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REVIEW: RK Bagatsing gives flawless, resonating portrayal in MMK “Tattoo”

We were all amazed with his impeccable acting since his breakthrough stint in Wildflower, and three years to this day, RK Bagatsing has time and again proved how his craft even gets better after every appearance on screen.

This is definitely quite evident in his portrayal of tattoo artist and body piercer Totie Casimiro in the Maalaala Mo Kaya episode “Tattoo” last March 14. While his dramatic performance was intense and powerful, his build-up of the character thespically was utterly flawless and resonating.

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From being an upright achiever in school, things changed drastically for Totie, who was called Athan (Ynigo Delen) when he was young, when his father Enteng (Efren Reyes) passed away, forcing his mother Maneng (Malou de Guzman) to make both ends meet.

It also didn’t help that he also assisted unwittingly in his brother Jobet’s (Zeppi Borromeo) drug trade thereby leading him to a downspiral in drug addiction, renaming himself as Totie. He would become a thug and join neighborhood gangs in street rumbles and fights, and worsening his addiction.

In one altercation, Totie would save a damsel in distress from a maltreating boyfriend. And that girl Dette (Empress Schuck) would eventually become her wife, with whom he has four kids. Dette’s parents would not hide their doubts as to Totie’s capacity as a provider, even if he gave up his drug addiction and involvement in gangs after Jobet, who urged him to quit, passed away.

Things came to a head when Dette’s parents shouldered the hospital expenses of his ill son, making even Dette question his capacity as a breadwinner given that his means of income were from measly sources as a tricycle driver and tattoo artist.

This led to Dette and the kids leaving their home and lived with her parents in Cavite. Totie would rush to them and beg them to come back and vowed to become a better and stable provider. Because of this, Totie returned to the illicit drug trade, now participating in a wide-scale syndicate.

Instead of making him a better provider, Totie’s renewed addiction and expanded involvement in the drug trade caused a severe rift with his wife and kids. Totie would hit Dette, and hurt his kids, especially his eldest Irish (Veighda Inoval) who he embarrassed in front of her friends and also maltreated by even cutting her hair violently in a fit of rage.

Totie would soon come to his senses after he realized that widened gap with his family, and would then try to quit the syndicate he was working for. The syndicate boss, however, did not allow him to quit unless he would make one last drug deal. And as he carried a packet of crystal meth and brought it home, police barged in their place with a search warrant. They would discover the hidden pack of illegal drugs and arrest him.

While incarcerated, he had a heart-to-heart talk with his mother Maneng, who apologized for all the times she was never a mom to him, and appeared to have forsaken him because she prioritized earning a living. After promising that she would make up for the lost moments as a mother, Totie would soften up and accept her apology. Since then, he was a changed man.

Totie would then show commendable conduct while in jail, and after the complaint against him was seemingly discarded, he was a free man after three years. He would then become a more responsible and dedicated husband and father, focused on a legitimate means of livelihood—being a go-to body piercer and tattoo artist.

One day while he went to a grocery store, he chanced upon a security guard having a heart attack. He immediately came to the rescue, performed CPR, which he learned while perfecting his tattoo craft, and saved the man’s life. Videos and photos of his heroic act went viral, and Toti became a social media sensation, with netizens praising him for it. Most of all, his family was utterly proud of him, from leading a life of crime to become a responsible family man, hero and lifesaver.

Such a tale indeed inspires everyone to always have a ray of hope, even if desperation sets in. It encourages us to change for the better at all times, even if we are at our lowest point.

And this message was very clear, thanks to wonderful story telling and creative direction led by director Sonny Calvento.

Malou de Guzman and Empress Schuck were dramatic gems in this episode as they dealt with every emotion with so much believability and depth. And, Ynigo Delen effectively depicted the tragic shift in Totie’s outlook in life with his impressive performance.

But then again, RK Bagatsing transformed into the character fully and naturally, imbibing all the necessary mannerisms, verbal tone, and facial expressions that showed and personified the real character.  It was one of his best single dramatic performances ever.

Netizens were likewise impressed.