The cast of ‘Mga Batang Poz’ wants you to be more open-minded about HIV awareness

The cast of ‘Mga Batang Poz’ wants you to be more open-minded about HIV awareness

For Awra Briguela, Mark Neumann, Fino Herrera, and Paolo Gumabao, the show is more than just a series — it’s an advocacy.

Photos courtesy of iWant TV

 

The new iWant series, Mga Batang Poz, stands out for a number of reasons. Not only is it led by a talented young cast — comprising standout new faces and ones that might be more familiar, but haven’t really had the chance to show their chops — it also provides unprecedented and positive representation for lower classes and the LGBTQ+ community. Most important of all, it’s about people who struggle with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and its depiction of this experience, as well as the circumstances that lead to it, is handled with sensitivity and driven by the goal to inform. 

Based on the novel by Segundo Matias Jr., the six-episode show is directed by Chris Martinez, who previously helmed Here Comes the Bride and Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, and stars Mark Neumann, Fino Herrera, Paolo Gumabao, and Awra Briguela. It centers around four teenagers from different socioeconomic backgrounds who are diagnosed HIV-positive. They meet on an online support group and decide to go on a road trip, and the film follows them as they manage their affliction, brave the social stigma and isolation, and lean on each other and their families and friends for love, courage, hope, and understanding. Think Rent meets Skins meets Red Band Society, but entirely our own. 

Hindi siya basta series, advocacy siya,” says Awra, who adds that because of its taboo topic and the reluctance of mainstream Filipino media to take risks on what might not sell, it wasn’t that easy to get it off the ground. 

“There are advocacy movies na very watered down, pero gusto pa rin nilang i-instill ‘yung message,” Mark chimes in. “Here, we went full-on, in-your-face. Straight to the point na: ‘Ito ang pinagdadaanan ng mga tao, o ginagawa ng mga bata.’ Kaya nangyayari, kasi walang awareness, walang knowledge, walang control.” 

Kailangan nilang tanggapin na ito ‘yung pinagdadaanan ng mga kabataan ngayon, na nandun sila sa age na nag-e-explore sila,” says Paolo. “Sa totoo lang, ang isang bata, kung nag-e-explore, walang magagawa ang mga magulang kundi gabayan nila ‘yung bata.” Instead of shock and anger, these people need compassion and empathy, and Mga Batang Poz does a good job of showing this. 

“Very timely rin kasi,” Fino adds, citing that the Philippines has the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region, the majority of which are reported to be among the youth. “After ba namin gawin itong series, ‘yung message ba namin, maipapadala ba namin sa lahat ng dapat maka-receive ng message na ‘yun? Nakakatuwa siguro if matanggap nila ‘yung message tsaka ‘yung kaalaman na pinapakita ng series.” 

 

“There are advocacy movies na very watered down, pero gusto pa rin nilang i-instill ‘yung message. Here, we went full-on, in-your-face. Straight to the point na: ‘Ito ang pinagdadaanan ng mga tao, o ginagawa ng mga bata.’ Kaya nangyayari, kasi walang awareness, walang knowledge, walang control.” 

 

The cast itself became more aware of and more sensitive to the plight of HIV-positive patients after working on the series, and they learned to be more open-minded about diversity and the topics of sexuality, gender identity, and social class. They also discovered the lengths they can go to as actors, if the material was relevant and worth it. “Ang dami kong nagawa dito na dito ko lang nalaman na kaya ko palang gawin,” Paolo shares. 

Awra agrees: “Natutunan ko sa sarili ko na, hindi ka lang basta dapat gumawa ng project, hindi mo siya dapat gawin as work lang, gawin mo siya with your heart and determination.”

Ultimately, Paolo says, he hopes Mga Batang Poz can reach out and affect every viewer, regardless of their age and whether they’re affected in any way by HIV or not. “Kasi ito, very universal talaga siya. Tatamaan ka talaga. May kanya-kanyang pinagdadaanan sa buhay ang mga characters, and imposible na walang mapupulot na aral ang mga tao dito.”

And if a series that’s this fearless and reflective of society can exist, it can only mean good things for material that’s as diverse, forward-thinking, and progressive, if not more. 

 

 

Stream Mga Batang Poz on iWant, along with a special hosted by Karen Davila called Poz Talk, where it continues the conversation on its advocacy with stories and input from the four lead stars, author Segundo Matias Jr., and real-life HIV-positive patients.

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