Writers, researchers share process of creating stories, major takeaways from working in MMK

Aside from the actors who compelled us with their astounding portrayals and the directors who led the marvelous executions of the scenes in each episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya, we also have its amazing pool of writers and researchers to commend for their hardwork, diligence, wisdom, and talents in scouring true-to-life stories that they turn into heartwarming and stirring episodes every week.

As the long-running drama anthology approaches its conclusion this coming December 10, some of them shared a bit about the creation process that they go through in every episode that they do, as well as their takeaways from the show in general, in these exclusive interviews.

Head researcher Jarell Serenico related that they actually have many sources of materials from which they could fish out stories, with the letters sent to them by our kababayans as the main one.

Akeem del Rosario, one of MMK’s talented researchers-and-writers, disclosed that he used to frequently visit MMK’s bodega of mails, from which he browsed through the letters they received. As soon as he finds a story that touches his heart and makes him feel that it could pass the pitching because it’s completely “pang-MMK”, then he’s good to go.

Among the stories he did, the most memorable for him would be the Tacloban episode, which was shown a few days after the disastrous Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. This was because he truly felt the emotions of the people and was indeed challenged to interview the victims, who were then still in the process of moving forward from that ordeal.

For researcher April Jalandra, it’s necessary that a story is timely and relevant, such as what they did during the pandemic, when they featured narratives of healthcare workers and frontliners. One of those was the episode entitled “Dialysis Machine,” which didn’t only give us a peek of the plight of nurses, but also of the inspiring life of Andy Dayto, played by Zaijian Jaranilla, a nurse who succumbed to chronic kidney disease – that fellow researcher Angelica Jaenna Domingo came up with.

However, more than just laying the inspiring and relatable stories of Filipinos from different parts of the world in each episode, they also share how they tend to go beyond their role as researchers and creators. Aside from digging into the stories and getting to know the letter senders deeper, they’re able to help them as well by somehow setting them free from a particular event in their lives and seeing their lives from other perspectives.

Head researcher-turned-writer Joan Habana related the most important quality that every MMK writer must possess. She stated, “Ako, as a writer, ang pinakamahalaga sa pagsusulat sa MMK [ay] dapat malawak ‘yong pag-unawa mo sa mga tao kasi ang mga letter sender ng MMK, ‘di naman sila perpekto e.”

Meanwhile, for headwriter Arah Jell Badayos, she always has to remind herself that what she’s writing is a story of a real person, so it’s highly important that she respects the truth in his/her story. Writer Rose Colindres had the same sentiment as she conveyed how they still have to respect the life choices of the letter senders even though they do not agree with them.

Giving a comprehensive explanation on her most valuable learning while working on MMK was head researcher-turned-writer Mae Rose Balanay-Batacan, who expressed, “Para sa akin, ‘yong pinakamahalaga sa pagsusulat for MMK ay ‘yong pagkakaroon ng genuine connection with our letter sender. Nararamdaman ko ano ba ‘yong sakit, ano ba ‘yong lungkot, ano ba ‘yong saya, ano ba ‘yong kilig na naramdaman nila noong time na nangyayari ‘yong kuwento. At nakakataba ng puso every time na pagkatapos ng episode, sasabihan ka ng letter sender na, ‘ah, ako nga ‘yon’.”

To those who are yearning to find out how the MMK team pick the story they feature, Joan revealed that they do not base on the amount of hardship that the letter sender went through, but the moral it could bring to the viewers.

For Rose, all the stories of MMK, regardless if they’re tearjerker, romantic, or horrifying, it always boils down to the capacity of Filipinos to love. So, she believes that it will be the major takeaway of its avid viewers in the past three decades.

Meanwhile, writing for the iconic program taught Arah much about the realities of the world and of the lives of other people. She also said, “MMK has shown for 31 years na ordinary Filipinos have extraordinary stories worth-telling. So, feeling ko, kaya rin nagtagal ang MMK e, at kaya rin ‘di siya madaling mawawala sa mga isip ng mga tao.”

Catch the last episode of MMK’s “Tatlong Dekada ng Pasasalamat” offering entitled Scarlet Women  this coming December 10, on Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live and A2Z.