Director Ice Idanan, when asked how she came up with the story of Sakaling Hindi Makarating, does not hesitate to share that it was directly born out of personal experience. She wrote, initially, to help her cope with heartbreak, and the first story drafts thoroughly reflected the bitterness she felt at the time. But as months passed, she found beauty in the process of recovering from pain and rediscovering herself, and this newly brightened outlook similarly found its way onto the pages of her script.
It would take many more years and many more pains before Sakaling Hindi Makarating would be completed—at least one script development and two film financing grants later, to be exact—but the film will finally arrive in theaters across the country.
Sakaling Hindi Makarating is about “a series of mysterious hand-illustrated postcards [that] take a young woman on a journey across the Philippines in search of its anonymous writer.” This woman is Cielo, played by Alessandra de Rossi, “a strong-willed woman paralyzed by her own heartaches.”
It is an elegant ploy, an enticing setup for what is billed as a travel film. It also helps that Sakali is readily labelled a ‘hugot’ story—with such themes, it should not be surprising that the film “resonates with plenty of Filipino filmgoers,” in the director’s words. Millennials after all are easily enticed by any story celebrating love and exploration.
And yet, the great pleasure of the film is that it is so much more than its stunning images of our country’s landscapes. Beyond its heartbreak-plus-travel hook, Sakaling Hindi Makarating offers an engaging story, told with equal parts contemplation and celebration. This is not merely an advertising slideshow through Philippine tourist attractions; it lives and breathes its every location, each encounter with locals enriching Cielo’s journey and solving clues to a grand puzzle of discovery. For example, the sequence set in Batanes, which features Teri Malvar, Lesley Lina, and Elijah Canlas, illustrates this: it captures the idyllic, enchanting image of the islands, and fuses an ethereal quality to the story that is destined to linger in the audience’s imagination.
All the various characters that Cielo meets further her understanding of herself, but they do not exist merely to serve the plot. Idanan says that she wanted the characters to have lives of their own. It builds on the idea that as we travel and meet people, we can only know so much about them, regardless of how close hearts can become in the limited timespans of random encounters. There will always be more stories to tell, full lives to be revealed.
Early in the film, Cielo meets Paul (played by Pepe Herrera, for which he won the Best Actor award in the CineFilipino Film Festival 2016). Paul is Cielo’s apartment neighbor, “a shy and timid fellow that personifies the character of a maginoo,” who becomes instrumental in her extended journey, as her anchor to the place she calls home. But we soon learn that he, who spends only a short but meaningful time with Cielo before she sets off on her adventures, has struggles and aspirations of his own, related to but independent from Cielo’s.
There is also Manuel (JC Santos), whom Cielo encounters in the middle of her travels. He spends an even shorter time with Cielo than does Paul, but the intensity and serendipity of the meeting leaves us clearly feeling that, even if it is Cielo’s journey that we are following, meeting her had an equally tremendous if only opposite impact on Manuel.
Thus the story goes on and shows us various souls setting out to look for something missing or lost. Taking cue from Dickens’ Great Expectations, a book seen twice in the film, what the characters of Sakaling Hindi Makarating find in the end is always something different from their initial hopes, but perhaps they are all the better for it.
In a sense, this is the story of the film itself. It has been a worthy passion project, at a time when passion projects are everyone’s business: it took five years, but remember that Idanan only started with a concept of a deeply personal story. Now here she is, with a full film about the beautiful encounters of diverse people, about to be exhibited in cinemas across the nation.
Sakaling Hindi Makarating premiered in the CineFilipino Independent Film Festival in March 2016, where it won seven awards, including best director and cinematography for Ice Idanan, best actor for Pepe Herrera, and first runner-up for best picture.
The film will be released in cinemas nationwide on February 1, 2017.