If there was a movie that I absolutely enjoyed from Cinema One Originals’ 2015 festival of films, it was Baka Siguro Yata (written and directed by Joel Ferrer). A thankfully unapologetic romantic-comedy that dares have a male character at its center, whose situation is so specific to a social class that is rarely portrayed with self-deprecation and honesty.
Look guys! It’s a middle class Filipino family without the drama. It’s the absurdity of our every days, the hilarity in the situations we happen upon, that strange balance we are all required to strike between conservatism and liberalism, the old, tried, tested and the modern in our relationships.
It’s about parents and sons and daughters, about sisterhood and bromance. And it is still about love, actually.
Contextualizing the enjoyment
At the heart of my critique against the mainstream rom-com is how it has gotten to the point of being too simple. As we complain about the mistress movies and say that it has become redundant at this point, so we must complain about our rom-com industry that seems to be running out of ideas.
There was a time when rom-coms discussed local stereotypes like malandi and pokpok, i.e., Joey Javier Reyes and Mario J. delos Reyes doing Joyce Jimenez rom-coms (Narinig Mo Na Ba Ang L8est? 2001, Ano Bang Meron Ka? 2001, I Think I’m In Love 2002). To me, this began the rom-com genre for us, at least in as far as we equate it with the body of work of Toni Gonzaga.
That of course it has become more and more conservative is not surprising: it has after all been used to create the careers of celebrities that live off notions of conservatism as well.
That it has become redundant might be a matter of creative and audience fatigue. Why else would we want to do a One More Chance sequel eight years since it first came out?
That this is the context of Baka Siguro Yata and every other effort at an indie rom-com, i.e., That Thing Called Tadhana, goes without saying.
It is also what makes this film exciting and new. At least to me, who will sit through every romantic film this country’s mainstream and independent film industries will churn out.
Real, more than simple
Certainly this film might be pegged down as a narrative of machismo, daring as it does to have a male lead Carlo (Dino Pastrano), and rendering his love interest(s) as secondary character(s).
This is because the hilarity of the film comes from Carlo, and it is his familial context that is fleshed out more than Melissa’s (Valerie Garcia), the girl that he impregnates after a one-night-stand. Yes, there are shades of Knocked Up. No, it is not unoriginal at all.
Because Carlo is also your every-middle-class adult Pinoy male, who might be the brother or cousin, friend or boyfriend that we all grapple with, because they lack ambition and would rather go after one passion or another that does not quite allow them to live independently and fend for themselves. For Carlo, it is music. And in every scene that he is shown with his friends and bandmates (played by Nicco Manalo, Jerald Napoles, Alex Medina) one gets a sense of how life for them is all still a matter of play, almost a denial of adulthood, happily dependent and freeloading every chance they get.
And yet this is also about Carlo’s broken-heartedness, after the end of a long-term relationship with a girl who commits infidelity with another girl. The ensuing conversation kicks off this film, where Carlo’s pain is rendered irrelevant by his girlfriend’s lack of remorse, rendering the revelation a good thing, never mind that it might hurt the man.
Melissa meanwhile is without crisis really. She’s your every adult Pinay who is tired of dating, tired of love, and quite content with just doing her own thing, not matter the tinge of loneliness and uncertainty in her voice. It is her stability as a character that allows for the unplanned pregnancy to be without the usual drama of what will the world say, what will I do?!?
Between Carlo and Melissa, and especially Pastrano and Garcia, what one gets in Baka Siguro Yata is a stable portrayal of a real-life middle class coupling, with the luxury to problematize the balance between freedom and all that it means, and the chains that one equates with commitment.
Pastrano carried every scene he was in, his comedic timing perfect every time. His portrayal of this big baby of a man is so classic Pinoy that one can’t help but find it adorable anyway, even as it is so symptomatic of the kind of upbringing that the every-girlfriend might have to deal with. Garcia rises to the occasion of this film, where she portrays the adult Pinay as someone who refuses to be a controlling nagger, and who so simply articulates her fear and neediness by telling Carlo our of the blue and with just the right amount of nonchalance and sincerity: Huwag mo ‘ko iiwan ha.
These two characters (and actors) are as refreshing as they sound, for anyone already jaded by the fakery of the mainstream rom-com, and the standard crises about love that these discuss.
Family as context
But also Carlo and Melissa are real people because the families that define them are just as believable, embroiled as they are in their own individual crises, their loves and desires. The supporting cast here is not at all oversimplified and far from the usual archetypal families in Pinoy film. It disallows us to make conclusions about Carlo and Melissa merely based on who their families are.
Baka Siguro Yata instead reveals parents who are independent from their children, ones who have their own lives and desires, ones who exist as distinct personalities. Carlo’s parents Adrian (Ricky Davao) and Remy (Cherie Gil) are long-separated but good friends.
Probably as important as the relationship of Carlo and Melissa, this film also builds the relationship between Adrian and Remy who realize that they still fit perfectly together.
The hilarity happens in the aftermath of this realization, especially when Carlo has a skewed déjà vu of the film’s first scene. That the Adrian-Remy relationship succeeds is of course because of Davao and Gil, whose rapport and energy was as expected. A welcome treat was Gil as regular nanay, puson and all, smoking like a chimney, with a kind of gutsy Tagalog that we know from the elder women in our lives.
The Myka (Katrina Legaspi) and Jinno (Boo Gabunada) narrative of young love and virginity was missing spontaneity and timing though, but might have been saved by that horrid theme song Jinno wrote for Myka. That in the end this song worked might be because of how it was both romantic and hilarious at the same time, like a good rom-com needs to be.
Which might be said as well of that last conversation between Carlo and Melissa, where without asking questions, Carlo takes out his wallet and pays for the food that he and Melissa have for dinner and says, with as much nonchalance and sincerity, “Ako na ang bahals sa’tin.”
Ah, music to any Pinoy woman’s ears.