Rape and incest have always been a subject of contempt—no, utter disgust.
How will you feel if a father you’re supposed to look up to for solace pounces on you in your most unguarded moment, and molests you?
How will you feel if he repeats his bestial act on your younger sister?
Worst, how will you feel if your mother—the supposed light in your darkest night—turns a blind eye and even sides with her demon of a husband?
This is the situation of Leni, Claudine Barretto’s character in Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK) found herself in, not once, but many times over.
It’s a situation that can make the sanest women go up the wall. Except that in Leni’s case, she faced the scoundrel head on in the name of all things decent in herself and her family.
COMPETENT ACTORS. Leni, in the hands of someone as competent as Claudine Barretto in her MMK comeback, grips us in a way no other character can.
We die a thousand deaths each time her father Ramon (played with amazing conviction by Gardo Versoza) rapes her.
We feel like doing a Lorena Bobbitt (who cut off her husband’s penis because of alleged marital rape) when Ramon repeats this heinous act on Leni’s younger sister Aileen (played by the equally-gifted Mika dela Cruz).
And we want to strangle Leni and Aileen’s mother (played by Maureen Mauricio) for allowing all these to happen.
The pall of fear is everywhere but most especially in Claudine, Mika, and Maureen’s eyes.
But unlike Claudine, who cries with eyes holding the offender’s gaze, Maureen holds back tears head bowed, resigned to her fate as a weak, submissive woman.
How strange—and fortunate—that Leni and Aileen didn’t catch their mother’s docile-to-a-fault character.
How lucky of Leni to find an understanding husband who not only accepts her—warts and all, but plucks her from the fear-laden household she knew as a molested child.
Away from it all, Leni fights what seems to be a losing battle. But thank God she carries on.
GLOWERING EYES. Claudine’s eyes glower at the sight of her father. She lets out a banshee scream when Aileen admits their father raped her over and over as well.
It’s as if Claudine never left the teleserye scene for years to deal with her tumultuous personal life. The Optimum Star of moving dramas is back where she belongs.
She may have gained some pounds. But the penetrating eyes, the dagger look, and the urge to join her as she drowns herself in tears, remain.
By matching Claudine’s fiery acting with that malevolent look in his eyes, Gardo proves why he has what it takes to stay long in a business where only the talented survive.
TRANSITION, PLEASE. But wait. How come Gardo’s character took an interest in the seemingly tomboyish Aileen—she with the baseball cap her father himself took as a sign of gender bending?
How come Aileen suddenly ditched that baseball cap and became as feminine as can be after her father molested her?
Yes, the heinous act is earth-shaking and life-changing. But can it turn a tomboyish person into a womanly one that fast?
Shouldn’t there be a transition somewhere?
I remember a high school classmate who left her tomboyish ways behind her and now has children of her own. But her change of heart was not as fast as Aileen’s.
My classmate may have taken a few months at the least to realize who she really is, but certainly not days or weeks, as in Aileen’s case.
Or did the teledrama writer do it on purpose to stress how demonic the father can be?
Why, he has the guts to rape a daughter who not only knows what the future will bring. She does not even know what her true sexual identity is!
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL. Perhaps Aileen is confused because her mother is an emotional weakling. She doesn’t have a strong mom she can look up to.
But it turns out even the weakest persons can summon an inner strength when push comes to shove.
By showing that even someone as weak as Maureen’s character can learn to stand up for what is right, MMK has shown once again that hope springs eternal.
We can cast away that cloak of fear so we can run more freely, breathe more easily.
Just like the babies—Leni’s and Aileen’s—at the end of the episode, we can start anew, without ghosts of the past haunting us (Gardo’s character went back to jail).
Thank you, Claudine et al., for bringing the message across with such pathos.
We don’t mind seeing you—and your talented co-stars—in a new, and just-as-gripping true story of redemption.
PEPsters, what can you say about the TV comeback of Claudine Barretto on ABS-CBN's drama anthology show?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.