One of the most inspiring and enriching stories we see on Maalaala Mo Kaya are those that depict the lives of incredible athletes who brought honor and pride to the country.
On MMK’s 2018 episode “Rubber Shoes,” which was re-aired on Saturday, November 14, we witnessed the retelling of that touching life story of Cebu’s Marathon Queen and Olympian Mary Joy Tabal, whose hardships and frustrations growing up in the mountainous village of Guba led to her monumental achievements as a marathoner.
Joy (Sharlene San Pedro) was particularly close to his father Rolando (Dominic Ochoa), who had been very supportive of her passion for running ever since she started representing her school as a kid in regional meets. This was amidst other hurtful incidents that happened in her life as a child, particularly that moment when their mother Anabel (Katya Santos) had abandoned them, amid rumors she had an extra-marital affair.
After she had impressed many with her speed as youngster, finishing her studies on an athletic scholarship winning many competitions, her life wasn’t all triumphant. As years went on, she experienced a dearth in her performance in the track, losing one race after another that left her exasperated and disappointed.
Competing put much pressure in her, since she despised the idea of her string of ending dead last in track sprints and runs. Joy pushed herself too much and even tried to join a marathon but the rigid, challenging demands of this type of race led to a physical breakdown, making her collapse as she crossed the finish line.
Then as she recuperated in the hospital, Joy was told that despite losing consciousness, she had one a respectable fifth place in the marathon, and this encouraged her to compete and excel in the arduous, long-distance race.
Joy would then improve further as a marathoner and join several local and international meets, wherein she emerged victorious—all for the sake of family.
And after being sponsored to compete in a marathon in Ottawa, Canada, Joy finished an exceptional eighth place at 2:43:31, and qualified for women’s marathon event in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
But despite her steady success, Joy would get distressing news about her father Rolando contracting a serious, severe case of pneumonia. While she constantly reminded her father to always seek medical attention, Rolando would always tell her not to mind him and just concentrate on her running.
As she trained further for a national marathon, Joy was devastated to learn that Rolando had suddenly passed away. This affected her drive and willingness to continue competing as a runner, even considering to withdraw from the national marathon that would certify her lofty position as the country’s top female marathoner.
But Joy would heed the call of her sister Fe (Celine Lim) not to pull out from the race, because she told her that one of her father’s last remarks to a cousin was to see Joy in that marathon and cheer for her. Joy would then finish that marathon at first place, which she would dedicate to her father as she “saw” him ecstatic, boisterous and applauding her win at the finish line.
Moving and enrapturing, MMK “Rubber Shoes” shows the triumph of the human spirit amidst adversity, moreso, in the context of the challenging and grueling sport of marathon running. Director Raz dela Torre pieced together this inspiring, rousing tale with an emotionally stirring narrative that truly made viewers cheer on such an emphatic sports icon emerging from her own setbacks.
Dominic Ochoa was endearing as the supportive, selfless father who only thought about the best of his children, and he depicted such character with much finesse, naturalness and believability. But Sharlene San Pedro truly showed incredible depth, intensity, and most especially the physical capabilities to depict such a role. She brandished the kind of talent we would want to see in more young actresses today—that is depicting a role with much genuineness and heartfelt sincerity with on-point approaches to her characterization.
Netizens were also impressed.