Maalaala Mo Kaya

Date posted on June 28, 2011

When I was in college, my friends and I had very little time to watch TV. We were too busy having fun. When we did, it was usually from my VCR recordings of shows like Felicity, Ally McBeal and Friends. We were series junkies even before DVD season releases and Tivo were fashionable. But these shows we watched were all US-produced. We weren’t fans of local TV.

Back then, I wasn’t a big fan of local cinema either. The few times that we did go out to watch a Filipino film was after a considerable amount of positive word-of-mouth, and only then. (On one occasion, it was for a flash of nostalgia – when we watched Gimik The Reunion, hehe…)

As such, I never really took it against my friends when they tell me they don’t watch local films after my telling them about how I worked as a screenwriter for Star Cinema. Star Cinema may be the biggest, most profitable film production company in the country, but that held little weight to most of my friends who grew up watching Small Wonder, Beverly Hills 90210 and Doogie Howser, M.D. and watched movies like The Breakfast Club, Home Alone and Cutting Edge. In fact, I’d even say that I was mostly anxious about letting them know that I wrote Pinoy romantic comedies.

Despite that prejudice against local entertainment, one local show that always did impress me was Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK). It was a weekly anthology that featured real-life stories from “letter senders,” most of which were sob-fests depicting domestic drama and human tragedies. Each episode’s title is an object. A reference to a symbolic element in the story, usually a metaphor to its theme. I’ve heard that when the idea for this show was first pitched in a conference room 19 years ago, Ma’am Charo Santos (Madam President, CSC, ABS-CBN top honcho at the moment) picked up a paper clip from the table and went on to say something along the lines of, “Each object has story. Like this paper clip…” (The very first episode was titled, “Rubber Shoes” starring Romnick Sarmienta.)

I like MMK it because it is effective. I love it because it is supposedly real. (There’s been an undying impression and lingering doubt from some people as regards the authenticity of the stories. Once and for all, save for artistic license and a handful of research lapses, let it be said that yes, the stories and characters are all real.) It is the extra-ordinariness of the characters and stories that make it stand out for me. And when those are real, the emotions they evoke are real.

Ten years after graduating from college, I was given the opportunity to direct an episode for this legendary show. Needless to say, this is a milestone for me. It is to be my first ever directing project to be aired on Philippine free TV. And it is for no less than this 18-year old monumental show – the longest running Philippine drama anthology. If I never get to direct for this show or for television in general (knock on wood!), I’d still be forever part of this institution.

This Saturday, July 30, 7.30PM, Maalaala Mo Kaya. Starring Carl John Barrameda, Maliksi Morales, Jake Roxas, Aleck Bovick, Regine Angeles. Written by Benson Logronio, and directed by Raz de la Torre.

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