Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Metro Manila Film Festival 2020: Tarnishing the Superstar

By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter

Isa Pang Bahaghari
Directed by Joel Lamangan

YOU’VE got a problem in your hands if Superstar Nora Aunor can’t quite get you to focus on a movie.

Isa Pang Bahaghari sounds like a follow-up to Joel Lamangan’s 2018 hit Rainbow’s Sunset. Not having seen that movie, we won’t be able to compare Bahaghari to that 2018 MMFF Best Picture awardee. Suffice it to say that we don’t think this movie could stand up to its predecessor.

Dom (played by Philip Salvador), is an aged and ailing seaman who, after a maritime accident, disappeared for 20 years. He had been marooned in Cuba and came to live with his rescuers. In that span of time, he had been with a common-law wife, and her death and his release from that life prompts him to return to the Philippines. His wife, Lumen (Nora Aunor), believing him to be dead, raises his children in squalor by a seaside town, where she makes tuyo (dried fish).

Before I get angry at the rest of the film’s details, let me first commend the Superstar for an entrance that is a testament to her powers. She’s shuffling fish, dishevelled and disabled; but still managing to elicit a gasp from the audience. That’s the last time in this film that I could say I loved her’ because I would say this film painfully underutilized its cast. Right after her entrance, any love or sympathy I may have had for her character has disappeared. Even The Superstar is no match against unimaginative camerawork and a lack of texture; the film appears to be a long Sunday TV drama, fit only for the small screen. The cast is also a victim of unlikely writing: after seeing my spouse whom I had long believed to be dead, without prior knowledge of his soap-operatic circumstances, I wouldn’t run up to him and try to beat him up with my crutch. Lumen’s crutch is explained as a consequence of a workplace accident (how Dickensian!), but frankly, I think she hobbled from trying to carry the whole movie on her back.

The film spins on the axis of the friendship between Dom and an old gay man, Rhey (Michael de Mesa), who tries to reconcile both his old friends. Lumen was his high school best friend, while Dom was an old flame he couldn’t quite put out. This is problematic: I can forgive Rhey being an old gay trope: he does hair, he speaks with an old-fashioned gay lisp, he lipsyncs kundimans in drag. Fine. He is a product of his times. What I find hard to forgive is that despite him being a main character, he serves only as an accessory to a heteronormative storyline: fixing up his two best friends. Isn’t he a little bit too old for that?

Well, Rhey has a lot on his plate either way: that plot! In the first 40 minutes (the movie runs for two hours), he is supposed to help the pair with the following: Dom’s estrangement from his wife and kids; his son being a drug pusher in this climate (he constantly receives warnings about his death in the hands of the law — more on this later), his daughter as an exotic dancer (she defends herself by saying she never took all her clothes off), and his other son in jail due to a false accusation of rape. Add this to the fact that everyone is quite poor and miserable. In one scene, Dom reveals to Rhey that he also has stage 4 cancer, and I said the same thing as Michael de Mesa’s character: “Ha?! Cancer?!”

From this plot comes my praise for MMFF’s streaming service for this year: in the time I spent trying to avoid the plot, I had time to reorganize my jewelry and try two different hairstyles. I wouldn’t have had that freedom had this been shown in the theaters.

(Spoilers ahead!)

I say that the film doesn’t optimize its stars — and in hindsight, its material. For example: there’s the son’s subplot involving his trade in drugs, and his death at the hands of the law. In one scene, where he’s almost killed, it’s implied that the bounty on his dead head was set by his bosses, and not the tentacles of the law with which he is constantly threatened. Really? As for my commentary about the stars: you’ve got Nora Aunor in there. There were several opportunities for monologues, but they were either unceremoniously interrupted; or else given up to badly-shot flashbacks. Instead, Nora Aunor’s most memorable line in the movie is, “Puki mong fake!,” translated as “You’re a fake, Rhey!” in the subtitles.

Speaking of the subtitles, whenever Rhey is called “bakla” (gay) onscreen, it’s translated as the six-letter F-word slur in the subtitles. Surely we can find a much better word? Even just removing the last three letters would soften the blow. I don’t know if I’m reading far too much into it, and I’ve become too PC for comfort, but problematic gay tropes are just everywhere in this movie, leaving one to label the film as regressive and reductive. For example: Dom meets up with an old childhood friend, who turns out to have been gay for him in their youth. “Lagi kitang binobosohan noon (I used to peep at you),” said his friend, a line that made me stop polishing a ring, because it was played for laughs. Another scene, a flashback, shows a young Rhey feeling up a sleeping Dom. Dom says that he wasn’t that drunk when he was felt up, so there was a measure of consent there; and that encounter was supposed to prove their love for each other. They do admit their love to each other, albeit on different planes: Dom loves Rhey as a very dear friend who has given him so much (because he helped pay for his tuition, helped raise his kids) while Rhey loves Dom romantically, spiritually, physically, etc. (because he is Dom). Any and all gravity this scene might have had been killed. I’ll spare you the details and tell you that Nora and Philip both die, and their young selves run towards the sea.

Why should you watch this film? Well, watch it for Nora, but lower your expectations, and just remember her as a living, imperfect relic. Otherwise, there’s a bevy of other, better choices for learning about being both queer and old; and they won’t make you smirk.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed and entertained, for free.
Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!



GROSS BORROWINGS by the National Government had reached P2.75 trillion as of end-October as it continued to raise money for its pandemic response, preliminary...


By Luz Wendy T. Noble, Reporter THE PHILIPPINE Statistics Authority (PSA) said the base year for the consumer price index (CPI) will change to...


SOME INDIAN COMPANIES, including those from the pharmaceutical industry, are interested in investing in economic zones in the Philippines, according to an India Business...


By Keren Concepcion G. Valmonte, Reporter HOSPITALITY GROUPS expect a rebound in tourism as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination rates continue to improve and...


BUSINESSWORLD’s Luz Wendy T. Noble was recognized as the Best Reporter of the Year for Banking at the 30th annual awards of the Economic...


THE Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has flagged eight more entities in separate advisories for their unregistered investment solicitation programs. These offerings are PH...

You May Also Like


Having a good Instagram marketing agency to back up your Instagram account is an absolute must going into the new year. With competition stronger...


Ivermectin, an existing drug against parasites including head lice, has had a checkered history when it comes to treating COVID-19. The bulk of studies...


As a traditionally rigid insurance industry becomes bogged down by antiquated processes and operations, a handful of industry leaders are seeking to shake things...


Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the global population. Therefore, it is a problem that many people suffer or have suffered throughout...

Disclaimer:, its managers, its employees, and assigns (collectively "The Company") do not make any guarantee or warranty about what is advertised above. Information provided by this website is for research purposes only and should not be considered as personalized financial advice. The Company is not affiliated with, nor does it receive compensation from, any specific security. The Company is not registered or licensed by any governing body in any jurisdiction to give investing advice or provide investment recommendation. Any investments recommended here should be taken into consideration only after consulting with your investment advisor and after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Copyright © 2021 SmartRetirementReport. All Rights Reserved.