Manila, July 19, 2003 STAR BYTES By Butch Francisco (Star) In 1996, I was among the millions of Filipinos who got hooked on Thalia and her Mexican telenovelas (Marimar, Maria Mercedes, etc.). Then, some three years later, I found myself glued to the drama/action-adventure Rio del Mar, produced by TAPE, Inc. as the post-programming of Eat Bulaga.

Rio del Mar was aired from 1:30 to 2 p.m. everyday and ran from 1999 to 2001. In the two years I got addicted to it, I didnít accept personal appointments before 2 in the afternoon Ė unless extremely necessary. It ran my life and no matter what I did, I couldnít kick the habit.

Of course, I donít regret having followed that afternoon serial since it was one of the best-produced soap operas in the history of local television. But after it aired its final episode, I promised myself I wouldnít be a slave anymore to soap operas.

Last month, however, GMA-7 started airing Narito ang Puso Ko and I got curious because among the lead stars was Rosa Rosal who is listed in my book as the greatest actress in Philippine cinema and one of the people I love most in this world.

During its premiere telecast, I told myself that I was only watching the first episode. But the pilot turned out to be so spectacular (there was a bombing scene no less) that I found myself glued again to this show the following day and the following day and the following day ... Now, Iím addicted to it and I canít help it.

Narito ang Puso Ko is about an extremely rich woman (Dolores Ė as portrayed by Rosa Rosal) looking for her granddaughter Antonina who was supposedly killed in a hotel bombing many years ago. Although this has shades of Anastasia, this is still fine with me because, well, at least it was inspired by a great cinematic work.

The similarity also ends there. Narito ang Puso Ko actually has several subplots and all these make the series an exciting nightly fare on TV.

For one, the enviable position in life of the real Antonina had been usurped by an impostor (Karen de los Reyes Ė the favorite "granddaughter" of the lolo in the McDonaldís commercial). The real Antonina (Jolina Magdangal), meanwhile, continues to live in poverty with her adoptive mother (Amy Austria) and only recently had been hired to serve as the personal assistant of the impostor Antonina.

Dina Bonnevie, the ambitious wife of Doloresí stepson (Raymond Bagatsing) also has her own story to tell. A slut of the first order, she has designs on Doloresí wealth and uses her lover, Monsour del Rosario in her evil plans.

Then, thereís this other subplot about Dinaís sister, Carmina Villarroel (known in the series as Ava Grande Ė talk about grand names), and the rekindling of passion with her former flame, Raymond. In the beginning, I didnít like this subplot at all and I thought it was boring, boring, boring. But now that Carmina, okay, Ava Grande, is on a vengeful mood (she was a victim of debauchery), this subplot is getting to be very interesting.

To draw in the young crowd, there is this love triangle among Jolina, Raymart Santiago and James Blanco. But this is no icky romance because the characters involved in this triangle also have their own sad tales. Just last week, James Blancoís mother, Lara Melissa de Leon, came home from Japan and it is revealed that Allan Paule, whom he thought was his brother, turned out to be his father. How about that for a startling revelation?

Directed by Eric Quizon and Gina Alajar, the best thing about Narito ang Puso Ko is the fact that everything moves fast and there is always an important development in the story.

This week, the latest major character (Eddie Garcia) has just made his entrance and with the help of Lilia Dizon (who came back from the United States just to do this series) will try to get at all cost all of Doloresí wealth.

As of this writing, the evil duo of Garcia and Dizon are set to assassinate Dolores. (Oh no! I hope they donít kill my Tita Rose!)

At this point, the plot of Narito ang Puso Ko has really become riveting and, sigh, Iíve become addicted to it.

Contrary to my earlier resolve, Iím a slave to a soap opera once more.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved