Years before people lost their minds to slim leading men from Taiwan and Korea that sported cool hairstyles, toxic masculinity, and the tendency to emotionally blackmail their leading ladies, network giant ABS-CBN was already experimenting with broadcasting Filipino-dubbed Spanish telenovelas like Maria Mercedes, following the success of the primetime series Marimar on the RPN 9 network.
Marimar was absolutely insane. This Spanish telenovela created a cult following comparable to what charismatic church leaders enjoyed on a daily basis.
I could still remember my cousins from Pampanga who trooped in front of our TV every evening, even if the TV’s reception was really bad, so they wouldn’t miss an episode of Marimar. They would hoot, jeer and scream at the TV when Marimar was getting (routinely) abused by the wealthier characters.
The Mexican actress Thalia (Ariadna Thalia Soli Miranda in real life) certainly made a huge and erogenous impact on the Filipino psyche as the perfect sexy, wild lady. That’s mainly it – no one could stand seeing a pretty lady getting a sour deal in life.
The 2013 adaptation of Maria Mercedes (which also starred Thalia in the Spanish original) is proof that while it’s possible that you don’t know any Spanish, you can always appreciate afternoon melodrama inspired by Mexico’s TV drama writers, as long as there’s a pretty face in the mix (FHM favorite Jessy Mendiola was cast as Maria Mercedes).