Who or what will stop a father from being that hero his children looks up to; a Herculean, sustaining pillar who’ll love and support his family no matter what?
Nothing. Not even his wife leaving him for another man, or the house he painstakingly built from the ground up crumbling down. Even if it would take him living in a cave amid the misfortune, he won’t cease to carry out his role out of genuine fatherly love.
This sums up that inspirational tale of Juan Garana in “Kweba,” the special Father’s Day episode of Maala-ala Mo Kaya last Saturday, June 19.
Faced with abject poverty, Juan (Zanjoe Marudo) dealt with life in difficult terms even as a young boy. He never finished schooling, actually quite far from it—stopping at a tender level of Grade 2. Since then, existence was day-to-day, even up to the point of having his own family, supporting his wife Melissa (Dawn Chang) and children Rowena (Xyriel Manabat), Jayson (Louise Abuel) and Junior (Alfonso Ynigo Belen).
In a small nipa hut in the city, he tried to at least provide a decent life for his family. But even though how much he tried searching for a suitable source of income, he always ends up empty handed. This prompted Melissa to find work elsewhere, until she was nowhere to be found. Juan later found out that Melissa went off with another man.
Later Melissa took the eldest Rowena away from Juan, leaving just his two sons under his care.
Retreat to hometown
Heartbroken and desolate, Juan still did not give up on carrying what was left of his family and as they moved back to his hometown in Sipocot, Camarines Sur. He built a nipa hut in a remote place in the province accessible only by traversing a river and a mountain. There he raised goats and made charcoal for a living.
Life had been tough for Juan and his kids. What became the most devastating blow for him was having the nipa hut he built obliterated when a monster typhoon savaged the province. Having no home and nowhere to go, Juan and his two sons settled in a cave. In the next two years, their living conditions deteriorated, as the kids had to walk several kilometers just to reach school, where they were mocked as cave dwellers. And while Juan still was hopeful that their lives would improve if he worked harder and strived more, his body gave up as he was stricken with a respiratory disease due to excessive charcoal inhalation. As he was sidelined, he could no longer provide for his two kids and urged them to stop their schooling. But they refused, and continued their difficult long journey to school on foot without even a centavo in their hands.
This prompted a schoolteacher to tell their story on social media, narrating all the hardships the family has went through and even images that closely detail their condition. And this became their redemption, with people giving financial assistance and a generous benefactor to provide a place they could really call home.
But for Juan, the resilient, determined, and dedicated father, that cave remains that home where his genuine fatherly heart truly resonated.
This episode again truly melted everyone’s hearts with Juan’s plight. Its storytelling was impeccable as it made us feel, identify and sympathize with his pains and predicaments. But, all the more gripping is MMK’s creative and production flair in depicting such riveting stories. It takes awesome production design, camera angles, and of course bringing out the best in its featured actors to make it really a compelling watch.
Indeed, Zanjoe Marudo gave his best single acting performance so far as the befallen yet undaunted Juan. A revelation coming from his stereotype dapper roles, Zanjoe can truly take a character to its thespic limits and give the audience that enthralling feel.
Director Nuel Naval made that happen, not only in making Zanjoe absorbing in his anguish, but also making the entire episode as moving and effectual as possible, cunning as it may be in making everyone churn out this exquisite piece.
Most especially, it gives fathers that special tribute it was deemed for, with the kind of inspiration they would realize in their own “caves”.