Friday, June 14, 2024

VIRGIN LABFEST 19: Set C - PuTim

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PAGKAPIT SA HANGIN - Nurse A (Elora Espano), Nurse B (Wenah Nagales), and a Doctor (Timothy Mabalot) are trapped by their profession in a government hospital at the height of the COVID pandemic. Aside from the fatigue and lack of manpower, the trio are hounded by a dilemma which is a shortage of oxygen tanks that they must distribute equally to the 60 patients under their care. Not expecting any outside help, the three decide to select which patients have less chances of surviving, turning off their air supply. A Watcher (Gold Villar Lim), whose father is among those deprived of air, discovers the anomaly.

Most of us had the luxury of getting bored in our homes as our biggest dilemma during the pandemic, while others were not as lucky and ended up at crowded hospitals either as health workers or patients. Many of them died. PAGKAPIT SA HANGIN relives the horror and the drama at hospital halls that we’ve only ever heard about but never got to experience. It is harrowing. While deciding who has a good chance of survival seems like normal everyday occurrence in hospitals, the moral question of such a difficult decision, multiplied many times over during a pandemic, is just so unprecedented. The toll on mental health must have been traumatic.

LIPISTIK AT PULBURA - Abucay, Bataan (1943). Childhood friends Odeng (Pau Benitez) and Erlinda (Chase Salazar) meet up secretly from time to time where the former works, at a publishing house in Bataan where she writes propaganda articles for the Japanese. Erlinda, on the other hand, is a revolutionary who decides to join the rebellion with a revolver in hand. As tragic fates are realized, one is left to commemorate her late friend through the power of the written word. Suddenly, the line between fact and fiction is blurred to give way for narrative convenience. Will it give the fallen heroine justice?


I really don’t know whether my interpretation is correct. Odeng decides to paint her friend Erlinda as a victim, describing her in the memoir she writes as a “pretty Filipina” raped and murdered by the Japanese. Except she wasn’t. She died in an exchange of gunfire with the enemy, like most of the men. It's as if the playwright’s argument is that the only way for a story of a woman, in historical terms, to evoke emotion or inspiration is to play the role of a victim. Rape victim. Hero’s mom. Hero’s widow. Somehow it makes sense. Name at least five other women in Philippine colonial history, aside from Gabriela Silang, who was known for taking up arms against the colonizers. I'll wait.

THE FOXTROT - A wealthy matronly woman by the name of Anna (Liesl Batucan-del Rosario) meets up with her dance instructor Diego (JC Santos), perhaps for the very last time, to rehearse the Foxtrot, which will serve as their entry for a dance competition. As the duo try to navigate the complexities of their dance, some truths about themselves and their relationship that have been simmering since their first meeting rise to the surface, causing some inconvenient confrontations as well as a potential threat to their primary goal. Will they be professionals about it or will they let their feelings decide?

This storyline about an older woman falling for her dance instructor has been rehashed over and over again on film and TV, which leads us to ask whether recycling it yet again will bring something new to the table. Luckily, THE FOXTROT is a legit acting piece that relies on the strength of its actors, in which case both Batucan and Santos complement one another quite well. They both go all camp with their performances, which somehow makes it hard to take her seriously once the drama side of the character kicks in. He, on the other hand, shines brightly in scenes when he is crying or simply angry while being funny when needed be.

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