Never before in the history of Maalala Mo Kaya had there been an episode banned for public viewing due to disturbing content. It referred to a letter sender who was a victim of rape. She was raped by her stepfather and her own biological mother was an accomplice to the crime.
It took time for me to decide if ever I am ready to see this even just on online replays because I had to remind myself that this is not an indie flick, it’s an episode from MMK. Halfway thru watching the said episode, I had to remind myself again of another thing = this is not Calvento Files. (For those unfamiliar with Calvento Files, it’s a defunct program from ABS-CBN that aired crime stories that were resolved with the help of Tony Calvento, a crime-fighting columnist from the past to whom the helpless often run to for legal assistance.)
All Nene (played by Jane Oineza) ever wanted was to be reunited with her estranged mother (played by Angel Aquino). She got the shock of her life (or so she thought) when she came to join her in Manila and find that she’s been living in with a man of shady character (played by Carlos Morales) and had a child with her mom. It turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. Nene discovered the meth-amphetamine trade her stepfather is into and how her mother is an accomplice. After the live-in couple had a very violent fight that involved thrashing the household and a little gun on the side, when the stepfather expressed his lust over Nene, the mother herself volunteered to have Nene as, pardon the term I will use, “slam piece”/”karelyebo” of her. The mother thought that if her partner can’t fight the urge to cheat on her, might as well cheat on her own daughter since her daughter is beautiful, young and fresh compared to her.
Hand me the barf bag, please.
It happened several times and by the time Nene found the courage to yell at her mother, “Sarili mong anak, ipinakain mo sa aso!” we found ourselves wanting even more vitriol to lash out of her mouth, only it was an ill-timed to say it as she is still under the slavery of her “parents”. Even animals would be insulted at the level of grime and filth that THAT couple could treat the poor girl. We believed the letter sender when she narrated “Wala akong kakampi” when her own high school teacher refused to help her out of fear that her druglord stepfather would lash out at her for interference. Thankfully, with the help of constant fervent prayers, she was able to seek help after a flashback reminded her that she still has another relative in Manila she can seek for help = her uncle Bong who concocted an alibi in order to have her taken out of the house and be transferred to a nursing home.
For the level of cruelty Nene suffered, it destroyed her self-esteem and even blamed her beauty as a curse. She hated her beauty that she cut her own hair and her own face just for the beauty to go away. If not for the guidance of the nuns who took her in, she would not find a way to reestablish her self-esteem all over again.
And now we move to the performances. They are brilliant.
Jane Oineza is a familiar face because we have seen her in some of the earliest episodes of “Goin’ Bulilit“. Expectations are high prior to airing this controversial episode because it has happened in the past that some episodes are hyped up real well only for the acting capabilities to come up short. Oineza on the other hand exceeded expectations = from the blank stares that obviously suppressed fear, depression and anxiety all in one facial expression to her outbursts that, even if she’s helpless in the situation her character Nene is into, she still expresses her wrath over everything that has happened to her. Her performance made you think that not all rape victims are stuck in fear. More so, if ever there is a person that would feel the fury the most, it would be the rape victim herself. And what made the emotions shoot to the roof is the fact that the victim’s own mother is a willing accomplice.
And this brings us to Angel Aquino. I don’t remember her ever dishing out a bad performance. This is so far the meatiest role to date. She’s so good at disappearing into her roles after watching the episode, all I ever wanted to do is to bitchslap the crap out of that crack whore. Yes, she’s a crack whore who’s biggest fear is growing old alone. And her fears are aggravated by the fact that she’s a junkie herself. She denied it when her daughter asked her but you could tell with the way that she acted = often irritated, easy to anger and practically paranoid most of the time = that’s she’s snorting the stuff too. And everytime I try to rewind the scene where the mother pimped her own daughter to her junkie partner, I still feel like throwing the F up. And 75% of the time the mother is shown on screen, either she’s listless or she’s drinking water straight from the pitcher itself. She has outbursts that only confirmed everything her daughter accuses her. Instead of denying the things Nene threw her way, she just snaps and beats the crap out of her daughter. Too bad, reality kicked in and we were spared of witnessing her received the sentence along with the girl’s stepfather.
As to the controversy that surrounded the episode, there is manufactured controversy and there are some things that are controversial because it hit a lot of nerves. This thing that happened to Nene, it happens in real life. We only found it easy to ignore because it’s the stuff usually found on some tabloids. It was only sensible that other than the SPG stamp, MMK even attached disclaimers at the beginning and at the end of the episode in question. I recently had a discussion with a friend regarding this episode and he asked me why did this episode get banned before. After explaining why, he just said, “Not because it’s a true to life story, it’s fit for public viewing. Maybe for indie flicks, not mainstream television”. He may have a point, but unless episodes like this would be aired, nobody would be serious in drug addiction as a problem because snorters can get this effed up in real life and as much as possible, we don’t want any children like Nene anymore to suffer the same predicament as she has had with her mother and stepfather. It’s also a way to remind victims that because they’re so stuck in the victim mentality, they’ve lost capability to help themselves. And Nene prayed a lot. She prayed a lot. Instead of blaming God for the curse of beauty and for having a mother too stoned to even think sensibly, she just kept praying. And help indeed came because of the flashbacks that helped her get info regarding external help.
I don’t think this was the first time that MMK pushed buttons just to at least present reality the best way possible. Sometimes, MMK might look like a stepping stone for budding celebs who wanted to prove to the world that they can act. But there are episodes where they just wanted to share a story. It is melodramatic, for sure, but there are instances in life where you really can’t avoid the drama and all you have to do is face it.
Nene found a way out of her hellhole, that’s simply the story. You may not like the graphic details included but that’s what it is. No matter how bad it has gotten, she was still able to get out of it and that’s all that mattered now. Kudos to Jane Oineza and Angel Aquino for the stellar performances.
(Images: MMK Official)