One of the highlights of the movie involves rain, the drying salt beds, and Ms. Gina Pareno
Rain pours unexpectedly on Cuyo, Palawan on a public holiday and poor Gina Pareno's character has no one to assist her in gathering the dried salt to safe ground as everyone, except herself, has gone to town for the "fiestivities". As I watched Ms. Pareno go hither and dither unable to save the melting salt all around her, all of the hysteria of Philippine filmdom came rushing in my mind paralleling the mighty deluge in Cuyo town. At the height of Ms. Pareno's operatics, I clutched the thigh of my nearest seatmate where my boyfriend was supposed to be sitting. So tight was my grip that he uttered a faint cry of pain. I was forced to look to my left and lo and behold, it was not my boyfriend's thigh that I was gripping to the bone but some cute, handsome boy who, judging from the faint light from the screen, was sporting a P40 haircut and nursing a growing boner beneath my palm!. Naturally, I was aghast (by the haircut) and apoligized (for my groping). To this he replied, "Sige lang." I didn't actually understand what he meant by "Sige lang." In the Visayas, the phrase could mean, "It's ok", as in "I accept your expression of apology." Or it could mean, "Sige lang" as in "Please proceed." But before I could make up a conclusion, I was again sucked into the movie.
I watched Ploning and was mesmerized by the cinematography. I was enthralled by the courage in its filmmaking. Amazed, too, by the stories and characters in the movie that spoke a unique specificity.
From the choice of language used for the dialogue (Cuyo-anon), to the time in which the movie was set (1970's), to the characters that pushed the deliberately slow plot, the producers were clearly visioning away from the template of Hollywood or Star Cinema. This movie is peppered with quaint, small town characters. Most of the performers rise to the challenge of emoting everyday feelings in an extraordinary way. No stock characters here. No pandering to the box office, either, except maybe with the choice of Juday as lead actress (and then again, she is not her "usual" self in this movie). She plays Ploning as sweet as candied kasuy, but also restrained, obscure. The fact that the movie dared to open the same week as Iron Man was, to me, an indication of : a) the producer's confidence over their work; b) the creators' commitment to their vision; or c) a grave miscalculation by both.
One could feel this earnestness from the trailer. I felt that this act of courage on the part of the producers seemed to demand a similar gesture from the movie-going public. As I write this, I hear that, mostly, the reviews have been mixed. But you must see this movie, if only to judge it for yourself. If this is any assurance, I tell you, the images are worth the price of admission.