Saturday, June 18, 2022

VIRGIN LABFEST 17: Set C

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

STUDENT’S HANDBOOK – Father Oks (Jojo Cayabyab), the strict priest and head of a catholic school, comes back from Hong Kong during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He along with student assistant Mary (Kyrie Samodio) summon four students who violated several articles in the handbook: Rick (Earvin Estioco) the rocker musical theater actor and Peps (Gabo Tolentino) the class clown for violating the long hair rule; inglisera Claire (Marynor Madamesila) for having tattoos; and Benjo (Jerom Canlas) for joining a rally.

Student’s Handbook does not really hit the mark right away, and the sound effects/musical score that signal transition is downright weird. The message begins to make sense as we get halfway through the narrative, making it clear that the premise is that of authority. It starts at school before permeating into different areas of one’s life. Framed within the beginning of the pandemic, it feels a bit strange considering we’re all just starting to recover from it. Lackluster to some extent but has a legit message to convey.

UNICA HIJAS – Two high school girls receive an invitation from the principal’s office after one of the faculty members catches them locking lips. Mitch (Ash Nicanor) is aloof and not that worried considering she has been out and proud for a long time and with supportive parents to boot. Nikki (Joy delos Santos), on the other hand, is having panic attacks believing that her parents will never look at her the same way again once they find out the truth about her sexuality.


This one takes inspiration from the many teenybopper offerings you see on streaming platforms nowadays. With two high school students exploring their being part of the LGBTQ+, the bigots are sure as day to rip this to pieces with their favorite buzzwords like “indoctrination”, “agenda”, and shoving whatever it is that they want to be “shoved down their throats”. In any case, Unica Hijas delivers a solid statement about representation. I just wished its presentation wasn't as gloomy and depressing. LGBTQ+ stories are not all about suffering and gloom. Take a cue from Netflix’s Heartstopper, maybe.

PUNKS NOT DEAD – Mrs. Apple (Martha Nikko Comia) is one of the many teachers forced to adapt to a new normal brought upon by the pandemic. When Aling Bireng (Maria Bagio) comes in to submit her son’s homework, she immediately questions the veracity of the modules after one item declares that tattoos, which she happens to have, are signs of being a criminal. Things get complicated when another parent, policeman Artur (Paulo Cabañero), also comes in for the same reason and mistakes the two for drug runners.

Punks Not Dead will probably emerge as one of this season’s favorites. Laughter ensues once Mosang gets onstage, with the two ladies playing off each other and maximizing their rapport. While peppered with comedy bordering on slapstick all throughout, it is the sudden shift in tone via that shock-and-awe ending that serves as the final blow. As we know, it’s all fun and games until you become an EJK victim. The political undertones might end up being a source of animosity for some people depending on their political leanings, but that doesn’t change the fact that this material is timely and relevant and should be discussed.

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