Thursday, August 27, 2020

Author's Friday | Hello, Ever After: Kilig Guaranteed Tara Frejas

TARA FREJAS is a cloud-walker who needs caffeine to fuel her travels. When she’s not on work mode, she keeps herself busy by weaving her daydreams into stories.

Aside from her obvious love affair with words and persistent muses, Tara is very passionate about being caffeinated, musical theatre, certain genres of music, dancing, dogs, good food, and romancing Norae, her ukelele. She owns a male bunny named Max who sometimes tries to nibble on her writing notes.

I have a complicated relationship with Pinoy rom-coms. Or at least the romance-adjacent films of the last few years. Sure, the aesthetic is pleasing. The acting is, more often than not, believable. Even the soundtrack is nice. But more often than not, they are rife with so much (m)angst it snatches away my overall enjoyment of the film.

Gone were the days when I can watch a Pinoy rom-com and be assured of a good time. You know, the ones with a giggle-inducing meet-cute, nakakakilig falling-in-love montages, and most importantly, hard-earned and well deserved happy endings.

It has led me to think: Are Pinoys now afraid of happy endings?

The prevalence of "hugot culture" seems to have affected how Pinoy audiences consume content. Nowadays, I feel like the more painful the story is, the more people gravitate toward it. Some people say they prefer this because it's a more realistic approach to storytelling, that this is how things pan out in real life. Others simply turn their noses up at rom-coms because they're baduy or too cheesy for their taste. Creators will say this is the story they want/need to tell, and a happy ending would not be true to their vision.

To which, I say: Okay, I respect your opinion...but can we please have an honest-to-goodness rom-com, stat!?

I mean, at this point in this extremely challenging and exhausting year, I believe we deserve something lighthearted and hopeful. It doesn't have to veer away from reality (not too much, at least), but what it could do is remind us of the innate goodness of people. Of good people finding other good people and making the world a better place (however they could) together.

That was what we hoped to do when #romanceclass started on a web series called Hello, Ever After in May. I think it's safe to say the series was conceived out of a collective frustration we authors felt toward not only the country's current state of affairs but also the kind of content being made accessible to the public. I mean, we're already in the middle of a global pandemic—it would be nice if the things we turn to for entertainment don't trigger any more negative emotions.

The concept for Hello, Ever After is simple: In the middle of Metro Manila lockdown, couples (who have been introduced in previously published #romanceclass books) check in on each other through a video call. There's a bit of social commentary here and there, and some episodes can be a rollercoaster of emotions, but kilig is always guaranteed.

On paper, it might not be much, but writing the episodes has been a huge help for us authors to sort through our emotions during this pandemic. Eventually, it became a source of joy for our community too, and it was exciting to see everyone on social media get ready to watch the weekly episodes. It became a Friday night habit that people baked things for, prepped episode-related snacks for, finished work early for. One of our community members even made Hello, Ever After cup sleeves, and a #romanceclass lightstick (AKA kilig bong) we can wave while watching the series...just like KPop fans do during concerts! Fun!

One of my favorite things about Hello, Ever After (aside from the episodes, of course!) is catching up with everyone in the chatroom whenever a new episode is streamed. #RomanceClass events are often very loud and swoony, and it’s so amusing to see that energy being replicated, even if it’s just through a string of messages on screen. It’s obvious we all miss each other, and I’m happy we could have a way to get the community together on a regular basis.

As of this writing, there have been nine Hello, Ever After episodes produced, eight of them already available on our YouTube channel. Are we doing more of this? You bet we are. Three more episodes are in the pipeline, and we’re anticipating more scripts to come in soon. So yeah—maybe check out this little quarantine project of ours, plus the related books? After all, everyone could use more kilig and hope in their lives.


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