Before Filipinos embraced our very own Pinoy teleseryes and K-dramas for primetime viewing, televiewers were first immersed in Mexican telenovelas or Mexicanovelas. In fact, these shows influenced some of our tried-and-tested storylines like rags-to-riches, wife vs. mistress and revenge tropes.
For Filipinos, the ultimate Mexican superstar who captured our hearts was Thalia.
I remember how it was back then. Students and office workers rushed back home in time for the 6:30pm telecast of Marimar on RPN-9. In our household alone, we either ate dinner early or after the show as we were all glued to our TV screen.
We were with Marimar throughout her journey: from the time her character was introduced as a simple lass with big dreams and an idealistic view on love to her grand revenge scheme against the people who broke her heart especially Sergio and Angelika Santibanez.
Though a number of Mexicanovelas have been dubbed in Filipino and shown on national TV, there was just something about Thalia that made her relatable that Pinoy viewers really rooted for her success. Due to insistent public demand, Thalia even flew to the Philippines in 1996 for nine days. She released the album Nandito Ako in January 1997 and staged a two-day concert during her second visit.
@thalia Dueto YA 🔥🔥🔥 #marimar #viral ♬ Marimar - Thalia
With the ongoing "Marimar Challenge" on social media that even the 50-year old soap opera star participated in, we can’t help but take a look back at some of Thalia's telenovelas that were given Philippine adaptations and how these helped shape the careers of the lucky women who were chosen to do these remakes.
- Lead Actress: Marian Rivera
- Leading Man: Dingdong Dantes
When the remake of Marimar was confirmed by GMA-7, a lot of people assumed that their then favorite female lead Angel Locsin would play the iconic role. When Angel Locsin decided to switch networks, the Kapuso network was desperate and eager to find their next big star.
Auditions were held where actresses were required to read lines, test their chemistry with Dingdong Dantes (who was selected in advance play Sergio Santibanez) and Fulgoso, the charming dog who speaks and served as Marimar’s bestfriend (voiced by Michael V).
Among all the lovely hopefuls, only one emerged as the best and that is Ms. Marian Rivera.
Despite playing lead and supporting roles on several soap operas, Marian Rivera wasn’t a household name at the time. She was just ‘one of those’ pretty faces who could act.
Marian Rivera came in prepared to the audition with a goal to get that iconic part: She read the lines of Marimar with such innocence and charm, showed her sexy yet classy dance skills, and transformed into a fierce woman as she read the revenge scenes. And yes, she had that oozing chemistry with her future husband Dingdong Dantes.
The clamor for Marian Rivera to play Marimar was hyped up and GMA-7 found their new Primetime Queen. Fortunately, she surpassed the expectations of the viewers and the nation fell in love with her. She also became a top product endorser, a favorite cover girl of print magazines, novelty singer (remember Sabay Sabay Tayo?) and also starred in a number of movies.
To solidify her status as a primetime artist, she was chosen to play Dyesebel (2008) and Darna (2009-2010). Her other primetime teleseryes include the Philippine adaptation of classic K-Dramas Endless Love (2010) and Temptation of Wife (2012-2013). She also led the cast of the remake of the teleserye version of the Pinoy action film ‘Ang Babaeng Hinugot sa Aking Tadyang’, Amaya (2011-2012), My Beloved (2012), Carmela (2014) and Super Ma’am (2017).
Now that she is a doting mother of two, Marian Rivera decided to slow down with the teleserye projects. At the moment, she is the main host of the Saturday drama anthology show Tadhana and her Saturday night sitcom with husband Jose and Maria’s Bonggang Villa is making their DongYan fans happy.
- Lead Actress: Carla Abellana
- Leading Man: Geoff Eigenmann
Probably inspired by the success of Marian Rivera’s Marimar, GMA-7 acquired the rights to another classic Thalia telenovela: Rosalinda.
Instead of choosing a contract star from their pool of talents, the network picked a newbie actress who had previously never acted on TV or films. She was the De La Salle University BA in Psychology cum laude graduate Carla Abellana.
In one of her interviews, Carla Abellana shared that she originally auditioned for the Philippine adaptation of Zorro. However, GMA-7 had other plans for her and she was offered the role of Rosalinda instead.
For a newbie actress, Carla Abellana was under a lot of pressure. Coming from showbiz royalty (her father is Rey “PJ” Abellana and her maternal grandmother is veteran actress Delia Razon) was an advantage, but a lot of people were skeptical if she could deliver the same star power. Would she be able to capture the hearts of televiewers? Could she duplicate… or even replicate the success of Marian Rivera?
I guess it's safe to say that Carla Abellana was able to play the role of Rosalinda with flying colors. The fans of the show also rejoiced when they found out that a real romance developed between her and leading man Geoff Eigenmann.
Rosalinda opened up a lot of doors for Carla and she became one of GMA-7’s prime leading ladies. Abellana also impressed fans and critics with her succeeding acting projects both for TV and films. She was nominated in several award-giving bodies for her performance in Shake, Rattle & Roll XII: Punerarya in 2011 (where she won the Best Performance by Young Critics Circle on Film and Best New Movie Actress by PMPC), My Neigbor’s Wife (2011) and Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story in 2012.
Even though Rosalinda paved the way for Carla’s thriving showbiz career, her effective portrayal as the martyr wife Lally in ‘My Husband’s Lover’ is probably the highest point of her career. Fans loved her more and people embraced her then onscreen partnership with Tom Rodriguez.
Some of Carla Abellana’s afternoon and primetime teleseryes: Sinenovela: Basahang Ginto, Magic Palayok, Kung Aagawin Mo ang Langit, Makapiling Kang Muli, My Husband’s Lover, My Destiny, Because of You, I Heart Davao, Love of My Life and To Have and To Hold.
Carla Abellana is also an effective TV host and comedian. She was the main host of the now-defunct Saturday drama anthology series ‘Karelasyon’ (2015-2017) and also played the role of doting wife Majay in ‘Ismol Family’ (2014-2016). She is set to play the role of Dr. Mary Ann Armstrong in Voltes V: Legacy.
Maria la del Barrio (2012)
- Lead Actress: Erich Gonzales
- Lead Actor: Enchong Dee
Even if Erich Gonzales won the grand prize in Star Circle Quest 2, it took her several years before she was trusted to play a lead role in a teleserye via Katorse, which was based on the 1980 movie of Dina Bonnevie. She portrayed the role of the teenage mom Nene and through this show, she was able to showcase her acting prowess. Though Ejay Falcon and Xian Lim were chosen originally as her leading men in the show, the latter entrance of Enchong Dee worked more and fans fell in love with their natural chemistry.
The chemistry of the EnRich loveteam couldn’t go to waste. They appeared as second leads in ‘Tanging Yaman’ and ‘Magkaribal’. They even starred in movies ‘Paano Ka Sasabihin?’ and ‘I Do’.
Eventually, ABS-CBN acquired the rights for the Philippine adaptation of ‘Maria La Del Barrio’, which was a perfect fit for Erich. Among her contemporaries, it was Erich who could really act and had the childlike persona well-loved by viewers. She could also switch from an innocent barrio lass to a fierce queen out for revenge.
Throughout the show, the actress proved that she’s ready to take on more mature roles. Some of her remarkable films include Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang, Suddenly It’s Magic (with Thai superstar Mario Maurer), Mariposa (Sa Hawla ng Gabi), Once a Princess, Shake, Rattle & Roll XV:Ahas, Siargao, The Significant Other and We Will Not Die Tonight, a film she also co-produced.
After the success of Maria La Del Barrio, Erich continued to play female lead roles in toprating teleseryes like Juan Dela Cruz, Two Wives (where she played a bida-kontrabida role), Be My Lady, The Blood Sisters (where the played three characters) and La Vida Lena.
At the moment, fans are eagerly waiting for her next TV or movie project. Erich married a non-showbiz guy earlier this year and we assume that she is focusing on her private life for now.
Maria Mercedes (2013)
- Lead Actress: Jessy Mendiola
- Leading Man: Jake Cuenca and Jason Abalos
Technically, Maria Mercedes was the first one in the ‘Maria’ trilogy of Thalia. With the Mexican version first airing in 1992, it was the last one to have a Philippine adaptation.
Even before Jessy Mendiola bagged the coveted role, she already starred in a number of daring teleseryes like Sabel and Precious Hearts Romances: Paraiso, which were both shown in the afternoon timeslot. If I am not mistaken, she was handpicked by ABS-CBN and she fit the role to a tee. At the time, Mendiola was a fast-rising talent with a talked-about love life.
Just like Marian, Carla and Erich, Jessy exuded a good mix of innocence and sensuality. It was also obvious that Jessy wanted to prove to the viewers that she is the best Maria Mercedes Philippine would ever have.
What struck with me is how she looked elegant in her red outfits while promoting the show. With the guidance of her leading men Jake Cuenca and Jason Abalos, she was able to prove to the world that she is not just a pretty face. Just watch the music video where she sang and grooved ala Thalia:
Although the Philippine version of Maria Mercedes was considered a success, fans had the perception that Jessy might’ve decided to slow down as far as TV projects are concerned. Her next TV project was the family drama ‘You’re My Home’ (with Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta). She also appeared in action series FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano and Sandugo.
Some of Jessy Mendiola’s films after Maria Mercedes include Mano Po 7: Tsinoy, Extra Service, The Girl in the Orange Dress, ‘Tol, Stranded and Mga Mata sa Dilim.
As of this writing, Jessy Mendiola regularly vlogs at her own YouTube channel and occasionally appears on her husband Luis Manzano’s vlogs. It seems like Jessy Mendiola is now at the stage of her life where she isn’t pressured to prove something and she’s content with her simple and stress-free life.
- Lead Actress: Megan Young
- Leading Man: Tom Rodriguez
After winning the 2013 Miss World Crown and fulfilling her beauty queen duties, Megan Young signed up with GMA-7, her original home network, after working with ABS-CBN for several years. In case you didn’t know, this beauty queen/actress/model started her showbiz career as a contestant of the second season of Starstruck 2 (where Ryza Cenon emerged as the Ultimate Female Survivor). It was a homecoming of some sorts and GMA-7 wanted to offer the best for the queen.
For the second time, GMA-7 did another adaptation of Marimar with Megan Young now playing the lead role. Tom Rodriguez was chosen to play Sergio Santibanez in this remake. They tweaked the story a bit in this version and Megan was joined by her younger sister Lauren Young, who played the role of the bratty Antonia.
We won’t be comparing the 2007 and 2015 version. What I can say though is through Megan Young’s Marimar, she was able to prove that she can play a lead heroine in a teleserye (she used to play villain roles prior to Marimar). I especially loved her revenge scenes here. Her succeeding teleserye projects include Alyas Robinhood, The Stepdaughters and Sa Dulo ng Buhay Ko.
Megan Young still occasionally does hosting jobs, but she’s not in a rush to do TV projects for now. Before the pandemic, she tied the knot with longtime boyfriend Mikael Daez.
There you have it! Which among these Philippine adaptations of Thalia telenovelas did you watch back then? Who among them captured your heart?