For a kid, no one would wish misfortune, prejudice and suffering. But for the child sensation McNeal “Awra” Briguela, it became all too real. Faced with one ordeal after another in his young life, you may wonder how he could muster the confidence and comicality to keep that humorous, ma-awra “face.” It shows the inner strength and purposefulness he possesses that most of us could only wish to have.
MMK’s “Singkwenta Pesos” is his story.
Born and raised in a simple, underprivileged neighborhood, what made McNeal truly gifted was that his family loved and accepted him for what he is. Even if neighbors see him as laughable and unlikeable for his unbridled display of his gayness, his father Onel (Janus del Prado) and mother Marivic (Aleck Bovick), siblings Nicole (Eliza Pineda), Micay (Amy Nobleza), and Brione (Lance Lucido) and the rest of his immediate family respected his individuality. They would have delight in seeing his natural talent, and appreciate him as a person.
While he did enjoy this, McNeal had faced problems no one would imagine for a kid his age. That is, having to deal with marital problems affecting his parents, apart from the usual challenges of making both ends meet. While Onel had been responsible, trying his best to make a living despite the misfortune of being laid off and then keeping a difficult trade of operating his own Internet rental shop. But Marivic had been splurging in her gambling vice, stealing amounts from her husband’s wallet and selling a precious motorcycle Onel gave her to subsidize her depravity. Worse, she would even sleep with her husband’s best friend Boy (Gerald Madrid) and other men just “earn” the needed funds for her gambling.
All of this McNeal had witnessed being the sole companion of Marivic when Onel and his siblings are away because his classes were in the afternoon. He painstakingly kept this from Onel, who would soon learn about Marivic’s unfaithfulness and wantonness from another drinking buddy. While Onel had been enraged by all the talk and confront Marivic about the rumors, his wife would always turn the tables on him and would leave home to prove her point. Onel would then succumb to his love for Marivic, whom he begged to return and keep their family together. This was also McNeal’s reason why he didn’t tell his father of his mother’s misgivings.
But when Marivic suddenly and finally decided to leave the family for good and took Onel’s earnings away and left a measly fifty pesos in his cash box, it devastated Onel, who would become depressed and despondent, abandoning his only source of income, the Internet shop that closed down, and the worst of all, the care for his children who would fend for themselves. Because of this, even Nicole decided to leave the family and reunite and live with Marivic.
This was until McNeal finally had the guts to tell off Onel about how he had been so engrossed with Marivic leaving them and not realizing he had his kids to care of. That they too had been hurt and that they share his pain. He asked Onel what happened to the promise he gave of being there for them no matter what, and that they should be strong amid whatever predicament they faced.
McNeal’s monologue truly awakened Onel from his depression and made him realize the big responsibility in his hands—that of taking care not only of his children, but of himself as well. And after reuniting with Nicole and bring back the happiness and stability as a family they once shared, Onel too had set off to finish a college degree that eluded him, and would pursue it to the best he can.
But as the harmony settled and they had regained the closeness they had as a family, even if Marivic had left them, a simple gag McNeal made during his birthday caught a relative’s attention and recorded it in her smartphone. It was McNeal play acting in a “drama” with Nicole and as he delivered those heavy, intense lines, he would then give that “awra” look. It was a video that when uploaded to YouTube got the attention of millions and became viral. And this eventually reached talent scouts of ABS-CBN, who casted him as the animated and sidesplitting MakMak in FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, setting off an unexpected phenomenal showbiz career, a dream he thought was impossible.
But as Onel had told him, nothing is impossible. And that truly became something McNeal never forgot.
MMK’s “Singkwenta Pesos” is one joyous, revealing, and impactful journey depicting the young life of a kid who had experienced too much, too soon. Given the realities McNeal faced, MMK impressively put together a memorable episode directed by Dado S. Lomibao and written by Benson Logronio and Arah Jell G. Badayos that not only presented the difficulties and ordeals he faced at a very young age, but also how it effectively utilized stirring creative elements to bring the message across and inspire viewers.
Everyone in the cast were impressive in their portrayals. But Janus del Prado’s numbing yet absorbing take on McNeal’s father Onel was one for the ages. Everyone could feel his pain and he expressed it in a silent and profound manner, we can only relate too much with so much compassion.
But the night belonged to McNeal who played himself in the episode. While he alone could know how it felt when faced with same predicaments the episode had dramatized and showed an intrinsic reality to his portrayal, this boy wonder also exhibited an innate talent only a few children can have. A natural acting ability in all its ups and downs giving the appropriate tinge of emotion, humor, and versatility everyone could appreciate. Indeed, this chance find in YouTube will become Philippine entertainment’s timeless delight.