A (non-exhaustive) list of Pinoy teleseryes that defined generations
Philippine TV is not dead.
While it’s true that some teleseryes seem to (actively) participate in a “Who Can Create The Most Meme-able Scene” contest, I don’t think it’s fair to tar the entire industry with the same brush or say that it’s a lost cause.
Case in point: Many teleseryes—both new and old—have been resurfacing and going viral recently for their promising plotlines and great acting chops. Scenes from classic shows like “Agua Bendita,” “100 Days to Heaven,” and “Encantadia” (among others) have, in fact, taken over my TikTok FYP.
So, to support this ongoing trend, here’s a non-exhaustive list of TV shows that have engraved themselves into the annals of local pop culture history. Binging on these “seryes” would take you on a trip down memory lane—all while restoring your faith in the craft.
Oh, to be transported back to the days when life’s biggest problems merely involved unrequited crushes and unfinished slogan-making projects due the next day.
With characters that mirrored every Filipino teenager ever, it was practically impossible not to be sucked into the tangled webs of “Tabing Ilog.” It had all the ideal ingredients—teen angst, friendship and betrayal, puppy love, cute fashion choices, an iconic tambayan, and… more puppy love.
Watching (or rewatching) it today would probably feel like skimming through your high school yearbook. You’d cringe, laugh, maybe even shed a couple of tears, and ultimately wonder if your teenhood was tragically uneventful.
Honorable mentions: “Labs Ko Si Babe” (1999) and “Marinella” (1999)
Back when bawling over a fictional character’s struggles was considered a family bonding activity, “Maria Flordeluna” took over national TV and made everyone switch between several extreme emotions in each episode.
It was among the highest-rated 2000s Pinoy teleseryes. And considering it aired during a time when fantaseryes were all the rage, it made sense why. Viewers probably longed for a series that was anchored in reality amid the fantasy—and “Maria Flordeluna” delivered.
This telenovela was basically a Cinderella story sprinkled with a lot of Pinoy seasoning: a resilient young heroine, an evil stepfamily, and plot twists that OG Cinderella wouldn’t have survived. Honestly, if you don’t tear up at least once during the series, are your tear ducts even functional?
Honorable mentions: “Mulawin” (2004), “Encantadia” (2005), “Majika” (2006), “Kokey” (2007), “Midnight DJ” (2008), “Lobo” (2008), and “Luna Mystika” (2008)
Love teams and “ship” culture weren’t necessarily new to the scene, but the mid-2010s gave it a major boost. KathNiel, JaDine, and LizQuen took turns in gracing our screens.
Prior to these kilig-infused shows, though, there emerged a historical epic that had us choosing a time machine over love goggles. Set in pre-colonial Philippines, “Amaya” introduced us to a warrior princess who could wield a weapon and rock intricate headdresses while doing so.
With stunning sets and a story that skillfully weaved history and mythology, watching “Amaya” was like attending an Araling Panlipunan course—minus the memorizations and yawns. It’s one of those shows that you could brag to your non-Filipino friends.
Honorable mentions: “Mara Clara” (2010), “Got to Believe” (2013), “My Husband’s Lover” (2013), “Dyesebel” (2014), “Forevermore” (2014), “On the Wings of Love” (2015), “La Luna Sangre” (2017), “Kadenang Ginto” (2018), and “The Killer Bride” (2019)
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We’re only three years into the 2020s, but it’s already looking great for this decade’s teleseryes. It seems that the local TV industry has finally caught up with what contemporary viewers want: plots that don’t only entertain but also challenge and reflect our current societal dynamics.
Enter “Maria Clara at Ibarra”—a show that dared to blur the lines between history, fiction, and reality. It thrust a Gen Z nursing student into the pages of Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and had her witness firsthand the chaotic universe of Maria Clara and Crisostomo Ibarra.
If this Pinoy teleserye were an AO3 fanfiction, the tags would be: historical fantasy, angst with a happy ending, fluff fluff fluff, slow burn, attempt at humor, and time travel. (Now, doesn’t it sound like something you’d definitely read?)
But beyond its experimental premise, “Maria Clara at Ibarra” serves up an on-point social commentary. From conservatism to oppression and class divide, it would make you question if we’ve really moved past the struggles of the past—or if we’ve simply learned to put a shiny filter on them.
Honorable mentions: “2 Good 2 Be True” (2022), “Darna” (2022), “Dirty Linen” (2023), and “Royal Blood” (2023)