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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 19, 2016

Hiblang Abo Movie Review: Depressing Tale Of Four Born Losers

ADAPTED FROM an acclaimed play by Rene Villanueva that won 2nd prize in the CCP Playwriting contest in 1980, much of the lines from the original theater presentation of “Hiblang Abo” have been updated for today’s audiences. The Cinemalaya entry, “Hiblang Abo”, is about four men in the sunset of their lives all living in a home for the aged called Bahay ni Juan. The film version is now directed by Ralston Jover, whose works (“Bakal Boys”, “Bendor”, “Hamog”- we didn’t see “Dog Show”) have very basic good materials with much promise but are not that well realized on the big screen.

The four old men are Lou Veloso as Huse, a writer of vodavils (who acts as the narrator in the stage play); Jun Urbano as Sotero, a farmer and ex-convict; Leo Rialp as Blas, a traitorous labor leader; and Nanding Josef as Pedro, a taong graza abandoned by his family. They all live in the same cottage, getting on each other’s nerves all the time. All of them also have skeletons in their closets. All of them are sad, lonely, full of bitterness and regret about their past lives.

The film is not really a celebration of the joy of living and it can be quite depressing in its bleak portrayal of old age as one gradually loses one’s faculties, good health and firm grip on reality. We’re a septuagenarian ourselves, but we’d like to think that, Thank God, we’re still living a very much happier, more active and productive life compared to these four characters that all seem to be born losers.

Just like “Kusina”, “Hiblang Abo” feels very much like a filmed play as it does not really extensively exploit the possibilities of the cinematic medium. Yes, there are flashback scenes showing the men when they were younger (all of them are played by Cebuano actor Matt Daclan, who is exceptional), but the basic theatricality of the material remains and it doesn’t really involve us as viewers even if, in all fairness to them, all the four actors all deliver very heartfelt performances. Incidentally, why did they all win as best supporting actors when they are all actually playing lead roles?