"Well I wonder "Do you hear me when you sleep?" I hoarsely cry (Why?) Well I wonder Do you see me when we pass? I half die"
- The Smiths
Written by Mikey Sutton
Spoiler alert: The lead character in the GMA Network's new Philippine soap opera is dead.
In a supernatural twist on the most popular Filipino soap heroine - the jilted lover - Kris Bernal is a scarlet-clad Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (with matching cleavage even) on Hanggang sa Dulo ng Buhay Ko (English: Until the End of My Life). Sultry even with blue skin, Bernal's Naomi Espiritu is a one-woman creepshow, levitating and gliding atop floors, shape shifting, and phasing through doors. She has the potential to become one of horror's most indelible horror figures, the Freddy Krueger of the Philippines. Honestly, there is untapped potential for Naomi beyond this story should GMA envision it as well. There aren't too many horror icons like Jason, Freddy, and Chucky. Such popularity begins on a visual level, and Naomi is definitely memorable with her mash-up of scariness and sexiness.
Hanggang sa Dulo ng Buhay Ko is a ghost show on the surface; that's what the kids will see. But it cuts deeper than that. Naomi is a tragic figure. Her obsessive love for Rayver Cruz as Matteo Divinagracia may have been suffocating to him; however, that doesn't make Naomi a bad person, merely one with mental instabilities. Falling off of her veranda and impaling herself shortly after giving birth - the father is Matteo, who rejected her even after she told him she was pregnant - Naomi is the wounded face of unrequited love. As a phantom, Naomi becomes more unhinged and homicidal, trying to kill Matteo's wife Yvie (Megan Young) and even Matteo himself so they could live happily ever after in the afterlife. But the real problems shown in Hanggang sa Dulo ng Buhay Ko can afflict any couple - jealousy; financial problems; and lack of intimacy. This is where the show is most effective, when Naomi picks at those scabs that psychologically tear Matteo and Yvie apart.
Naomi kisses and makes love to Matteo while he's asleep or fools him into thinking she's Yvie. This turns the other woman cliché in Pinoy soaps upside down. Naomi is both a frightening and sad figure. She lost both her son and her lover when she died, only to see them both happy with the woman Matteo abandoned her for. You can feel her pain, her loss, and Bernal sharply captures the anguish whenever she lets it rip.
Creator Borj Danao shows tremendous sympathy towards the mentally ill on Hanggang sa Dulo ng Buhay Ko. This is further characterized by Sharmaine Arnaiz' respectful, sensitive portrayal of Yvie's mother, haunted by mental issues of her own and distrusted by some because of it.
The plaintive vocals of Julie Anne San Jose in the show's ethereal theme song "Bulong" summarizes what the series is truly about: a broken heart. It's not the fall that killed Naomi; inside, she was already dead. It was love that ripped the soul from her body.