MANILA, OCTOBER 22, 2011 (MALAYA) BY ARNEL RAMOS At the late September press preview of "Sa Ngalan ng Ina," Nora Aunor’s return to TV drama after an eight-year hiatus, the scene inside the venue was reminiscent of how it was when the legendary actress’ Elwood Perez-directed mother-and-daughter drama "Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M" was being shown in theaters in 1991. This was way before the advent of mall cinemas and Nora Aunor loyalists would burst into a thunderous applause at her every dramatic highlight.

Where Nora was largely over-the-top as the self-sacrificing mom in Pacita M, she delivers a fine performance as the wife who becomes governor in TV5’s "Sa Ngalan ng Ina." Unlike the regular soap that proliferates on the tube, "Sa Ngalan ng Ina" is far from glossy and convoluted. It is, thankfully, both gritty and theatrical. The theatrical touches are, of course, to be expected since the one at the helm is Mario O’Hara who remains a presence in the local theater scene.

And because theatricality calls for huge, spectacular scenes, logic is sometimes sacrificed. Consider the scene where Nora had to walk through the rubble after the explosion that killed her husband in the series (played by Bembol Roco). Why in the world was Nora without a mobile phone so that her children could have just called her and relayed the news? O’Hara was clearly striving for effect at the expense of logic.

Other than little quibbles like this, "Sa Ngalan ng Ina" is still rather refreshing to watch. Aside from Nora, Eugene Domingo (as Nora’s sister), Edgar Allan Guzman as one of Nora’s two sons and Karel Marquez (as the willful daughter of Christopher de Leon and Rosanna Roces) offer performances that bristle with quiet power. We would have wanted to sing hosannas to Alwyn Uytingco as the renegade son of Nora and Bembol but his portrayal strikes us as too blustery for comfort.

The ratings are none too impressive – 4.3% of the audience share for its pilot episode according to AGB Nielsen – but the month-long series which started airing last October 3 on TV5 is loaded with commercials and is praise-worthy if only for its being briskly-paced and quite gripping. If the Manny Pangilinan-owned station is aiming for prestige, their efforts had not entirely gone to waste.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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