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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.

Dec 29, 2017

Siargao Is A Beautiful Island. As For The Movie, We Wish We Could Say The Same

‘SIARGAO’ is a movie that accomplishes its primary intention, which is to showcase the pristine beauty of the fabulous island of Siargao in Surigao del Norte, Mindanao. You’ll see its attractions like the Magpupungko rock pools and the Cloud 9 resort, site of the annual Siargao Cup, a domestic and international surfing competition. There’s also General Luna, considered as the country’s surfing capital. After watching the movie, you’d really like to go visit the place.

“Siargao” joins the list of other movies filmed in an island or a beach town, like “Camiguin” with Gelli de Belen and Jomari Yllana, “Flotsam” (set in Surf Town, San Juan, La Union) with Solenn Heussaff and Rocco Nacino, “Batanes” with Iza Calzado, “Apocalypse Child” (set in Baler) with Sid Lucero, “I Found My Heart in Santa Fe” with Roxanne Barcelo and Will Devaugh (filmed in Santa Fe, Bantayan Island).

The coming “Mr. & Mrs. Cruz” with Ryza Cenon and JC Santos will feature El Nido in Palawan. Later, we won’t be surprised if we’ll also have films set in Camotes, Malapascua & Sumilon Islands in Cebu, Gigantes Island in Iloilo, Coron in Palawan, Puerto Galera in Mindoro, Panglao in Bohol, Pagudpud in Ilocos, Samal Island in Davao, Bellaroca in Marinduque, etc. But come to think of it, how come we don’t have a movie yet called “Boracay” (we did have a TV series, though)?

Siargao, the island, is a stunning beauty and we wish we could say the same about “Siargao”, the movie. It has good technicals, with the fine cinematography capturing the idyllic beauty of the place, including the gigantic walls of surfing waves. But storytelling-wise, the makers must have fallen in love so much with the place that they forgot that a good movie should also tell an involving story.

After an hour of seeing the beach and the scenic attractions of Siargao in endless drone shots, someone beside us quips: “Isang oras na, wala pang masyadong nangyayari.” And it’s true. The material is really thin, there’s not much of a story and whatever loosely constructed narrative there is, most of the time, ‘ikinukuwento lang’.

The motivations of the characters are not fully or well articulated. Maybe that’s really the intention of Director Paul Soriano and his scriptwriter, Anj Pasumal, to leave some things hanging in the air. But the trouble is there’s so much frugality in the storytelling that we end up having little to hold on to and the script comes out as so underwritten.

We see the characters surfing, biking, drinking beer, flirting, dancing to the beat of Siargao’s nightlife and surfing some more. But they are not that well delineated, so we don’t sincerely invest our emotions in them and you want to ask: “Ano ba talaga ang problema ng mga ito?”

When we finally get a handle on them and somehow learn about what they’re going through, our reaction is ho-hum. We’ve seen people in even worse situations but they seem to have much better coping mechanisms.

In “Siargao”, Jericho Rosales is Diego, who seems to be a very popular band vocalist as people always want to take their picture with him. He is really from Siargao and, after some years of being away, he goes home to his mom (Suzette Ranillo) and siblings (they’re really believable as siblings as they truly all look alike, especially Jericho and Leon Miguel who look like identical twins). He seems to be carrying a big emotional baggage with him.

On the plane, Erich Gonzales as Laura is seated beside him and she recognizes him instantly. He gives her a ride from the Siargao airport to her hotel. Laura is a vlogger who seems to have serious hangups of her own. It turns out she has an ideal boyfriend who is so devoted and caring (Enchong Dee in a special participation), but when he proposes to marry her, complete with a ring, she instantly rejects him.

She explains her own reasons for doing this, but frankly we can’t understand it and we don’t buy it. Maybe, millennials for whom this film seems to be more intended, will be able to understand more quickly the reasons for her and the other characters’ confusion and indecision. With a more incisive script, this could have been a more satisfying if bittersweet piece about searching for identity, exploring a relationship and making more lasting decisions and connections.

In Siargao, Erich meets native girl Jasmine Curtis Smith as Abi. She learns that Echo and Jasmine used to be an item, but it’s all very tentative. When Echo finally decides to tell her his true feelings about him, Jasmine says she already has a boyfriend. Honestly, again, we cannot relate.

We’ve seen films about young people and unrequited love and it’s best if what they’re going through is properly spelled out for us so we can fully comprehend what they’re experiencing.

The best film in this sub genre of romances is JP Habac’s “I’m Drunk, I Love You” featuring an incredibly effective performance from Maja Salvador as a young woman secretly in love with her best friend, Paulo Avelino. So many things happen and we totally relate with her that, when Paulo finally makes a gesture to bed her, she rejects him and we get it, totally, because the script allowed us to get into her character and understand her.

This cannot be said for the characters in “Siargao”, who we all get to know in a very superficial way. Technically, the film is way above average. It can be quite a visual feast, particularly the sun-dappled cinematography that captures the gorgeousness of Siargao and the underwater scenes showing huge towering waves in the surfing scenes. The film offers a lot of songs and seems bent on pushing the career of Jericho as a vocalist. He gets to sing two songs here while accompanying himself on the guitar, in full, not just snippets dahil binuo talaga nila.