by Charlie Koon
Laya is not the carefree type of woman. She is a deconstruction of the female psyche. She thinks like a man and her principles are similar to men. This is how she is and has become. She confesses that her father sleeps with her when she was a child. Mangatyanan is the second film of the Camera Trilogy directed by Jerrold Tarog. The first filmConfessional, I did not like. In fact, I was really insulted. It is not about the technique that I did not like. I just always consider stories to be crucial element in films. Mangatyanan made something exquisite. The mixture of our dying culture and the human condition are combined to exteriorize the frailties of our existence.
Why did I admire Mangatyanan and not Confessional? Confessional is pretentious. It was trendy during the time wherein most film enthusiasts are so frustrated with how our films have become. In effect, they have a high regard for brave filmmakers. But that was just a fad. Now, I think the majority of film aficionados could easily mock the brave. When filmmakers go back to the essence of film which is to tell meaningful stories, regardless of whether it is brave or candid, it will be praised for its ingenuity. Mangatyanan is an example. It definitely has a good story. It is about us. They talk about the people who are not merely fixated into life’s trivialities just for the heck of individualism. Now, we have a character that has the right to be who she is. The protagonist of the film, Laya Marquez played by Che Ramos has the bravura in extending certain aspects of humanity that is too soaring to be synthesized. It is hard to understand the courage of the principles she has acquired, but that is the blood of the film. This is the life that should flow into our own existence.
The mere fact that Jerrold Tarog’s name has registered into my memory, that a certain filmmaker has a recall could be very important. Tarog has definitely improved and has fused his technical expertise with a good story (Ramon Ukit). A trilogy in general has a common theme. They are not expected to be a continuation of the first or the second. Famous filmmakers have done this way of focused storytelling. Ingmar Bergman has made a trilogy that centers on a spiritual theme (Through a Glass Darkly — conquered certainty, Winter Light — penetrated certainty, The Silence — God's silence — the negative imprint). It is also same with a more contemporary approach by Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Death Trilogy (Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel). Tarog made use of the camera in order to base the commonality of the previous story with the recent one.
Laya is also suffering from an injury that now haunts her. His father Danilo played by Pen Medina is dying and her mother played by Irma Adlawan tries to patch things up. Laya resists without giving her reasons. She shuts herself from her ‘obligations’ and goes up quickly to Isabela for her job assignment. Little is told about her even with the insistence of her boss played by Neil Ryan Sese to open up. It is only in her conscience that we are introduced to Laya, a woman that tries to be normal for society’s sake but will never forgive a father who taught her what she is today. But the consistency of her courage will also have its toll. The tribe is headed by Mang Renato (Publio Briones III) who is very strict and devoted to the ritual. Through the ritual, Laya gets more bravery to face a daunting task to resist her own predilection.
Mangatyanan could still have the vibrant social commentaries relayed in Confessional. But in this one, it is more subdued in the context of political beliefs. Well, it is already in our blood to relate every aspect of our lives to the political arena. Mangatyanan on my perspective has deeply penetrated the harshness of our own beliefs. We have no right to human condemnation but we are reaffirmed by the task in hand which is to forgive. I have to say that most of the films in the Cinemalaya competition are really good. But Mangatyanan excels from the rest of the films in competition.