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Meet you in the middle |


Meet you in the middle

BRIEF HISTORIES - Don Jaucian - The Philippine Star
Meet you in the middle
Hintayan ng Langit is now showing at select cinemas via the QCinema International Film Festival until Oct. 30.

‘Hintayan ng Langit’ explores what happens when you’re released from the vow of “til death do us part.’

Dan Villegas’ Hintayan ng Langit, one of the crowd pleasers of this year’s QCinema International Film Festival, seems like an outlier in a lineup of films that range from the muted to the completely insane. It shares a similar vein with Samantha Lee’s Billie & Emma, a charming tale of first love between two high school girls. But the three other films in the Circle Competition don’t occupy the same cinematic plane: Dwein Balatazar’s Oda sa Wala is a tender yet absurdist exploration of loneliness and isolation; Timmy Harn’s Dog Days is a heady trip into self-destruction; and Gutierrez Mangansakan II’s Masla A Papanok is a period piece about the ravages of colonialism. But that is not to say Billie and Hintayan are mere puff pieces. In fact, these are much-needed silver linings in a stuffed programming — one that runs the spectrum of human emotions, global issues, and experimental narratives.

Hintayan (written by Juan Miguel Severo and based on his one act play) is about what happens when “’til death do us part” has freed you from your wedding vows. Manolo and Lisang, Eddie Garcia and Gina Pareño, respectively, delivering performances of a lifetime, are in The Middle, a quirkier version of purgatory where you can spend weeks, months, or even years in servitude to score brownie points until you get clearance to go to heaven. But for Manolo and Lisang, now past their prime and have lived long lives, it’s no longer just a matter of waiting to join their respective spouses in heaven — it’s the possibility of picking up what they’ve left off as young, star-crossed lovers. In the spirit of fated love affairs, one might wonder who’s pulling the strings this time, in the afterlife. Is it God? Destiny? Or just the choices that Manolo and Lisang made and are currently making for themselves?

What’s fascinating in Hintayan is the unraveling of the steps that led to the specific moments of their lives and how it eventually affected their marriages. Manolo admitted he cheated on his wife several times but never thought of leaving her. Lisang, on the other hand, remained loyal but thought of leaving her husband many times. The film explores the notion that a person can love more than just one… that there’s a difference between the love that you choose and your one true love.

For Lisang, Manolo has remained like a phantom limb for most of her life, something that’s supposed to have vanished but still remains a presence. Pareño’s performance is marked by Lisang’s big personality, she lashes out, childish at times, but bit by bit, we discover that it’s a form of self-defense, because once she lets her guard down, she becomes exposed, raw and stripped off.

In many ways, Lisang is the hero of the story, that Manolo is more of a passive recipient of Lisang’s love but Manolo’s acceptance of his supposed fate — that he can no longer be with Lisang, a person he once actually chose to love, after their breakup — has tragic undertones, and once a renewed opportunity to start again is offered to him, he is stunned, dumbfounded at the prospect of being given the chance to continue a story he once thought has ended for good.

Hintayan is a distilled version of a typical romcom. It’s a negotiation, a running discussion of a life full of compromises and regrets. Whereas a by-the-numbers romcom would have obstacles, villains, and arcs, a story like Hintayan is pure, almost perfect. What else is there to do when you and your ex-love are both dead, released from earthly pains and obligations? There’s no third party, no domineering parent, or even the evils of capitalism to set you back. Nothing.

One of the jurors from QCinema’s Circle Competition category told me that Hintayan seemed like a defense of Juan Miguel Severo’s brand of romance — the suffering and tragic one. But it really depends on how you see love. For me, Hintayan is an ode both the hazards and comforts of love, that when you take a leap of faith, you do so not because you’re blinded by the one thing that you see in front of you, it’s because you simply choose to.

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