Signal Rock (Chito Rono, 2018)

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Ten minutes na lang bago magsimula ang Signal Rock, nasa pila pa ako ng takilyera. Starved, haven’t taken my lunch yet. Pa-ala-una trenta na nuon. Iyong matabang MTRCB deputy na una sa akin, pinagbuksan pa ako ng pinto—pareho kaming humangos papasok ng sinehan–thank you po, sir. Good thing at kasisimula pa lang: eksena doon sa malaking batong parang giant palaka sa Biri Island. Ang ganda ng drone shots!
Sì Christian Bables ang bida. Nasabi ko sa isang kaibigan na may agam-agam ako na baka hindi magampanan ng mahusay ni Christian ang role niya rito. Bagito pa kasi siya at Barbs ng Die Beautiful pa din talaga ang naiisip ko on hearing his name. Although, nabalita naman na mahusay daw talaga si ser dito, di pa din ako naniwala hanggat hindi ko napapanuod. In fact, yung imahe at dedikasyon sa paggaya ng aktor ng pisikal na dating ng mga transgenders ang pinakapinuri ko nuon sa review ko sa award-winning supporting role niya:

“… his body was exposed many times. He wore short shorts. He flaunted his shapely, womanly legs, his biceps well-toned yet non-muscular. He’s a doll in skimpy outfits. When he walked wearing high heels, his posterior profile boasted of a woman’s waist, his behind like a rocking pear on a bough, and that straight imaginary line on the soil punctured by his lady shoes seemed to have surfaced when he passed by.
… His sharp-pointed nose recreated in our minds how Pauleen Luna or Aubrey Miles must have inhaled and relished the smell of bouquets of fragrant flowers. It’s one of those rare miracle of a performance for such a role where the exterior gelled with the interior. If he were really acting here, then he must forgive us if we believed he’s not, if we thought he’s gay.”

Ganuon s’ya kagaling as Barbs, dahil may pronouncements nga siya na he doesn’t have the same sexual preference as Paolo Ballesteros. Ano siya dito—probinsyanong events host-slash-basketbolista-slash-teenager-slash-youngest-among-three-siblings-slash utusan ng bayan. Very friendly. Intoy. Sounds like totoy na ketongin. Yung istorya, iinog sa communication niya with his sister via Nokia 6110 with matching fork na ikinabit o idinikit sa cellphone na parang antenna. Mahirap talaga kasi ang signal sa isla. At sa batuhan nga pinakamalakas ang connect. Kaya yung parang giant palaka na batuhan, ultimong tourist spot sa mga taga barrio.

OFW yung sister niya. Nakabingwit ng foreigner na asawa pero eventually mag-aaway at magkakaproblem. Sister would ask help from Intoy, as in major na tulong talaga ang kailangan. They had to sign contracts and meet a representative of the country where his sister resides.

Doon umikot ang storya. Tapos may subplots din about Intoy’s young love. May nakakabit na mga storya tungkol sa mga kaibigan, kakilala, at pulitika. Sprawling in some ways, dahil sinakop ang maraming issues at ipinakita ang iba’t-ibang buhay at mukha ng mga simple at mahirap nating mga kababayan. So, scope pa lang, sa narrative offshoots nito, no question that this is a major film, multi-character.

Kita din iyong affinities ni direk Chito Roño at Ishmael Bernal. Since support din si Ms. Daria Ramirez at matubig at isla ang setting, I couldn’t help but think that parts of the movie were homages to Bernal’s Nunal Sa Tubig, especially nang makita ko si Daria sa bangka, at iyong eksena na kumakain at nakaupo siya sa bahay nila habang umuulan sa labas.

Blessing din na superior lahat ng aspeto ng pelikula, from direction, script, cinematography, editing, ensemble performance. Ang husay ng scene after nang unang misa: iyong pag-ikot ng camera to show distances nang iba’t-ibang pairs ng mga tauhan, iyong overlapping ng dialogues. Iyong pag-suong sa unos na real-surreal na ‘di ko maipaliwanag, na parang naalala ko nang mabasa ng ulan sina Nora at Perla Bautista sa Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit nuong nakasakay sila sa kalabaw dala-dala ang mga sakong bigas na ibebenta—the agony, will and spirit to succeed against nature. Iyong pagdi-display ng little triumphs at mischiefs, iyong authentic na pag-render ng portraits ng mga kaganapan sa probinsya. Iyong sayawan sa plaza.

Naalala ko tuloy iyong first time kong um-attend nang party sa court sa amin. Nilagyan ko nang kulawit or ‘s’ ang buhok ko sa harapan, ala-Superman. Tapos naglakad akong mag-isa nang gabi papunta ruon. 10 years old ako. Kawayan ang palipod sa venue. May design na krepe paper. Merong disco ball at bubble machine. Um-isang sayaw lang po ako. Di pa kasi umiinit ang sound system, meron nang mga lasing at makikiyang mga binata mula sa ibang barrio. Nangangamoy-suntukan na. That’s how it was. Sa mga events like these: balls, reunions, inter-barangay basketball at volleyball games. 50% takaw-away. Kailangan ko na din umuwi agad dahil walang kasama sa bahay si lola Paula.

Signal Rock is a strong, incisive, and enduring feature, probably the best film I’ve seen in theaters in the last five years. This cemented my admiration for Chito Roño as a director and should catapult him to the same height as the pedestals occupied by Brocka and Bernal. His body of work even before this is already extensive and his dexterity in tackling different genres is every director’s envy.

Meanwhile, Christian Bables’ transformation as Intoy is mindblowing. I have no doubt now that he would still have delivered even without the make-up that tanned his skin. His inflections, his slight belly pouch, his deeply worried eyes after learning about what caused a murder, his nostrils, inhaling and exhaling all the sorrows from himself and those carried by the air and sea waves, sum up into something perfect. For being able to convince us of the complexities of two characters, Barbs and Intoy, at opposite ends of the character/role spectrum, and for a very short span between those movies’ public exhibitions, he proves that he is not just a crybaby neophyte actor, especially when someone gives him praise for his work. He’s on a path to secure a niche in the pantheon of great performers, being a sensitive man who has so far shown a deep grasp of human nature.

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2 thoughts on “Signal Rock (Chito Rono, 2018)

    spaceaso responded:
    August 28, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Fìrst time i tried iyang mix-mix. Ocassionally siguro, i’ll do it, hihi. Thanks po. 🙂

    Cielo said:
    August 28, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Gusto ko ‘yung Taglish way ng review na’to. 😊

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