With sheer determination and resolve, anything can be attainable, even as we face limitations and disabilities.
Maalaala Mo Kaya’s re-telling of the gripping story of Darius Senillo, who suffers from fibular hemimelia or being one-legged since birth, presents how such disability, though difficult and burdensome, never became a hindrance to achieving one’s dreams of a better life.
Darius’s (Ynigo Delen) family lived in poverty, surviving merely from the meager income his father Willy (Mon Confiado) earns from being a farmer. Because of their difficulties in making ends meet, Willy and Darius’s mother Norie (Sue Prado) had no choice but to have their two young daughters Dahlia (Mary Joy Apostol) and Desiree (Amy Nobleza) work as domestic helpers in the city to ease their hardship. This came as Norie gave birth to Darius, who was born with just one leg.
Even with his disability, Darius tried and pushed to overcome his limitations. When a friend of his father gifted Darius with a small wooden crutch, he immediately wanted to brave the long distance just to study in a faraway elementary school.
As he succeeded in going to school each day with brother Darwin (JJ Quilantang), Darius still experienced bullying and scoffing from classmates, and withstood the perilous journey he has to take each day. But despite this, Darius endured all this hardship just to realize his dreams of finishing school.
But Darius grew up, he had to discontinue his schooling and primarily cared for his ailing parents. He was the only family member left at their home, with all his siblings, leading their own lives supporting their own families. However, when Darius needed help, it was his brother Danny (Joem Bascon) who would be there.
When his mother Norie was at the throes of death due to a lung ailment, Darius was at her side and when she needed immediate medical attention, Danny was there to help take her to the hospital. After a week, Norie had succumbed to her illness, bringing much despair and grief to their family.
But amidst all the sorrow, a grown-up Dahila (Nikki Valdez) had let out all her rancor and bitterness towards their dad Willy, who she castigated for giving her and sister Desiree away to lead very difficult lives on their own earning a living while her brothers remained under their care. While apologetic, Willy told Dahlia he had no other choice but give up on them since he did not have any means to support them.
With Dahlia choosing to leave her family after Norie’s death, Darius and Danny remained at Willy’s side even as his own health deteriorated. Because of this, Darius tried to find work as a carpenter despite his disability. While he succeeded in landing a job at a construction site, the physical demands were too much for him, and a freak accident left him injured.
Danny was again at his succor and urged him just to take care of their father, assuring them of his support. Because of his injuries, Darius was forced to follow his brother’s wishes. But Willy’s health condition worsened, with Darius and Danny trying their best to provide for his medical needs. As he laid dying, Willy told Danny to take care of Darius and extend his apologies to Dahlia and their other siblings for his shortcomings as a father.
After Willy heaved his last breath, Darius was inconsolable, as he kept on blaming himself for their family’s hardship, perceiving himself as an unending burden for the family being disabled and useless. That came to a head when his siblings confronted each other after Willy’s burial, with Danny venting his ire on Dahlia for not reaching out to them when they most needed her. Dahlia answered that not any of them even cared about what she and sister Desiree went through when Willy gave them away to fend for themselves and only remembered them when they needed money. This confrontation turned out to be the most intense, gripping scene as both Danny and Dahlia expressed their pent-up emotions kept through the years without letup.
In the end, Darius rebuked his siblings for remaining at odds even as both their parents have passed on and told them that the family would not end up that way if it weren’t for his being a continuing burden for the family. He vowed he will find meaning and purpose in life without relying on his family, despite his disability.
Darius found inspiration from his Tiyo Nestor (Pepe Herrera), who had his right leg amputated as a result of an accident. Despite his condition, Nestor found ways to thrive and survive, not letting his disability hamper his desire to live life to the fullest. He told him doctors advised him to get a prosthetic leg, but this was too expensive for him. Because of this, Nestor gave Darius an idea, he told him he just made his own artificial leg using materials that were immediately available, apart from receiving livelihood training from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Nestor told Darius if he was able to earn a living despite his disability, he could do it too, being still so young with many opportunities available for him.
Using some bamboo, he painstakingly collected on his own, Darius made his own artificial leg that eventually made life much easier for him. He then got his most coveted wish—a referral from the DSWD to take a carpentry course for free. With the DSWD referral on hand, Darius visited the final resting place of parents Willy and Norie, telling them of the opportunity of going back to school and promising them he would study hard to finish his course so he could support himself and not rely on anyone else to survive.
But as Darius made his promise, his brothers joined him and expressed deep joy with their unexpected reunion by their parents’ grave. But what made the siblings’ reunion more meaningful was the arrival of Dahlia, which first left them speechless.
But Danny was the first to extend his hand in reconciliation by apologizing for what he had said after their Tatay Willy’s burial. Dahlia then told her younger siblings how sorry she was for not being their “ate” throughout all their ordeals. With their issues resolved and frustrations addressed, the siblings vowed never to leave one another through thick and thin.
Darius had since lived a normal life, apparently finishing his course as a carpenter, and now employed for a construction project, as he was snapped in the viral photo in a jeepney on his way to work. Darius considers those pieces of bamboo he gathered to make his artificial leg made that path to a better life for him.
MMK “Kawayan” not only shows the impressive real-world depiction of Darius’s pitiful yet inspirational narrative, thanks to the masterful guidance of director Nuel C. Naval, but also the riveting, brilliant script written by Ruel Montanez and Joan Habana that effectively highlighted the storyteller’s woes and triumphs.
Having an outstanding ensemble supporting cast of noteworthy actors, including Mon Confiado, Joem Bascon, and Nikki Valdez, brought unquestionable thespic artistry, with their intense, powerful portrayals adding to the acclaim. But the real winner taking the spotlight in his breakthrough performance was Louise Abuel as Darius, who made a deep, believable, and resounding performance that touched and marveled viewers.