How Philippine TV celebrated World AIDS Day, with a special AIDS-themed episode which struck home with our young guest contributor Pinoy Positive
Maalaala Mo Kaya (Would You Remember) is the longest-running drama anthology series in Philippine television. It has been on air since 1991. The show accepts stories from letter writers, and picks exceptional ones to present in TV format. To mark World AIDS Day, their episode this December 1 was entitled Pulang Laso (Red Ribbon).
It is quite rare for a TV station in a conservative country like ours to present a story involving a sensitive topic such as HIV/AIDS.
It presented the true story of Kevin and Allan whose affair started with a casual sex encounter which eventually turned into a romantic relationship. Kevin, being the son of a governor and doctor, was stigmatized by his parents for being gay. Allan on the other hand was well accepted by his family. Several years into their relationship, Kevin succumbed to a mysterious illness with symptoms including bouts of diarrhea, body weakness, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.
After being checked by a family doctor, he and his family were informed he was HIV-positive. He later on confessed to Allan that while working in the gym, he gave in to sexual favors of his clients in exchange for money at a time when his family had severed their ties with him and he was in desperate need for financial support.
Kevin encouraged Allan to take the test as well, which eventually turned out positive. Despite that, Allan gave his hands-on support and love to Kevin, even lowering his pride and took all the criticisms from his lover’s parents. In his death, Allan was at Kevin’s bedside. Allan later on became a member of a support group for people living with HIV.
The TV episode elicited various reactions from people on social networking sites like twitter and Facebook. While some commended the daring move of the TV network to raise awareness regarding HIV through the drama series, others who questioned its motives in presenting a controversial story just to increase the show’s artings.
The HIV community also weighed in. One person said that the show should have focused on Allan as an HIV advocate, rather than spending too much air time on the love story. Another one criticized that Kevin shouldn’t have died, and the episode should reflect that HIV/AIDS doesn’t immediately equate to death. Another viewer said that there was a lot lacking, like the absence of pre and post counseling on the HIV test as well as the absence of treatment and interventions for Kevin. Sadly, one HIV+ viewer dismissed the episode as trash and said the show should have produced a story with another topic.
Harsh remarks, I should say, particularly coming from fellow HIV+ people. Personally, I found the episode great in that both homosexual relationship and HIV/AIDS are not often discussed on Philippine television. With a platform such as Maalaala Mo Kaya, the episode has reached out to millions of loyal Filipino viewers in the country and abroad.
People should be aware that TV has its limitations in presenting a complex story, as air time is usually just a little over an hour. Filipinos love melodramas and tearjerkers, but this one still attempted to educate viewers by subtlety inserting information about the signs and symptoms of HIV, the importance of being faithful to one’s partner, the need for safe sex and regular HIV tests, and more importantly, it gave the viewers hope that despite having the disease, people living with HIV can still have normal and productive lives.
With regards to stigma and discrimination, Kevin’s family were initially unaccepting of the fact their child wass gay (and eventually HIV+), while Allan’s family was accepting and supportive of his situation. There was even one scene where misconceptions about the disease were discussed without being preachy.
Overall, the show raised the level of awareness of the Filipino people with regards to HIV and AIDS. The show trended over twitter. Links to the episode have been posted on Facebook. A lot of people were talking about it. And for me, this is a good sign. When people start talking about it, they will eventually seek out information. One HIV counselor even said that he assisted several patients in getting HIV tests and they confessed to him they did so after watching Maalaala Mo Kaya’s World AIDS Day episode.
Others who bash about the episode should write their own personal stories for TV airing next year. I’m just so disappointed with some of the responses of other HIV+ people; they can be brutally arrogant like there’s some sort of a contest or search for the best HIV+ person in the country. Please, it’s World AIDS Day. Let’s unite instead.
And with that, thank you PositiveLite.com for giving me this opportunity to thank ABS-CBN TV network, the show Maalaala Mo Kaya, director Nuel Naval (
@directfromncn), the main actors Carlo Aquino ( @carloaquino11) and Joem Bascon, the writer, and to all those who were part in the creation of the Pulang Laso episode. Thank you for making World AIDS Day more meaningful.
I am Pinoy Positive, a young man from the Philippines living with HIV. Aside from running the halls of the hospital for more than 3 years as an ICU nurse, I also run half-marathons in road and trail races. I was diagnosed March 2012 just as my career in the healthcare industry was about to take off. I was set to work abroad, but HIV did not permit me to do so.
I can be reached through the following sites:
Personal blog: www.pinoypositive101.blogspot.com