shown beaten up by a guy, after what might have been a proposition that prompted this reaction instead. He ends up in the hospital, bruised and one eye closed.

His mother (the wonderful Chanda Romero) implores him to report the incident to the police, but Eric refuses, for fear of the cops no less once they’re apprised of the circumstances of his mugging. Chanda expounds on his sexuality being irrelevant and so on.

Here, the show almost crosses over to being didactic, especially in her scene with the policemen who glance knowingly at each other when Chanda bares the telling detail that Eric met his attacker at a bar.

But Chanda is effective in her role as Jiminy Cricket to Eric’s Pinocchio, admonishing the lovers against carrying on their affair. Her expression (at 14:11 of this video) on finding Eric alone with Vincent is priceless.

The lovers are certainly easy on the eyes. They have many tender and intimate scenes — as much as Philippine television would allow anyway — but I like them better when they’re just on the verge of touching each other.

Dennis Trillo, in particular, is able to convey an intense yearning or pathos when he looks at Tom Rodriguez, who, unfortunately, handsome that he is, could still use a lot of acting workshops. (He was quite charming in “Be Careful with my Heart” but that was a much less demanding role.)

Carla Abellana seems to be going through the motions as the wife, but this is perhaps because her character is still underwritten. Could the writing be too focused on the lovers? Maybe, in the coming days, the show will give her more “meat to chew,” so to speak, especially when she finds out about the affair.

There is an obvious restraint or pagtitimpi in the way the characters react to the proceedings — no hysterics, no sampalan and barbed words so far. It’s quite refreshing.

Gay characters are certainly not new in Philippine drama, even in fantasy seryes. But more often than not — with notable exceptions being Lino Brocka’s “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay” and Joel Lamangan’s “Pusong Mamon” — they are portrayed playing second fiddle to the principal characters or providing comic relief as the plot turns serious.

And apart from so rare performances by the likes of Eddie Garcia and Tony Mabesa, we seldom see in our melodramas gay men who are completely straight-looking. In that sense, “My Husband’s Lover” is indeed groundbreaking.

This is probably what raises the hackles of our “moral guardians.” It’s very easy to dismiss homosexuality where it can be easily recognized: among drag queens and comedy bar hosts. Being in their presence does not diminish one’s “straightness” and may even show how “broad-minded” one can be. But any behavior outside those stereotypes is unsettling and unacceptable.

I am still surprised that not a few people even today still think I should wear a dress or use cosmetics because I’m gay.

I can imagine parents watching this show aired 5 nights a week right at their homes being hit by the realization that, hey, this can happen to me or anyone among my family; and precocious, resourceful gay kids searching this serye on YouTube, watching in solitude, searching for parallels to their young feelings and emerging desires.

The people behind “My Husband’s Lover” seemed to have really thought through this show (and its impact/implications). So far it has avoided every cultural sensitivity mishap, managed to balance imparting its “message of equality” with telling a fairly engaging story, and, most important, showed that love exists in its myriad forms.

I just hope this story doesn’t take an ugly tragic turn, as commonly happens to gay characters in drama, which imparts instead the subliminal conclusion that being gay is wrong and will lead to tragedy. - Rappler.com

'My Husband's Lover' airs 9:30pm weeknights on GMA7.

Mike de Guzman is a public health practitioner working in the field of HIV/AIDS. He watches a lot of TV and movies and his blog is called “Confessions of a Boomerang.”