[Manila] ~ Stories at this year’s Cinemalaya

For we each have a story to tell. — 07.27.13


Being a fan of films that are Filipino, this independent film festival is one of the things I always look forward to every year. Although I feel it is becoming more and more mainstream each year, I could not deny the fact that this event still draws me in.

I vividly remember last year when I was so sick (and I rarely get sick!) and yet I chose to drag myself out of bed despite my weakly state and unfriendly rainy weather just to watch Ang Nawawala. Fast forward to today and I was not sick but I dared to do movie marathon by getting a Day Pass to see maximum of five films one fine Saturday. First screening at 10 in the morning is a collection of New Breed short films. I came with a friend and it was matter of decision between Shorts A or B and we chose B. She came in a lot so we had to take different seats. What followed were full-length features until around 11PM.

The filmmakers’ intent could well be different but here I shall spill some own thoughts on almost all entries I have seen.


Katapusang Labok_Cinemalaya

Aiess Alonso’s Katapusang Labok (Last Strike), 2013

Katapusang Labok centers on the life of a fisherman Randy (played by Nicolo Manreal) and his anchors of hope to survival as his means of living become unstable. I particularly like how the film relates this by interweaving of scenes that depict his festive expression of faith in the Sto Nino vis-a-vis in a similarly quite festive cockfighting. The latter failed that as an audience, we were left to think how hopeful he can get with the latter – with his devotion. Moreover, set against still shots of picturesque landscapes, the film is a thought-teaser as upon realizing that while as tourists or outsiders, we like to bask in such beauty yet such beauty causes hopelessness to someone who relies heavily on it to be able to live decently. The ending is simply haunting as the audience bids goodbye not only to one Randy but to many Randys.



J.E. Tiglao’s Onang, 2013

The next film Onang is a shocking account of how innocence can be damaged. It is indeed everyone’s initiation to growing up but our differences in situations could make it more harsh to others. But then it leaves the message as well that though painful and scarring, it is never a loss as long as it is clearly a decision made in pursuit of one’s dreams that others are ungenerous or simply unimaginative to allow.



Joaquin Adrian Pantaleon, Immanuel Canicosa, Stephan Domingo’s Pukpok (A Rite of Passage)

Pukpok is a light take on a man’s ‘first’ rite of passage to manhood before he faces other responsibilities in life that could aptly make him a man – as sexist as that statement of mine can be. The film revolves around an adorable young boy’s (Mac-Mac) day when he is about to be circumcised. Peppered with funny and touching encounters with a brother who keeps on teasing him, the walk with his quite effeminate buddy who is also to be circumcised that day and that encounter with a young girl who could be a romantic prospect, the film eases the scare that could otherwise be felt in such a momentous day in a boy’s life.


sa wakas

Nica Santiago’s Sa Wakas (The End of the Beginning)

Sa Wakas is a hauntingly beautiful film for its strange take on abortion and father-daughter relationships. It also deals with how judgment on things being right or wrong exists among us but it is never simply black or white. Despite the weakening and depressing sight of the blood that was just dripping from the private part of a young girl who just had an abortion, film manages to remain touching and engages its audience to eavesdrop to the conversation of the girl with her father as they ride that pedicab in search of someone who could help them control the bleeding. When the two of them were talking, everything seems alright. But when they talk to others for help, others choose to keep their mouths shut and it ripped them apart.



Paolo P. O’Hara’s The Houseband’s Wife

The Houseband’s Wife is a series of Skype conversations between an overseas Filipina and her houseband, called such as he was left in charge of their three little girls. The film plays on the “do you trust me” game that almost inevitably happens in long distance relationships. Though a light take on what could be otherwise a harsh reality among couples who had to be apart for a comfortable life, the film has that pinch as that suggests that just like any game, someone loses. Owing it to the houseband’s good acting and the series of exchanges of crispy cursing (“p*tangina), film is an interesting build-up until in the end when it is finally revealed who ‘won’ in the game.


Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra (The Bit Player), 2013

I was initially hesitant to watch this full-length film as its lead is played by a mainstream actress Vilma Santos but I am glad that I did not give in to stereotypical judgment. Centered on the life of Loida Malabanan (played by Santos), a veteran “extra” in films, the film takes us to a day filled with both busy-ness and waiting until it leads to that final moment that is a poignant reminder to all of us that it is great to have a dream and to happily live your way to it – life bites us on the ass on any random day to make us accept what is versus what we want. And the fact that Vilma played the part? Totally amazing.



Jason Paul Laxamana’s Babagwa (A Spider’s Lair)

Babagwa tackles the themes of lure and entrapment anchored on a web of lies that are so consistent it blurs reality and non-reality. The film takes us on a ride as a scammer (played by Alex Vincent Medina) falls for a woman he was trying to scam using a fake Facebook account. Sexy and bold,  the film titillates the senses as it approaches the revelation that is not very unpredictable but the road to it was made strangely exciting that everyone in the theater was making all this gasping and other noises.

Quick Change

Eduardo Roy, Jr.’s Quick Change

This another full-length film is a bittersweet tale of journey to acceptance. Though centered on its lead character Dorina, a transsexual, the film is a story of how people sometimes rely on certain ‘addictions’ and roles to make up for certain gaps in life and how it does not make them flawed but rather more internally beautiful than those who hate to admit and flaunt it. Filled with beautiful people and the most genuine relationships (especially that within Dorina and her nephew), the film takes on the biggest irony that people who are not who they should be turn out to be the ones with utmost sincerity.


Of these entries, I am not skipping to spill my thoughts on one – Instant Mommy. A rather funny side story – we got the bad seats and the seats are too bad I was not able to understand the film. It, by the way, is a film that requires subtitles which we unfortunately could not rad. Will just have to wait for it to be screened in other cinemas.

Instant Mommy

20130801_101251 Cinemalaya is an annual independent film festival, with Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) as main venue. As of this year, screenings were also conducted in Trinoma, Greenbelt and Alabang Town Center cinemas. One may opt to buy tickets per screening or can avail of the Festival Pass and Day passes – latter only applicable to CCP screenings.

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