While Maalaala Mo Kaya’s March 27 episode “Tungkod” certainly gave much emphasis on the wonder of true friendship, it also was an outstanding depiction of the travails of a visually impaired person with disability—his struggles, heartbreaks, and how a true friend became his rock amidst all the challenges he faced.
Petrus (Joao Constancia) indeed found that genuine friendship in Raddy (Neil Coleta), a former adversary when they were young, especially when his life made an expected turn and became blind. Raddy would never leave Petrus’s side, proving that he is a dependable friend in all of life’s best and worst moments.
Raddy comforted Petrus when the latter’s father passed away, eased his heartbreak when his first girlfriend left him, taught him essential life lessons, and guided him in his travels, while encouraging him to continue his studies despite his frailties.
With Raddy’s motivation, Petrus overcame the odds and became a professional masseur after finishing his special training. But their friendship was put to the test after Raddy needed to focus on his own job as a grocery store merchandiser while caring for a family of his own. But while they had lesser time to spend with each other, their friendship remained strong, even when Petrus had to leave for a job opportunity in another province.
Petrus then met the woman who would capture his heart, Maymay (Katrina Legaspi), and his life turned even turned brighter and jolly, knowing how she truly loved and cared for him despite his condition. But when Raddy experienced his own misfortune, after he lost his job when a fire razed the grocery he was working for, Petrus was not responding to his text messages, as he was seemingly distant being too engrossed with his new romance.
And this led to their saddening rift. When Petrus visited Raddy to introduce Maymay, his ever-reliable friend had now given him the cold shoulder after Petrus apparently ignored him at a time when he needed him the most. Dejected, Petrus would leave with Maymay, as he ended up in tears knowing he may have lost his dear, loyal friend.
His longing for Raddy was obvious as the months and years passed living with Maymay, mentioning all the good things Raddy had done for him. But Maymay remained a loving, devoted wife even with Petrus’s short temper and physical disabilities.
But the darkness worsened in Petrus’s life after Maymay was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which led to her untimely demise. He seemed to have lost everything—a loyal friend and a loving wife—and he dealt with it on his own, amid the struggles of being visually impaired.
And, when the COVID-19 outbreak took its toll on the lives of ordinary Filipinos, especially daily wage earners like Petrus, he also lost his job. And this forced Petrus make a desperate plea on a viral video wherein he appealed to viewers to avail of his massage services so that he could still make both ends for his family.
His plea did not fall on deaf ears, as Raddy himself reached out to his old friend and visited him, handing out the assistance he needed. This restarted their beautiful friendship at a time when they needed each other the most.
While it is generally a simple tale of friendship and determination against all odds, MMK “Tungkod” had a superb and moving combination of the cast’s brilliant acting, Joan P. Habana’s masterful storytelling, and director Dado Lumibao’s exceptional creative guidance to piece the narrative together. Viewers can’t help but feel deeply for Petrus and the emotional journey he went through.
Neil Coleta has always impressed us with his brilliant work through the years, and his characterization of Raddy gives us a reminder of his exemplary craft, showing the right amount of intensity and forbearance in bringing out a believable portrayal.
But the biggest dramatic revelation is definitely Joao Constancia with his first major portrayal not only of a struggling, visually impaired PWD, but an individual that underwent the worst storms and kept on standing with his sheer gut and determination, and of course with ever wonderful friend by his side. As what a netizen observed as “future best actor material,” Joao is worthy of a lead role in any drama series or movie, given his heartthrob looks and outstanding acting talent.