While the narrative might not be complicated and long-winding, what viewers witnessed was true fireworks in terms of the lead actors’ light yet intense performances.
Maalaala Mo Kaya’s May 8 episode “Quarantine Pass” was a romance that could be all too familiar, and quite relatable to many lovers whose relationships were affected by the lockdown last year. While some unfortunately failed to prosper or deteriorated, the story of Jex (Janine Gutierrez) and Zaldy (JM de Guzman) went the exact opposite.
Both had been hurt and heartbroken by long-drawn, unsuccessful relationships. But working together at a restaurant began that spark of getting that second chance at love. And, this even glittered brighter as Jex went on a vacation touring Asian cities to heal her broken heart, exchanging texts with Zaldy along the way.
And, when Zaldy finally settled home from his work at a cruise ship, that chance came. And what even a better opportunity than actually going on a Baguio trip by themselves as the lockdown loomed! And true enough, as major parts of the country were placed on strict quarantine rules, Zaldy and Jex ended up stranded in Baguio as well. With just a quarantine pass in Jex’s name in hand to allow them to just acquire essential stuff, they had all the time together to let the love they felt deep for each other flourish.
Zaldy first confessed his liking for Jex, who would not give in to her own feelings at first for him, fearing the worst might come given the love scars she continues to harbor. But throughout their stay in the summer capital, Jex seemed unable to hide her emotional attachment to Zaldy, who continued to respect her space even if they shared a seeming love nest. Jex admitted to also have feelings for Zaldy, but said that her heartbreak of a ghosting, philandering ex-boyfriend was just too much to bear, telling him she was not ready to put a label to the relationship they have. Zaldy, who also experienced the pain of a former girlfriend leaving him and their son, understood her apprehensions. He said he was willing to wait for her, whenever she would be ready.
Time came when Jex could not help it but tell Zaldy that he need not wait for her. Zaldy thought Jex decided to just friendzone him, but as she went on, he finally heard what he had been hoping for all throughout the weeks of being locked down together. “Ang daming dapat katakutan ngayon pero ang mahalin ka, hindi isa doon,” Jex said. So thrilled and ecstatic, Jex and Zaldy became an official couple.
Since then, they would enjoy their new status in the next days of their now real love nest in Baguio until a travel pass was now allowed for those who wish to return to Manila. It meant their love on lockdown was over. But will their love continue? That was Jex’s continued worry as they headed back to Manila as they would not see each other that often due to strict quarantine restrictions. Will everything change? Will Zaldy just meet another girl, “kahit na mas maganda ako at lovable” and forget her?
“Kung anong meron tayo, hindi magbabago ‘yun,” Zaldy told her.
And, they certainly shared a love so true, and this became apparent when Zaldy’s mom passed away. Jex rushed to his side to comfort him, staying with him at his home to ease his grief. But what really took Zaldy’s pain away was Jex’s delightful revelation: she was pregnant with their child!
Yet nothing else could even be more thrilling and kilig, then in a setting where you least expect it: a traffic jam! As Jex told Zaldy that the biggest milestones in their relationship happened in “disasters”—sealing their love during a pandemic and her having a baby when his mom died, and Zaldy telling her that this is because of their strength as a couple to overcome anything, Zaldy would unravel something that would certainly last a lifetime. Zaldy asked Jex’s hand in marriage—no rings, no flowers, and seemingly just a passing gesture—but truly a genuine commitment to love and to hold forever.
MMK’s “Quarantine Pass” might not follow the deep, melodramatic fervor of past episodes, it still remains effective in providing a wonderful emotional connection to viewers, depicting a love that blossomed at a time that was least expect. But even with a simple and saccharine-filled romantic narrative, storytelling was still well-paced and character development was truly impeccable, as the viewers were still invested on them emotionally due to a well-written script by Joan P. Habana and superb creative direction by Nuel C. Naval. Lighting and camera work as superb, providing breathtaking angles of the scene location and of the actors, owing largely to their stunning visuals.
And while the episode mainly featured just the two characters, the lead actors who portrayed them not only fit them to a T and electrifying onscreen chemistry, but actually infused brilliance to their individual portrayals owing to their superior talent and acclaimed acting craft.
JM de Guzman, as always, never failed to deliver an emphatic dramatic performance, even if the character portrays appears a bit subdued and silent, but with the few words he uttered showed his immense on-screen magnetism and intensity that make him a top actor.
Janine Gutierrez showed she is no newcomer to upscale dramatic work, having been an award-winning actress herself, and her performance on “Quarantine Pass” validates her stature in the acting field, yet her first-ever appearance on MMK was truly worthy of note. It shows her promise in portraying more challenging dramatic roles in the future that will make her further shine.