Filipino Drama: ‘Dolce Amore’ Episode 1-15 Review

dolce amore title card

Hi, fellow drama lovers!

As promised, I have my review of the pilot through episode 15. Thankfully, ABS-CBN uploaded the pilot onto their youtube channel. It’s without English subtitles right now, but as least you can check it out if you aren’t a TFC subscriber. Due to time constraints, this is more of a summary of the first 15 episodes. I hope that, in the future, I can review individual episodes. Keep your fingers crossed and I’ll work as hard as possible to keep up with Dolce Amore.

Serena Marchesa

The series opens with a grown up Serena Marchesa in Italy. She’s at a fancy event in a beautiful ballroom gown. But what we realize about Serena is that she’s not concerned with money or wealth. Instead, she muses over having a simple life as a commoner. Alas, she is a princess and a commoner is the one thing she isn’t. Don’t we all, at least sometimes, crave the things we don’t have? And with Serena, I feel and see her agony in droves.

See, Serena was found as a baby after the vehicle she was traveling in (with her mother and older sister) was blown to bits in Askovia. Upon inspection, the men realize that they bombed the wrong truck. Through the death and debris, they find baby Serena. She’s brought to a first aid camp and this is where the wealthy Roberto Marchesa happens upon her and decides to adopt her then and there. It’s love at first sight for him.

When he returns to Italy, his wife, Luciana, isn’t excited about their new bundle of joy. Instead, she scolds her husband for adopting a baby without consulting her. And while I can see her point, she’s still kind of cold. Roberto should have talked it over with his life, but if he had talked it over with her, she probably would have said no. To further add fire to the flame, we learn that she’s unable to conceive. Add all of these things together and Luciana isn’t the friendliest person in the world.

We even learn that his wife is unable to conceive. As Serena grows up, Luciana’s cold demeanor never thaws. Luciana makes sure to treat her like an outsider and is particularly harsh and unforgiving. One day, when Serena’s grandmother comes to visit, she learns that she was adopted. For a kid, that’s a pretty tough truth to swallow. For Serena, it’s even harder as it’s confirmation of why her mother and grandmother seem to hate her so much: she’s not a true Marchesa. Not by blood, anyway.

Upon learning of being adopted, Serena wants to give back and donate a lot of her stuff to fellow orphans. She’s a pretty great kid – thanks to her upbringing by her father and her Filipina maid, Ms. Melds. As she exchanges many letters with Simon, a Filipino boy in an orphanage, the two form a great bond that is later shattered when Luciana interferes, firing Ms. Melds and making sure that Serena’s letters don’t make it to Simon.

Serena is formed to be a prim and proper princess thanks to Luciana, who spends all of her time molding Serena into what she thinks a proper Marchesa should act like. As a child, Serena tries with great difficulty to please her mother. At least, she has the unconditional love and bond with her father, so that softens things.

She also becomes friends with Gian Carlo, who comes from a very wealthy family. As they grow up and become best friends, it is Gian Carlo who harbors the biggest secret of all: he loves Serena. He would literally move mountains just to be with her. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that she only sees this guy as her best friend and nothing more. The sting of unrequited love is felt in full force here. Gian Carlo is a really, really, really good guy. If Simon didn’t exist, I would ship him with Serena in a heartbeat.

Eventually, hardship befalls the Marchesa family. Serena is used by her mother as a bargaining chip to the De Luca family. She arranges a marriage between Serena and Gian Carlo. Luciana believes that this merger is the only way to save their floundering company, but when the marriage is sprung on Serena, she becomes angry, disappointed, and heartbroken that she was used as a pawn. Despite adoring Gian Carlo, she just doesn’t love him like that. Ouch. Sorry, Gian Carlo!

As the situation becomes more dire, Serena decides to go to the Philippines to try and save a deal that her father couldn’t close. As always, he’s supportive of his daughter and allows her to step in. It’s a lot of responsibility to handle, but Serena never complains. She will do anything she can to help her parents — just not marrying someone she doesn’t love.

Simon Vicente “Tenten” 

Simon is literally the sweetest boy ever. We don’t know what happened to his real parents, but we see that he lives at the orphanage. He’s like the mother hen to all of the other children. He dotes on them and makes sure that they’re taken care of first. His personality is very pure and innocent, so I love when he starts exchanging letters with Serena. They share so many memories and stories, but one day, the letters stop coming. Simon thinks that his Italian pen pal has completely forgotten all about him, and he’s crushed.

At least, he finally becomes adopted. And while his family is poor and doesn’t have much, there is so much love oozing from them. He grows up well and works very, very hard. There is something to say for someone who works so hard and has such a positive outlook on life. Everything about him is cute — even his lisp.

Unfortunately, his father has a heart attack, and Tenten is worried about getting together money for him. Then, Binggoy, his older adopted brother, ends up gambling Tenten’s money in the hopes of doubling what they have. And now they have nothing. This is where TenTen makes the worst, most desperate decision: become a call boy (male prostitute) to make a quick buck.

But, as if fate has quite the sense of humor, Tenten mistakes Serena for his client. And not only that, but he is wowed by her beauty.

When she takes him back to her hotel room, he believes this is the green light. In a very awkward and painful to watch scene, he strips naked and Serena freaks out when she sees him. He’s mistaken for a pervert and eventually ends up in jail, but Tenten’s mom finds Serena and clears up the whole thing.

It’s awkward for a bit, but Tenten becomes Serena’s driver. He saves her from a pervert. He shows her around the area. And, he reveals that he is Simon, Serena’s long lost pen pal in a very touching moment at the orphanage he grew up in. He even decides to join Serena in her travels to find her old Filipino maid,  Ms. Melds. So while Serena’s days are numbered in the Philippines, I’m looking forward to seeing how her friendship with Simon blossoms.

Lingering thoughts and questions:

What’s going to happen once Serena goes back to Italy? She’s not the type of person to leave her family high and dry in the middle of a crisis, but part of me is scared for her return. She’ll face the pressure of having a relationship with Gian Carlo, especially after he saved the Marchesa family.

If Serena agrees to marry Gian Carlo and she never feels anything for him, how is he going to react? He seems to be a very good friend, but complicate that with romantic feelings, and it could be very messy.

Luciana. I love her and hate her. She has sweet, motherly moments, but they are severely outweighed by her coldness. There are quite a few moments where I doubt if she truly loves Serena as a daughter, or if she’s just tolerating her for what she can bring to the company and family name.

Even though Gian Carlo is merging with the Marchesa’s, is it going to be enough to save their business? And furthermore, beyond merging, how are they going to bring new life to their failing company?

Serena eventually has to go back to Italy. What is going to happen with Simon? Will they agree to write each other? Will they call or text or maintain some kind of friendship?

Serena knows she has a duty to her family, but the biggest question of all is: what does she truly want to do with her life?

***

Thank you for reading! I had to do a bit of a recap instead of individually reviewing these episodes, but I think it gives you the essence of what’s transpired. I am going to try to review in sets of 5 episodes, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my schedule will permit that kind of commitment. Either way, I will still post my thoughts and feelings as I’m watching — whether it be my k-drama twitter (not just for k-dramas anymore!) or posts on here.

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