TAB 190927 Maja Salvador AKK-41-1570024752989
Maja Salvador, Actress, Dancer, Singer, Model at the Dusit Thani, Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News Image Credit:

After the defeaning success of the film ‘Hello, Love, Goodbye’, another series that depicts the life of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) will be shown in the UAE starting October 5.

‘Hinahanap-hanap Kita’ is the first digital original series produced by ABS-CBN and TFC Studios to celebrate the 25th year of The Filipino Channel (TFC). It will be shown in TFC globally and iWant in the Philippines

Shot in Dubai early this year, ‘Hinahanap-hanap Kita’ is an eight-episode series that celebrates the highs and lows in the lives of the Filipinos in Dubai, and how friends turn into family as they pursue life in a foreign land.

Directed by Dado Lumibao, the series features lead stars Maja Salvador, Geoff Eigenmann, Pepe Herrera, Pamu Pamorada, Hannah Ledesma and Prince Stefan.

The story centres on Helen, portrayed by Salvador, whose husband suddenly stops communicating with her but continues to send support to the family. Helen then decides to go to Dubai to look for her husband, finding support and help from her friends Lawrence (Eigenmann), Homer (Herrera), Margot (Pamorada), Joy (Ledesma) and Reggie (Stefan) who are working in Dubai.

The group’s journey in searching for Helen’s missing husband also serves as a journey to self-discovery, acceptance and freedom from the personal burdens that they carry in their hearts.

“Each of the characters in ‘Hinahanap-hanap Kita’ will reflect the lives of Filipinos living in Dubai,” reveals Salvador in a one-on-one interview with Gulf News tabloid! during a recently Dubai visit to promote the series.

“When you watch the series, you would think you are looking into a mirror or [relate with a certain] personality or event in life. We have #FindingTroy in the series, but for me it is finding ourselves,” adds the award-winning actress.

Reunion project

TAB 190927 Maja Salvador AKK-21-1570024747456
Maja Salvador, Actress, Dancer, Singer, Model at the Dusit Thani, Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Salvador didn’t hesitate when the project was offered to her, as she considered it a reunion project with the team who led her to love acting. It’s also the same team that she’s working with right now in the successful television soap opera ‘The Killer Bride’.

“This projects is very special to me. Why? Because the team of Hinahanap-hanap Kita is the same team as The Killer Bride. This team is one of the reasons why I love acting,” shares Salvador.

“They were the ones behind ‘MMK’ [‘Maalaala Mo Kaya’, a Philippine drama series]. ‘MMK’ was my training ground when it comes to acting — and it started my love for acting. It’s been a long time that I haven’t acted on ‘MMK’. I think it’s been 10 years that I haven’t done any project for ‘MMK’.”

Loving Dubai

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A regular in Dubai, Salvador tells that Dubai has a special place in her heart.

“For me Dubai is special to me. Why? My cousins are here. Dubai helped realise the dreams of my cousins.”

Just like a typical OFW story, Salvador is a witness to how Dubai helped shape the future of members of her family who are working in the emirate.

“I saw their struggles. I can’t say that they are now super rich, but their life has improved because of their work here in Dubai.”

Shoot of Filipino series in Dubai
Shoot of Filipino series in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Talking of Hinahanap-hanap Kita, Salvador says that she loves how the story is told: it not only revolves around the main character, but also tells the story of the other characters.

Salvador’s character, Helen, will serve as an eye opener for families or loved ones of OFWs back home.

“My character here will be the eyes of the Filipinos in the Philippines. I’m not an OFW, my husband is the OFW, who is missing and who I need to find,” clarifies Salvador.

“While I’m searching for my husband, I can see the struggles and discover the real lives of my friends here and the rest of my compatriots who are working and living in Dubai.”

Aside from the stars from the Philippines, a number of Dubai OFWs also joined the cast and crew of Hinahanap-hanap Kita.

Naked face of Maja Salvador

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In this series, Salvador says she will mostly not wear any make-up.

“Helen just neglected herself when her husband went missing. She just focused on her son and finding her husband. She takes good care of other people, but not herself. Even simple things for herself she forgets to do. So Maja Salvador here is totally no make-up. You can see all the blemishes, pimples, everything. No concealer, even the eye bags, dark circles you can see, so don’t bash me, don’t judge me, that was Helen,” laughs Salvador.

With the success and popularity of ‘The Killer Bride’, Salvador is also widely known for her portrayal of Camila Dela Torre in the series. But the actress assures her fans and the viewers that Camila and Helen are different characters.

“It’s totally different. With the looks, Camila is always wearing white, red lipstick and eyelashes. She loves to wear make-up, heels and all. That’s Camila dela Torre. Camila is very fierce and she’s fighting to get justice. With Helen, she’s a very simple woman. She chose love over her dreams. But they are the same woman who will never give up in whatever situation given to them. And I think that’s what we really need.”

The Dubai Connection

Salvador reveals that while shooting in Dubai, she had bouts of separation anxiety from her family.

“I know for OFWs here it’s hard to be away from family. When we had tapings here for 10 to 12 days, I had that anxiety that I’m so far from the Philippines. How much more difficult could it be for those Filipinos who are here to work? They have no choice but to be away from their families. I salute my compatriots here; you are so brave to be away from your families.”

‘Hinahanap-hanap Kita’ pays tribute to overseas Filipinos in Dubai and tells their stories in an authentic and relatable way to fellow overseas Filipinos around the world. The story also resonates with non-Filipinos, she says.

“I’m pretty sure that we take good care of the storyline, and will not offend anyone — what we will be showing are realities in life,” assures Salvador. “We all have our flaws. There will be villains, but there’s a story why they are villains. They have past experiences that they want to sugarcoat or filter from their real lives here in Dubai. At the end of the day you are just a human being who makes mistakes and realises what you’ve done wrong in life. We do have that kind of characters in ‘Hinahanap-hanap Kita’.”

Salvador hopes the series and her character as Helen will also serve as a voice for OFWs.

“In wherever country you are working, Filipinos are one of the best in the world. Even if it’s no longer part of their job, they will still work on it. Filipinos are diligent, hardworking, giving, loving. That’s why other nationalities like us — we know how to value our jobs.”

If she were not an actor today, would she consider working as an OFW? “Yes, I might be with my cousins here in Dubai. So, yes there’s a possibility.”

Quick Five With Maja Salvador

Alternative career: “If I were not an artist, I’d want to be a flight attendant. With my height, I think I can be one [laughs].”

How will she spend her first salary: “I’ll eat kebab or biryani and hummus [Salvador’s favourite food here in Dubai] then the rest of it I will send to my family back home.”

First balikbayan [gift] box: “All the products that we can’t buy in Manila. I’ll also fill it with love.”

Best place in Dubai: “Anywhere as long as I can see Burj Khalifa. Whenever I look at it, it’s like a dream. Whatever your dream, if you strive hard you can achieve it.”

Birthday celebrations

The versatile actress will turn 31 on October 5, which also coincides the launch date of Hinahanap-hanap Kita. Salvador will be celebrating her birthday in South Korea where she will be attending the Busan International Film Festival.

“On my birthday itself, I’ll be flying to Busan because ‘Wildflower’ [Salvador’s television soap opera in 2017] is nominated in the Busan International Film Festival. Win or lose, I’m very happy to represent the Philippines. ‘Wildflower’ is the first drama series from the Philippines that has been nominated in Busan International Film Festival. It’s a very big blessing and I’m greatly thankful for it,” she said.

Don’t miss it!

‘Hinahanap-hanap Kita’ streams on TFC TV from October 5.