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HIV drama a new chapter for Mart Escudero

MANILA, Philippines - Heavy and emotional - that's how Mart Escudero described preparations for his role in TV5’s HIV drama, “Positive,” which starts showing on October 17.

The young actor’s most mature role yet comes in the form of call-center yuppie Carlo, a teen rebel who becomes more focused and driven as he grows older, gets married, and builds a career.

With his rising career and the wholehearted support of his expectant wife, Carlo’s future seems set. But in an unfortunate twist, he is diagnosed with HIV.

A ‘Positive’ outlook

The 23-year-old Martin, or Mart, already has two acting awards (Gawad Tanglaw and Golden Screen Awards), for his performance in "Patayin sa Shokot si Remington" (2012). Before that, he had been cited as a young actor to watch out for.

Despite the accolades, Mart said he was daunted and felt great pressure from his "very big role."

"Nagulat din ako kung bakit ako ang napili nila [I myself am surprised why they chose me]," he said. 

“It’s a big honor for me to do this series. It’s the very first time na may ganitong klaseng istorya sa [that we have this kind of story on] TV."

With fellow cast members Bing Loyzaga and Bianca Manalo, Mart went through a 2-day "immersion" at the AIDS Society of the Philippines, including an orientation and storytelling discussion with 5 HIV patients.

Mart told Rappler the experience opened his mind, such that he considers this a new phase in his life.

Pinakamalaking nakuha ko yung emosyon, kasi masasalo mo yung kwento nila, yung mga pinagdaanan nila. Iba yung nandoon ka sa harap nila."

(The biggest takeaway, for me, was the emotion. From there, you could catch their story and experiences.)

May mga nakakatuwang part pero mabigat pa rin siya. Pero ang importante dun yung aral na napulot namin, yung nabuksan yung isip ko. Kumbaga, panibagong pahina ng buhay ko yun eh.”

There were funny moments, but this was still profound. But the important thing is the lessons we learned, it opened my mind. In a way, it's a new page in my life.

“‘Yon yung isa sa mga hindi ko makakalimutan habang buhay.”

(This is one of the things I will never forget.)

More than immersing himself in the role, Mart even had himself tested, as a way of encouraging others to face their fears and do the same.

"Ako, talagang nagpresenta ako na mag-test pero para sa kapakanan ng marami. Gusto kong malaman nila na hindi ito kasing sama ng inaakala nila."

(I volunteered to get tested, but for the sake of the many, I want them to know that this is not as bad as might have been thought.)

“We’re not just putting on a show but we are spreading awareness and knowledge about this disease.

For all ages

Indeed, despite its heavy themes, "Positive" is intended for viewers of all ages, even children. The goal is to dispel stigma and discrimination among the public.

Mart believes the show can help change perspectives, and ultimately, lives.

"Kailangang mabuksan muna namin ang isip tungkol [sa HIV/AIDS]. 'Pag napansin naman nila na totoo 'to, na ito yung totoong nangyayari, sigurado akong magkakaroon sila ng interes na matuto."

(We need to open more people's minds [about HIV/AIDS]. When they realize how real it is, that this is what's really happening, I'm sure they will have the interest to learn.)

"Sa totoo lang, nakakatakot siya eh, nakakapagpabago talaga ng buhay."

(Truth be told, it's scary, it changes lives.)

The production is working closely with the AIDS Society of the Philippines to ensure accuracy in depicting this medical and also social phenomenon.

"Masayang masaya sila," Mart said about the Society's response toward the show. "Tinutulungan nila kaming ilabas yung dapat, sa mga mahihirap na detalye." 

(They are very happy. They are helping us with the difficult details) -

'Positive' will start airing every Thursday after the October 17 TV premiere.