‘I used to gaslight’: Mikoy Morales on fixing his ‘toxic’ trait
In “Tether,” one of the 10 entries to this year’s Cinemalaya film festival, Mikoy Morales plays a “liberated” man stuck in a toxic relationship. He didn’t need to look any further for inspiration.
“Lalayo pa ba ’ko?” he said, laughing, at a press conference. “I’m not saying that all my past relationships were toxic, but I have had my fair share. What my character feels and goes through isn’t exactly new to me.”
In a way, the GMA 7 actor’s situation made the role easy and challenging all at once. It was easy because he was able to mine his personal experiences, and challenging because he needed to revisit and confront the unhealthy tendencies he used to have.
There were times, Mikoy admitted, when he “gaslighted” his previous partner. “Even if I was at fault, I was able spin it to make it appear like it was the other way around. I was like, ‘I wouldn’t have acted a certain way if you didn’t trigger it.’ And I didn’t realize I was already doing that, or there was even a term for it,” said the actor, who stumbled upon the term while researching for an earlier role.
“On the surface level, I thought it was about having a hard time saying I’m sorry. Later on, I realized it was a defense mechanism. I have this fear of being unaccepted or unloved even by people closest to me if I don’t excel in something, or when they see that I have traits that are deemed different,” he told the Inquirer. “So, before it comes to that, before my vulnerable side gets exposed, I try to preempt that.”
To solve a problem, one must start by acknowledging that there is a problem. And through time, he was able to reflect and process his emotions. “I was trying to find myself, acknowledging, healing. I knew I had to work on myself,” Mikoy said.
Mikoy is currently in a romantic relationship with a nonshow biz woman. He feels that he’s now better equipped to be in one. “Ready na pala ako. I bring with me the things I have learned, things I shouldn’t do,” he said. “I’m a lot better at handling a relationship now.”
“I feel like if my exes saw me now, they wouldn’t recognize me!” Mikoy quipped.
Directed by Gian Arre, the romantic thriller film “Tether” revolves around Eric (Mikoy) and Kate (Jorrybell Agoto), who, after a one-night stand, discover that any kind of pain they inflict on themselves can be simultaneously felt by the other person. However, the relationship takes a dark turn before they know it.
It also delves into abuse, self-harm, suicide, sexual awakening, the subversion of gender roles and the helplessness of becoming a victim, the director said.
Asked why he thinks some people choose to stay in toxic relationships, Mikoy surmised that they would rather have a “bad thing than have nothing at all.” “A lot of us are scared of being alone,” he said. “Some of us weren’t taught that validation can come from yourself and not just from people around you.”
This movie is Mikoy’s “most daring” yet, he said. While he and Jorrybell had to show some skin for their intimate scenes, Mikoy said he never felt uncomfortable or unsafe on the set. “One time, I only had plaster on the whole day,” he said, laughing. “But I really felt that it was a safe environment.”
“We had workshops under Missy Maramara, who was there during the shoots to observe and choreograph our scenes for the cameras,” Mikoy related, adding that he and his co-actors were encouraged to set personal boundaries.
“That’s what I learned as well, that we have to learn how to say no. You’re not made to feel that saying no means giving an attitude. You’re not made to feel like you can’t repeat a scene, because you’re worried your partner will feel awkward. The coordination was great. Everyone knew what to do or what not to do in particular scenes.”
For Mikoy, who’s a supporting actor in another Cinemalaya entry, “Rookie,” it’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. “I haven’t done a movie in this kind of festival. I feel excited and a little bit intimidated because the Cinemalaya audience is mostly made up of film enthusiasts,” he said.
“I hope I can do more challenging roles in the future,” said Mikoy, who’s best known for his role in “Pepito Manaloto” and his seven-year stint on “Bubble Gang.” “I’m hoping for career consistency and more opportunities to do plays, movies, series and music.” INQ