Movie Review: Sakaling Maging Tayo is a Charmingly Awkward Road Trip Around Baguio

TL;DR: Sakaling Maging Tayo (If We Fall in Love) may shuffle along with a somewhat inorganic, chill plot, but it’s got sincerity, charm, & awkwardness to spare.

Sakaling Maging Tayo (If We Fall in Love) concerns two people who are stuck in different ways. Laya (Elisse Joson) is a college freshman about to leave Baguio for Manila after her philandering ex-boyfriend broke up with her. But before she does, she wants to speak to him for she thinks she might be pregnant & she didn’t have sex with anyone else. However, her only proof is she hasn’t had her period for more than a week. Pol has always had a crush on Laya ever since she handed her a handkerchief during enrolment, but he never had the guts to talk to her. He’s satisfied pining for her from afar.

Both of them are knocked out of their comfort zones in a single night. Pol borrowed his father’s taxi – which he often drives himself to earn some quick cash – for a fun night out with his best friend at a music festival scattered around the city. After a contentious meeting with her ex that left her in tears, she enters Pol’s taxi, unknowingly thinking he was on duty tonight. Pol relents & soon they find themselves knowing more about each other. On a whim, they decide to accomplish a series of dares Laya wrote with her friends & kept on a pouch, roaming around Baguio while Pol hopes he can tell her how she really feels.

Young love is often portrayed as a dizzying, energetic rush of emotions, where people rush headfirst into a relationship consequences be damned. Sakaling Maging Tayo is different. Laya & Pol are both on the cusp of adulthood & it shows in their interactions. They put up facades of inner strength for others when deep down they are as anxious & awkward as everyone else. They are afraid of what the future holds for them – either due to its possibilities or its limitations – & would rather run away from their problems. Embracing the status quo is much easier.

J.P. Habac bakes all of this uncertainty into a coming-of-age road movie that sputters gently as it moves. It hobbles from one event to the next, with the only connecting tissue being Laya & Pol’s burgeoning attraction throughout a single night. Some of the obstacles don’t feel organic, which makes it feel sluggish than it should be, but it can be easily ignored thanks to its relaxed vibe. It also portrays Laya & Pol’s interactions as realistic as possible. Everyone in the film speak like ordinary people do, and it relishes on the stiff interactions fueled by doubt & jitters, familiar to anyone trying to learn more about a person they like a lot. It savors every forced laugh, every knowing glance, & at times allowing the silence to hang in the air.

This isn’t as cringe-inducing as it sounds. It’s smothered with a charming innocence that’s alluring instead of abrasive, just like J.P. Habac’s previous film I’m Drunk, I Love You, it also has a fantastic, bittersweet soundtrack underscoring their emotions bubbling underneath the surface. Of course, the main couple sell all of this in its awkward glory. With his look alone, McCoy de Leon can pine for someone with equal infatuation & heartbreak, while Elisse Joson can easily shift between confusion & confidence. Even with his brief appearance, Bembol Roco is also outstanding as Pol’s father. His poignant scene with de Leon where he gives him the advice he needs to hear stands as one of the best father-son scenes I’ve seen a while. Sakaling Maging Tayo may enjoy going off course, often to its detriment, but it knows that you can’t run away forever from your problems. Sometimes, you need to make the first few moves.

Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2017: Patay na si Hesus is One of the Best Filipino Comedies Ever Made

> TL;DR: The headline is not a hyperbole: Patay na si Hesus is easily one of the best Filipino comedies ever made, just by being ridiculously funny & heartwarming.

Patay na si Hesus (Hesus is Dead) is a breath of fresh air. Initially released as part of QCinema 2016 & had a successful commercial release in this year’s Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Feast of Filipino Cinema), it was a surprising gift from Cebu, one of the growing regional film communities in the country, & a rebuke to the usual mainstream comedies we get from major studios.

Iyay (played by Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress winner Jaclyn Jose) is a single mother who has raised her three children on her own. When she finds out her ex-husband Hesus has died, she asks her children to visit their father’s funeral. Except for her son Bert (Paul Vincent Viado) – who has Down Syndrome – none of them wants to visit their father. Her son Jay (Melde Montañez) would rather be a lazy bum at home & deal with his girlfriend, & her trans son Jude (Chai Fonacier) would rather stay at home & take care of his girlfriend’s daughter. But Iyay would rather have her children pay their respects to their father – even if he was a horrible one – so she forces them to go on a road trip full of detours & obstacles, literally & figuratively.

Anything can happen on the road, & it’s pretty much the same with Patay na si Hesus. It has a loose, freewheeling sense of humor that allows it to toss different kinds of gags without distracting from the story, all thanks to its structure. It is at turns dark, raunchy, & surreal mixed with that snappy Cebuano wit. There’s also care in framing a shot to maximize a joke’s impact, which is still a rarity in our shores. Not all of the jokes land, but most of the jokes hit & they hit hard, with a force that can bust a gut. Even if a joke doesn’t work, another one that will is sure to come by.

Amidst all the chaos, it never loses its respect & affection with its characters. It’s so easy turn these characters as the butt of the jokes, especially since two of them are considered outliers in our society, yet it resists that impulse & even allowing these characters to join the fun. It manages to stand out just by treating its characters with warmth alone.

Those characters are portrayed by an excellent cast, who understand the movie’s loopy yet grounded wavelength. Jacklyn Jose is more known for her dramatic roles, but she proves that she has the versatility to do comedy as well. Her Iyay is resilient & easily annoyed in dealing with her children’s hangups – except for Bert – while trying her best to hide her exhaustion. The rest of the cast playing Iyay’s children are equally entertaining in their roles. The standout role has to be from Mailes Kanapi as an unhinged nun who livens up their trip. It’s a role that pushes the movie’s reality toward outright lunacy yet it works, thanks to Mailes Kanapi slowly showing how insane the nun is without pushing it to desperate mugging.

All of this combine for one of the most satisfying Filipino comedies ever made. It’s a heartwarming dark comedy that goes for broke without losing what makes its characters tic. It may not work all the time, but the highs are higher than most Filipino comedies could dream of.

Being made outside imperial Manila is significant. Most of our entertainment still come from Metro Manila, the central hub for Filipino media. Movies like Patay na si Hesus continue to prove there are voices outside Metro Manila that are needed to be heard. Ongoing support for movies like it will not only mean new stories for audiences, but slowly democratize our distribution systems to include movies made in other regions, redefining what a Filipino film is & what it can be. The fact that Patay na si Hesus is hilarious is gift in itself, but what it means for Filipino cinema is huge & shouldn’t be taken for granted.