This is my second write-up for this drama. (It’s my first time to do two full write-ups on a series!) Less plot-pointed this time and more character-focused.
First post can be found here.
PH’s On the Wings of Love (“OTWOL”) has come a long way and is now nearing its close. Leah and Clark have separated, reunited, engaged, and now about to break up again—maybe for the last time. We, the audience, have undergone a rollercoaster ride with Erik Santos and Kyla’s voices in the background, going bipolar with giddiness one moment, and utter misery the next.
But what’s our key take-away from this drama?
For me, it is that Love is effortful. It is not the easy, effortless falling-in-love idea that is brought upon by destiny, written-in-the-stars kind of thing, that we all hold no control over. Love is not a feeling. It may start as so but overall, it is an act of will, a conscious choice. It is a decision that requires so much effort from the loving person—to constantly listen, see, and act for the betterment of the other as his/her own person—even at the risk of goodbye.
For Leah and Clark, finding and pursuing this love was tough. They, too, started with feelings—they still have lots of it—but they have gone through a lot just to choose each other and stand by each other. They had to overcome barriers within themselves, renege on promises made to Tita Jack and Jigs, win over Tatang Sol, surmount the tragedy in Nanang, and now, they face again another obstacle in the form of Leah’s new boss, Simon.
Compared to other series, their journey is more flawed, more real, and, yes, more heartbreaking, because most of its ups and downs are brought upon by their own decisions, by their ill judgments, and not by a certain villain from the outside that just brings upon evil to their story.
For me, one of the worst decisions that they both have made is to reunite here in Manila when Leah was still struggling to find herself. Clark was blinded by his own feelings of love, of his “I can’t live without you”, of his dependency on Leah that he didn’t recognize the latter’s need to find herself first. And Leah was pressured to respond to this that she forwent her own self and gave in to Clark instead.
Contrary to traditional beliefs, I do not believe that just because a couple is bound together by marriage, they are no longer two people—no more he and she, him and her—but are now one person, one entity—just we and us. For me, it is highly critical that in truly loving a person, you recognize that you and your partner are still and will forever be separate individuals. And Clark did not see that. He saw him and Leah as one person because they are husband and wife—that they can go through each and every problem together. But to find oneself is a mountain that one can only climb alone. As her husband, he should have been prepared to just wait at the bottom of that mountain until she comes back—happy, secure, and whole—ready to love him fully again.
I know I am asking a lot from him but that’s just the way it is. For me, Popoy’s way in One More Chance, when Basha asked for that separation, was the way to go. He nearly killed himself in the process—though I don’t want to have Clark come to that—but he gave Basha the space she needed. Basha, in return, gave it also to him when he needed it at the near-end of the movie.
But Clark didn’t. And Leah was pressured that he would leave her forever so she also gave in. And today, we are seeing its repercussions.
Leah is now struggling to balance Clark and her dreams. When they got back together, she was still in the process of sorting her life out, with her family in the middle, her own self and her lost dreams strewn at the sides. It is only now that she is getting it all together, but she also has to make time for Clark and their nearing church wedding. But try as she might, it doesn’t seem like she will be hitting that balance anytime soon. And it’s badly affecting her relationship with Clark.
So yes, I stand firm that, despite the general consensus, Leah’s uncertainties do not lie between Clark and her boss, Simon (played by Paulo Avelino). Rather, it is between Clark and her dreams. If you know Leah’s character well, you would know that if you put her on the spot and ask her to choose between Clark and Simon, it would be a no-brainer for her: she’d choose Clark over and over until her hair turns grey. But if you ask her to choose between Clark and her dreams, she would take a pause and maybe give you a conflicted answer, if she would even dare to answer.
This is further exemplified in that recent episode when Leah had to report to work on a weekend and retreat from a rare date with Clark because of an emergency with a client. A significant number of viewers immediately judged her (again) for being so heartless and always choosing Simon over Clark. But, dear Lord, no. She simply had to choose her dreams at that moment over her enraged husband because if she didn’t, it could, in that very instant, fly away. I know that because I, too, have been in the same situation wherein I had to work even if I was sick, even if I was in the middle of a vacation with my family, because I have my own dreams to protect and pursue. It is not easy to say no to your boss especially if it is really critical to the business—if you do, then face the consequence of immediate termination. Goodbye, dreams.
I am not saying Leah doesn’t have her own share of mistakes.
She was wrong to have been swayed by Clark when he asked her to choose him or he’d leave her for good. Because she should have chosen herself. And in choosing herself, she would have also been choosing him.
Leah should have recognized, that like her, Clark also wasn’t a complete person. They “fell in love” in San Francisco and sure were continuously attracted, invested, and committed to each other, but in all angles, they were in no place to bring each other growth yet.
She was broken—with Nanang’s truth having shattered her very foundation—so how will she help Clark be a better person, fly higher if she can’t even get herself out of the water?
I also overlooked this at the start, but Clark was also broken. It was intelligently veiled in the way that he behaved so confidently, so sure of himself, even after they broke up. What we, I, forgot is the fact that he was broken from the very beginning—with the non-acknowledgment of him by his own father, the trauma he lived through as a child when he jumped from one foster home to another, when he had to forget himself and focus on earning money at a very young age or die starving—and it was Leah who made him “whole”. This is why he is very clingy to Leah. He is very dependent on her because she was the one who made him feel whole again. He holds the perfect epitome of the saying, of the lie: “You complete me.”
It is a lie because real love entails two people who can live without each other but choose to live with each other. As John Lennon said about his wife, Yoko:
Interviewer: Why can’t you be alone without Yoko?
John Lennon: But I can be alone without Yoko, but I just have no wish to be.
It is in this aspect that John Lennon wins but Clark fails. He is your handsome, perfect, holier-than-thou, ideal husband—a carbon copy of whom you pray to God for—but he is internally broken. He seemed whole before with Leah filling that gap for him, but that was a faux piece. Leah can never be part of him as he cannot be part of her. They are and will always be two separate individuals—a he and she, a him and her, no matter how many weddings they celebrate with each other. That is why when the Summa Cum Laude, successful-beyond-his-age, gorgeous, genius Simon comes into the picture, he folds. He questions Leah. He questions himself. He crumbles.
His brokenness is further magnified to us and to himself the more that Simon becomes more significant in Leah’s life. Now, he realizes that he has to become better, he has to be more successful. His insecurities multiply each and every time he sees Simon. So he draws himself new, higher dreams. He draws himself a vision of a new and improved Clark. But he does these all in light of Simon, all for Leah to choose him—again, showing his dependency—but never for himself. When it should all be for himself.
And Leah doesn’t realize this. So in this judgment of many viewers, I agree with. She is insensitive to a fault. She does not know how to listen at times. And sometimes, to be listened to is the only thing we need. Instead, she brushes it off when he starts to say something about his worries. “Ano ka ba, wala ‘yun” (That’s nothing) she would always say. Even though it is really true that there isn’t anything for Clark to worry about because she’ll choose him over anyone at anytime, instant appeasing does nothing when you don’t listen to where these worries are really coming from. Worse, she keeps on mentioning and mentioning Simon, him being her idol at work, him being so genius, so skilled, amazing and all that, without seeing the growing hole in Clark’s identity. And it is this hole which will eat him if he doesn’t realize it and mend it himself before it is too late.
So when I said that had Leah chosen herself and not reunited with Clark when he asked her to, she would also be choosing him, I meant that she could have given them both the space they needed to make themselves whole. While she was trying to rebuild the foundation of her identity which Nanang’s truth destroyed, Clark could have mended himself also in the process. He could then be drowning in his own tears day in and day out, but in due time, he would have been able to accept it, move on, focus on himself, draw ithose new dreams for his own and not for others, and just make himself whole and even better. Just like how Jigs fixed himself after finally waking up that Leah will never return to his side again.
Now, in the last four weeks of the drama, our power couple, the struggling-to-complete-herself Leah and the more-broken-now-than-ever Clark, are up against the odds. Odds that they’ve set up for themselves. Don’t bother hoping for that church wedding to push through because you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. They are bound to separate quite soon with the rate things are going. Both of them have long needed space and now, they are finally getting it. (Just at the expense of our own hearts)
The question is, who is more courageous between the two of them to realize it, accept it, and initiate it? Who will be the Basha to break things off?
“If it is not an act of courage, it is not love.” – Scott Peck
The recent turn of events in On the Wings of Love may not be the normal Filipino audience’s cup of tea. It is not your cliché series that is just filled with rainbows and butterflies with a villain or two here and there. It is also not your typical telenovela with a third party simply ruining a good relationship nor is it another savage drama that espouses adultery of a wife/husband. Rather, it is a story which runs along the real-life, less dramatic, but more palpable problems of Filipino couples in our misconstrued idea of love. It is uncomfortable to watch especially now that its main characters, the couple we rallied for all these months, are bound to break up. Tears are bound to be shed. Heartbreak is all over the place. Not your typical road to your wished-for happy ending. And that is good, too.
If anything, it is even better.
I am proud that On the Wings of Love is the only series (with so much creativity and balls) in the recent local TV scene that reveals what love really is using characters that are full of flaws, who make wrong decisions, who, like us, try to overcome and rectify these faults in their struggle to become better partners and better persons. Yes, it is more heartbreaking than other dramas, because it is more real. It hits much closer to home. And in that, it is so much more beautiful.
All ideas on love used in this blog post are attributed to M. Scott Peck and his 1978 book, The Road Less Traveled.