Sana. . . Pag-ibig Na (Jeffrey Jeturian, 1998) February 5, 2009Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Noypi, UP Screening.
Directed by Jeffrey Jeturian
Written by Armando Lao
Cast: Nida Blanca, Gerald Madrid, Angel Aquino, Vangie Labalan
The family is a classic staple of Philippine cinema. It is where we always go back; it is where our roots are anchored ever so sternly. Despite countless storylines aimed to sell the drama of our common experiences, the unhappy Filipino family has proven to be a very interesting subject among filmmakers; it is a safe fallback for their own reflections on the values they grew up with, the people they had to bear living with, the emotions they felt as they matured, or basically the lack thereof.
Sana. . . Pag-ibig Na has a curious setup. The father, who is a professor of humanities in the university, dies of heart attack. His family grieves his loss but it is mainly his wife who suffers the deathblow. She calls her daughter in the States to inform her, only to find out that she cannot come to the funeral because of her interview in her application for American citizenship. Her eldest, on the other hand, urges her to sell the car and the house, prodding her to get his share of his father’s properties. The youngest son is infuriated by this selfish concern; he is still commiserating with his mother’s grief. He even sees his father’s ghost right after his death. He traces the things he left, leading him to one of his former students, a part-time computer saleslady who incidentally had an affair with his father. He meets her; she’s pregnant. He becomes fond of her; somehow it is obvious that he is falling for her. It is a genial relationship until his mother finds out. She sees some pictures from her husband’s things that she got from his office, his romance with a younger woman, and she probes her address, goes to her home, only to see her son with her husband’s mistress. She breaks down. She has allowed herself to forgive the younger woman in time, visiting her as she delivers her child. It is an understanding that only the two of them can arrive at, the unspeakable play of fate in their lives.
Good Harvest is Mother Lily’s redeemer, known for its “pito-pito” films that are shot for around seven days with a budget of only about two to four million pesos. It is far from the encouraging environment that a first time filmmaker can hope for, considering the reality of every production nightmare possible, but Lav Diaz, Jeffrey Jeturian, and Rico Ilarde owe their breaks from Good Harvest, with the late Joey Gosiengfiao as their mentor. Sana. . . Pag-ibig Na belongs to those few gems that got produced and shown commercially. It flopped in the box-office but fortunately recognized by critics, particularly Nida Blanca’s performance as the grieving mother, and signaled the emergence of a young filmmaker, who, in less than ten years after his debut, will be touted as the worthy heir of Brocka’s influential realism.
Sana. . . Pag-ibig Na is not brilliant, though. It reveals Jeturian’s weaknesses as a first time director, presumably because he had to put up with the almost impossible production limitations and his shaky fears as a neophyte, that even though he was not new in the industry, having trained as a production designer before, it still feels different to be the captain of your insufficiently-maintained ship. There are scenes that I compel myself to cringe, clearly because I thought Jeturian is incapable of those, but they have made me appreciate his handsome oeuvre even more. The strength of Bing Lao’s script is also its weakness; the confinement restricts its plot but makes it more emotionally-focused. The drama is commonplace, its values too strict, its virtues too Christian – – yet these are things we can relate, stories we can easily find a connection, lives not so unlike our own. The narrative grips very well that when the mother starts to break down in the end, to shout and berate his son, before finally burning all her husband’s things and throwing the computer, I feel my eyes are moving out of their sockets, moved by the rush of tears welling up, and that since I was the only audience of this film I had allowed myself to sob, to share her pain, to commiserate with her sorrow, to embrace her virtually.
One starts by using a pattern, perhaps a mainstream pattern, and this pattern may enable him to find and create his own, a style he can master through time. From Sana. . . Pag-ibig Na to Kubrador, Jeturian’s pattern is only that of thematic brilliance, a shattering vision that only gets better film after film.