Filipino Mother-in-Law

TITLE: Mother-in-Law (Filipino Mother-in-Law)

Filipino Mother-in-Law COPYRIGHT: August 2021

Filipino Mother-in-Law
Filipino Mother-in-Law

SETTING: Contemporary Malacañang Palace – Filipino Mother-in-Law

PREMISE: The President of the Philippines is forced to deal with a “complicated” mother-in-law who comes to live with the family in Malacañang Palace.

WRITER: Alan Nafzger –

FIRST FAMILY CHARACTERS – Filipino Mother-in-Law

MOTHER-IN-LAW – Shasel Flor Arbues (62)- She was an extremely talented young woman, but she left politics decades ago. Only now has she been thrust back into it. She’s a grandmotherly figure who must engage in palace politics simply to keep her daughter’s family together and afloat.

Years previously, she matched her daughter with the most politically promising young bachelor in the Senate. She feels some guilt about this, given that the young bachelor has become an adulterer. However, she did match her daughter with a man who did become President. She’s unapologetic but privately expresses guilt. Shasel is blunt and outspoken, especially with her son-in-law.

A breakup and separation is the next logical step, but some parents really want their kids to remain powerful. And this mother-in-law will do anything she can to keep the president and her daughter married, despite the infidelity. Circumstance requires that she lives in the palace. The longer she stays in the palace, the more political she becomes.

Shasel was talented and political as a young woman, but she abandoned it all when she was married and had a family, now after coming to live in the palace, it’s a race. Will her skills to return before the family is consumed in scandal and treason.

She’s a huge basketball fan. She only watches basketball games and She gambles with anyone on a basketball game and nearly always wins. She only watches basketball and 24/7 news. She scoffs at telenovelas, “What do I need with a television show designed to tell me someone is about to stab me in the back when I live in the Malacañang Palace?” She claims to have never seen a romantic comedy. The staff quiz her and she may be telling the truth.

FIRST LADY – Corazon Marie Santos (38) – She is the only daughter of Shasel Arbues. Once a talented constitutional lawyer (#1 in her law school class) but she (like her mother) gave up a career to be a wife, mother and now, as the first lady, she’s been working tirelessly for the county. She’s a beautiful and gracious Filipina; she’s soft-spoken and not overtly political. She’s wildly popular with the public (soft beauty and dignity). The first lady is in clear contrast with her mother, who can be harsh and difficult. She loves her mother, but must always put out the fires that her mother starts.

THE PRESIDENT – Dakilo Santos (40) – The president is in love with two women, his wife and his mistress (the vice president). He loves his wife and their children and wants to remain married.  The mistress is a member of the opposition party, but President Santos wants the woman to replace him in office.

The president isn’t the villain but he’s not the hero either. He’s a man caught in the middle, like the Philippine nation; he’s caught between two superpowers – China and the US. Love and circumstances (Mistress and wife).

TEENAGE SON – Angel Dakila Santos (16) The teenage boy is rebellious and his grandmother helps tame his late-night carousing. His grandmother has excellent radar and she is the only one in the family the teenage boy will actually listen to. She saves the boy (and family) from a great deal of “teenage” trouble. Angel is angry about something that isn’t clear.

PRE-TEEN DAUGHTER – Marie Santos (10) – The young girl doesn’t get enough attention from the president and first lady, but grandmother fills the void.


MSS Agent – Minsheng Zhang (32) – Malevolent and entirely about using any information to further the interests of the Communist Party of China. The MSS uses a combination of money and extortion to control an asset on the president’s staff. Lives and works out of the Chinese Embassy.

CIA Agent – Alex Miller (39) – Benevolent but still not beyond using any information to further the interest of the USA in Asia. This American uses a combination of money and empty promises to control an asset on the president’s staff. Lives and works out of the US Embassy.

Vice President – Sunny Andrada (31) – Sexy and entirely ruthlessly ambitious. She may have slept her way into high political office. She is a member of the opposition party. She secretly acts to protect the interest of the president, but at the same time endangers him by carrying on a reckless love affair with him. She believes President Santos will endorse her in the next election and he has promised to do that. She will be the next president, unless the entire palace collapses on them. She’s a critic of the president in public, but an ally of the president in private.

Reporter – Zephyr Torres (26) – Young and she investigates every rumor and everything leads her to the realization that there are spies in the palace and the first family is as calm (content) as it looks on the outside.


NICA Agent – Roberto Go (56) – He is secretly is in love with Shasel Flor Arbues (the mother-in-law); but also as a matter of national security, he keeps her around to feed the foreign powers’ misinformation and he wants he help learning the identity of the two foreign spies. He is the only one who actually has physical proof of her deal to save her husband, but he also knows the foreign powers will try to use what they saw to undermine the Philippine government. He is the chief protector of the nation’s secrets, but also the protector of the mother-in-law.

Chinese spy inside the palace (???) – We see someone we think is a really nice man/woman. The humorous/likable personality. However, the mother-in-law will expose their true colors, revealing an enemy spy, a total jackass, and an outright villain. It’s a total bitch in sheep’s clothing.

Filipino Mother-in-Law

American spy inside the palace (???) – A devil in plain sight. They are obviously up to no good and the mother-in-law is the only character who seems aware of it. She’s shocked no one else seems to notice. Everyone else seems to be horrible judges of character. Everyone considers this person just a little quirky and wonder what the mother-in-law’s problem is.

Director of the Presidential Security Group – Princess Ocampo (38) – She is very loyal to the President and the nation. She watches and notices everything. She makes notes of complicated relationships in the story; who meets with whom. She is a cold robot of a soldier; she could care less about the president’s infidelity. And she is only concerned with catching the mother-in-law giving out state secrets (acting as an enemy agent). She reports everything to the president, but there is only circumstantial proof.

Speechwriter – He grew up a Filipino in the USA, so he’s a bit out of place, but watches and listens to the words people are using and that makes him suspicious. “Why is the president’s mother-in-law so aggressive and nosey… who gave her political power?”

President’s Chief of Staff – Cynthia Yutadco (28) – Unmarried. She is secretly in love with and loyal to Senator De La Cruz.

Senator – Alpha De La Cruz (41) – Alpha male, who was a former professional basketball player, and a member of the president’s party. He’s clearly in line for the presidency. A childhood friend of the president but he stole the affection of a young girl from the president decades ago. The president plans on stabbing him in the back as a revenge.

PILOT – Filipino Mother-in-Law

The President’s mother-in-law refuses to leave the neighborhood and the home where she raised her family. However, she becomes the victim of a home invasion. But it isn’t just a random act by a common criminal; the man who entered her home and trashed the place is an operative of the Chinese government. He ransacks the home to make it look like a burglary but he heads directly to a wall safe located in the back of the home.

Documents are taken from her safe, others are left. The documents are sought to attempt to control the Philippine President. However, the document is read by the Chinese agent and he’s attempting to photograph and send it to the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS). The Chinese agent, however, is then knocked unconscious by an American agent. The CIA agent takes the document and reads it and photographs the document with his cell phone.

However, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) have both agents under surveillance and before he can transmit the document to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, the cell phone is electronically jammed by the NICA.

There is a foot chase, the CIA agent runs into an internet café and is attempting to send a copy of it to the USA. He’s prevented by a NICA agent who arrives and pulls the plug on the internet and also destroys an outdated fax machine. Cornered and not willing to use violence to escape, the CIA agent simply hands over the document.

The stolen documents show that 30 years previously (1991) the mother-in-law worked as a secretary/clerk in the Philippine Senate. She gave the American CIA some sensitive documents about the future of Subic Bay Naval Base; that the Senate would be voting to close the base permanently. This was done in exchange for her husband being green-lighted for a heart transplant in the USA. She was never caught, and her husband was put on a plane and had the surgery. He lived a long life afterward.

Shasel doesn’t regret the move, it saved her husbands’ life and gave her 15 more years with the man she loved. The alleged “espionage/political favor” importantly provided her daughter with a father. And besides, the USA and the Philippines were at the time Cold War allies; Shasel reason’s that it was like giving a friend a heads up. Finally, the American CIA already were speculating about the base closure. She didn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know.

Shasel never thought it would come up again, and the President seriously doesn’t need the scandal, not while trying to govern the nation, fend off China in the West Philippine Sea, and keep his family together.

She offers to join a convent but Roberto Go argues passionately against that. She moves into the palace.


The mother-in-law remains living at the Palace because of the threat to her safety and also so the NICA director can keep an eye on her/use her to mislead the nation’s enemies. He knows that Shasel is a target for the foreign spies.

Also, the president and first lady’s children are difficult to control (babysit & educate). When the mother-in-law arrives, the first family is on the brink of separation and chaos – husbands, children, dogs, and parrots running wild.

Shasel definitely bonds (glues) the family together. But at the same time, she’s a loose cannon (vulnerable to espionage), and only at the last minute of each episode is she able to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat. She is crafty like a fox but it takes a while to get there.

Shasel’s daughter has married a successful man, clearly famous and influential. And as Shasel’s power grows, she’s accused of nepotism. However, this mother-in-law is chiefly patriotic (protecting the nation) and maternal (protecting her daughter and grandchildren). She accepts power and responsibility only to catch the spies and avoid scandal. She learns to play the game for her daughter to survive.

The president can’t trust anyone. He’s given the NICA permission to give out false information, but chiefly he wants them to find the spies. He is not aware the mother-in-law is involved or being used to catch the spies.

Near the end of each episode in the first year, Shasel always manages to win, at the expense of the Chinese and the Americans. She keeps the secrets and her daughter’s family remains together and everyone survives.

Fundamental to the story… the MSS agent controls an unknown spy in the palace. This agent and anonymous spy try to blackmail the mother-in-law. She responds by feeding both the Chinese and the USA misinformation.

When it’s discovered that there are two spies in the palace, she approaches NICA about identifying them and “removing” the threat; she offers to pull the trigger once they are found. She changes from “sweet grandmother” into a “vengeful bulldog” in search of the spies that threaten the Philippines and her daughter’s wellbeing.

At the end of the first season, after the foreign threats are eliminated, she learns that her son-in-law, President Santos, intends to hand the next year’s election (and political power) over to the mistress and a member of the opposite political party. Shasel at this time begins to maneuver her daughter into a run for the presidency.


The president narrowly survives an assassination attempt and for a short time, the mistress becomes the temporary president. There is a short controversy when it’s thought the mistress will not return power if the president survives. However, President Santos survives and the mistress gives up power.

It’s the president’s last year in office. Limited to one term, all President Santos can do is watch. The series goes into full political combat mode, with the president stuck in the middle. The presidential election has the first lady runs against the mistress. It’s two women battling it out in the mass media for political power.

In one episode, Shasel is left without PSG security on the streets of Manila, she must take refuge in a convent, where she seriously considers becoming a nun and leaving political intrigue behind.


The third year of the TV series is the first year of the Corazon Santos presidency. She remains married, but her husband recklessly cheats on her and tries to undermine everything she does politically. Former President Santos becomes villainous and it’s not clear if Corazon will leave him. At this time, it’s the mother-in-law that is the middle; Shasel wants her daughter to remain married but she also wants her to be a successful president.


Politics – The art or science concerned with winning and holding control. Politics is winning and losing. The president and the mother-in-law are acutely aware of this… the first lady and the mistress are less aware, but as the series develops they learn that the only thing that matters is winning.

Catholicism – There are many characters who were raised Catholic, and — even though their life has moved away from adamantly following Catholic doctrine — they are still really concerned with their Catholicism and/or cite it often. This comes up very frequently in conversations with the president. He is the one character who will always be referred to as a “good Catholic” who just can’t be good.

Parental Abandonment – President Santos, the father of the children is missing or absent. The children only see their father on television. The president also abandons his wife the first lady, but visits her only when he needs her to make a public appearance. His demands on her make the first lady a missing mom. The grandmother is clearly needed.

Major Vexation – When the mother-in-law first visits the palace, it is staffed by obstructive bureaucrats who are lazy, unhelpful, or even downright rude. And even the first lady’s mother is forced to take a number and stay in a queue. It takes more than a while for her to reach political power.

Romance – There are a number of romantic relationships in this TV series…

  • Husband and wife (president and first lady)
  • A powerful man and powerful mistress (president and gold-digging vice president)
  • Two opposing aides (the speechwriter and the PSG director)
  • Intelligence officer and asset (NICA director and mother-in-law)
  • Western agent and powerless bargirl (CIA and GoGo Banana’s dancer)
  • Eastern agent and the Club Adonis in Quezon City (MSS and decadence)