November 17, 2015
"Miss Bulalacao" is set in Punta de Bulalacao, Isla de Panamao (which is now known as the island province of Biliran, in the Visayas). It tells us about Dodong (Russ Ligtas), a 15-year old gay boy who inexplicably got pregnant after he saw bright lights from the sky. We also meet his womanizing father Poldo (Ferdinand Mesias), his long-suffering stepmother Lisa (Chai Fonacier), the parish priest (Mon Confiado) and the rich matrons Mercy (Tessie Tomas) and Marlina (Nanette Inventor) and how they react to this incredible event.
You can compare the acting of the mainstream and the indie actors here. Tomas and Inventor tend to be over-the-top and exaggerated. Ligtas and Fonacier were awkward and very raw, very realistic. Russ Ligtas was nominated for Best Actor for this breakthrough performance. Chai Fonacier in fact was named Best Supporting Actress during the awards night. It would not even seem Fonacier was acting, as it was so real. Her highlight would be that scene when she was packing her clothes while thinking of leaving her husband. Beside her, Ferdinand Mesias seemed miscast as Poldo since he did not really look like a poor native islander like Fonacier did.
The script was the accorded the Best Screenplay award. It was definitely thought-provoking with a subtle ironic sense of humor. A male bearing a child in his abdomen for nine months without a uterus is of course a scientific impossibility, but such artistic license is what made this film interesting in the first place.
My one comment is the seemingly unbelievable social reaction to this "miracle". Everyone was so nonchalant, as if this was the most normal thing to happen. I would have expected a massive "Himala"-like reaction, especially among superstitious folk. No media coverage (mainstream or online) -- really? Is that even possible these days? Nonetheless, I do respect the director's decision to keep the exposition simple. Personally, I also found the religion aspect rather disturbing. Parodying the Catholic religion is a very familiar theme running in many local indie films, so I was not surprised that the story would go that way.
Written and directed by Ara Chawdhury, "Miss Bulalacao" is a charming slice of life film about the quaint and rustic life on a remote island province. It was an entertaining peek into the less-complicated lives of the simple townsfolk. The grainy look of the film complements this. This was the first indie film I have seen completely in Cebuano language (with English subtitles). I had seen Pampango, Ilocano and Bacolod indie films in just this past year. It is so good to see authentic regional cinema alive and kicking all over the country. 6/10.