It was August last year when the health ministry and the United Nations said in a Reuters report that the Philippines has registered the fastest-growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in Asia-Pacific in the past six years with a 140-percent increase in the number of new infections.
In an effort to raise awareness on the plight of people living with HIV, GMA unveils its first-ever “advoca-serye” titled “Hindi Ko Kayang Iwan Ka” that inadvertently tackles the fatal disease.
Director Neal del Rosario said the number of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) cases in the country is alarming—“nakakatakot,” was how he put it. Moreso that those who have been getting it recently are from ages 15 to 24 years old though he did not cite the basis of his claim.
Anyway, “Hindi Ko Kayang Iwan Ka” is about a woman who is HIV positive and how she battles her own frailties and demons in life. The soap hopes to show that at our weakest, strength can be found in the courage to fight for our loved ones and ourselves. Neal said they met and consulted with members of the Philippine National Aids Council (PNAC) for accuracy’s sake.
“Itong show na ito ay may layunin magpalaganap ng edukasyon at higit sa lahat para ‘wag tayo mag-discriminate (ng mga taong infected ng disease). ‘Wag natin silang pandirihan, kumbaga maraming options at maraming paraan kung paano tanggapin,” the director said.
Lead actors Yasmien Kurdi, Mike Tan, Martin del Rosario and Jackie Rice did “immersions” with people with HIV in order to make their portrayal as truthful as possible.The director pointed out that they tried not to include young actors Caprice Cayetano and Seth dela Cruz in the delicate scenes. He shared the two are aware what HIV is but not the other, deeper details.
“With the kids, pinag-usapan namin before (‘yung tungkol sa HIV) before nagsimula ‘yung (taping ng) show although siyempre hindi naman nila maga-grasp ‘yun immediately,” he explained. “Nu’ng una ang sinasabi lang namin was, it’s a virus na hindi nagamot, matatalo nito ‘yung mga good viruses (sa katawan ng isang tao).
“Unti-unti naman, naiintindihan nila. Pero kapag masyadong crucial ‘yung eksena, hindi naman sila sinasama. Kumbaga alam nila ‘yung sakit ng HIV pero hindi na namin sinabi kung ano ba talaga ‘yung sakit na ‘yun o kung paano nakukuha ito. Hindi naman sila nagtatanong but eventually, kailangan din nila maging aware tungkol dito.”
Neil disclosed the series has a gay character but it’s not to encourage the wrong notion that HIV is almost always exclusive to members of the LGBT community.
“Ipapakita din dito ‘yung hardships and acceptance ng mga tao sa isang gay na afflicted with HIV. Madalas kasi nagkakaroon ng discrimination at ‘yung notion na ang HIV ay dala-dala ng mga nasa LGBT community so kasama din dito ‘yun sa show,” he said.
“Hindi Ko Kayang Iwan Ka” is about Thea (Yasmien) who, after marrying Marco (Mike) and raising their fraternal twins together, her blissful life shatters when she tests positive for HIV. Without knowing who she got it from, Marco is led to believe she cheated on him and files for legal separation, taking their kids with him. Her disease worsens and she loses her will to live. But when she unexpectedly meets her daughter a few years later, she finds it in herself to fight more than just HIV but her greatest opponent, herself.
This is the first time Yasmien portrays such a role and she is taking the advocacy part very seriously.
“Mas personal sa akin dahil ang taas na nga po ng rates ng HIV. Marami din po akong kakilala sa industriya na… kumbaga alam po natin ‘yung pinagdadaanan nila pero hindi na lang tayo nagsasalita,” she said. “For me, iba ‘yung napi-feel ko sa character and it’s my honor and privilege na maging boses po ng mga taong nakakaranas ng HIV.”
Mike did extensive research on HIV.
“Inaral ko lahat…kung ano ‘yung history,” he said.
Martin is Lawrence De Leon, Thea’s college friend from a well-off family. He is secretly in love with her though he dates a lot of women and acquires HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) from this.
On his character, he said, “First time kong gagawa ng ganitong role, ‘yung may HIV. Sa show kasi, in denial (‘yung character ko), kumbaga determinado siyang labanan ‘yung sakit niya. Excited ako kung iha-handle ‘yung role, bago siya eh. Mas natsa-challenge ako, mas nai-inspire ako aralin lahat.”
Jackie is Ava Imperial, the kontrabida.
The actress has been known for effectively playing villain roles over the past years and she’s ready for more bashing. “Actually hindi ako pumapatol talaga (sa mga bashers). Mahal ko lang ‘yung trabaho at kung naiinis sila sa akin, I guess nakikita nila na nabibigyan ko ng justice (‘yung character ko).”
Asked what lessons “Hindi Ko Kayang Iwan Ka” will impart to viewers, here’s what we got from the four.
Yasmien said, “’Yung aral dito is… ‘yung ‘wag mawawalan ng pag-asa. Papakita sa storya na meron pang pwedeng maging buhay sa kabila ng pagkakaroon ng sakit.”
Mike, on his part, shared, “Gusto po namin ma-inspire ang lahat ng mga manunuod. ‘Yung character ni Yasmien ay magpapakita ng resiliency sa kabila ng mga pagdadaanan niyang pagsubok. Ipapakita sa show kung paano niya haharapin ito bukod sa taimtim niya na paglapit sa Diyos.”
Jackie and Martin said the show is all about giving hope.
“Hindi tayo dapat mag-give up. Kumbaga sakit lang yan eh, dapat maging determinado tayong harapin ito,” he said.
“Hindi Ko Kayang Iwan Ka” is a reunion for Yasmien, Mike, Jackie and Gina Alajar. The veteran actress-director was their mentor during their “StarStruck” days.
On the series, Gina is Adelaida Angeles, Marco’s elitist and territorial mother who always resorts to schemes in order to get what she wants.
Gina is proud of Jackie, Yasmien and Mike. She said they are hardworking actors who deserve their place in the industry.
She added, “The good thing about them is they don’t complain. Hindi lumaki ang ulo nila, marunong sila sa rumespeto.
“Lahat sila dumaan sa aking mga kamay. Si Jackie, dati wala lang siya pakialam basta alam niyang maganda siya. Pero after so many years, she loves what she’s doing now and meron na siyang goal (sa career niya).
“Si Yasmien, nagu-umpisa pa lang yan alam na niya ang gusto niya. She wants to be good. Pinagaralan niya talaga ‘yung goal and she’s getting better with every project.
“Itong si Mike, dati pinaglalaruan ko lang yan sa ‘Trudis Liit,’ pero ngayon he’s one of the leading actors of this network.”
“Hindi Ko Kayang Iwan Ka” also stars Shamaine Buencamino, Charee Pineda, Ina Feleo, Mike “Pekto” Nacua, and Catherine Rem. It starts airing Feb. 26 after “The Stepdaughters” on GMA Afternoon Prime.