"Para akong magde-debut," said ABS-CBN President Charo Santos-Concio as she greeted each member of the press who attended the media junket prepared for the 18th anniversary of Maalaala Mo Kaya.
For almost two decades, the longest-running drama anthology has inspired the Filipinos with its heart-warming stories from different letter-senders around the country. Ms. Charo said proudly that all MMK episodes have been based on real stories.
She stated, "We only feature true-to-life stories sa Maalaala Mo Kaya, that's the brand essence of MMK. And we have stayed true to the equity of the program. Ang mga researchers natin, ang mga writers natin, aside from reading the letters that we received, ay pumupunta sa iba't ibang lugar sa Pilipinas [to get stories]."
She also acknowledged these stories for the success of the program. Ms. Charo said, "Sa palagay ko, with all modesty, our stories have continued to touch the lives of our viewers. These are true-to-life human experiences that resonate with the viewers.
"Maraming aral silang napupulot, nai-inspire sila. Hindi ba, minsan kapag may nakikita kang kuwento ng kapitbahay mo, o ng kaibigan mo, na mas mahirap ang pinagdadaanan, it alleviates your own suffering. I think that's one of the secrets why this program has stayed this long."
Maalaala Mo Kaya Creative Head and Director Olivia Lamasan agreed with the show's host. She added another reason for the program's long life in spite of changes in its timeslot:
"In a birthday, napag-usapan na siguro dapat mag-fold na ang MMK, matanda na, et cetera, you know, it's running for the longest time. But, you know, it's precisely the reason that Charo said, 'Patuloy ang kuwento ng mga tao.' Kaya hindi matapus-tapos ang mga kuwento ng MMK. It really is a venue where we can air the stories of the people.'
Ms. Charo also added that Maalaala Mo Kaya imparts the value of humility when one sees how others bravely face their trials.
"Kapag nagbabasa ka talaga ng mga sulat, ng mga kuwento ng buhay nila, mamangha ka kung papaano nila nalalagpasan ang lahat ng kanilang mga pinagdadaanan pagsubok. 'Yong akala mo ang galing-galing mo na, ang tibay mo na, but when you read about other people's story—what they're going through, how they survive—it would be so humble. Alam mo 'yon, parang 'Diyos ko, bakit pa ba ako nagre-reklamo?' Wala na talagang rason para mag-reklamo. Talagang nakakamangha ang tibay ng dibdib ng ating mga Kapamilya."
MONTH-LONG CELEBRATION. For its 18th anniversary, Maalaala Mo Kaya collaborates with The Filipino Channel (TFC), which celebrates its 15th anniversary, to present four of the five special episodes that will be aired next month.
For its first installment on August 1, Comedy Queen Ai-Ai delas Alas and young actress Erich Gonzales give life to the inspiring story of a mother and daughter.
"Letter po 'yan last year noong nanggaling kami sa Catbalogan City, Samar. Tiyempo rin kasi kailangan din namin ng kuwento ng isang debutante at siya po yung nahanap namin at pinuntahan," said Rhoda dela Cerna, executive producer of Maalaala Mo Kaya.
On the next Saturdays of August, MMK will feature local artists who are now based in the U.S.
Prospero Luna, Joji Isla, Lucita Soriano, Louella Albornoz worked with Noel Trinidad and Nanding Josef to relate a story about Pinoy war veterans living in the U.S. This story will be shown on August 8.
For the August 15 episode, former actress Giselle Toengi teams up with Ryan Eigenmann to play a young immigrant couple who experience hardship as they try to make a new life in the States.
Former host of the defunct drama anthology Lovingly Yours, Helen, Princess Punzalan, will make a TV comeback on August 22 as she portrays the role of a Pinay trapped in an unhappy marriage. This episode also features multi-awarded actor Michael de Mesa, who migrated to the U.S. earlier this year.
Lastly, on August 29, Gina Alajar and young actress Lauren Young play a mother and daughter who live in the States by force of circumstance. American actress Lynn Waters joins them in the cast.
Ms. Charo admitted that the anniversary offering of MMK this year does not feature celebrities, which has been the tradition of the program. However, she explained, "Ang unique selling proposition naman ng 18th anniversary episode, e, kuwento na nangyari sa ating mga Kapamilya sa U.S. Alam n'yo naman na iba ang budget ng ating mga episode diyan, di ba? So, kapag kukuha pa tayo ng mga big stars, hindi na natin magagawa."
Star Cinema Managing Director Malou Santos said, "Actually, kinunsider namin si Ate Guy [Nora Aunor] in one of the episodes. Kaya lang, she wasn't available, pero dapat kasama siya sa isa sa mga episode na 'yan.
"Pero kung makikita niyo, kung sino lang po 'yong available na mga artista na nasa States, 'yon na po ang mga ginamit namin para hindi na po kami mahirapan sa mga working visa. Kapag maglilipat pa ng mga artista, dagdag gastos pa 'yon. Sa crew na lang po, anim lang po ang pumunta sa States, including the director, plus tatlong tao from TFC."
The episodes shot in the United States were just the start of MMK's venture into Filipino experiences abroad. New stories are definitely in store for the show's loyal viewers:
Star Cinema Managing Director Malou Santos revealed to the media, "'Yong ginawa namin sa U.S. na four episodes, this is just the start [ng kung] anong gagawin ng MMK. We plan to shoot four episodes in Dubai, four episodes in Japan. Ganun ho ang gagawin namin, kami ang lalapit ngayon sa mga Pilipino kasi alam namin na maraming magagandang kuwento ng mga kapwa Pilipino na hindi naisasadula. Kaya ito po ang umpisa ng aming proyekto."