‘What Home Feels Like’: finding unhappiness in the good life

With admirable restraint, the film shows that the Filipino Dream is not enough for happiness.

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The first version of the Filipino Dream is indistinguishable from the American Dream, because many Filipinos would not think twice of any opportunity to migrate to a wealthy land of opportunities, or indeed any land where the government is known to care for its residents. The version of the Filipino dream for those who do stay is nevertheless an imitation of the American Dream, in its materialistic vision of middle-class comfort: a house, a car, and children with college degrees. Ironically, the common means for achieving this dream is, still, migration—overseas work, where the father or mother, or both, sails abroad for a living, sacrificing the chance to watch their children grow up, to share in their troubles, to attend their graduation ceremonies. Such is the Filipino diaspora.

What Home Feels Like, an entry to the 2017 ToFarm Film Festival, is a patient portrayal of precisely what its title suggests. The question that follows is, what kind of home is it? It lets us know in the very first scene. Antonio (Bembol Roco), a seaman, is calling home to his family in the Philippines, telling his son Julius (Rex Lantano) mundane details of his work onboard a ship. When he asks about Alison (Bianca Libinting), Julius rushes out to fetch his twin sister, leaving the phone receiver open. Antonio continues to speak on the line: frustrated, he says he is running out of credits, and eventually the connection is cut. The camera holds still for a quiet minute or so. From what little we see on the frame, a well-adorned piece of furniture, we can guess that they have a beautiful, middle-class house, built through the labors of a distant father—who finds it difficult to communicate with the very family he built the house for.

Warning: this review discusses plot.

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‘Sa Aking Mga Kamay’ (1996): the dual faces of crime and passion

The ‘Cattleya Killer’ thriller is intriguing for Aga Muhlach’s atypical casting, and satisfying for its intelligent writing.

In my recollection of the 1990s, a decade I had the questionable fortune of experiencing as a young kid, Filipino movies were generally of two types. They were either silly comedies that invariably included song-and-dance numbers at the beach, or drama-action flicks that were almost always about crime. The Philippines in the 90s was a society obsessed with crime; it had a dual fascination and dread for the drama and tragedy of heinous violence. Kidnappings and massacres (and frequent brown-outs) filled the news, and filmmakers responded by repackaging these horrifying stories for the silver screen. (Before the decade ended, audience-voters apparently also responded by electing a swashbuckling former movie star into the presidency.)

Sa Aking Mga Kamay (literally: In My Hands), a 1996 Star Cinema picture, fits perfectly into this latter category of my simplistic classification of 1990s Filipino cinema. But what sets it apart—its unique selling proposition—is its featuring of Aga Muhlach “not doing a pretty boy thing,” as a friend put it. Now, Aga Muhlach was quite the household name back then, the actor having enjoyed the status relished these days by, say, Dingdong Dantes. (Although I make such delicate comparisons only approximately, lest some pundits get mad at me). Muhlach was the premier leading man of the time, pairing off with such ladies as Dayanara Torres and Lea Salonga, and therefore to see him play a psychopathic serial killer is a true novelty.

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Review: Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi (1983, restored 2016) by Danny Zialcita

The newly-restored classic proves that we have been fascinated with romance-dramas about infidelity for so long now.

Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi (literally, the moon is mad for the night is too long) is one of the latest products of ABS-CBN’s rather important project of restoring old Filipino films. The 1983 movie by Danny Zialcita was digitally scanned, restored and remastered, and the result is a quality picture, now prepared to entertain a contemporary audience.

The fact of restoration provokes us to think of the film in two ways: on its own, as an isolated film product; or with regards to its age, as it is now effectively a historical record.

Entertaining, if questionable

Note: this section shares details of plot and other elements, or ‘spoilers’.

The most salient feature of Nagalit Ang Buwan is its overflowing plot. It is not necessarily a surplus of plot, because the length of the story and the degree of convolution is justified in the end. But the story, in its totality, is nevertheless too lengthy, perhaps demanding a little more than the average moviegoer’s endurance.

Fortunately, the movie is funny. A representative from the ABS-CBN restoration team remarked before the screening that this film will certainly be enjoyed by those who love memes. Indeed, Nagalit Ang Buwan is packed with so much wit and biting dialogue, that if social media had only existed in the 1980s, numerous lines from it would have doubtless gone viral.

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