If there’s one young actor who can truly carry the dramatic burden of one impeccable episode of such a premiere anthology like Maalaala Mo Kaya, it is certainly Zaijian Jaranilla.
In his 12 years in the industry, the 19-year-old Zaijian has appeared in 16 episodes of MMK, which is the most among his peers of teenage actors in the industry. It seems this breakthrough child star on 2008’s May Bukas Pa has long been a favorite among the show’s creative team and producers, primarily because of his deep portrayals, well-immersed characterizations, and splendid performances in all those episodes.
His 14th appearance in 2018, “Orasan,” was no different—the episode featured last October 17 on The Best of MMK.
Strict to character
Sticking strictly to character, never did we see Zaijian make an awkward twitch in his facial movements, to make us truly believe he was not acting but actually being the person he is portraying.
In “Orasan,” Zaijian plays Jared or “Ja,” an effeminate yet responsible youngster who is more than pained seeing her mother Fe (Pokwang) toil and suffer as a house helper just to make both ends meet for their family. Seeing her going through such ordeals, Jared could not help but demand that she would allow him to do his share in carrying the load for the family.
Fe would first object to his idea, as she would be the last to make him endure the hardships she went through as a housemaid. In the end, however, Jared will stick with his decision to support his family and his studies by working as a house helper as well.
As a house helper, Jared served his employers well, taking care of their children while doing multiple chores at home—an all-around “maid” working day and night. And when time came his satisfied employers would send him to school to continue his studies, Jared was proud to declare that he was a working student, a kasambahay, with free TV, food, and Wi-Fi! Of course, this was not the case since he struggled juggling his time in being a dedicated house servant, and a student all at the same time.
Despite these struggles, Jared pulled through, even landing in the Dean’s List, while still completing and doing his household chores well, allowing him to receive partial scholarships in school.
However, when his employers limited Jared’s school load so that he could focus more on taking care of their kids, this would imperil his chances of completing his degree on time. This led to Jared’s decision to abruptly quit his job, and leave his employers. But before doing so, he was ordered to put his belongings on the floor, and have it searched thoroughly, as his employers never trusted him and thought he had stolen items from them.
After he was told to leave the house, Jared would rush to his college teacher Agnes (Regine Angeles), and expressed his disappointment that people would look down on house helpers like him despite the efficient service they give and loyalty and dedication to their work. Because of this, Agnes commiserated and sympathized with Jared, and took him into her care. He would then work for her kind and bighearted teacher, working with another house helper to care for Agnes’ elderly companions.
What’s different in Agnes’s household was that they were more understanding towards Jared. They would also encourage him to concentrate on his studies, making him excel further in school even topping a debate contest. They would also not burden him with too much work, when upcoming exams are coming. Thus, allowing him to study well and passing those tests.
With their support, it didn’t take long before Jared achieved his dreams and finally graduating his course with magna cum laude honors!
In his graduation speech, the “proud kasambahay and proud magna cum laude” would dedicate his achievement to his parents, who are the very reason why he was uncompromising and assertive in finishing his studies despite all the difficulties her encountered. He would then work for a local tourism office, where he could now provide a better livelihood for his family.
Director JP Habac pushed this inspiring tale impressively with a marvelous script and identifiable production design that brings viewers close to each scene being depicted.
Pokwang was again as brilliant as ever, serving a genuine, heartfelt portrayal of an ever-sacrificing mother and wife.
While this heartwarming story can be told with a multitude of actors who can really portray the character well, there is something about Zaijian that makes it even more special. It is his honesty, sincerity and genuine skill in embracing his character fully. And that makes him truly one-of-a-kind.