Kun Maupay Man it Panahon: Parallels of misfortune

BLITZ REVIEW - Juaniyo Arcellana - The Philippine Star
Kun Maupay Man it Panahon: Parallels of misfortune
Carlo Manatad’s directorial feature debut stars (from left) Charo Santos-Concio, Daniel Padilla and Rans Rifol.

Whatever else might be said about Kun Maupay Man it Panahon, whose reputation precedes it having been part of the official selection in Locarno earlier this year, the directorial feature debut of Carlo Francisco Manatad has the advantage of serendipity, opening in theaters nine days after Typhoon Odette laid waste to islands in the Visayas and Northern Mindanao.

For the Metro film fest entry forms part of the post Yolanda literature and cinema from natives of the hard-hit Tacloban in 2013, drawing comparisons with the present plight of victims of the recent Typhoon Odette that hit Siargao, Dinagat, Bohol, among others, a kind of parallel delayed reality through the power of film.

The narrative mostly episodic, story is held together by the common thread merging through viewpoints of a mother Norma played by Charo Santos, her son Miguel (Daniel Padilla) and his girlfriend Andrea (Rans Rifol), as they make their way either together or separately in the wasteland of their city reduced to a Mad Max-like post-apocalypse scenario, with the endless lines for relief goods, landscape of shattered houses, inept officials managing evacuation centers, religious revivals as people have nothing else to cling to other than hope of the next boat arriving to take them to Manila, all the while battling constant false news of another imminent storm.

It’s quite a kaleidoscope of images and rumination on one’s plate, but Manatad and the attendant camera are able to handle proceedings well with equal doses of the surreal and absurd, at times threatening to fly off handle including the subplot search for the straying husband missing in storm, but these are timely reined in with offbeat humor such as the military man spouting gobbledygook in the stressed-out evacuation center, a downward spiral of this circle of hell doing a little detour.

There are a number of striking scenes, lyric angles that somehow find beauty in devastation, but this is never romanticized. Miguel and Andrea biking through a country road with levelled coconut trees on either side, the boy telling his girl that he wants to be a seaman despite the deaths spawned by the storm surge and not knowing how to swim himself, surely does the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid bicycle scene one better. Although here it’s not raindrops keep falling on my head but after the deluge.

Or Aling Norma in her fruitless search for unfaithful hubby, managing to wangle three bags of relief from a social worker, only to lose them one after another, two to starved vagrants and one she gives up willingly to a standby who provides information on mister’s possible whereabouts, including an interlude of taking a crap in an obscure roadside as nondescript and poker-faced as can be mustered.

Several references are made to the photo of the year of a wire agency in the time of Yolanda, that of a procession bearing religious images while a darkening sky hovers in background, you might wonder if filter was used because of such abiding faith or fanaticism in a downhill place, but none is needed as tragedy requires no toning down, the vividness speaks for itself, things break down and the center cannot hold.

Part of the sins of cinema seems to suggest, just how resilient the Filipinos should be in order for us to stop using the word resilience?

Certainly Kun Maupay is not your regular film fest fare, but Metro Manila’s latest edition and first in actual theaters since the pandemic although in limited run is irregular as it can get, although a modestly sized crowd could be seen at screenings, the people starved for real life film after almost two years.

Statements of profundity can be made about the parallels of misfortune, storm and contagion, not to mention latent circuses in town brewing, and makes us wonder if such things really happened in post-Yolanda Tacloban. Whether or not exaggeration, what’s presented onscreen can occasionally be unsettling.

That’s the director’s call of course, and though Manatad’s film is far from perfect, warts, tattoo blush and all, and may even leave the casual viewer feeling shortchanged — the point is can’t be casual and regular guy when seeking shelter from the storm, or afterwards for that matter, when it feels like we’ve reached the end of the end of the world.

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