Maalaala Mo Kaya’s “Anting-anting” is a chilling tale that not many may experience in their lives, but it holds a deeper story that should be heard by all. This MMK episode, which re-aired last October 16, was imparted by Charo Abraham and tells the mysterious hallucinations and voices she has been hearing in her head. Failing to distinguish what’s real or not, it started affecting her personal and family relationships.
It all began after Charo (Bella Padilla) came home from a work trip to Tawi-tawi. She brought home a suspicious looking amulet or “anting-anting” given to her by an old man (Mon Confiado), telling her that it will grant her wishes. However, upon coming back to Manila, she began hearing demonic voices in her head and always felt as if she was followed by the evil spirit that looked like the old man that gave the amulet.
The story develops as if the horrors we are afraid of are brought to life. The evil spirit and the voices then started invading her dreams, which always kept her on edge and feeling crazy. She tried focusing on her work as a research biologist, but with losing sleep and suddenly finding out she would remain as a contractual employee, she couldn’t handle the stress of life anymore.
Fearing that the cause of the haunting experience was because of the amulet Charo brought home, she tried to burn it to end her suffering. Unfortunately, it only made it worse and she started feeling possessed by the spirit, pushing her to get help from the church. The exorcism didn’t stop the possession and psychotic delusions. Her family tried taking her to a faith healer or “albularyo,” but nothing seemed to work. Hopeless, they would only bring Charo back home.
The horned spirit that Charo kept seeing never stopped haunting her. It reached a point where she would hear him telling her to kill herself or he would kill her family. All sanity left her as she attempted to kill herself with a knife.
As Charo awoke, she was in a hospital tied up to stop her from harming herself again. Her mother and sister Jean (Liza Diño) went all the way to Manila to take care of her because as it turns out, Charo has schizophrenia, a mental illness causing her to hallucinate, experience paranoia, and be in a state of confusion.
The cause of it is unknown, but the psychotic episodes can be managed by medicine and avoiding triggers such as stress or lack of sleep. Charo wondered if the pressures that her family, especially her father put on her to succeed had caused her extreme emotional and mental distress that led her to this point. Regardless, there is no cure for it and she would just have to tread on with life.
It did not get easier. She felt helpless, her mother died of a heart attack, and she was losing a purpose to live. Even if Jean stayed by her side, she didn’t want to be a burden so Charo proposed to go back to school. Jean agreed as long as she would go to the nearby school and take care of herself well to avoid worsening her condition.
Slowly, Charo was reclaiming her life. She was taking classes and even participating in extracurricular activities. But these things still come with challenges so she would experience bouts of her schizophrenia episodes from time to time. Despite fighting it, it once again got the best of her.
Jean continued to comfort Charo and willed her to stay strong, because she doesn’t want to lose her sister. Feeling guilty for having to be taken care of all the time, Charo just wanted to give up. She questioned the Lord why she was made to suffer such things when she never did anything wrong and only did good things for her family. Jean stops her from questioning the Lord and assured that she is loved no matter what, especially by her.
Charo learned to accept the love from her sister Jean and how to live with her mental illness. She coped by turning to the Lord and keeping herself preoccupied with fulfilling activities such as serving the church.
Having understood the astounding challenges faced by people with mental illness, Charo wrote a book about her life story to show others in the same situation that they are not alone. Entitled as “My Battle,” Charo was able to publish it with the help of her former college batchmates.
What an inspiring turn this story of Charo’s took. Shedding light on Charo’s narrative and the personal struggles she had experienced lets audiences understand the gravity of living with such illnesses.
The way the story was written by Joan Habana and Arah Jell Badayos may have hooked people to a mystery, but it admirably built up into an important lesson of hope and perseverance.
With the direction of Nuel C. Naval, the cast was able to deliver the emotions and nuances needed for audiences to relate to the characters. Bella Padilla and Liza Diño especially gave remarkable performances as Charo and Jean respectively. The fears, struggles, and pain Charo experienced could easily be seen from Bella’s eyes and mannerisms. As for Liza, she definitely connected with Jean’s motherly and protective instincts to have developed such touching and heartwarming scenes.
Not only did MMK “Anting-anting” show the importance of advocating for proper mental health, it also made us see that we can be more powerful than all the negative voices in our heads.
Netizens were also impressed.