REVIEW: MMK “Black Belt” touches hearts with stirring story of hardwork, sacrifice, and faith in fulfilling dreams

At present, he’s indeed gradually capturing the attention of the world, particularly those are into combat sports, because of his promising performances in the field of mixed martial arts and Kyokushin karate. But before he was able to achieve the success he’s currently savoring, Filipino professional athlete Ramon “The Bicolano” Gonzales” hurdled a lot of obstacles in life since he was a child, as seen on his life story featured on the March 16 episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya.

Inspiring, well-written narrative

Titled “Black Belt”, the episode followed the life story of the Pinoy professional MMA fighter and Kyokushin Karate black belter from his childhood up to the present that he is one of the most up-and-rising contenders in the world for the said sports. 

His journey indeed falls in the typical grit to glory plot that didn’t fail to tug the hearts of the viewers because of its relatable scenes and dialogues and to ingrain a cliché yet rousing messages to our minds of dream, hope, and faith. We witnessed how he grew up being bullied by his schoolmates for not wearing briefs and shoes at school, which got him often involved in brawls. Unbeknownst to them, his impoverished family’s plight in Albay made it hard for his parents to make both ends meet, more so to provide at least all his and his other three siblings’ basic needs. Even though they lived in poverty, their family still managed to be happy and optimistic in their everyday life.

However, everything got tougher as their patriarch suddenly went MIA (missing-in-action), forcing their mom to work harder and the young Ramon to quit school in order to help their family by working different odd jobs as they transferred in Manila – from being a houseboy to a jeepney barker.

When he was in high school, one of their teachers opened an opportunity for him to continue his education by inviting them to undergo rigid taekwondo class in exchange of having a scholarship. Since their family income is just enough for their daily expenses and couldn’t afford to buy him a uniform, that same teacher helped Ramon out by giving him work and paying for everything that he would need during their intensive training. He was able to compete outside the campus, in which he was discovered by Singaporean Kyokushin Karate trainer Sensei Steven. Since then, his life got better as the strict yet understanding trainer supported him in his ambition of finishing his studies.

But just when everything’s getting better for the budding fighter, he had to face another setback again when he impregnated his girlfriend who hindered him from going back to his career in Manila and persuaded him to just stay with them in Albay. Because of the extreme poverty they experienced, he grew more persistent in getting on the ring again, not as a karate combatant, but as an MMA fighter. Unbeknownst to him, while he was doing part in raising their family by working, his philandering live-in partner was already in the arms of another man.This ensued to their breakup.

Instead of letting this heartbreaking experience took over him, it only fueled Ramon to keep on fighting for his dreams for himself, his family, and his two kids. Although Sensei Steven was not in favor of his participation in MMA, he later on got his all-out support.

As he continuously climbs towards success, his father suddenly resurfaced to beg for his forgiveness after abandoning them and for him to be given another chance. As their mother instilled to them the virtue of forgiveness, he accepted him again in his life and his reappearance brought Ramon the much-needed motivation in his next bouts even after his death.

Now, the Pinoy champion continues to create a name not only in the local MMA arena, but internationally as well. He currently ranks 78th among the 209 active Asia Southeast Pro Flyweights and 71st in the Bantamweight Division.

Director Jerome Pobocan and writer Dickson Comia’s collaboration was truly unprecedented as they were able to create a well-written narrative that is very inspirational and genuine at the same time.

The superb cast

Certainly, a production would only be completely remarkable if its ensemble is composed of exceptional actors who are able to deliver the emotions and overall message of the story through their emotive and impeccable portrayals of the parts given to them.

Headlining the list was seasoned actor JM de Guzman took on the role of Ramon “The Bicolano” Gonzales. We already knew how great he is in front of the camera but in real life, he’s also a incredible full-contact sports athlete, making him the best choice for the highly important life.

He was joined by veteran thespians Atoy Co, Allan Paule, Glenda Garcia, and Mon Confiado and promising actress Erin Ocampo. Decorated taekwondo practitioner Japoy Lizardo also wowed us not only with his moves, but with his acting chops as well. 

Last, but definitely not the least, is child actor Ynigo Delen who warmed our hearts with his heart-rending portrayal of the young Ramon. 

The audiences’ takeaways

Apart from the resonating chant Ramon’s father had taught him that says, “Laban lang, bangon lang. Walang sumusukong nananalo”, those who were able to catch the latest episode of MMK also imparted the lessons they learned by posting them on Twitter with the hashtag #MMKTheFighter.