10 interesting things to know about Maalaala Mo Kaya's 25 years

by James Patrick Anarcon
Jun 2, 2016
MMK host Charo Santos-Concio admits that the drama anthology had a big influence in her life. "Yung mga konting imperfections sa buhay, dapat madala natin with grace and a lot of resilience."

Maalaala Mo Kaya
, or simply called MMK by televiewers, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this 2016.

Considered to be the longest-running drama anthology in Asia, MMK has already featured a lot of real life stories that made viewers laugh, cry and get inspired in life.

Hosted by Charo Santos-Concio since it premiered in May 1991, MMK has also become a star-builder on its own, serving as a launching pad for stars who are now household names.

In a span of 25 years, a lot has changed already--in terms of technical aspects, storytelling and even the process of looking for stories to be dramatized on TV.

At the press conference of the show last May 29, MMK host Charo--along with the show's producers and creative team--shared some interesting facts and trivia as to how an MMK episode is created, then and now.

Here are 10 interesting things to know about MMK:

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1. Maalaala Mo Kaya was first pitched with the title "Among My Souvenirs."

It is a known fact that aside from being its host, Ms. Charo is also the brain behind this drama anthology show.

Olivia Lamasan, former creative manager of MMK, finds it hard to believe that the show lasted for 25 years considering that it only started as a test for ABS-CBN's former CEO and president.

"Parang hindi ko na-imagine when we started that it's going to last this long and parang challenge lang kasi kay Charo 'to, di ba? She was being challenged to come up with a program na magre-rate right there and then."

It is also known that Ms. Charo was inspired to create this show because of a paperclip. This also triggered them to use intriguing episode titles by focusing on significant objects in the story. But then, the TV executive did not originally pitch it with Maalaala Mo Kaya as the title.

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Charo Santos-Concio

Ms. Charo related with a laugh, "The first time I pitched kasi the program concept, ang original title ko talaga dito ay 'Among My Souvenirs!'

"Pero management thought na mas maganda yung kundiman at saka Tagalog, so ang ibinigay na titulo, Maalaala Mo Kaya."

Management back then was headed by former ABS-CBN President (now Pilipinas Got Talent judge) Freddie "FMG" M. Garcia.

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2. There is a process to prove if a letter sender's story is true.

According to MMK creative manager Mel Mendoza-del Rosario, there are really people who send stories that are not real.

"Mas naging mahirap ngayon ang paggawa ng MMK because kinakausap namin yung tao and then we verify dun...let's say sa kapitbahay.

"Sadly, meron po talagang mga tao na naa-attract doon sa feel [ng programa] so nag-storytelling a lie."

MMK business unit head Malou Santos added, "Pag na-validate [na hindi totoo], hindi namin ginagawa."

But then, Mel said that they learned already to know if a story is based on real-life or "imbento."

When she was asked how they do it, she just answered with a smile, "It's a trade secret."

3. MMK staff do not receive a lot of physical letters anymore.

Mel diclosed during the presscon, "Sadly, [for the] last 10 years, talaga pong we lost the art of letter-writing."

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Instead, the staff have been receiving e-mails for the past 10 years.

Mel continued, "Kaya we started our RSG, Regional Story Gathering.

"We announce that we're going there [sa mga province]. Pumupunta naman po sila doon.

"And then, some, oral [pag nagkuwento] pero karamihan po ay nagsusulat. Pero yung iba, let's say yung iba na hindi marunong magsulat, kine-kwento po.

"Snail mail, konting-konti po, 5, 10 among...pero marami rin pong e-mail."

Malou said that MMK just launched a new website where viewers can send in their stories in just one click.

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Malou Santos

"Marami na pong mangyayari na mas maganda papunta po sa mga kwento ng mga tao, mas madali na po makakapagsalaysay sila ng magagandang kwento, hindi lang po dito sa Pilipinas kundi sa ibang lugar."

4. There is one staff member whose work is just to read letters.

When MMK was just starting and they used to receive sacks of letters, they hired one staff member who is dedicated to reading letters and segregating them according to topic.

"Nababasa po [lahat], meron kami ang trabaho lang ay ang magbasa, mag-segregate.

"There was a time, we segregate the letters sa ilang kwento. Kwento ng nagtaksil, kwento ng incest at rape. Ano ba naman 'tong mga Pilipino, hindi po nakakainspire!"

Olivia also said that they had to read everything and choose what stories they should air on TV.

Aside from that, there are also letter-senders that do not really share stories, but instead ask for help.

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"Kasi marami rin doon sa mga sako-sakong sulat na naipadala noon, marami doon humihingi ng tulong, hindi talaga nagbabahagi ng kwento.

"Marami na naman sa nagbabahagi ng kwento, nagkaka-pare-pareho ang kwento nila. So ang nangyayari, pipiliin mo kung ano talaga ang magandang maipalabas."

What happens to the letters after they are read?

Mel answered, "Yun pong mga dating dating luma na sulat, naka-file po sa amin.

"Sa cabinet ni Roda Dela Cerna [production manager], naka-file po yan dati, dumadating mga sako-sako.

"Ngayon po abot-abot na lang po. Binabalik-balikan namin kung may need pero basically lahat po ng kaya, yung sa digital naka-file. Yung physical po, we have them sa steel cabinet."

5. Despite being one of the most successful drama anthologies, MMK also faced controversies because of some episodes.

The first time this happened was when they aired an episode about incest, which starred Dawn Zulueta and Robert Arevalo.

Direk Olivia shared, "Naalala ko, pinadalhan si Charo ng sulat ng isang malaking advertising agency at pinagsabihan kami na sana we would be careful with the stories that we show.

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??So matagal, parang dumaan na sa ganoong journey ang Maalaala Mo Kaya, tapos hanggang sa dumating yung panahon na pwede mo nang ilabas yung maseselan na kwento na nangyayari talaga sa totoong buhay."

This was not mentioned during the press conference, but it can be remembered that another controversy that MMK faced was about the "Blusa" episode starring Angel Locsin.

In the episode, Angel played a graduate of the University of the Philippines Los Baños who had difficulty looking for a job and ended up as a stripper.

UPLB officials then asked ABS-CBN to set records straight as the episode affected the reputation of UPLB as an educational institution.

ABS-CBN and MMK then apologized for the oversight that they should have verified with UPLB while saying that they went back to the letter sender who insisted that she stands by her account.

6. Aside from its controversial episodes, there are also times where MMK directors were also sent to the "principal??s office."

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Direk Olive can attest to that as she experienced it herself, since her first suspension as a director happened while working on MMK!

Olive Lamasan

This happened during the shooting of the 1999 episode "Oto San" starring Gardo Versoza and Jiro Manio, a notable MMK episode that depicted how a Japanese soldier and a young Filipino became friends during the Japanese war.

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However, Direk Olive mentioned during the MMK Dalawang Dekada documentary aired in 2011 that the shooting of this episode lasted for 9 days. Usually, an episode only takes one to two taping days to finish.

Mel added during the presscon, "Bukod po sa inspirasyon ng ating mga pinuno, meron ding fear!"

Charo then revealed, "Madalas sila na pi-principal's office noong nagsisimula pa ang MMK!"

7. MMK can set trends when it comes to tackling sensitive issues.

Direk Olive noted that in a span of 25 years, a lot has already changed when it comes to the stories presented by MMK and the way audiences react to these sensitive topics.

"We're talking of 25 years, so iba yung mga bata noon na lumalaki, parang dala mo na rin kung ano yung sinasabi ng henerasyon mo.

"So for example, the stories of love, nakikita mo rin yung unti-unting pagbukas ng tao sa maseselang issues katulad ng gay stories, parang nakita natin yung journey na 'yan sa MMK."

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Former creative manager and ABS-CBN business unit head Ruel Bayani then pointed out the episodes that starred Fanny Serrano.

??Talagang tumatatak yun kasi of course, ground-breaking yung kanyang unang episode with Gabby [Concepcion] and then from then on naging trademark na rin ng show yung maraming LGBT episodes."

It can be remembered that Fanny topbilled two LGBT-themed episodes of MMK: the first was in 1991 titled "Sinturon" where his character had a relationship with Gabby Concepcion, and the second was "Salamin" in 2003 wherein he played a gay man who went through sex change.

Recent LGBT-themed episodes aired by MMK were "Gown" (2015) starring Jun-Jun Quintana and "Pulang Laso" (2012) starring Carlo Aquino and Joem Bascon.

8. MMK is known for stories that tackle issues of OFWs.

Direk Ruel said that one of the trademarks of MMK involves featuring OFWs.

"Yung OFW experience, nasundan namin yan na pakunti-kunti hanggang parami-rami, dumadami yung mga taong nag-a-abroad, dumadami din yung mga naapektuhang pamilya.

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"Napansin natin from the first few episodes tungkol sa mga paghihirap, pagsasakripisyo ng mga OFW, hanggang ngayon we have episodes from all over the world at nagagawa nating totoong episodes ngayon dahil we have episodes from the U.S., Japan, Korea, Hongkong."

One of the notable OFW episodes of MMK was "Pier 39" starring Judy Ann Santos and Piolo Pascual. This was the first MMK episode that was taped outside the Philippines.

Charo also added how the stories being sent to them have changed ?? most especially Filipinos's reactions towards different situations.

She said, "I'd like to think that the Filipinos have become less helpless, they've become empowered.

"Mas inspired sila ngayon to open up about their struggles and how they were able to transcend their struggle in life.

"I think in the 25 years of MMK, kung na-inspire man sila sa ilan sa mga kwentong napanood nila, parang may desire rin sila na makapagbigay ng inspirasyon."

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9. MMK has become a training ground for stars and love teams.

Some stars who now topbill their own drama shows started portraying challenging roles in MMK.

One notable performance was that of John Lloyd Cruz, wherein he played a boy diagnosed with cerebral palsy and achieved his dream of becoming a skater.

The other was Gerald Anderson who portrayed a man who had Tourette syndrome. After his portrayal in MMK, he was given the soap opera Budoy wherein he also played a mentally-challenged man.

Direk Olive said, ??Parang naging venue ito, e. Kasi when you talk to the artists, palaging may kaba sila, may taga sa dibdib pag sinabing mag-guest ka sa MMK kasi isang challenge ang lumabas. Sobrang laking trabaho sa kanila."

Mel added, "Yung roles kasi nila sa mainstream, mas love story, romcom. So sabik din sila na [gumawa ng] acting piece.

"Yung iba nga minsan sa sobrang sabik, nasosobrahan. Siguro sinasabi nila pang-award!

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"But of course we appreciate that na parang iba yung mind nila pag mag MMK. Kailangan handa ka talaga kasi nakakatuyot."

Direk Olive added, "MMK through the years has become a training ground for artists, tapos testing ground din sa chemistry, casting combinations. Aside from that, naging training ground ito sa katulad namin na creative and production personnel."

MMK has also become a training ground for people in TV production. In fact, many business unit heads became a part of MMK. These include Ginny Monteagudo-Ocampo (We Will Survive, Be Careful With My Heart) and Maru Benitez (Precious Hearts Romances, All of Me), whom Olive credits for the success of MMK today.

"I'd also like to acknowledge the people who came after us. Alam naman natin na there was a time na nag-deep ang MMK.

"Ako, I attribute and I like to recognize the efforts of Mel, Ginny, sila Roda, Maru Benitez sa pagbigay muli ng buhay sa MMK noong mga panahon na yun kaya hanggang ngayon nandito tayo."

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Director FM Reyes, who used to be MMK's headwriter, said that most Kapamilya writers and directors were products of the drama anthology.

10. Charo Santos-Concio??s story is still under consideration whether it will aired on MMK.

Mel revealed, "We've discussed this many times before," pertaining to Charo's story being featured on MMK.

She expklained , "Personally hindi pa ito yung proper time, but we discussed it that there will come a time that Ma'am Charo had to share her story pero hindi pa ngayon.

She then joked, "Ang mas malaking ano po diyan yung casting, si Tita Malou mahirapan po kami sa casting. Yun po ang nagpapatagal!"

On a serious note, Charo pointed out how MMK influenced her life.

"Napakalaki ng impluwensiya sa 'kin ng MMK kasi sabi nga ni Olive kanina, we used to receive sacks and sacks of letters at isa po ako sa nagbabasa.

"At doon sa pagbabasa ko ng kwento ng buhay ng ibang tao, parang ma-ha-humble ka.

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"At saka talagang papasok sa isip mo at sa puso mo na ang swerte swerte ko, wala akong karapatang magreklamo.

"Mas masakit ang pinagdadaanan ng ibang tao. Yung mga konting imperfections sa buhay, dapat madala natin with grace and a lot of resilience.

"Titingin ka sa sarili mo at mas magiging sensitibo ka, mas makikita natin na tao tayo lahat. Walang perpekto sa atin," she concluded.

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s 25th year offerings boast stories that will surely melt the hearts of televiewers. In fact, one of the future episodes will depict the life of "Courageous Caitie" starring Angel Locsin and JC de Vera.

MMK is also set to release a commemorative album featuring artists such as Lea Salonga, Sarah Geronimo, Regine Velasquez, Ogie Alcasid, Lani Misalucha, Gary Valenciano, and Martin Nievera.

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MMK host Charo Santos-Concio admits that the drama anthology had a big influence in her life. "Yung mga konting imperfections sa buhay, dapat madala natin with grace and a lot of resilience."
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