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‘Tatlong Dekadang Pasasalamat’: A love letter to MMK

Dear Charo,

You surprised us recently when you made an official announcement that Maalala Mo Kaya or simply abbreviated as MMK (Would You Remember?), would air its series finale on December 10 this year. We didn’t see that coming! We could only imagine your heavy heart as you declared, quite somberly: “Ilang inspirasyon ang napapaloob sa tatlumpu’t-isang taon” (Countless inspirations have been compiled within 31 years.)

MMK Maalaala Mo Kaya Charo
via Maalaala Mo Kaya

Mula sa mga Letter Senders at manonood, lubos na nagpapasalamat ang MMK sa lahat ng mga naging bahagi ng Maalaala Mo Kaya sa loob ng 31 taon.” (From the letter senders and viewers, MMK is deeply grateful to everyone who have been part of Maalaala Mo Kaya for 31 years). You proceeded to thank the production team, the letter senders, sponsors, directors, writers, researchers, the celebrities who gave life and justice to the stories that you have narrated. Thank you, too, because you didn’t forget to express your gratitude to us, your viewers, who have waited every Saturday night to witness more than a thousand episodes that made us laugh, cry, and sigh, since you debuted on TV with your first episode Rubber Shoes in May 15, 1991.

Yes, it breaks our heart to bid goodbye to something that has accompanied us for over three decades. Albeit heartbreaking, we need to embrace the end of an era.

via Maalaala Mo Kaya

You are the Philippines’ longest-running drama anthology for 31 wonderful years, and with your 1,344 episodes to date, you have never failed to feature real-life sad, happy, and hope-filled stories of common people from far-flung areas to victorious stories of celebrities. What endeared you to us was the fact that these chronicles came in hand-written letters, long before letter-writing became obsolete and eventually forgotten, when snail mail became far and few between…sadly after 10 years into your show. When your team started receiving emails, they painstakingly did Regional Story Gathering (RSG) that brought them to remote places in the Philippines to listen to (and transcribe) stories of people who do not have the time or the capability to write their own stories.

Kami po ay tagapaghatid lang ng mga kuwento. Kung mauulit man ang lahat, hindi po ako amgdadalawang-isip na piliin muli ang role na ito. Kulang po ang tatlumpu’t isang taon para magpasalamat sa inyo,” you added. (We are mere storytellers. And if these happen again, I will not think twice to choose this role once more, as 31 years is never enough to express our gratitude to you.) We remember how families everywhere would huddle up in front of the TV, watch the story unravel, and we would even beat each other to guessing every episode’s one- or two-word titles announced at the end of the show. Of course, we also sing along to the melodious closing song by Constancio de Guzman, crooned by three OPM icons: Dulce in 1991, Carol Banawa in 2004, and by JM Yosures in 2021.

Regalo Episode via ABS-CBN Entertainment

The pandemic merely suspended your team from featuring new episodes because of the social restrictions, but it did not stop you from airing old reruns which all of us loved to see again, especially the unforgettable ones such as your Regalo (Gift) top billed by Vilma Santos, a woman going through a painful journey of finding her fulfillment as a wife and a mother to Maja Salvador who had cerebral palsy. This was considered as one of your most critically successful episodes. Then there’s Pier 39, your 10th anniversary special, and the first MMK episode filmed outside the Philippines. Shot in San Francisco, this series featured Judy Ann Santos, a caregiver who fell in love with Piolo Pascual, a wayward man.

Singsing Episode via ABS-CBN Entertainment

We also cried with you in (Ring), the love story of Etrona and Panyong (two ordinary Filipinos), who found happiness in each other’s company until their last breath. Aired in November 2011, this episode showcased Philippine veteran actors Eddie Garcia and Gloria Romeo. We loved Lente (Lens) which recounted the life of an aspiring model Claudio C. Cañedo, a person exploring the world around him, meeting different people from all walks of life and how he survived all the trials while trying to figure out what and who he really wants, and after coming to terms with some things, he suddenly realized he’s gay. After some tumultuous same-sex relationships, he met a guy from that tamed him for good.

Gitara Episode via ABS-CBN Entertainment

We watched with fright how true-to-life tragic stories like Gitara (Guitar), where a girl name Tara Santelices, was comatose for a year after being shot by a mugger. Then there’s Manika (Doll) which narrated the journey of 15-year-old Nene (portrayed by Jane Oineza), who was recurrently raped by her stepfather. And we were all devastated when her world drastically changed as she discovered that her own mother (Angel Aquino), even assisted her live-in partner in the act of rape. Word got around that this episode was slated to air on June 2, 2012 but was pulled off after the MTRCB gave it an ‘X’ rating due to its sensitive theme. It was later re-edited and was given an ‘SPG’ rating to be aired at a later time, the same month. The risk was worth it, though, as this episode became one of your most critically acclaimed presentations and topped Saturday prime time viewing garnering a nationwide rating of 40%, (according to Kantar-TNS Nationwide Ratings, and 27.1% in Metro Manila, according to AGB Nielsen Philippines). It was even nominated for Best Drama at the International Emmy Awards! Needless to say, however, many of us were scarred for life after watching Tara’s and Nene’s heart-rending journeys to healing.

And because we just couldn’t get enough of the drama, laughter, tears, and the triumphs, we saw ourselves enjoying the replays of the anthology series MMK Classics in the Filipino Channel, and The Best of MMK over Jeepney TV. Those living in obscure areas in the province who have no access to TV listened to MMK Klasiks over DZMM TeleRadyo, and even through a comic book adaptation, while Filipinos all over the world who have TFC watch your show with their friends and families, thanks to your English subtitles. MMK is also being streamed in-flight for various international airlines like Eithad Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines do OFWs on their way to the Middle East or returning home to the Philippines don’t have to worry about their FOMO.

Hindi na po mabilang ang nasalaysay na kuwento dito sa MMK—mga kuwentong totoo, mga salamin ng sarili ninyong buhay na nagbigay ng aral at ng panibagong pag-asa. Kayo po ang nagsasabing makahulugan sa inyo ang aming ginagawa, kaya salamat po sa lahat ng nakaraan, at sa anumang paraan na maaaaring pa tayong muling magkita. Ito po si Charo Santos, ang inyong tagahanga at tagapag-kuwento,” you concluded. (MMK has told countless stories—stories that are true, and those that mirror your own lives, leaving you with lessons and newfound hope. You have expressed how valuable our show is. So, thank you for the past, and all ways we could still meet again. I am Charo Santos, your fan and storyteller.)

In retrospect, MMK has not only narrated stories of celebrities and common Filipinos.

Yes, you shared the stories of everyone—across all ages, genders, religions, economic status, and quirks—in a special way that is relatable, and to some extent, personal to each one of us going through turmoil, identity crisis, mental instability, health issues, gender matters, poverty, physical abuse, marital problems, paradigm shifts, and all other journeys from rock-bottom defeat to victory, from pain to healing.

Most importantly, #KuwentongMMK told OUR stories. And with this kind of legacy leaving us so suddenly, Saturday nights will never be the same again. It’s difficult to say goodbye to an iconic show that has become a part of Pinoy culture, one that has made us laugh, ponder, love, hate, and cry. Thus, if you ask us, “Maalaala Mo Kaya?” Yes, we will always remember, and never, ever, forget.

Nagmamahal,

MMK viewers.

 

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The life and times of Julie Powell, the person behind ‘The Julie/Julia Project’

 

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