Maalaala Mo Kaya’s “Ilog” episode last March 7 was a rare dramatic ensemble offering the best thespic symphony of veteran and up-and-coming actors, who all showed their best performances to date.
Cris Villanueva outdid himself in his portrayal of an infallible and courageous father whose unconditional love for his family wrought with terrible ordeals is enriching and inspiring. He made Ferdie not only a moving character, but also someone who is utterly relatable to any responsible and loving husband and father.
Even when they were young, Ferdie’s (JC Alcantara) love for Elvira (Vivoree Esclito) was unwavering, even if Elvira’s mother (Marissa Delgado) had ferociously opposed it. Even as he grew up impoverished and abandoned by his father, Ferdie found a way to survive despite the hardship but remained unschooled and struggling. And, while his love for Elvira was true and genuine, Ferdie’s future was bleak and Elvira’s mom swore that her daughter will surely suffer if she chooses to continue her relationship.
Despite this curse, Ferdie and Elvira would fight for their love. They would soon elope and get married. When their son Arian was born, Ferdie (Cris Villanueva) and Elvira (VIna Morales) were baffled to notice their son was crying after feeling extreme heat yet could not sweat. When Elvira wiped him with a cool wet cloth, Arian stopped crying, a remedy she recalled her mother normally did to her ill brother Paquing (Epi Quizon), who also exhibited the same symptoms.
Paquing was afflicted with a disease that was undiagnosed, in which he could not perspire even in the sweltering heat, making him unable to cool down without the aid of a wet cloth or getting doused by water. This condition led to a physical deterioration—deformities in the face, hairless eyebrows, and thinning hair.
This apparently was passed on to Ferdie and Elvira’s son, whose illness is identified as Anhidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia, a rare genetic condition that afflicts 1 in 17,000 individuals wherein the person does not have the capacity to sweat because of the absence of skin pores.
The couple would find it hard taking care of their son due to this condition, and it didn’t take long before Elvira bore their second child, Kiervy, who would also carry the same illness. And while Elvira had to leave their meager household each day to earn a living, Ferdie’s responsibility was to take care of their children full time, which he accepted wholeheartedly.
A turning point came when Elvira’s mother suffered a stroke, and Elvira, being the youngest child was responsible for taking of her. This forced Ferdie and their children to live in Sangay, Camarines Sur, with Elvira’s ailing mother and brother, who both despised their son-in-law’s presence. As Elvira still needed to work in faraway Naga and would only come home once a week, Ferdie is left to care not only for their children, but also for a mother-in-law who loathes him.
The struggle was burdensome for Ferdie, but he overcame the challenge and managed to care for his mother-in-law and children diligently and unreservedly. He would only think of their welfare, above anything, even as a third child, Evan, with the same condition was born.
Ferdie would push his children to become the best of themselves, despite the condition. He would encourage them to go to school and not mind the brickbats, no matter what.
His sincere concern for his mother-in-law bore fruit, and before she passed away, she showed her appreciation in a powerful scene wherein she finally showed Ferdie the acceptance he yearned for a long time.
But the same could not be said for Paquing, who would throw Ferdie and his children out of their home in the wee hours of the morning, because of a drunken fit. They would live in the streets for a while until Ferdie would find another place to build a makeshift home for themselves.
They would since live happily on their own, with Ferdie remaining steadfast as a responsible husband and father. They would welcome two more children in the family, fortunately, without any symptoms of the illness that plagued their elder siblings.
During this time, Ferdie even teaching his sons the ways of the world, including giving tips to his eldest Arian (Seth Fedelin), on how to woo a girl he likes. When Arian was heartbroken with the girl’s rejection, Ferdie would encourage him to move on and wait for someone who would truly accept and appreciate him for what he is.
With Ferdie and Elvira’s inspiration and encouragement, Arian would graduate not only with honors but with a college scholarship, which brought unspeakable fulfillment for the proud parents.
But as they celebrated this achievement in a simple get-together by the river, Elvira would feel chest pains that she first downplayed as a minor discomfort. But when night came, Elvira felt more severe chest pains, leading to a major heart attack that eventually claimed her life.
A devastated Ferdie could not come to terms with the tragedy—losing his beloved wife and having to take care of their children on his own. Unlike before, Ferdie would become negligent of his fatherly duties, even not knowing that Arian had not been going to school, and leaving their home in disarray. This led to a relative acting on her own to forcibly take custody of their youngest child because of his inattention. And due to this depression, he would lose the meaning of having to go on and even think of trying to take his own life.
But Ferdie would soon come to his senses and realize that his children need him more than ever. He would apologize to Elvira by her grave for failing her and being weak, thinking of giving up when he felt he could not continue living without her. He vowed never to forsake their children whatever happens and will see to it that he will be there for them until they reach their dreams.
Since then, Ferdie and his children would still experience terrible ordeals, but with this upright and dedicated father, the Plazo family will definitely overcome any suffering and torment that may come their way.
“Ilog” presents the wonder of the mind-blowing harmony of acting excellence. This is credited to the masterful guidance of the episode’s director, Ian Loreňos, who brought out the best out of the cast in every aspect of the production. Add to that clear, well-paced yet thorough storytelling through the exceptional script written by Ruel Policarpio Montaňez and Bing Castro-Villanueva.
While we know that Cris Villanueva and Vina Morales would deliver spectacularly in their portrayals of Ferdie and Elvira, touching us deeply with every depicted situation and emotion, we are also astounded with the performances of the young artists proving their dramatic worth.
Vivoree Esclito as the young Elvira was a pleasant surprise with her deep understanding and effective display of emotion as a girl torn between love of family and her own personal longing for the man she truly loves. Vivoree deserves grander and more challenging breakthrough dramatic roles in the future.
Seth Fedelin also has broken off from the cutesy teen romantic persona and become a real actor playing the deformed yet empowered Arian, as viewers saw through the obvious physical defects rendered by impressive prosthetics and felt a profound and complete character they fully understood.