Philippine Sitcom Review: Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata

This was when Philippine comedy was at its peak. 


(Don’t mind me. I’m just thinking of ways to kill time. I am thinking of writing a pseudo-research paper where I will preview the sitcoms I enjoyed the most growing up. Just think of this as me trying to do my thesis... to present to no one. THIS IS THE FIRST OF FIVE INSTALMENTS!)

Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata premiered on January 7, 1991.

The original cast were as follows: Noel Trinidad, Tessie Tomas, and Anjo Yllana for the rich; Freddie Webb, Nova Villa, Roderick Paulate, and Carmina Villarroel for the middle class; and Sammy Lagmay, Nanette Inventor, Carmi Martin, and Jennifer Sevilla representing the slums. Nena Perez-Rubio played the ghost of Anding Tengco’s mom while Joji Isla has yet to make the main cast.  




Its predecessor was the variety show Tonight With Dick and Carmi hosted by Roderick Paulate and Carmi Martin. It was in the same mold as Penthouse Live and RSVP. The problem is, a weeknight variety show (on Wednesday) is so outdated and it is not pulling the ratings it should generate. Revising it to a sitcom would give it a mass appeal.

Abangan’s theme is one of the most iconic sounds on Philippine TV. The Knots Landing-like intro is also one of their trademarks.

The show stands out because it depicts the three divisions of Pinoy urban living – the Alta de ciudad, the middle class, and the poor people. The writers would often have newspapers in their hands as they try to squeeze the newsworthy events in their comedic magnum opus.

There most popular story arcs comprise of their spoof of the Visconde Massacre, the Brunei Beauties, the Robin Padilla illegal firearms case, the Marcos wealth, Kuratong Baleleng, and the 1992 and 1995 Elections. For series continuity, the most notable scenarios were when the Tengcos lost their wealth and the Lagmays won the sweepstakes, Benny and Clara hooked up, Samuel and Liwanag hooked up, Dino raping a bunch of women, and Barbara Tengco’s supply of tablets and capsules ran out.

If you look at it, they could have been the instigator for the Network Wars. At the time when Abangan and Mixed Nuts were pitted against each other, they had a furious verbal battle. Usually it’s Anjo Yllana or Joji Isla initiating the attack at the Abangan side while it’s Joey de Leon and Yoyong Martirez at the other. Funny how they managed to patch things up as Joey and Anjo are now part of the Eat Bulaga family. Since Mixed Nuts is a sketch show a la Bubble Gang, Abangan had to have various segments where it seems that a given character is watching it. Notable segments include the talk show hosted by Ogie Diaz and Monti Tirasol, a show highlighted by Jon Santos’ impersonations, and Baywats, a funny spoof of the US series that Bora wrongfully adopted.






TOP 10: 
ABANGAN ANG SUSUNOD NA KABANATA CHARACTERS


10 JENNY LAGMAY
Played by JENNIFER SEVILLA

This was perhaps one of the last big roles of Jennifer Sevilla in TV land (she’ll have a short-lived drama series called Tierra Sangre that was produced by Viva Television on PTV). Before this, Jennifer was the not-so-popular ka-love team of Romnick Sarmenta in those pre-titilating Seiko movies (Romnick had better success when he was partnered with Sheryl Cruz). Here she plays the daughter of Sammy Lagmay and Nanette Inventor who wants to study hard to take her family out of the slums. She’s barely mean and she seems too nice despite the fact that she’s living in a harsh environment. Dino would often harass her (this will continue even with the entry of Trina) while Clara would often tell her to try dancing in the Kulasisi. Perhaps the worst thing she ever did in the series was when she let herself get exploited by posing nude for a construction company calendar. 


9 BENNY DELA CROIX 
Played by RODERICK PAULATE

The success of Petrang Kabayo made Roderick Paulate a household name. A seriously funny comedian, it was elementary for Dick to play the role of Benny – the stereotype gay hairdresser that loves to give his money to macho studs. He often gives Barbara advice and then insults Tita’s cheapness. Actually that’s basically his role in the series – to be tactless as ever in making people realize their faults. The character was given a huge lift when for some reason, he marries Clara and in some drunken moment, he mans up and impregnates her.


8 LIWANAG LAGMAY
Played by WINNIE CORDERO

Playing Liwanag proved to be Winnie Cordero’s biggest break. When Nanette Inventor left the show, Abangan needed someone to pair up with Sammy Lagmay. However, in order to make this character unique, Samuel’s next wife should be the total opposite of Nanette’s goody-two-shoes, masochistic persona. Liwanag was a former stripper that Samuel loved, saying he had money. Finding his place to be a dump, she instantly loses respect for Samuel but she still lived with him through thick and thin. She often calls him hurtful and demeaning names but as the series progressed the hurtful names are more like terms of endearment for his husband. Liwanag is often nagging, conniving at times, and would barely give her husband the benefit of the doubt. This was consistent even when Samuel won the sweepstakes and they became filthy rich. To accentuate the craziness of her character, Winnie wears a very curly wig.  


7 DEL
Played by JOJI ISLA

Del is the epitome of a loyalist. This is a character you pretty much thought was nothing but then when you saw the ill-fated instalment of the series, you begin to notice the chemistry Del had with Anding Tengco that the new bodyguard (his name escapes me) couldn’t provide. Joji Isla played this role awesomely. Aside from being Anding’s bodyguard, he is also his chief confidante. Barbara hates him because he guards her from knowing his extramarital affairs. Dino loves him at times because he finds way to “dispose” Dino’s problems. Del also serves as middleman to Samuel whenever Anding wants to hand out something devilish for the poor people. Del also serves as fall guy to the crimes Dino often commits. This character is loosely based on Marcos right-hand man General Fabian Ver.


6 TITA DELOS SANTOS
Played by NOVA VILLA

Tita is your typical poor girl that became rich and now is a trying hard social climber. Her family, played by Freddie Webb and Carmina Villarroel left her because she was too cheap and too overbearing. Her appliances and furniture looks brand new from all the plastic covering it. She stacks canned goods that are a couple of years removed from their expiry date and often serves them to her guests. She barely gives tips or alms to beggars and she has an unspeakable disgust for her sister (Nanette Inventor) for not marrying a rich man. She is so cheap that she will resist going to the hospital even if she’s spewing blood. Nova Villa was at the peak of her career when she played this character as she was also playing Dolphy’s leading lady in Home Along Da Riles. Before this, she was in IBC-13’s Chicks to Chicks (Chika Chika Chicks when it moved to ABS).  


5 SAMUEL LAGMAY
Played by SAMMY LAGMAY

He is a poor man who has already given up of his dreams to become rich... in righteous ways. He often comes up with plans to make easy money. Most of these schemes and scams backfire against him and if he gets a normal job, he quickly gets fired for being really, really lazy. This is another reason why his first wife (Nanette Inventor) left him while his second wife Liwanag (played by Winnie Cordero) nags him to death because of his inability to strive. In the latter part of the series, he becomes rich by winning the sweepstakes (or was it lotto) and he becomes a spendthrift with no regard for whatever he is buying (which is typical for instant millionaires). His antics will push his family back to poverty. Fans loved Sammy Lagmay in this role because he fits the bill of a poor mandurugas. If the series reached the time of EDSA 3, he could have been awesome.


4 ANDING TENGCO
Played by NOEL TRINIDAD

The guy is your stereotype politician – corrupt, heartless, and would do everything in his power to exploit his power. Together with his adorable albeit violent sidekick Del, they would go to strip clubs to pursue hot chicks, most likely Clara. One running gag in the show is Anding’s excessive drive for sex on women that is not his wife. He’ll either hire bimbo secretaries for his pleasure and they will be inseparable until the girl gets pregnant and Anding hides because the girl wants money. The character often gets the butt of jokes when a real-life politician is faced with an alleged scam, a scandal, or any newsworthy events. He often gets visited by top political personalities that are mostly lampooned by Jon Santos. This role made Noel stand out, since he was virtually known back then as one-half of the Champoy tandem with Subas Herrero. Tessie Tomas was often a guest in the defunct show.


3 CLARA DELA CROIX
Played by CARMI MARTIN

She’s hot... she’s wild... and she’s extremely dumb. MABUHEY! Following a fine role in Chicks to Chicks (or Chika Chika Chicks), Carmi landed a hosted gig in the late night variety show called Tonight with Dick and Carmi. The show was fine but it had to go and fortunately, both of them were part of this show... and she was casted as a hot bimbo. Clara is part of the slums and she likes to dance in the Kulasisi, a strip joint that combines artistic prowess with seductive prowess. Yes... they had artistic prowess. One time, Clara bragged of dancing with glitters “artistically” covering her private parts. Another scenario was when she was dancing Philippine traditional dances like Tinikling and Pandango sa Ilaw naked. Another scenario was when she danced with only “stars” covering her private parts. One of the more popular story arcs the character had was during the “Brunei Beauties” incident where she parodied a bunch of actresses that were allegedly pimped for the Sultan of Brunei (the Sultan of “Bulbagaba” was played by Bentong). Clara would later find herself pregnant after “husband” Benny went home drunk and the event bore her twins. She refuses to acknowledge that Benny is gay, telling everyone that his macho friends are just Benny’s “good” friends. 


2 BARBARA TENGCO 
Played by TESSIE TOMAS

The pill-popping wife of Congressman Anding Tengco is your typical politician spouse. She likes designer clothes, she likes to go to various functions, and she turns a blind eye every time she sees her husband with another chick and gets wild in angst whenever she finds another of Anding’s bastard sons. She is awesomely played by Tessie Tomas, she often undergoes nervous breakdown for either getting news of their riches fading or because she uses an extensive amount of spraynet on her hair. She’ll also baby Dino although she realizes that her baby does bad things. Whenever she is nervous, she’ll speak in her native Waray language. There was a time when the family became bankrupt and Barbara had an extremely hard time coping. The character is as if derived from a sick and demented version of former First Lady Imelda Marcos whom Tessie portrayed in the epic movie A Dangerous Life.


1 DINO TENGCO 
Played by ANJO YLLANA

Of all the characters Anjo did in the 90’s, this was my favourite. Actually my 1 and 2 could either be Dino and Barbara but I chose Dino over her mom. This could be because when Eto Na Ang Susunod Na Kabanata was launched, the guy whose real name is Ferdinand Benigno Tengco was sorely missed. Gabe Mercado, who subbed for Anjo because Anjo was now in GMA, failed to capture the audiences which could be one of the reasons why the second instalment bombed. Dino was a spoiled brat while Gabe’s character was basically retarded. Anyway, Dino Tengco is her mom’s pride and joy but he is also his dad’s biggest problem. One time they see him digging in their backyard and Barbara exclaimed that her son is green thumb but when Dino was about to dump a huge sack with an arm hanging loose, she went nuts! Dino’s character went full blast during the Hubert Webb trial when he tells the media that he did not rape Jenny. Dino is short-tempered and likes to wield his gun to anyone who fails to accept his wishes which is why during the Robin Padilla illegal possession of firearm case, his character was again pushed to the spotlight. One of his mannerisms on the show is biting the side of his hand while it uncontrollably flaps. Because of the success of the character, Regal made a crappy movie based on the character where he was forced to go to a mental institution by his parents and together with his mental friends, they solved a crime. We could probably seen the real-life Barbara and Dino Tengco when we saw the incident revolving Marlene Aguilar and Jason Ivler.



Aside from the aforementioned cast members through the years aside from Nanette Inventor, Freddie Webb, and Carmina Villarroel were Ina Raymundo, Jolina Magdangal, Jon Santos (playing various characters), Boyong Baytion (as Sarhento Boyong), Arlene Tolibas, Ogie Diaz, Monti Tirasol, and Nena Perez-Rubio. Ina was Nova Villa’s hot niece and Jolina was the rich kid that often lingers in the slums.

Even with all the atrocities happening in our land, we can still find a way to laugh at our problems. This is basically what Abangan is all about. Imagine if the show existed in our current scene... with the material we have right now... surely expect zanier scenarios from this ensemble.

After six years, the show aired its final episode on June 17, 1997. The show reached its peak during the early 90’s where in 1992 they won the bronze medal in the New York Festival.

It is hard to top a show like this and in 2011, a decade after the original run first aired, they attempted to revive the series. Returning to the fold for Eto Na Ang Susunod Na Kabanata are Tessie Tomas, Noel Trinidad, and Sammy Lagmay. Nanette Inventor also returned to play Sammy Lagmay’s wife. Unfortunately the show bombed because the new characters failed to make an impact with the audiences. Frankly, most of the new cast members were barely stars as what the original ensemble were. They also chose the wrong Lagmay wife because Liwanag was more animated and feistier than the original wife. They failed to acquire sexy eye candies that Clara and Trina were (Michelle Estevez and Denise Joaquin). Gabe Mercado is childish but didn’t have the bad boy image Dino had. And perhaps my biggest beef with the series is that the storylines were forced. There was no chemistry between the actors and failed to capture the hearts of the audiences. Less than three months after its re-debut, the show was cancelled.

There are talks that the show will return for a final run but with most of the cast in other places and other networks, I think it’s best for them to create new characters.

But even if they do well, nothing compares with the original version. Besides, drama is the focus of the networks while comedy shows in general get trashy timeslots.

Game over. 

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