Things are not what they seem in the online world, and for one former contender in Junior Master Chef, it could have led to terrible consequences.
In a re-airing of Maalaala Mo Kaya’s 2018 episode “Laptop” on Saturday, May 29, viewers witnessed how Caitlin Taluban (Michelle Vito) fell victim to identity theft, leading to the perpetrator’s catfishing activities.
Caitlin actually was an unwitting victim after getting a large fanbase since joining the contest. One of those avid fans had struck lengthy conversations with Caitlin’s mom Vivan (Rufa Mae Quinto), who managed her daughter’s Facebook account.
The fan, Charles (Kokoy de Santos), would soon become very close with Vivian, and eventually gained her trust. Throughout their online conversations, Vivian would give Charles pictures and videos of Caitlin, some with dedications and personal messages that delighted this fan.
But little did they know that Charles had used Caitlin’s photos to catfish other fans into online relationships, making them believe that Caitlin was their girlfriend.
Things came to a head when one of those catfished fans, Isaiah (Mark Neumann) had also struck online conversations with Vivian, who would set a meet-up between him and Caitlin. Isaiah would meet a cold and unsuspecting Caitlin, who would reject his advances. Isaiah would then try and message Caitlin, thinking she would read it at a later time, since she was busy checking items at a shopping center without a phone. Then he was surprised to see a response from Caitlin. After seeing Caitlin never moved an inch to send out a message, Isaiah knew someone was catfishing him.
And after the revelation, Charles admitted his crime of using Caitlin’s identity to lure male fans into online relationships, an act that left Vivian furious and distressed. Caitlin was even more livid when she learned about the catfishing, and castigated her mother for trusting someone she never met in person. Vivian would then apologize for her actions, saying she was constantly in need of social gratification, given that people close to her have distanced themselves, leaving her nothing but enjoying a hearty chat with a stranger. She then learned that such an innocent “mistake” would lead to dire consequences.
While the victims urged Vivian to file charges against Charles, she and Caitlin decided to move on with their lives.
The episode shows important lessons for people who spend a lot of time online, and are unwitting victims of many cybercrimes and scams proliferating. The message of MMK “Laptop” was utterly clear and powerful, especially with Director Nuel C. Naval’s well-guided creative executions, from the dramatic performances of the cast to the technical crew’s important production inputs—from lighting design to editing.
Rufa Mae Quinto gave a solid portrayal of Vivian, showing clearly the pitfalls of meeting people online just to achieve social validation. Known mostly for her comedic performances, Rufa Mae showed she can handle an intense dramatic scene, and nail it splendidly.
Michelle Vito, and the younger versions of her character Caitlin—Krystal Mejes and Xia Vigor—likewise made the role very discerning and reflective of the dangers people face in their online activities. Their portrayal of Caitlin was deep and intense, making the character so identifiable and riveting.