'Letters': The Alan Cayetano story
MANILA, Philippines - On February 9, ABS-CBN's weekly drama "Maalaala Mo Kaya" aired the episode "Letters," about senatorial re-electionist Alan Peter Cayetano. This followed the episode aired on February 2 on another senatorial candidate, Grace Poe, titled "Sanggol."
"Letters" gave viewers a glimpse of the relationship Alan Peter had with his father, Rene L Cayetano (RLC) , erstwhile television personality ("Compañero y Compañera") and long-time public servant. The elder Cayetano passed away in 2003, after suffering from stomach cancer while still a member of the Senate.
The message of the episode was clear: That the elder Cayetano's spirit and principles continue in his eldest son, Alan Peter. The episode ended with Alan Peter vowing to continue "what their father started," together with elder sister and fellow senator, Pia.
But before we get there, allow us to take you through the episode through its most memorable quotes:
1. "Bakit ikaw gumagawa niyan? Wala ba kayong maid?" (Why are you the one doing that? Don't you have a helper?)
This was said by a friend of Alan Peter's (Gerald Anderson) when he caught Alan performing gardening duties. This was the reason Alan was unable to join his friend and the rest of the gang.
Alan Peter replied that it was Sunday and his dad Rene was home. This meant that, in the Cayetano household, Sunday was strictly for family, since Rene worked from Monday to Friday, and sometimes even on Saturday.
The next scene showed the entire Cayetano family in one bedroom, with the kids sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
"Ang pera madaling maubos (Money easily runs out)," said Rene (played by Tommy Abuel). The frugal dad made sure the family slept in one bedroom a few nights a week to save on the cost of using their aircon.
In the same scene, RLC reminded his children about his humble beginnings, having been the son of a mechanic and a public school teacher. He reminded them that everything they had as family, he had to work hard for.
Throughout the episode, whenever the elder Cayetano spoke, there were close-ups of Gerald Anderson (who played Alan Peter) with an expression that mirrored admiration for his father.
But if the episode was accurate, it also revealed that, despite Alan Peter's idolatry of his father, they did not have the smoothest father-son relationship.
2. "I will always be a lawyer."
RLC said this when he informed his family that he was going to run for the position of Assembyman under then President Ferdinand Marcos.
Along with this announcement was a promise to his family that their Sundays would always remain sacred. "Nothing will change," he assured them.
The episode showed RLC as a strict, disciplinarian dad. He made time for his family and was close to his kids, but he was not the most expressive -- at least not during the times Alan Peter wanted him to be.
Nonetheless, Alan Peter and Pia would reach out to their dad, even leaving him notes taped to a mirror so that he would see them when he got home from work.
3. "Are we saying that the rich are hardworking that's why they are rich, and the poor are lazy that's why they are poor?"
This line was said by Alan Peter when he was seeking a position in high school government, revealing that, early on, he already believed that "good education and proper labor practices" can lessen the number of families living below the poverty line.
It was during this time in Alan Peter's life that his father went on the campaign trail to become an assemblyman. He would join his father in visiting slum areas, and they would spend time communicating with the poor, telling them that there was "hope" under the government of Marcos.
While RLC spoke with the adults, Alan Peter told stories to the kids. He made a mistake though when once he left his dad in the slums to get himself some lunch. The scene that followed showed RLC following Alan Peter to the carinderia where he was about to eat, reminding him to have concern and compassion for the poor. He said he was disappointed in Alan Peter.
4. "Gusto ko maging katulad niya. 'Di ba niya nakikita yun?" (I want to be like him. Can't he see that?)
The incident resulted in a strained relationship between RLC and Alan Peter. It was Alan Peter's mom, Sandy (Jackie Lou Blanco), who acted as bridge between father and son — or at least she tried.
Alan Peter's work on his dad's campaign resulted in 3 failed subjects in high school, causing him to get grounded and to take tutorial classes every day after school.
In 1984, RLC became an assemblyman under the Marcos government. The elder child and only daughter Pia — who also idolized her dad — entered law school.
Alan Peter, still walking on eggshells with his father, committed another mistake: he borrowed a parachute for his birthday party from his dad's contact in politics.
"'Yan ang kinatatakot ko, ang lumaki kayo sa rangya at walang alam sa tunay na buhay tulad ng ibang tao," RLC told Alan Peter after scolding him for what he did. (That's what I'm afraid of, that you would grow up in luxury and not know anything about real life like other people.)
5. "Minsan kailangang gawin ang tama kahit gaano ito kahirap." (Sometimes you have to do the right thing no matter how hard it is.)
RLC said this to his family after telling them he was breaking away from Marcos and that he wanted them to go to the US where they could be safe. But Alan Peter and Pia disagreed with their dad and overturned his decision; they decided to stay in the Philippines with him.
Alan Peter woke up one morning to find a letter from his dad, thanking him for being steadfast and determined. "I saw the man that you could be and it made me so happy," the letter said, telling Alan Peter that he was next in line as the man of the house.
After EDSA 1 when Marcos was exiled to Hawaii, RLC went back to private law practice, and Alan Peter went to college in UP Diliman. He ran for a post in the UP Student Council and won. "Make use of your position to do something good for the university but do not to forget your grades," said RLC to Alan Peter.
He felt that his dad had no faith that he could do it, when it fact he wanted to please his father by following in his footsteps. Alan Peter looked for appreciation and validation from his dad, but could not get it in the way he thought he should.
6. "Pag-isipan mong mabuti kung ano ang papasukin mo." (Think very well about what you want to get into.)
This line was repeated several times by RLC throughout the episode, even after Alan Peter ran for Taguig councilor and won, and especially when Alan Peter applied but did not get accepted into UP Law School.
In 1994, while studying at the Ateneo Law School, RLC did a public service program in television called "Compañero y Compañera." Alan Peter ran for vice mayor in Taguig, but lost because of what he saw as anomalies in the ballot count. He filed an electoral protest that went on for a year, asking his dad (who was then the chief presidential adviser of President Fidel V Ramos) for help with expediting the process, but RLC refused.
"You just have to let everything go through the proper process," he said. "I won't use my position to influence anyone about your case."
Alan Peter retorted, "Can't you see that among all of us I am the only one following in your footsteps?"
He finished law school and won his electoral protest with only 10 days left in his term. "If politics is this dirty, I don't think I want to be in it," he told brother Ren.
7. "I'll support you on that, son."
While in "Compañero," RLC was asked by Ramos to join the Senate. When he told his family, he asked Alan Peter, "What do you think?"
"I'm running for congressman," Alan Peter replied. "Let's both run."
Father and son won in the posts they ran for in 1998, making it a historical year for their family. Alan Peter distanced himself from his father, and was dubbed one of the "Bright Boys" in the House of Representatives.
In the same year, RLC fell ill as he got infected with Hepatitis B. His family took him to the US where he got a liver transplant from youngest son Lino. Three months after the transplant, RLC's condition got worse; that was when doctors discovered that he had stomach cancer.
8. "You are right. I was too hard on you."
In one scene where Alan Peter brought his dad to the den to rest, an ill RLC took the chance to apologize to his son for being too hard on him. He tried explaining himself to Alan Peter.
"You will set the example to Ren-Ren and Lino," RLC said. "You will take care of your mom and siblings when I am no longer around.
"I want you to be able to stand on your own two feet. Be steadfast, be a good person, be brave."
It was at the moment that Alan Peter realized that his father saw and was proud of all of his achievements. It was also symbolic of his "taking the reins" from his father to take care of the family.
9. "Family is the most important, remember that."
RLC passed away in the Cayetano home with his wife and kids at his bedside. The episode showed him eager to get well and get back to work, but his children were told that his days were numbered.
In the scene where he was about to die, RLC apologized for not giving more time to his family. "I should have given more time, all the time that I could, to all of you."
He asked them to look out for each other, to give each other time, and to never sacrifice their principles.
"If you really want to help people, fear no one," he told them.
10. "Let us continue what he started. Let's make him proud."
The last scene showed Alan Peter in a barong inside his father's home office, touching his father's things and sitting at his father's desk.
Pia (Carla Guevarra) walked past and saw him, and joined him in reminiscing about their father.
"I owe him who I am now, what I have achieved, what I will achieve," Alan Peter told Pia, who assured him that their father knew that.
And then the siblings made a truce: To continue what their father started, to "make him proud."
That was the last scene in the 1.5-hour episode, with LP senatorial TV commercials in between. While it may have been touching for some (especially for fans of the late Sen Rene Cayetano), others saw it as a blatant form of campaigning.
I remember chancing upon a tweet that said, "MMK should no longer be 'Maalaala Mo Kaya' but 'Maaga Mag-Kampanya.'"
Do you agree? Tell us what you think about the "Maalaala Mo Kaya" episode. Place your comments below. - Rappler.com