Talking about mental health is never easy, neither in real life or a TV series. We should remain truthful and honest, but at the same time, we must be cautious not to result in the stigma about mental disorders. Keeping that in mind, Chasing Sunsets – the Series aims to debunk the myths about people with mental disorders as well as increasing society’s awareness of mental health issues. To reach more people, they narrate their story using the universal language of humankind, LOVE.
Because love accepts us with no conditions. In love, all of us are equal.” – Lara from Chasing Sunsets the Series
– Edited by TheFNGee
Before we go into the detail, here is a brief introduction of Chasing Sunsets the Series, the first digital Pinoy Girls Love Series by Camp Avenue Studios. The series was created by Renz-Bhil Tugelida and Stephanie-Rose Quiros, who are known as advocates for equality in the LGBTQ+ community and awareness for mental health and HIV. The series premiered on June 12th, 2020, in the official YouTube channel of Camp Avenue Studios. The series will cover issues about lesbian acceptance, a journey of finding oneself, mental health, and HIV. It is a story created by queer people for queer people and for society.
Lara Bautista is portrayed by Aura Dominique and is an aspiring writer who is diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders. She visits Camp Avenue with her long-term boyfriend, Dominique. During her stay at the campsite, she develops a close relationship with Farah, whom she describes as a copy of her boyfriend.
Farrah Domingo, portrayed by Donna Erno, is the owner of Camp Avenue. A strong spirited woman who is always ready to support her closest friends. Since the beginning, she has put interest in Lara, who she sees as a beautiful and gentle soul. When she learns the truth about Lara, she decides to stay by her side and give all her love to help Lara get through her dark days.
The mysterious boyfriend of Lara, Dominic Fernandez, is played by John Kevin Patacsil. He appears as a reserved individual who appreciates silence and serenity. That is why he prefers to spend most of his time hiding in the room, instead of accompanying his girlfriend to enjoy the beauty of nature. Throughout the series, his existence is often questioned by others. Whether he is real or merely a hallucination is a mystery that needs to be solved.
King Alonzo, portrayed by Marky Hora, is Farah’s best friend who keeps all her secrets and is ready to support her in any situation. He seems to be happy all the time as he always put a smile on his face. However, he also has his own secret that he hides carefully behind his captivating smile.
The heart of the Camp Avenue, Cheche Bartolome, who is played by Rose Ann Pascua, is one of the workers at the campsite. She has a lively and energetic personality which always brightens up the mood of the campsite and its visitors.
Chasing Sunsets the Series revolves around Lara’s journey to find herself (and perhaps true love) amid the pandemic with COVID-19. As the Philippine government instilled lockdown restrictions on the whole country, Lara has no choice but to extend her stay in Camp Avenue. During her stay, she quickly befriends Farrah, the campsite owner who secretly develops a crush on her. Apart from having a boyfriend, Lara finds herself enjoying Farrah’s presence in her life, which makes her feel comfortable and safe. However, Lara holds a secret to herself, the painful truth about her ‘true’ self, as well as her relationship with her long-time boyfriend, Dominic.
My Thoughts on the Series
Since the premiere of the first episode, Chasing Sunsets the Series has gained more attention from the LGBTQ+ viewers, not only in its country of origin, The Philippines but also in other Asian countries (hopefully it can further attract worldwide attention). The series comes as a breath of fresh air amid the popularity of Boys Love series where it offers viewers a new perspective on the lives of the LGBTQ+ community. Discussing social issues that are often ignored, such as LGBTQ+ acceptance and mental health, Chasing Sunsets the Series hopes to enlighten society without being patronizing. And I think they have successfully done that.
As someone who studied Psychology and has been dealing with mental health issues, I find this series compelling. It delivers a raw portrayal of mental health and its effect on our lives. Through Lara’s character, viewers can experience the turmoil of those who are struggling with depression and anxiety disorders; how each passing day feels like being in a constant battle with yourself. In contrast, the series takes a more subtle approach to characterize the manifestation of the disease by introducing us to Dominic, Lara’s mysterious boyfriend, whose existence is questioned. For me, this combination makes the series more interesting to watch as we can be directly involved in finding the answer rather than just being exposed to the truth.
In addition to the stories, the series offers a direct interpretation of common prejudice towards the LGBTQ+ community by presenting the figure of Farrah, a strong independent woman who is often being labeled tomboy. Despite her bright and carefree personality, she is quite influenced by other people’s opinions of her, making her sometimes questioning her decisions. She is a remarkably interesting character as she seems to ‘hide’ more than just her sexual orientation, and I think it can deepen and give more nuance to the whole story.
I am looking forward to learning more about Farrah’s background story. As to the storyline, I am quite content with the way it is being presented. The writers have done a decent job of harmonizing all topics together into a coherent story. Besides, it moves quite nicely, and the pace seems right for viewers to process all information and ‘hidden’ clues that are being given throughout the series. Kudos to the scriptwriters who can translate complicated topics into a ‘lighter’ and more enjoyable narration. On top of this, the series features excellent acting from both main leads. Both have been able to go deep into their characters as well as exploring their feelings and thoughts, which enable them to give a strong performance. Moreover, the chemistry between the main leads is undeniable; their interaction is sweet and gentle and, most importantly, believable. They leave us feeling convinced that they are catching feelings for one another.
Another aspect that becomes a strong point of this series is its filming location. Unlike some series that use cyberspace interactions as their main theme – to tackle the lockdown restriction issues – Chasing Sunsets the Series spoils viewers with its stunning visuals. The scenes that were taken in open nature, such as the beach, bring freshness to the audience’s life who might have felt bored with their quarantine routines. It might also send a message to the viewers that life is still beautiful despite the pandemic. Altogether I greatly enjoy watching the series because it provides viewers with more than just a sweet love story; it invites us to be part of the solution for social issues that exist around us. And most importantly, it reminds us once more that you are enough.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars [See our Review Guide]