Don’t get me wrong. I am rooting for Clark and Leah — that’s why I think On The Wings Of Love needed Simon.
First of all, I appreciate how Simon’s character is carefully crafted. His backstory was a bittersweet metamorphosis from a shy nerd to a sophisticate, all because of the right kind of love. His tragic love story with Juliet gave enough reason for me to believe that, hey, this guy had been through a lot. For sure, Simon’s already all grown up, making him the ultimate foil to Leah and Clark as a couple, and as individuals.
Simon and Leah
If you carefully notice, Leah never had someone to look up to. Leah started out as a lost girl who wanted to find her mother. Her dreams were not for herself but for her family. She was a character that only reacts to whatever her fate in San Francisco throws at her. When she retuned to Manila and started working in advertising, she met Simon. Simon made Leah appreciate the difference between a job and a career. Finally, Leah was making plans and setting goals for herself, while her family also benefits as well.
Maybe not everyone will understand, but having a mentor is one of the best things that can happen to anyone. A mentor fulfils a certain facet in a person’s life that romantic love or familial love cannot fill in — self actualisation.
Simon gives Leah the great opportunity to self-actualise. To go beyond making ends meet and find a passion that pays. Through Simon, Leah actually hones her talent and grows as an individual. In Leah’s eyes, Simon is her mentor. That’s pretty clear to me. To her, Simon is everything she dreams of becoming — secure, confident, stable and independent.
Simon and Clark
Leah would always describe Clark as perfect. Clark was Leah’s hero — always there to protect her, defend her and help her. San Francisco may have robbed Clark of a normal childhood, personal and educational growth but Clark compensated with hard work, creativity and grit. In essence, Clark is the human equivalent of diskarte.
Here comes Simon — the Summa Cum Laude from one of the top universities in the Philippines, one of the youngest Executive Creative Directors in the advertising industry. Good on paper — everything Clark is not. And that drives Clark crazy insecure, crazy jealous, exposing our supposedly perfect hubby’s cracks and flaws — a mark of great writing! The more flawed the characters are, the more human they become.
Basically, Simon’s sheer existence has humanised Clark. Clark is no longer the dreamy, brooding amboy that he was. It also doesn’t help that Simon is witty, calculated, and eloquent. He knows how to subtly push Clark’s buttons without getting himself intro trouble. But that gets Leah into trouble.
Simon and #CLeah
Of course, Simon’s character was definitely designed to rock the couple’s boat. Fiction blooms in conflict. I refuse to see Simon as a third party because clearly, Leah admires him as a mentor and not as a romantic partner. Leah is not cheating in any way, whether physically and emotionally. She’s merely building her universe as an individual person, beyond her being Clark’s wife. And Simon has a clear role in her universe.
What makes Simon’s character further interesting is his evolving feelings for Leah — from professional admiration to romantic aspirations. I cannot blame him. In fact, it’s easy to comprehend: It’s so easy to fall in love with a person who stimulates your mind. After all, falling in love happens inside the head. But this makes Leah and Simon’s relationship imbalanced, affecting Leah and Clark’s.
Also with Simon’s existence, the immaturity of Leah and Clark as a couple is magnified. Obviously, Simon is an issue both of them cannot handle very well. Clark starts to become passive aggressive about his feelings while Leah gets constantly accused of being selfish and punished for being unassuming. Makes me rethink if Leah and Clark are actually ready to get married, and more so, are they marrying for the right reasons?
Simon and Us (The Audience)
On The Wings Of Love is a TV series starring the love team of JaDine. Although it may have been inspired by its creators’ personal experiences, at the end of the day, it is a work of fiction. JaDine is a love team, so it is understandable for the audience, us, to expect lots of kilig moments.
But I’d like to believe that the creators of On The Wings Of Love are more than the kilig moments they churn out. They are storytellers, love storytellers, to be more specific. And the greatest love stories are about relationships, about people who work their ways around their own flaws and imperfections. Relationships have kilig moments but a collection of kilig moments does not make a relationship.
Simon challenging #CLeah is a good exercise in watching fiction. If there’s such a thing as “writing problem”, or “directing problem” there is also a thing as “watching problem.” The kind of narrative On The Wings Of Love is exposing us stretches our watching behavior. Where do we draw the line between Clark and James, Leah and Nadine, Simon and Paulo? Up to what extent can we comprehend the characters’ conflicts and points of view? Are we only watching On The Wings Of Love for the kilig moments or are we truly invested on Clark and Leah’s journey?
Simon and Paulo Avelino
Can we take the moment to realise and appreciate how brilliant it is casting Paulo Avelino as Simon? Paulo Avelino exudes an intoxicating artsy mystery, like an untamed, brooding gentleman. His styling is polished and sharp, but the way he talks is still imperfect (with a slight lisp, missing some pronunciations) which adds to the nerd-turned-executive charm. He melts well — he can give you cold, he can give you tender. And as a public figure, he’s too cool to care about the social media wrath of the JaDine fans.
You, Me and OTWOL
Lastly, I really hope more women gets to understand Leah. I’m not here to argue, but I would just like to offer perspective. On The Wings Of Love is shot in an omniscient, third person point of view, meaning, we all know the characters’ true feelings, thoughts and intentions. Making us know more than Leah. We may know that Clark’s jealousy truly has basis, and that Simon’s actually starting to take things personal. But Simon’s true feelings are beyond Leah’s knowledge. Yes, she may feel it, but based on how things are turning out — she seems clueless. I’d like to think that Leah is just the type of girl who doesn’t want to assume. She’s been like that ever since. Clark took her to a DIY prom and still she chose not to assume that Clark loves her. That’s why I don’t think she’ll ever assume Simon is in love with her, unless Simon expresses it directly. Another thing, it is quite tricky and risky to actually assume that kind of thing about your boss.
But more than anything, I am really happy that On The Wings Of Love happened to local television. I think it has opened interesting discussions and discourse, revealing the diverse psychographics of the audience, indirectly touching on feminism. And although we may not agree with each other’s opinions, but there’s a respectful way to express ourselves.