MANILA — Leading up to its premiere, “Starla” generated buzz as the teleserye comeback of Judy Ann Santos in a lead role, six years after she top-billed a primetime series.
It serves, too, as the launching vehicle of former “MiniMe” contestant Enzo Pelojero as the latest ABS-CBN child star, after the likes of Zaijian Jaranilla and Xyriel Manabat.
While the excitement for the Dreamscape production has largely been with the former, its October 7 pilot episode showed there is more to look forward to — and equally deserving of praise — in Santos’ young co-star.
Pelojero portrays Buboy, a runaway orphan who ends up in Barrio Maulap, the main setting of the series.
Starting with the death of his parents in a car crash a year prior, a series of unfortunate events leads Buboy to the rural town just as young wishing stars, including Starla (Jana Agoncillo), take a “field trip” there to learn more about humans.
Unknown to Buboy, the “firefly” he captures in a bottle, Starla, is a sentient star who got left behind by her siblings and their matriarch, Lola Tala (Charo Santos-Concio).
Longing for a family, Buboy meanwhile crosses paths with a grumpy old recluse, Greggy (Joel Torre), at Barrio Maulap.
Despite wanting to be alone, Greggy is forced to accept the help of the child — and later becomes appreciative of him — when his bad back starts to vastly limit his movements, affecting his living as a poultry farmer.
Greggy appears to develop a fondness for Buboy, but hints of tragic past prevent him from forming a warm relationship with a child.
Santos’ character, Teresa, is introduced in the final scene of the pilot. A real estate executive, she appears bent on acquiring the entirety of Barrio Maulap, even if it’s by crook.
In trailers for “Starla,” Teresa was shown to have a bitter past with her father, Greggy, whom she believes abandoned her and her mother.
“Starla” continues the tradition of ABS-CBN of offering inspirational stories starring child actors, following the likes of “May Bukas Pa,” “100 Days to Heaven,” and “Honesto.”