Friday, April 19, 2013

Bayang Magiliw

April 18, 2013

This indie film is set in a second-class community in the province of Quezon called Magiliw. Its debonair macho mayor Filemon Almazan (Wendell Ramos) has ruled that any form of contraception is illegal in his town. He is proud that his town is the most densely populated town outside Manila.  He is a firm believer in the oft-(mis)quoted Biblical dictum of "be fruitful and multiply." His wife Rose is barren, so the good mayor compensates by sowing his seed all over town, siring at least ten kids with different women.

The distressed mother of his last child leaves her newborn baby outside the house of a rich family, the Tiongsons (Lloyd Samartino and Jackie Lou Blanco). Their daughter Catherine (Giselle Toengi) , who is a successful tax lawyer practicing in Manila, decides she wants to adopt the child. When the Mayor realizes that the child is his, he moves hell to get the child back, but Catherine will not back down.

Dr. Emil Magsino (Arnold Reyes), a dedicated 
young male OB-Gyne, was arrested by the Mayor because he secretly provides contraception to harassed townswomen, either in his clinic or outreach missions. Atty. Catherine accepts his case pro-bono. The doctor brings the attorney along on his outreach missions where they meet a dedicated barangay captain Ka Isay Bernardo (Raquel Villavicencio), further opening her eyes to the deep ills in her hometown.

The film tries to inject a lot of political issues, aside from the controversial RH Bill. We can clearly see that the Mayor controls everything and everyone in town. Even the Catholic Church was not spared as the old parish priest (Tony Mabesa) had to be afflicted with narcolepsy, falling asleep mid-sermon or mid-confession, making him the only truly comic character of the film. The arguments for and against RH Bill are echoed in the script, sometimes sounding pedantic and forced, but nothing really original.

Sometimes the director was not too sure where the movie was going. The supposedly satiric comedy is limited, and not too funny. In fact, there were more dramatic scenes than funny. There were even sexy scenes oddly
 inserted, including the much-advertised scene where Wendell Ramos was running in the nude, which need not really have been there.  The love story angle was also very awkward and unnecessary.

G Toengi, Jackie Lou Blanco and Raquel Villavicencio did very well in their roles. Wendell Ramos did not really look or act like a credible Mayor despite his salt and pepper hair. I commend director Gil Portes for boldly tackling a controversial theme. The good intention was obviously there, but the finished product was uneven.  
"Bayang Magiliw" is the opening line of the Philippine National Anthem. This line is even often mistaken to be its title. This title defines the ambitious scope and target audience of this movie.  Unfortunately it falls short of achieving its lofty goal.

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