Review: MMK Bisikleta Paolo Gumabao

Life is a difficult journey where we’ll face tough decisions. At times, we’ll be given a choice between an easy way out or a long tedious path. It might be rewarding to choose the easier one, but it could soon lead to grave consequences.

And while we think we make some of these sacrifices for our loved ones, they’re not always the best ones. We always have to think our choices through. If we’ve already faced mistakes, we have to rise above and be better next time.

We see a beautiful real-life example of this from Eduardo and James’ story featured in Maalaala Mo Kaya “Bisikleta” aired last August 20. This father-son pairing, portrayed brilliantly by Nonie Buencamino and Paolo Gumabao, gives us a glimpse of their rocky relationship as they faced the hardships of poverty and a broken family.


Feeling out of place at home

James, while born male, leans more on his feminine side and identifies himself as gay since he was young. While his mother celebrated this, he felt that his father Eduardo didn’t accept him. When Eduardo would come home drunk, he would sometimes say “hindi kita anak."

He feels further estranged from him as his father and mother would usually quarrel. His mother didn’t like how Eduardo was working as a garbage collector, as the job didn’t always able to provide enough for the family. He couldn’t even afford his own bike and had to borrow one from someone else every day. James’ mother would beg to find work also, but Eduardo would forbid her from doing so, out of fear she would run off and cheat on him.

Though, to a young James, he didn’t really know the specifics and could only see those as marital problems. While Eduardo did try to eventually fix his relationship with James, James couldn’t forget how his father hurt him and his mother.


Rising above the challenges of life

While he and his two other sisters would see their parents fight constantly, they still remained together despite the financial struggles in life. Although, it came to a point that James had to stop studying after graduating high school. His dreams of finishing college and becoming an actor would have to be put on hold. Regardless, he wholeheartedly accepted this and began working to support his family.

He would give the money he earned to his mother since he was still not close with his father. However, upon realizing that she is not spending it wisely and wasting it on unnecessary luxuries, he began giving the money to his father instead.

Slowly, he and his family saw that their mother didn’t care for them anymore. Many even rumored that she was off galavanting with other men. Eventually, their mother just left them for good. James, his dad, and his sisters were heartbroken, but they managed to keep their little family together. It even repaired the kids’ broken relationship with their father, as if gluing them all back together.

James soon discovered a pageant that would lead him to profitable modeling opportunities if he won. He was hesitant to join at first, as he didn’t know how his father felt about him being out and proud. Fortunately, Eduardo has grown more comfortable with James’ sexuality and openly supported him. James won and moved on to modeling jobs that allowed him and his family to live a better life.


The gravity of tragic decisions

James’ handler offered him more lucrative gigs in Manila. But upon arriving there, he realized it was more than a simple modeling job. He would be a sexy gay bar model, parading his body. He felt ashamed, but he still did it to be able to help his family.

While he didn’t particularly enjoy his job, he was happy that his sisters and father enjoyed their comfortable life. Eventually, he found himself in higher-paying but more dangerous jobs. He was now a male escort, selling away his time, body, and perhaps even his dignity at times.

James didn’t realize being blinded by the huge payments that he had slowly sacrificed his body and self-respect. When he was finally coming home bruised and scarred from a violent customer, regret dawned on him.


Heartwarming father-son bond

Eduardo didn’t know what happened, but he noticed that something was off with James. Not knowing how to express that James should take a break and stop working too hard, he tried to scold him for spoiling his sisters too much. He even likened him to his mother who kept giving into luxuries.

This made James mad because he didn’t want to be compared to his selfish mother. He was going through nightmarish jobs, just to give his family the life they wanted. To make his father understand, he told him the truth about his job.


Eduardo couldn’t help but break down in tears. He felt that it was his fault James had to face such heartbreaking experiences. He couldn’t give them the life they deserve.

James felt for his father and faced that the decisions he made were his and his alone. He just hid it from his father because he was afraid he wouldn’t accept him. Eduardo embraced James and said he is his son no matter what.


A powerful story of rebuilding one’s self-respect

James finally quit his escort job, but it wasn’t easy to let go. It paid good money, after all. But with the help of his family and Edwin — an honest love he found during the most trying times — he’s able to rebuild his self-respect.

James eventually found a simple and decent job to pursue. While it paid less than his previous gigs, he was happier. He was content with what they had and all the love he receives from his boyfriend and his family. Slowly, James was able to fix up their humble home, save up for his sisters’ tuition fees, and gift his father a bike — a dream Eduardo had been saving up for since he began working.


Tearful, moving performances

Paolo and Nonie’s team up in this project had wonderful chemistry. They were able to show the nuances in Eduardo and James' father-son relationship — from their awkward and jarring kinship to their gradually growing connection. Their emotional scenes were especially heartwarming. They delivered them subtly, but overall left a powerful impression.

Paolo’s individual performance also deserves recognition. James went through some dark experiences and Paolo was able to immerse himself in those moments. While the show only gave a peak into James’ life, Paolo was able to make us feel the gravity of the situation through his performance.

Direk Nuel Naval and the rest of the team behind this episode also did very well in retelling the story for audiences. It was not only a story about James’ hardships, but also a story of acceptance and love between father and son. Audiences truly found relatable struggles and lifelong lessons from MMK “Bisikleta.”

Catch more touching stories on "MMK" every Saturday at 8 PM on A2Z, Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live and iWantTFC.