MANILA — After successive challenges that beset “Bagong Umaga” and its home network ABS-CBN, its stars and creative team agree: the title is fitting for the series as it also marks a new era of viewing experience for Filipinos.
When it premieres on Monday, October 26, “Bagong Umaga” will become the first ABS-CBN production to pilot simultaneously via free TV (A2Z Channel 11), cable or satellite TV (Kapamilya Channel), livestreaming (Kapamilya Online Live), and on-demand streaming (iWant TFC).
The ubiquitous availability of the series comes five months after ABS-CBN was forced off the air due to the expiration of its broadcast franchise and subsequent denial by the Duterte administration.
On its own, “Bagong Umaga,” too, encountered numerous challenges in the past year, both due to ABS-CBN’s broadcast shutdown and the coronavirus pandemic.
“Bagong Umaga” was in development as early as February, but its production was delayed when the first community quarantine was implemented in March. Eased lockdown measures allowed the project to finally begin filming in October.
When it was first unveiled in June, the series had the concept title “Cara Y Cruz,” with a number of different cast members attached to the project.
The lead ensemble of “Bagong Umaga” are Tony Labrusca, Heaven Peralejo, Kiko Estrada, Barbie Imperial, Yves Flores, and Michelle Vito.
Formerly attached to star were Julia Barretto, Marco Gumabao, Loisa Andalio, and Ronnie Alonte, according to the June announcement of producer RGE Drama.
Riza Ebriega, head of the ABS-CBN business unit, acknowledged that “changes” had to be made, resulting in the current mix of young stars in the lead roles.
“We are supported very much by management, kung anuman ‘yung pinagdadaanan ng bawat show. Every time, there is always a management call. We have to move forward,” she said during a recent media conference for the series.
When asked directly about Barretto’s departure from the project, Ebriega said the matter was handled by the ABS-CBN management.
Barretto, a homegrown artist of ABS-CBN’s Star Magic for 14 years, left the talent agency and signed up with Viva Artists Agency in September.
“We’re focused on producing the right project,” Ebriega said. “We have to refocus. Kung na-blur nang kaunti, we had to refocus.”
“Everything just fell into perfect timing. This is the right casting na napag-desisyunan… I’m happy with the six bagets that we have now. They’re very hardworking, positive, cooperative. I don’t think kailangan pa namin isipin kung bakit nangyari ang mga nangyari. Sabi nga nila, ‘This is meant to be.’”
RGE Drama, Ebriega noted, pushed on despite several setbacks related to casting, as well as the limitations of the new normal in terms of filming.
“We believe in our concept, we believe in the show. I think it became good timing, not only for the show, but the state of the company ngayon,” she said.
ABS-CBN recently marked a milestone on digital, with its Entertainment YouTube channel crossing 30 million subscribers. The channel, as well as ABS-CBN’s Facebook page, house Kapamilya Online Live, the livestream venue of “Bagong Umaga” starting Monday.
The achievement came just weeks after ABS-CBN’s blocktime partnership with Zoe Broadcasting Network, which allows some Kapamilya programs back on free TV, kicked off via A2Z Channel 11. “Bagong Umaga” will be simulcast on A2Z and Kapamilya Channel on cable, weekdays at 2:30 p.m.
“If you listen to the series’ theme song, it means so much to us. I think perfect ‘yung timing,” Ebriega said, referring to the Agsunta track of the same title, which speaks of besting trials and looking ahead to better days.
The hopeful tune is reflected in the story of “Bagong Umaga,” which follows six individuals who become each other’s source of friendship and strength as their lives intersect.
The cast members similarly waxed sentimental over the nearing premiere of “Bagong Umaga,” after the tumultuous months the project and ABS-CBN had endured.
Vito, who started as a child actress and who considers the network her second home, said, “Until now, nakikita ko pa rin ‘yung epekto sa ibang tao and sa kumpanya.”
“Malaking bagay ‘yung matuto tayong mag-move forward. Kailangan mag-isip ng ways, ng paraan kung paano malalagpasan ang pagsubok na ‘to.”
Estrada, whose previous series “Pamilya Ko” was a casualty of the pandemic and the broadcast shutdown, said he always trusted that “they will get through it and they will find a way.”
“You can’t put down the No. 1 network,” he said. “I had confidence that they’ll find a way to still air, or still do good shows and quality work.”
Flores recalled that despite the crises that hounded ABS-CBN, the network made it a point to support its employees, even through the retrenchment process.
“Nasanay naman tayo sa teleserye ng ABS-CBN na ang bida laging nabubugbog sa una, pero nakakabangon,” said Flores.
“Unti-unti nakakabalik na tayo, unti-unti nakakaangat na tayo. Hopefully, makakabalik na tayo. For now, masaya dahil, unti-unti, nakakabangon na tayo.”