Thoughts On… Camp Sawi

Thoughts On Camp Sawi Cover

 

“Camp Sawi” revolves around a fictional retreat resort located in Bantayan Island, Cebu wherein guests can stay and join in activities that can aide them from moving on from their heartbreak. The movie focuses on the heartbreak of five women namely Bridgette (Bela Padilla), Gwen (Arci Munoz), Jessica (Yassi Pressman), Joanne (Kim Molina) and Clarissa (Andi Eigenmann), their coping process and how they eventually moved on.

Going in, I was expecting it to be a tacky hugotfest; hugot lines turned into punch lines to romanticize heartbreak. Fortunately it wasn’t like that. Camp Sawi was honestly interested in exploring the grieving and recovery process of each of the camp participants. The movie spent time in expounding the backstories of each woman to make it easier for the audiences to understand their present coping mechanisms. Overall, the movie’s introspective intention was refreshing, even though it did make its tone heavy.

Peppered throughout the movie were laugh out comedy scenes that inject the needed energy to its somber mood. Jerald Napoles once again proved why he’s the most impactful comedian (scenes over audience reaction) in local film. The nuanced weirdness of his characters have always been scene stealers since English, Only Please.

Sadly, the focus on the five main characters came at the expense of fleshing out the other parts of the story. I was interested on Sam Milby’s motivations in creating Camp Sawi but it was not at all explained in the movie. Was Sam honestly concerned in helping the girls to move on or was he just in it to swoop vulnerable girls off their feet? That could have helped the audience to have a better appreciation of the context because, honestly, he’s basically the Professor X of Camp Sawi. (On second thought, was Sam the really owner of the camp? Maybe he disposed of the real owner to take advantage of the women????)

In addition, the film had difficulty in cleanly weaving the different storylines of the protagonists. Transition was sometimes abrupt and too often that made the flow incoherent. The last ten minutes were especially confusing as the film presented what happened to each character after the camp.

Overall, Camp Sawi’s concept and intentions were honest and refreshing, but just fell short with its execution.

Shout Outs, Call Outs and Watch Outs:

  • There were some promising movies based on the reel of trailers they showed before the movie
    • Alessandra de Rossi and Empoy Marquez’s “Kita Kita” seems to be an unorthodox romcom. I’ve been an advocate of Empoy for years to be the heir to the late Tado’s throne. I hope the film can rightfully showcase Empoy’s talent. Also, nice casting of Alessandra. She seems to be the actress that can manage and match Empoy’s alt-humor.
    • Bela Padilla’s “I America” also shows promise. A tale of a fil-am woman played by Bela Padilla who tries to connect with her absentee american father.
  • The Runner-up to the Jerald Napoles Scene Stealer award goes to Rico Blanco for his break-up song. He still has the moves!
  • I’m pretty sure some of the scenes were improvised. Gwen and Bridgitte’s drunk discussion was LOL-worthy
    • “Hindi lahat ng nag-eenglish taga-England, pwedeng taga-Makati lang.”
  • Kind of weird that they used Regine Velasquez’s “Dadalhin” as the sing-along song of the movie. Especially when you consider the scene where they used it to diffuse tension.
  • Props to music scorer Len Calvo! Background scoring was great throughout the film. Reminded me of longtime Jadaone/Villegas collaborator, Emerzon Texon.
  • Sponsor Spotting: Ginebra and San Mig Light, of course their endorsers Arci and Bela were in the movie.
  • Fun Fact: Kim Molina, Jerald Napoles and Sarah Brakensiek (Bebang of OTWOL) were all part of last year’s #Walang Forever
Thoughts On… Camp Sawi

Thoughts On…Imagine You & Me

Imagine You & Me album cover

*Warning: Spoilers*

Spunky Gara (Maine Mendoza) admits she has tough luck when it comes to her love and life. Her potential boyfriend came out of the closet and, for reasons not cleared in the movie, she also had to leave her family to work in Italy as a housekeeper and dog walker. Bad luck seems to follow her to Italy as she meets Andrew (Alden Richards), a brooding guy who’s probably suffering from untreated PTSD after his dad died in a car accident and his proposal rejected by her girlfriend, Isay (Jasmine Curtis-Smith). After starting off on the wrong foot, they eventually fall for each other. Will Gara’s self-fulfilling prophesizing get in between her and Andrew?

Imagine You & Me was okay. It had the Kalyeserye callbacks from the dubsmashing, the pabebe wave, the splitscreen romance and the lines (“grabe siya”, “Regine! woooo!”). It surprised me that these references were smoothly inserted in the movie and weren’t abrupt as they were in My Bebe Love. Photography was well thought out more than the usual GMA film (my previous experience were from MMFF films). They had a lovely tracking shot in the early part of the movie that was a good translation of their split screen style to film.

Although what was off-putting was how the writers had to include all the possible melodramatic tropes in the movie. Stepson hates his stepmother? check. A “mahirap man ako pero hindi ako magnanakaw” monologue? check. Drunk videoke? check. The confide something while the other person’s drunk or sleeping? check. A car accident? check. I have no issues with using tropes. They make it easier for viewers to establish a connection with the movie; helping in setting up the possible permutations of events that can happen in the movie. But using tropes just to have drama doesn’t cut it for me. SPOILER TERRITORY: What was the purpose of Gara getting hit by a car at the end of the movie? Car accidents in pinoy movies are used to enact a change of heart in a character. It’s basically: “dapat patawarin mo na siya dahil pwedeng mamatay siya”. In the movie, Andrew was already all-in on Gara. Did we really need that scene

Also off-putting was Gara’s decision in the end. The movie could have been 30mins shorter if she just decided to be mum about Isay being in Italy. She rationalized that her decision to meddle in the lives of Andrew and Isay was for their own good. But was it really for them or just so she can continue her “malas sa lovelife” narrative? Andrew and Isay were already done with their romance! Isay wanted to die alone. Gara already cured Andrew’s PTSD with her energy! Wala nang kokontra! But she just couldn’t help but self-destruct. And just to add, forcing a trauma survivor to revisit their trauma is so unnecessary.

But overall, it was an okay try for a first movie. It had high-level production value, strong supporting cast but muddled by story decisions. It reminded me of how the first full-length John Lloyd-Bea film was also just okay. It doesn’t stand out compared to the other films they had afterwards. Again, it’s good that they started on the right footing. Just a few more reps and they might eventually hit their own One More Chance.

Shout Outs, Call Outs and Watch Outs:

  • Unrelated to the film,shout out to the new anti-piracy video. I loved that Dan Villegas/Tonet Jadaone troupe mainstays like Jerald Napoles, Nico Antonio, Ruby Ruiz and Bebeng (can’t find her real name!)
  • Shout out to Como, Italy. Whoever thought of shooting the film there was a genius
  • Shout out to Cai Cortez and Kakai Bautista playing good cop and bad cop to Maine’s Gara
  • Shout out for including Mojofly’s “Mata” in their soundtrack
  • Spotted Sponsors: Magnolia, McDonald’s, Nescafe, O+. To be fair, McDonald’s was the only overt placement there.
  • What’s with Gara’s dog analogies when talking with Isay? Is it because Isay loves dogs? I dunno, it was just odd.
Thoughts On…Imagine You & Me

Thoughts On…The Achy Breaky Hearts

The Achy Breaky Hearts Cover 1
Image Source: Star Cinema YouTube

 

The Achy Break Hearts tells the story of Chinggay (Jodi Sta. Maria), a thirty-something lady bemoaning her apparent inability to settle down with a guy. It also doesn’t help that her other relatives judge and ridicule her for it (based on the laughs in the theater, a relatable experience I guess). After a seven-year dry spell, she suddenly gets attention from two strapping beaus: Ryan (Ian Veneracion), her work client who just came from a relationship and Frank (Richard Yap), her long-time ex-boyfriend who cheated on her seven years ago. Will she choose the broken guy? or the guy who broke her heart?

I had low expectations from the movie given the template romcom premise and that the three main cast members were part of Jadaone’s All You Need Is Pag-Ibig– the director’s weakest film in my book. But since it’s a Jadaone film, I had to watch it. I cannot turn away from the director that shined the spotlight on Lilia Cuntapay and Brgy. Captain Boy English.

The film did not disappoint. It had the Tonette Tropes (see below) that I always welcome; but most especially, it had a strong message to say. Given the popularity of her films, Jadaone has the right platform and connection with her audience to impart wisdom on society’s unfair expectation from Filipinas since time immemorial. Moreover, a round message such as what TABH has doesn’t have a place in a square genre like the romcom. The romcom is an archaic genre of film. Its roots can be traced back to old Disney fairy tales wherein the female protagonist is swept by her prince to live happily ever after. A message like this doesn’t have a place in a romcom film but somehow, Jadaone managed to fit it in.

And by managed to fit it in, I honestly meant that I don’t know how it got there. The third act was messy especially when the characters started their exposition on their understanding of what love is. A character early in the movie professed adamantly that people should fight for their love, but would later leave this person’s loved one because that’s how this character understands “fighting for your love”. I’m not sure how many mental flips you have to do to land that logic but “flight” is the direct opposite response of “fight”.

But even with that muddled end game, overall, it was still a solid romcom with a strong statement. I still have to give props for that.

 

SHOUT OUTS, CALL OUTS AND WATCH OUTS:

  • Shout out to Jodi Sta. Maria for really carrying the movie. She was evidently working on a different level. You know in wrestling when good established wrestlers like Chris Jericho have to carry and eventually lose in matches against new wrestlers to make the newbies look good (see jobbing)? That was basically Jodi Sta. Maria in this film. She had to work double, sometimes tripletime in scenes to make her two stiff beaus look good.
  • Shout out to the condom jokes scene! I couldn’t believe we have this on a mainstream film.
  • Watch out for the role of onions in the movie
    • Are onions also a metaphor for something? I’m not sure
  • Shout out the original Beauty Gonzalez (Denise Joaquin) and the new Beauty Gonzales (Beauty Gonzalez) in one film!
  • Shout out to the Donna Cruz reference
  • Shout out to the OTWOL easter egg. I had to watch the Most Approved Kiss video on YouTube to confirm this.

 

TONETTE TROPES:

  • Use of animation to intro a film or episode: Not really animation but used toys and dolls for the intro. I’m not sure how you call this style but it’s similar to Digital5’s Dramalala style.
  • Women’s Issue Tackled: Society’s judgement towards relatively old single ladies (also had a Single Ladies reference in the movie)
  • Dan Villegas/Tonette Jadaone Stable of Actors Spotting: Ruby Ruiz (Ekstra, OTWOL), Phi Palmos (Always Be My Maybe, OTWOL),
  • Sponsor Spotting: Anlene, Victoria Court, Jollibee and Jollibee Spaghetti, Primera Light Brandy, Flanax
    • Most abrupt endorsement goes to Flanax, a sudden cut to the scene and wasn’t clear who was the person that needed Flanax
    • Runner-up award goes to Jollibee Spaghetti. Chinggay suddenly shared a fond moment with Jollibee Spaghetti
  • Dan Villegas/Tonette Jadaone 80s – 90s Song Soundtrack: Sana Dalawa Ang Puso Ko by Bodjie Dasig
    • Additional music: Sasakyan Kita by Gladys and The Boxers, One More Chance by Piolo Pascual (this song sucked so bad that Erik Santos’ I’ll Never Go became One More Chance the film’s theme song)
  • The Joem Bascon Award for Surprise Appearance In The Last 5 minutes Of The Movie: Michael Flores as the Singles For Christ guy of Desiree Del Valle and Bernard Palanca as Denise Joaquin’s baby papa.
Thoughts On…The Achy Breaky Hearts

Thoughts On…Just The 3 Of Us

Thoughts On Just The 3 Of Us Cover
Image Source: Star Cinema (youtube)

Who doesn’t want a John Lloyd-Jennylyn led romcom? John Lloyd’s the patron saint of local romance films. Jennylyn’s on a tear after winning back-to-back Best Actress awards for romance film roles. And they also have Direk Cathy Garcia-Molina at the helm? You sure as hell know I’ll be up for that. That’s three of the best things the local romcom world has to offer!

Sadly, Just The 3 Of Us was…an okay movie. It wasn’t a bad movie nor was it a game-changing movie like One More Chance or English, Only Please; something you’d expect based on the names attached to the film. It basically followed the same ebb and flow of a romcom movie: a guy and girl who are at odds with each other are forced into some weird set-up and they fall in-love. It’s still a solid premise that people can get behind, but again I was expecting more from a project that has these much successful names included. Surely you’d understand that right?

But what really disappointed me with this film was how John Lloyd still fell into the usual characterization that he has been playing in romance films for the last 10 – 12 years! You see, last year, we wrote about the John Lloyd Hypothesis. On how, John Lloyd’s characters tend to be emotionally-dependent, manipulative and broken.  It’s a lengthy piece but goddammit it’s the best and in-depth profile we’ve written.

As a self-proclaimed Lloydie-ologist, I want John Lloyd to move on from that characterization. He won’t able to test the limits of his acting talent if he plays the same type of character in every single film. And he’s actually on a roll lately with A Second Chance, Honor Thy Father and Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis. And then Just The 3 Of Us comes out of nowhere and returns JLC back to his old romcom self. Let’s see how:

(SPOILER WARNING: I’ll be spoiling a lot of stuff from the film. Better watch the movie first before you proceed.)

JLC's Old Patterns

I guess I just root for John Lloyd so much that I don’t want to see him falling back to his old patterns. He’s just too talented of an actor to always play this kind of character.

SHOUT OUTS, CALL OUTS AND WATCH OUTS

  • Here’s another way to watch the film: it’s a story of how Philippine society mistreats and pressures pregnant women. She had to beg for support from the supposed father. Also had to lie to her family about her condition so not to disappoint them.
  • JLC had the weirdest and funniest O-face I’ve seen on local media. Imma need to gif that once the movie’s available
  • If John Lloyd’s a wrestler, he’d be the perfect heel
    • Who’s a more perfect heel than JLC? Baron Geisler! Didn’t expect Baron Geisler to be Jennylyn’s ex. They went for the batugan ex rather than the “better than current” ex. Of course they needed to look for a shittier ex because JLC already treats Jennylyn horribly
  • “Kahit magswimming ako sa alak ngayon, wala kang magagawa.”
  • Did JLC’s character fall for Jennylyn’s because she pampers JLC like a mom would do?
  • Shout out to Joel Torre and his white sando. He should get an endorsement deal for white sandos
  • Do paternity tests take six weeks? What is up with that
  • JLC and Jennylyn have chemistry when they banter. It’s just bad that a big chunk of the movie had them at odds with each other
  • Of course they were able to find a way to insert Biogesic and Magic Flakes endorsements in the film
  • The film could have at least been less formulaic if at one point Jennylyn strongly considered abortion. At least the focus of the film went back to the baby rather just being used as a plot device.
  • Another disappointing thing: apparently some people on youtube have mentioned how Just The 3 Of Us‘s premise was similar to a Korean TV series.

 

Just The 3 Of Us now showing in Philippine cinemas nationwide

Thoughts On…Just The 3 Of Us

Thoughts On…This Time

IMPLICATIONS OF NETFLIX PH
Source: Viva Ent (youtube)

Coming from a successful teleserye and world tour, James Reid and Nadine Lustre are back with their fourth feature film. This Time’s about two childhood friends, Ava and Coby who only see each other every summer. Eventually, as years went on, their relationship blossomed- but not without obstacles and roadblocks.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the writing and direction of OTWOL so much because This Time felt flat and unpolished. The flow of the movie was uneven with flashbacks and asides dispersed throughout its two-hour run that messed up the main plot. Much so that I couldn’t identify the film’s rising action, climax, falling action, etc. I can’t say anything wrong with James, Nadine and everyone else in the cast because they did all they could with the source material that was given. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to make a satisfying movie experience.

Shout outs, Call outs and Watch outs:

  • Call out that loooooooooong flashback. It was basically half of the film. If you were going to use a flashback as a plot device, at least have the decency to tell your audience when the flashback ends. It was hard to tell how far in the future the first ten minutes was.
    • Although shout out to the foreign pop culture references in each year. You don’t often hear Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s breakup or the H1N1 scare in a Filipino movie. It could have been better if they also included local pop culture references. Like have Ava ask Coby to watch Diary Ng Panget (plus points for meta-humor)
  • Again shout out to the casting. Al Tantay’s always a lock to be the dad. And I was pleasantly surprised to see Candy Pangilinan in a nanay role. So much spunk and energy than the usual talents typecasted as the protagonist’s mother.
    • Shout out to Ronnie Lazaro who played Ate Bi, the gay owner of the cornerstore near Ava’s place. I know Ronnie Lazaro for his taong grasa roles and I haven’t seen him in such a role as this.
    • Shout out to Donnalyn Bartolome embodying the spunky bestfriend role. When will they give her a leading role?
  • Shout out to the musical director of the film. Who wouldn’t dance to Donna Cruz’s rendition of Langit Na Naman?
  • Watch out for that Skype call scene between Ava and Coby. Nadine is still the worst person to talk to on Skype
  • Biggest call out: using The Beard trope as the final issue to test their relationship. Seriously, it’s one of the easiest issues to clear up. The gay guy (in this case Bret Jackson’s character) just has to properly explain the situation. But based on the film’s logic, being a beard is a far worse issue than balancing priorities with love
  • Calling out also the decision to suddenly include Japan in the story. Of all places why Japan? It wasn’t clear why Ophelia (Nova Villa) went to Japan.
    • Also, why did they introduce the Ambassador Summer Lolo and Ophelia love story in the middle of the film all? And as if the Lolo and Ophelia had almost the same weight as the Coby and Ava story. Their happily ever after was tied closely to Lolo and Ophelia’s happily ever after.
  • Call out sa Cornetto. Yes we know na major sponsor kayo ng film

 

This Time is now showing in cinemas nationwide in the Philippines

Thoughts On…This Time

How Not To Experience Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis

How Not To Watch Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis cover

I have to start with this: watching Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis yesterday was my first time to ever view a Lav Diaz film. I knew nothing of Lav Diaz’s style nor his previous works. All I knew was that he’s an internationally-respected director known for excessively long films. That’s it. Hele  wasn’t even in my consciousness before a week ago, when I learned that John Lloyd Cruz was part of the film. Being a self-proclaimed Lloydieologist (yeah I’m coining this), I felt the urge to watch it. The man continues to challenge his talents, and you just have to respect that. An invite from my friends on Good Friday night was the last push I needed to watch the film.

Fast forward to Saturday night, and let’s just say I wasn’t satisfied with my experience. I left the theater with a slight dead leg from all the sitting and a head messed up by all the “why????”s I thought. Most prominently were “why did the movie take 8 hours???” and “why did we need to see Basilio (Sid Lucero) digging for 5 mins?”. Don’t get me wrong, I did see positives in the movie. There were scenes and shots that made sense to me (i.e. Simoun on the raft). And I liked the idea of the universe it’s set in: a Filipinas where the lines of history, fiction and superstition intersect. I could just imagine how much stories we can mine from the universe Diaz posited. However,these were just a tiny fraction of the 8 hours we spent. Maybe it also didn’t help that I was also disappointed by my first taste of Halal Guys? Here’s a short review:

Halal Guys Falafel + Chicken Combo: Falafel felt unevenly cooked. Pita was cold.        — Two stars

While eating, I just couldn’t help the feeling that that was it. I eventually went online to find out why film critics were raving about it. In between the spoonfuls of mixed rice, diced tomatoes, onion, chicken and falafel were “huh?”s of disagreement.  I just could not see what they saw in the film. I gave up and just concluded that I’m just really basic when it comes to highbrow films.

Wait, how about JLC? Oh, John Lloyd was obviously great. Here’s a short review:

John Lloyd Cruz in Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis: Sold his role of Isagani well. Highlights include his street urchin under the bridge and eating sapsap scenes. Though his crying were suspiciously similar to his other films (see A Second Chance).                       — Four in a half stars

 

That night, I just couldn’t help the feeling that I was disappointed by Hele. I even ended up watching Jerrold Tarog’s Sana Dati on DVD to cleanse myself of the feeling of lugi. (A Sana Dati short review? Nah, I’ll just write another post on my thoughts on it.)

But Sana Dati wasn’t enough. Hele was still in my head. Perhaps having eight hours and five minutes staring at the black and white large screen was enough for the movie to burrow itself into my consciousness. I tried to sleep it off but it was still there. A breakfast of McDonald’s hotcakes wasn’t enough. There was just something fundamental in me that the film was protesting to. Through reading all the currently available pieces and watching a few cast and director interviews about the movie, I’ve come to realize that, maybe, I was ultimately unprepared experience the film.

In a press conference for the film that was reported by Rappler, iconic actor, Bernardo Bernardo said “Ang unang-unang masasabi ko, you learn that you don’t watch a Lav Diaz film. You experience a Lav Diaz film.”

And it is true. Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis generally broke the conventions of what I thought a film should be that I just can’t consider it to be a movie anymore. It was meant to be an experience. It was written, shot and edited to be an experience.  And just like any life experience, you need to have some kind of preparation to grasp it fully.

So here I am writing this piece in the hopes of directing people to a better way of appreciating Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis. Its imperative to guide people on how to properly experience it. This is after all, Diaz’s first film to be widely distributed locally. A lot of Filipinos would no doubt try watching it, like me. And may end up dissatisfied; like me. Or worse, reject this kind of artistry.

So here are my tips for people who are interested in watching Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis:

1. The movie is a challenge but not a #HeleChallenge

To be honest, Hele is indeed a hard sell for the casual moviegoer. So to encourage some action from the audience to watch the film, Hele is currently marketed as the #HeleChallenge because of its long runtime. A film not for the faint of heart nor for people with small bladders. Like finishing the film alone will grant you some new world perspective. Well, a part of me fell for that. I remember joking while we had lunch before the movie that they should have “I Survived Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis” shirts available after the movie. A proof my superficial greatness that I wear with pride.

I don’t know how to sell this movie to the public but marketing it as #HeleChallenge is kind of problematic. Turning the experience into a social media challenge can inhibit a viewer to enjoy the movie’s depths. Social Media Savvy Sam can just go in the theater and think, “if the #challenge is to withstand the movie for 8hrs 05mins, then maybe I could just skim through it.”

Hele is a challenge because it doesn’t have the “comforts” of a mainstream film. It tries to fight against what you believe are the norms of cinema. The movie doesn’t have color, nor narration, nor background music,nor special effects. Ninety-six percent (of course a rough estimate) was shot with a static camera (you know that a scene is of importance when the camera does move). It’s a movie about a revolution but the revolution happens off-screen. Funny how this opened alongside Batman v Superman.

2. Refrain from using your left brain

This tip goes back to my experience of leaving the theater having a bajillion questions left unanswered. I remember asking my friend what was the reasoning behind the back and forth between the journeys of the two parties. Or the significance of each scene in the movie in building the finale.

Living in the information and technology age has framed our minds to process things in a problem-solution mindset. That things follow certain logic and are meant to be explained. But in truth, there are some things that are better felt than explained or rationalized.

Expecting things to be neatly explained or having rhyme or reason in Hele is a stretch. Do remember that history, mythology and fiction already coexist in this universe. Bonifacio’s death and whereabouts is as strong a myth as the belief of Bernardo Carpio’s as the ultimate weapon against the Spaniards. In other words, logic doesn’t fit that much in Hele. Instead of wondering about plot consistency of Hele, I’d like you to suspend disbelief and examine what it will make you feel instead.

 

3. (If you’re a millennial) Leave your millennial-iness at the door

In the middle of hour 1 and 2, having a sense of the movie’s pace, one of my friends and I discussed what else we could have done instead of watching the movie. Apparently, we could have roughly reached Dubai by the time the film finished. I also thought how in 8 hours I could have played The Division and powerleveled my character to level 30, or how I could have binge-watch a substantial chunck of Daredevil season 2.

During hour 6 and 7, I discussed with another friend of mine how the film is so inefficient. How so much of the movie can be trimmed so it can fit the two-hour runtime norm. How I’d basically cut Ely Buendia and his singing, Basilio’s digging, and Gregoria De Jesus’s party walking aimlessly through the dense jungle.

Lav Diaz in the same press conference mentioned above said how the 8 hours will easily pass by, especially when you immerse yourself in the film. Boy, did Lav overestimated the attention span of audiences. But somehow, of course in hindsight, I kind of understand what Diaz said. Part of the audience’s immersion into this histo-mythi-fictional world is to also feel its pace. 19th century Filipinas was far from the pace we’re used to. It adds to the authenticity (having a still camera placed at a distance) of its voyeurism wherein the audience must patiently waits for the subjects. The characters are not there to perform for an audience. Let the film take its time and your patience will be rewarded by a different experience.

(FUN FACT: I originally intended to name this piece as “How My 21st Century Brain Could Not Understand Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis“)

So that’s it. Have fun with Hele!


 

Other Observations:

  • Sapsap in English is Slipmouth fish. kewl.
  • Shout-outs
    • Joel Saracho aka Mama Lou of OTWOL as Karyo!
    • Cherie Gil and Angel Aquino for being the most beautiful Tikbalangs ever
    • Nico Antonio as part of Quiroga’s entourage
  • That Tikbalang ligaw scene  was the stuff dreams are made of
  • Indie Moneyshot: That scene where Tikbalang Angel Aquino hissed and intentionally shoved the crucifix away to get a candle from Rosario’s makeshift altar.
  • Hele’s boiled bananas is to Snow White’s magic apple
  • Indie Moneyshot 2: That scene where the Tikbalangs were making fun of the Colorum’s service
  • Awful sales pitch for the movie: Hele is when you take all the Sam and Frodo scenes in all LOTR films and multiply it by two.
How Not To Experience Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis

What Ang Taba Ko Kasi Understood About Being Fat

 

 

Ang Taba Ko Kasi Understood About Being Fat cover

As a movie, no doubt about it, Ang Taba Ko Kasi, was entertaining to watch. It was finally time, Cai Cortez and Ryan Yllana, two talents often typecast as supporting characters to get their break. But what really got me was how it was able to capture what it feels like to be a fat person in the country. Being a fat person myself, it was nice that a film finally validated my experiences. Experiences that other people may dismiss or find laughable, but rung painfully true to someone like me. So here’s a rundown of things I noticed that the film touched on about being fat:

*SPOILER ALERT: I may end up giving away the plot of the whole movie*

1. We use the mirror the same way other people use it

In the film: One recurring bit in the movie was how Olga (Cai Cortez) would often look at herself in the mirror while making faces or playing with her fats.

Ang Taba Ko Kasi Mirror
Don’t play with fire, play with flabs
I just had to call this out because it was interesting for me to see how the people in the audience spontaneously reacted to these scenes. Some laughed, while others cringed; like they were seeing something obscene on screen. I shit you not, I even heard a guy exclaim “ang bastos!”.

I don’t know why so much people would react that way to a mundane scene like this. Is it because Filipino audiences aren’t used to seeing fat characters doing anything else aside from eating or being the comic relief? There was nothing wrong with Olga staring at her body. Have you guys tried playing with your fats??? It’s awesome, you should try it.

2. Fat people are sexual beings too

In the film: Benjie (Ryan Yllana) masturbated to a bikini picture of a model. A little later on in the movie, our two fat protagonists, have casual sex.

Again, I was surprised by how the people in the audience reacted. Well, this is more understandable since sex is still a controversial topic when seen on screen. Though I can’t help but feel that people tolerate sex done by fitter bodies more compared to two unfit bodies. The movie was just showing another truth that we don’t often see on local or even foreign screens that much (the only other movie or show that I remember with two fat people having casual sex is Mike & Molly).

3. We have a love-hate relationship with food

In the film: Olga and Benjie, would refrain from eating a lot when in front of other people but would often binge when they’re alone or together.

Ang Taba Ko Kasi Food

To a fat person trying to be fit, food is that friend of yours that you’re ashamed to be associated with. You try to avoid it when you’re in the company of other people but you run to it when you want to be comforted. Especially when you have an irrational mindset of thinking that everyone is out to judge your looks. Remember that ate serbidora may judge you but a two-piece fried porkchop meal from Buddy’s won’t.

4. Your family, may unwittingly be part of the problem

In the film: Olga has a cook for a father who encourages her to eat, a mother who likes to sugarcoat her obesity and a younger brother who needs a stern talking about insensitivity and comparing people to pigs.

Ang Taba Ko Kasi Family
“Konti ata kanin mo anak…”
Olga’s family predicament is surprisingly common in the Philippines since eating plays a strong social role in our culture. If cooking is a manifestation of one’s affection, then eating heartily is an acceptance of this affection. Therefore, restraining one’s self from eating can be considered as rejection. I’m pretty sure most of us have had that experience of a lola that you can’t say no to because you know she’ll get hurt if you say no to her invitation of seconds or thirds. Lolas are masters of emotional blackmail I tell you.

5. Having anxiety from THINKING that your fatness is ALWAYS the reason for being socially rejected

In the film: Olga fears that she was rejected by her swimming instructor, Noah (Mark Neumann), because she’s fat. After a night of partying, Benjie quietly leaves the bar after realizing that he was the only one from his group who didn’t hook up with anyone because he’s fat.

Ang Taba Ko kasi Alone
*twiddles fingers*
This is true and I honestly believe that this is an unfair and an unhealthy way of thinking. Unfair because you’re making a sweeping generalization that everyone can never look past your physical appearance. To some people, physical appearance may be a priority, but what about the other people who value intelligence, personality and interests?Unhealthy, because you’re heavily determining your worth on your appearance. You’re unconsciously boxing yourself to be a caricature fat person.

Good thing the film was encouraging about this predicament. Benjie was accepted by his ex-girlfriend Candy (Carla Humphries) saying that putting weight didn’t change how she saw him. Utterly surprised, Noah confessed that he liked Olga for reasons beyond her weigh (he liked Olga for being “intelligent, feisty and passionate”).

6. To really work, getting fit needs a strong and intrinsic motivation

In the film: It wasn’t clear what triggered Olga’s desire to shape up. I presume she wanted to be more physically desirable. She ended up always compensating her workouts and diets with binge eating that changes nothing.

It’s no secret getting fit is difficult to do. Take it from a guy who had numerous attempts throughout the years to get fit. My best attempt was shedding 20 lbs in six months but eventually gaining 30 lbs because of stress eating. Just like Olga, my reasons that time were more extrinsic; I wanted to be physically desirable. But when you’re 130 lbs far from your ideal weight, being “physically desirable” may not be enough to motivate you.

Two years after, I’m determined more than ever to get fit. So far it’s looking great, I’ve already lost 20lbs in three months. The difference I guess from my last attempt was that I honestly want, more than anything else, to be healthier. For me right now, being physically attractive is the least of my concerns. Right now, I worry more about the probability of me taking maintenance meds by my late 30s. Or not being alive to enjoy the perks of a 20% discount by age 60.

Getting healthy requires a conscious and active desire towards self-improvement, and social validation may not be enough.


 

Other Notes From The Film:

  • Shout outs:
    • Patani for being one of the few Survivor alums left getting consistent TV/movie projects
    • Carla Humphries! I haven’t seen her for quite a while since her Qpids days and their Call Me Maybe music parody with the other It Girls.
  • Indie Money Shot: The shot of Olga’s slipper in the fish sinigang her dad made. A metaphor for her fight against food and her dad’s suffocating kindness.
  • I’m not sure when Olga became “smart, feisty and passionate” in front of Noah. I think I saw these more when she was with Benjie.

 

 

What Ang Taba Ko Kasi Understood About Being Fat