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REVIEW: Heaven, Iza, Shamaine shine with gripping portrayals in MMK “Medalya”

Maalaala Mo Kaya has a way of bringing the best out of the actors who play difficult roles.

Its July 25 episode “Medalya” is no different, as it presented showcase performances from award-winning actresses Iza Calzado and Shamaine Buencamino, and truly became a dramatic launch pad for young actress Heaven Peralejo.

Their roles, considered special and riveting, depict a challenging situation faced by a brilliant, hardworking girl named Julie burdened by the emotional and social stigma of her Nanay Caridad (Iza Calzado’s personal battle with schizophrenia.

Even with her academic achievements, Julie had always been affected not only with her nanay’s uncontrolled behavior due to her condition, but also not having the kind of mother she had always desired – being expressive, open, and sane. Above all, the hurt she felt has been caused by the never- ending derision from classmates and neighbors.

But amidst all the pain and scorn, Julie found solace in her teacher Esther (Shamaine Buencamino), who was always there to still encourage her to continue to strive to attain good grades in school, as her class performance dipped. Esther likewise became her personal guide in facing her troubles, including finding a means of livelihood and advising her in dealing with any difficult situation that comes her way. Esther’s most heartfelt role in Julie’s life was that she made her understand her Nanay Caridad fully, what she is going through and what needs to be done in dealing with her condition. With the kind of care and concern she got from Esther, Julie saw in her what she couldn’t experience with her real mother, hence recognizing as her “Mommy” Esther, her second mom.

 

 

With her mommy Esther by her side, Julie reached her dreams, graduating with honors from high school, even calling her teacher on stage as she received her medals and sash so that she and her Nanay Caridad would put those on her. While Caridad resented it, and those times she heard Julie call Esther her “mommy,” she still had the right mental faculties not to express it, all for her love for Julie, who truly reached the pinnacle with Esther’s help.

Julie went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture, and would work as a college instructor. But when Esther tried to work far away from their hometown, so that the people would not see her as the girl with a mentally unstable mother, her Nanay Caridad would still try to reach her at her workplace – a fact that has frustrated her to the brink. But her Mommy Esther tell her not feel that way towards her Nanay. All she has to do, Esther said, was to face the problem squarely and find the right clinical solution to it – bring her to Manila and seek medical help.

 

 

With Esther’s assistance, Julie brought and confined Caridad to a mental hospital. Here, Julie learned the extent of Caridad’s illness, which she realized was not what her late father (Bart Guingona) claimed as “pa drama-drama lang”. At the mental hospital, Caridad got the attention that she needed although at a price, as Julie saw bruises on her arms showing she had resisted the strict manner of her rehabilitation. When Julie visited Caridad at the institution, her Nanay thanked her for providing the attention she needed. But Julie mentioned Esther once more as the person who made it all happen, leading to her resentment and jealousy. As Esther called Julie, she told her to persist in talking to her Nanay Caridad more and try her best to strike a meaningful mother-daughter conversation with her.

With the proper medication, Caridad’s condition improved and became emotionally and mentally stable when she returned home. Caridad then went to Esther to thank her for all the help she extended in treating her schizophrenia. But most of all, she thanked her for taking care of Julie during the time she was unable to fulfill her duties as a mother, being mentally unfit. But Esther told her that the intelligent achiever like Julie could not have also attained success if it was not for her guidance as well, and how she extended the love and care for her as she molded her to be what she is, the best way she can. Caridad appreciated her remark and since then she and Esther became very close friends – a fact that delighted Julie.

Julie would then meet the man she would spend her forever with, an American whom she later married. Julie would since move to the United States with her husband, with the assurance that her Nanay Caridad is well, thanks to Esther’s friendship. She would return to Manila so happy to see them both very intimate and close, realizing how her Nanay Caridad’s mental condition has improved so much.

But there came a time when that such a perfect scene would come to an end. Esther had succumbed to her longtime illness and Julie was devastated to see her at her wake.  But during this utterly sad moment, Julie had the opportunity to have a long, meaningful conversation with her Nanay Caridad.

 

 

Caridad opened up to Julie saying she hoped she was good a mother to her as Esther, who filled all the gaps in Julie’s life as a mother, given that she could not fulfill that kind of role due to her condition. But Julie said that her Nanay Caridad never actually failed her in showing the love any mother could give. She said it was she who failed her terribly – by not seeing how she still fulfilled her duties as a mom despite her condition and by not being that courageous in trying to understand her. Caridad then told Julie that she just did the best she could to deal with her condition, and Julie told her that she did the same – in trying to be the loving, devoted mother the best way she could despite her limitations.

After their heart-to-heart talk, Julie would go on and persevere in the US, even studying a nursing course that she topped once more, leading to a more prosperous life with her husband. She even toured Nanay Caridad to the new home she is about to purchase through a video call - A home, she said, she wanted her Nanay to live in as well, with her plans to petition her to become a US resident citizen.

But then Nanay Caridad soon suffered a debilitating illness – a bout with pneumonia. When she suffered a severe attack and was rushed to the hospital, Julie could only speak to her through phone, comforting her that everything will be alright, and that soon she would join her in the US to share a happy, prosperous life. But as Caridad heard Julie spoke, the sound of a flatline was heard as she heaved her last breath. Julie was then torn and broken, and as she came back to be at Nanay Caridad’s wake, Julie spoke as her mother laid in a coffin, promising her that she will always strive to be a better person like her, and that everything she does from hereon will be for her and her Mommy Esther, her two mothers who truly loved her and played an enormous role in her life to become an accomplished individual.

In terms of individual dramatic showcases, this episode is indeed one of the best, highlighting the immense talent of such respected and acclaimed actresses as Iza Calzado and Shamaine Buencamino, and presenting that dramatic promise in a versatile actress as Heaven Peralejo. Director Mae Cruz-Alviar indeed saw to it that their performances would not only do justice to an impeccable story but even make the tale stand out as one of the most gripping ever.

Iza was not portraying that usual normal persona, stunning everyone with a heart-rending, out-of-the-ordinary, deep, intensely felt depiction of a schizophrenia sufferer. She made viewers understand and feel for her character, with a well-crafted portrayal that is sure to go down as one of her best.  Shamaine, on the other hand, gave her character a gratifying fervor that makes her appearance utterly remarkable. She does her craft so naturally and faultlessly, it seemed like poetry in motion. 

But we are most impressed with the progress of Heaven in dealing with such a difficult role. As we’ve mentioned, MMK has this knack in getting the best out of everyone who appears in it, and Heaven truly made the most out of the opportunity. She unearthed a sensitive, effective dramatic performer who seems to be ready to take on any challenging role given her.

Netizens were likewise impressed: