We all marvel at what a mother can do for her child in the most unconditional way—and this theme has long been subject of a number of dramas we could not forget, especially on MMK.
But the tale of a son’s resolute, undying and immeasurable love towards his mentally ill mother on MMK “Kadena” is something we rarely witness. And this episode shone like a beacon for every son or daughter who may not only encounter a similar heartbreaking situation, but also those who are even fortunate to have a mother always by their side.
Monumental TV debut
What moves us most is they way the cast held their own in portraying their difficult characters, most especially the revered global Filipino musical theater actress Joanna Ampil, who has made a monumental debut in the longest running anthology.
Joanna was stirring in her first-time TV drama, as she made us genuinely understand and fully grasp her character’s sorrowful and distressing plight with her profound and affecting characterization. Unlike her award-winning West End performances in London, Joanna is even unrecognizable with her impeccable performance of playing the extremely bipolar Corazon, one who is messed up, maltreated and even mocked due to her severe mental state.
Yet, in the well-delivered narrative, Corazon’s relationship with her son is quite idyllic. She and Kirby (JJ Quilantang) always had those fun and endearing moments together, but when his father (Raymond Bagatsing) hurts her and binds her in chains, Kirby is horrified with his mother’s pitiful situation. It didn’t take long before he realized that she was mentally disturbed, and that his father had reason to inhumanely incarcerate her, and this upset and troubled him.
In spite of this, however, Kirby (CX Navarro) would care for his mother even more as he grew up, bringing her food, assisting her in her personal needs, cleaning the area she is chained to, and best of all staying with her all throughout the ordeal. And this he would do on his own for several years, after his sister (Brenna Garcia), who had been repeatedly sexually abused by his father leading to his arrest, had left them and lived with an aunt to recover from her trauma. Kirby would have to endure seeing and even helping bind her with chains as she would go around town in her unsettling condition.
Years passed, Kirby (Kiko Estrada) would still care for his mom wholeheartedly, and when he graduated high school and entered college on a scholarship, he still chose to work as a helper to make both ends meet. But the everyday struggle was evident as he juggled his studies, and his work, on top of his daily responsibilities as his mom’s carer. But despite this, he remained steadfast in his vow to his mother that he won’t leave her.
After having met someone from a government psychiatric institution, Kirby thought it was time for Corazon to heal. He brought his mom to the institution, and here she received the medical attention she needed to improve her condition even if it won’t completely heal her. Best of all, Kirby’s sister (Alyanna Asistio) volunteered to make up for lost time in her role as a daughter to take care of her mom.
In the next two years, Corazon’s condition had since improved and she returned to their home. Yet one morning, Kirby was puzzled as to why Corazon was waiting for someone. It turned out to be his father, who had been freed from prison after Corazon had pardoned him. This infuriated Kirby as he blamed his father for all the suffering they endured, most especially the plight of his sister, who had to leave them because of the dastardly incestuous act he committed.
While they did allow him to stay in their home, the repentant father would never get Kirby’s forgiveness until his death. But with his sister’s prodding, he would eventually bring his anger to rest. And, even as Corazon’s illness still existed yet managed, what’s comforting for Kirby is that the true sense of family is back, and his intense love for his mother never ceased.
Apart from Joanna’s riveting, moving portrayal is an enrapturing performance by Kiko Estrada, who certainly gripped us with his powerful, deeply felt depiction of that ever-responsible and caring son. Scene after scene, Kiko was a revelation, never wavering in being both intense and evocative in one heart-rending frame to the next. And, even in his short appearance, Raymond Bagatsing showed how much of a mind blowing actor he is by creating so much impact with just a few lines uttered.
We also find JJ Quilantang and CX Navarro exceptional in their portrayal of the younger Kirby truly comprehending their character’s arduous plight and showing that thespic maturity and brilliance we don’t see in a lot of adult actors.
We are most dumbfounded with the production itself, led by director Will Fredo—from the storytelling to the production design—as it effectively put together an episode that captured not only our hearts and minds, but our eyes and ears as well with its impressive visual splendor, touching music, and remarkable character development.