Two weeks after Maalaala Mo Kaya broadcast its last episode, its iconic host Charo Santos had the chance to talk and catch up with 31 letter senders, whose stories brought us to a rollercoaster of emotions and loads of inspiration when portrayed by talented Kapamilya stars, in the Grand Kumustahan.
She was joined by premier host-actress Dimples Romana, who commenced the program by gushing over it legendary set, more so when Charo made her captivating entrance. They commented on how us Filipinos are great storytellers, as attested by the 1,348 true stories of our kababayans from different parts of the world and from different walks of life that the Asia’s longest-running drama anthology have depicted in the past 31 years.
Thus, in line with this, they had a kumustahan with 31 of the most notable letter senders through the years, starting off with those who inspired us to love and not give up amidst challenges and tribulations that life has thrown to us along the way.
MMK reached out to Jarel Tadio, excellently played by Zaijian Jaranilla in the “Orasan” episode in 2018, after his Facebook post about his hardships as a working student and graduating cum laude in college went viral on social media. He revealed that it was actually his bestfriend who shared it.
Hershey Hilado, who inspired us through Ria Atayde’s portrayal of her in the “Damit” episode, reminisced about how the program has been a part of her life ever since he was a kid as she’s an avid viewer, as well as the ordeals she had to go through in order to help her mom earn for their family when she was still a kid. She also disclosed that her mom, who compelled her to work ever since she was only 12, was able to watch the episode.
“Camera” (2015) letter sender Joanna Loyola, wasn’t able to contain her joy when it was also MMK who contacted her to feature her inspiring story as a nanny in Kuwait whose heart was torn between the kids she was taking care of there and her biological children here. She was also over the moon when she met Melai Cantiveros, the actress who really did a great job in portraying her as cheerful and playful woman.
Tet Cudiamat-Lim, whose inspiring life story was told in the “Eskoba” episode in 2018, divulged the huge impact of the drama anthology especially to overseas Filipino workers like her, as it was able to bring opportunities, transformation, and hope to them. After watching their story, a lot of Pinoys working abroad got inspired to change their lives, which further motivated her and her husband to further help and eventually help them to become “winners” instead of just being workers. She also imparted that her mom, who was played by Pokwang, may be currently suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, yet she’s still able to keep her lighthearted disposition.
As we all know, not only love stories were featured on MMK, as majority of the narratives we’d seen in the past three decades were about families who ingrained to us the real meaning of unconditional love. For this segment, the first one to share was Katherine “Tak” Barrios, who was portrayed by Jolina Magdangal in the “Gitara” episode in 1998. She recounted how it happened since she was a production assistant of MMK during that time and how her family reacted to it. She proves that even the people who are part of the show have inspiring and awesome stories to tell that are indeed “pang-MMK”.
Arguably, the two-part episode entitled “Regalo” aired in 2006 was also among the most notable stories ever featured on the program. It followed the journey of Daisy Hernandez, played by Vilma Santos-Recto, and her cerebral palsy-stricken daughter, who was depicted by Maja Salvador. She recalled how Director Olivia Lamasan summoned her to demonstrate to them what really happened during her character’s breakdown scene at the hospital in order to make it extra convincing and heart-rending.
Aside from simply relaying the stories of our kababayans, there were also instances when Charo extended help to some letter senders whose life story truly affected her. She told Dimples, “Sa kabuuan, ang naidulot sa aking pagkatao ng MMK ay hindi mo matatawaran kasi nakita ko ang buhay from the shoes of another person. So, mas nagiging maunawain ka, mas mapagpatawad ka, mas iniintindi mo ang kahinaan ng iba, at may nadadagdag na kabutihan sa iyong kalooban. ‘Di pwedeng ‘di ka ma-move.”
Just like each one of us, there were instances as well when she was going through a rough patch in her life, yet she still had to fulfill her job as a narrator. When those times came, the story she read had helped to become humble and see the world in a new and better perspective as those made her realize that there are people who actually people who went through worse situations than her.
MMK also helped Louie Simbe, who was portrayed by Jake Cuenca in the “Susi” episode in 2011, to “out” himself to his family and have them rekindle their romance after 15 years of being separated. He reminisced how he and another letter sender met in Spain where he used to work, and even went clubbing wherein he had the chance to express himself through cross-dressing. This proved that MMK has the capability to let understanding, acceptance, and unconditional love to prevail in the end no matter what happen.
Apart from simply chronicling the stirring journeys of Pinoys both in love and life in general, some of the episodes had also served as an eye-opener for audiences regarding social issues that are considered taboo. But MMK’s bravery and keenness to tell stories had paved the way to spread awareness about those issues and even inspire other people.
One of the stories included in the “Kuwento ng Tapang at Tagumpay” segment was of Meridien Cruz-Salgado and her family, whose journey featured in the “Dollhouse” episode in 2008 both amused and broke our hearts. She was played by Sarah Geronimo, who indeed succeeded in compelling us with her dramatic chops as a cheerful and playful girl whose family had to frequently switch from one residence to another due to financial constraints.
Paolo Javellana received one of the best gifts of his life when his story, entitled “Magnifying Glass”, was broadcast a day before his birthday in March 2018. That episode had paved the way for him to help and bring encouragement to many people like him who have physical disabilities. Apart from being resource speaker to numerous events in the past years, he went on to host his own podcast show “I Am Pao-sibble”, through which he’s already able to interview over 200 people from different walks of life. He’s able to empower them by encouraging them to become “persons with different abilities” and become “handi-capable”.
“Pulang Laso” letter sender Ryan Pinili conveyed how delighted he was when his story was broadcast on December 1, 2012, just in time for “World AIDS Day.” He told Dimples and Charo that two years after the episode was aired, he was tapped by the Department of Health to be a resource speaker with regards to HIV Testing and Awareness. This also has helped pursue his advocacy and break the society’s stigma towards that issue.
Another notable narrative that we’d seen on MMK was the two-part special “Selda” and “Tablet,” which followed the journey of former radio DJ and Pinoy Big Brother alumna Karen Bordador, as depicted by Kaila Estrada. She recalled a bit of her experiences while inside the jail after getting imprisoned, as well as imparted how she and her mom had been longtime fans of the drama anthology ever since she was a kid.
When asked by Dimples if it had been MMK’s conscious effort to shed light on societal problems or issues, Charo retorted that she thought so. She said, “At first, we were just telling stories, but being sensitive to the issues that the letter senders were sharing with us, being sensitive also to what’s going around us. Parang our hearts felt that it is our responsibility to bring to light all the issues that are being faced by the different segments in our society.”
She continued, “So, hindi lang tayo nagdadala ng kuwento, kundi ‘yong totoong serbisyong binibigay ng programa ay makatulong na mabuksan ang ating isip at puso sa lahat ng problema na kinakaharap natin sa araw-araw, maliit o malaki man. And in whatever we can help, madala ito sa atensyon ng mga kinauukulan, malaking bagay na iyon – that we have touched the lives also of our viewers. Ay naku, nakakataba na ng puso ‘yon.”
The iconic host also expressed her gratitude for the trust given to them by the letter senders and how they’d been such a gift, while MMK is a blessing. Dimples, on the other hand, was deeply honored to sit beside Charo and thankful to every person that comprised the brilliant production of MMK.