Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
Frank (Jon Avila) insists on smooching and hugging Rowena (Eugene Domingo). In another scene he proposes marriage via text message while Rowena giggles and blushes. Her best friend Ina (Ai ai Delas Alas) on the other hand goes on a depression binge shoveling a whole Crispy Pata (Deep Fried pork leg) in her mouth. What makes the scene funny is that Jon Avila was a former male model perfectly smitten with Domingo (nicknamed Uge). She is one of the best Filipina comediennes known for her pleasantly plump figure. So the unlikely pair’s romance sizzles on screen the way pork chop sizzles on a hot plate.
There is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that “Tanging Ina Mo, Last Nato” is the funniest film in the 36th Metro Manila Film Fest. And it is no small feat considering the fact that Best Actor Dolphy also has a comedy in “Father Jejemon.” Bossing Vic Sotto himself is in “Si Agimat at si Enteng Kabisote.” Both Sotto and Dolphy are at the top of the heap in Philippine comedy whether in film or TV.
With that said there are quite a few issues with the almost sweeping award wins by “Tanging Ina mo..” Fans walked out of the awards ceremony after finding out that Jennelyn Mercado of “Rosario” was not even nominated in the Best Actress Category (which eventually went to Ai ai Delas Alas). And with “Tanging Ina mo’s” win for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Story and Best Screenplay. The awards created the impression that this was the best of all the MMFF entries. And therein lays the problem.
Director Wenn Deramas sought to make the funniest and the best possible film to end the successful “Tanging Ina mo” franchise hence the “Last Nato” title. And he was able to do it. The question is: was it better than all the other films in MMFF and to a lot of critics the answer is “No.” There are at least two other films that come to mind as better: “Rosario” and “RPG Metaonia.” Let’s tackle each award and why it’s questionable:
Best Original Story
What was in the plot or story which clinched the award? Is it the lessons learned by audiences? If this is the reason then it really fails in this respect. One of the first things learned in screen writing class is that film is a visual medium. It makes sense to impart lessons by way of the story itself not through dialogue. In “Tanging Ina” lessons were imparted with Ina Montecillo (Ai ai) just telling off her children. When they were fighting she would give them a sermon about family values. Meanwhile, “RPG Metanoia’s” storyline revolves around a kid who is addicted to online gaming. He discovers a world of Pinoy games like patintero and taguan after he is forced out of his favorite internet café. He becomes a more active child with more friends because of the traditional games. The lessons in “RPG..” are built within what happens to the main character as opposed to being mouthed through dialogue. The lessons are seen and enfolds rather than just being heard.
Here we are looking for the most memorable dialogue. These are lines that remain with you long after watching the film because it touched you or in this case made you laugh so hard. In “Tanging…” Ina feels abandoned and lonely after finding out she’s terminally ill. She turns to her maid Malena (Cecil Paz) asking “Iiwan mo na rin ba ko?” Malena says: Iiwan ko na kayo. Ina: Pero bakit? Malena: Talagang iiwan ko kayo dahil magpapaload na po ako. Ina grabs her and throws her down the stairs. There are a lot of funny lines using phrases like “major, major” from Venus Raj or even “This is it” in reference to Michael Jackson’s rehearsal documentary. Because they’re references to other memorable phrases they don’t standout as Best Screenplay material. They are more like smart aleck quips that are funny but aren’t original.
Sometimes it’s not even a line but a word. In “Rosario” instead of saying New York, Lolo Enrique (Philip Salvador) says Nueva York. With that small word it reveals their whole background as Spanish speakers reluctant to take on the English language. It’s a statement on the character’s way of thinking. Ricky Davao plays Miguel, the sleazy land lord who exploits Rosario’s desperation for a place to live. “Napaka laki ng utang niyo. Solusyon sa problema mo e kung papayag ka sa gusto ko. Kung malupit ako matagal ko na kayong pinaalis. Tulog naman si Jesus. Doon tayo sa kabilang kwarto.” Even though he never says it directly and uses the most polite words its crystal clear he’s demanding sex. The line is pregnant with meaning. The most memorable line is from Yul Servo as Vicente Perez, “Walang kapatawaran ang ginawa mo.. Habang buhay… kahit gumapang ka pa sa lupa.” Instantly you feel the pain from the one delivering the line and the one hearing it.
Best Picture and Best Director
Director Wenn Deramas did a competent job visualizing the screenplay to film and motivating his cast. The bottom line however is that it was still a very straightforward directorial treatment for “Tanging Ina..” Perhaps it was the storyline and the genre since there wasn’t an opportunity to be creative in terms of camera movement, angles or even editing, elements that would make a directorial treatment unique.
“RPG Metanoia” on the other hand straddled between the virtual online gaming world and the ‘real’ world. The challenge was even greater because the entire movie is in 3D animation. Music and camera movement enhanced the action sequences within the game which depends on how director Luis Suarez sees the story in his head. Director Luis Suarez was grateful and happy with the 3rd Best Picture award.
“Rosario” had a different set of obstacles. A film epic had to be based on a personal account of a true to life story. Director Albert Martinez had to have a very good grasp of the characters and the period when the actual events took place. He was able to humanize what could’ve been a play on morality. Albert Martinez was sincerely thankful for the 2nd Best Picture trophy.
Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Child Performer
Among the awards these three may be the most justified. Ai ai Delas Alas shines in her character Ina which isn’t too far from who she is in real life. The oversight of not even nominating Jennelyn Mercado in the title role of “Rosario” was just too much for a lot of fans to bear. Both actresses gave impressive note worthy performances. It could’ve gone either way.
Eugene Domingo as best friend Rowena initiates and receives a lot of the jokes with Ai ai. Uge is one of the most talented and in demand actresses we have today. She’s also lent her voice in RPG Metanoia as the mom of Nico (Zaijan Jaranilla). She wins Best Supporting Actress in either role. She even has her own series in TV5’s “Inday Wanda.” Best Child Performer Xyriel Manabat is the adorable Monay who comes into their lives as the daughter of Pip (Alwyn Uytingco).
MMFF Judging Process
Director Wenn Deramas, screenwriter Mel Mendoza-Del Rosario, Ai ai Delas Alas, Eugene Domingo and the rest of the cast, all achieved what they set out to do and exceeded expectations. They made the best film to end the “Tanging Ina..” franchise which was funny and entertaining. It’s a must see for the whole family who wants a good laugh. They had nothing to do with the MMFF’s judging process. And in totality the 36th MMFF has improved by including an independent film category.
The misplaced awards only show that there are a few kinks in the judging process. MMDA Chairman Atty. Francis Tolentino during his speech revealed that a house wife, a bus driver and student were part of the panel of judges. And their influence shows on the choice of “Tanging Ina” to which Ai ai is first to admit that her fans are ‘masa.’ They are not, however, able to competently judge the technical aspects of a film such as the screenplay and even directorial treatment. The need to improve the MMFF is crucial to the film industry. It’s the only venue which protects Filipino films from their foreign counterparts. The efforts of the new administration in improving the fest have certainly made a difference. But the awards are evidence that there’s still a long way to go.