As many pine for beauty, few realize that it can be a hideous curse. In Maalaala Mo Kaya’s episode “Manika,” Nene’s story is heartbreaking. She was born with the gift of beauty, but others exploited it to satisfy themselves.
This chilling and tragic story, which was a finalist in the 2013 International Emmy Awards Best Drama Series, played on screen once again. Viewers were faced with the horrendous realities in Nene’s life as portrayed by Jane Oineza.
When Nene (Jane Oineza) was young, she was happy with her family until her father suffered liver disease and died. Her mother Cora (Angel Aquino) drowned in grief. Along with it, she couldn’t handle the burden of a single mother and gave all her children away while she worked in Manila. Nene was hurt by this, but she always believed they would be together again.
When she grew up, she left the family that took care of her because she wanted to reunite with her mother. Unfortunately, she struggled to find her in Manila. While doing her search and moving from a house of relatives to another, she noticed the men looked at her with malice. Their comments on her beauty were more than just compliments. It came to a point where she was touched and molested. No matter where she went, she felt unsafe.
It was only when her mother returned to see her that she had a semblance of hope that she would be away from harm. This gave Nene joy because her dream of getting her family back together was slowly coming true. Sadly, her brother didn’t want to do anything with their mother anymore and they didn’t have enough money to get her other siblings back.
For the meantime, Nene stayed with her mother in Manila. There, she found out that Cora has a new husband, Raul (Carlos Morales), and is a mother to his children. While Nene was sad that her mother had a new family, she stayed with them to be with her. Even after she found out that her mother and stepfather were living a life of crime selling illegal drugs, she still stayed with her mother with the belief that their lives would turn around soon.
However, Nene wasn’t able to see that Cora is not the mother she knew anymore. Cora was constantly in fear of being left by Raul for another woman. She found out that Raul had taken a liking to Nene. As disgusting as it was, Cora didn’t even think twice and offered her own daughter for him to rape so that Raul would stay in their family.
Nene lived in this sickening horror day-by-day. She tried to leave, kill herself, or tell authorities, but she couldn’t escape as Raul was powerful in the community. She turned to God and prayers for help. Help arrived when her mother finally turned Raul into jail in a rage about Raul’s cheating.
Nene saw this as a chance to finally live a renewed life with Cora, but her mother was already far too deep in her erroneous ways and refused to change. She even begged Nene to drop Raul’s case so she could be with him again. Nene decided to just run away from Cora and her horrid life in Manila. She found a way out by calling her uncle Bong (RS Francisco) for help in escaping. Bong pretended to visit Cora and picked up Nene to take her to the mall. Little did Cora know, Nene was finally leaving for good.
Nene was taken to a convent with the protection of the nuns there. Although, even if Nene was finally away from the demons in her life, she still felt like she was in hell. The case against Raul was still ongoing, and she struggled to relive and tell her story. Fortunately, with the help of Mother Superior (Vangie Labalan), Nene mustered the courage to file a case against her mother and voice her side of the story in front of the judges and jury for Raul’s case. By the end of it, Raul was sentenced to a life in prison.
Years later, Nene’s pain is still heavy in her heart. She felt her beauty was the cause of everything, and it was her fault that she was beautiful. Mother Superior taught her otherwise and encouraged her to accept herself as she is. It may have taken more years for Nene to move past it all, but she never gave up. Eventually, she met the love of her life who helped her fully love, accept, and forgive herself.
MMK “Manika” holds a sorrowful story, but it also shows the bravery of women like Nene. Its writing fleshed out such a sensitive topic in a way that viewers would understand all the pain and violence that victims like Nene go through.
The direction of Nuel Naval also allowed us to see all the complicated emotions from the characters. Without a doubt, Jane Oineza and Angel Aquino’s award-winning performances were especially a marvel to behold in this episode. Their dramatic scenes individually and together moved the story powerfully.