Home Economy Metro Manila Film Festival 2021: An ode to the Filipino spirit

Metro Manila Film Festival 2021: An ode to the Filipino spirit

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By Bronte H. Lacsamana

MMFF Movie Review
Kun Maupay Man It Panahon
Directed by Carlo Francisco Manatad

THERE’S much to be said about how notions of joy, faith, and resilience are a central part of the Filipino psyche, especially in how we deal with hardship — whether it’s overseas workers and medical frontliners hailed as heroes for making immeasurable sacrifices for family and country, or, as seen in this film, children boisterously playing and women fervently praying to cope with the aftermath of a life-shattering typhoon.

Much of it is beautiful and admirable, yes, but much of it also paints a strange, sad picture of the Philippines. Kun Maupay Man It Panahon (Waray for Whether the Weather Is Fine) manages to show both sides in full, absurdist fashion.

The film, starring Daniel Padilla, Rans Rifol, and Charo Santos, takes place in Tacloban, Leyte, in 2013, which many Filipinos may recognize was the setting of the devastating Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) that wiped out entire coastal communities in Eastern Visayas and claimed the lives of around 6,300 people.

Though we do see the trauma and destruction that followed the wake of the disaster, thanks to chaotic yet picturesque production design by Whammy Alcazaren and stunning roaming cinematography by Lim Teck Siang, the story is more about a search for hope, represented by a rumored ship that will carry survivors to Manila. However, this idea of Manila means something different to each character.

For Miguel (played by popular heartthrob Daniel Padilla at what may be his career-best), it’s an escape from the hell he finds himself in and a place where he and his two loved ones can live together happily. His girlfriend Andrea (the scene-stealing newcomer Rifol) has a survivalist mindset, seeing Manila as a land of opportunity where she can achieve her dream of becoming a singer at a club. Miguel’s mother Norma (played with vulnerability by veteran actress Santos) shuns the idea of leaving Tacloban to chase an ex-lover whom she’s obsessed with meeting once again.

The twists and turns the three navigate as the film plods on are reminiscent of a never-ending rat race, a commentary on how seeking aid tends to be an uncertain and seemingly fruitless journey. At some point, a government official makes an announcement at the relief center, but what comes out of his mouth is gibberish, with even the subtitles showing nothing but a keyboard smash of random letters. At another point, Norma leaves the makeshift medical center at the Tacloban Astrodome and finds herself in a crowd of survivors who all start dancing to Zumba music as a lion looks on.

Those who know director Carlo Francisco Manatad from his short films won’t be surprised to see magical realism providing texture to the very Filipino tale that unfolds onscreen. The unprepared may find this treatment meandering and inaccessible, with jarring tonal shifts between metaphorical dark comedy and absurdist yet grim melodrama, complemented by Andrew Florentino’s hypnotizing score.

In that sense, it sets itself apart from predecessors that have sought to portray the aftermath of typhoons on film. It isn’t all smooth-sailing, with the story faltering as the characters endlessly weave through their unpredictable and surreal arcs, running the risk of alienating the very people whose stories it aims to honor onscreen.

Still, there are key moments that stick the landing and provide an odd sense of hope in a Christmas season marked by the continued pandemic and yet another typhoon. There’s much to be said about how notions of joy, faith, and resilience are a central part of the Filipino psyche, and it may take some time to marinate to understand all the ways they’re depicted in this visual and sonic feast.

MTRCB Rating: PG

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