They start as bitter foes who are lunging at each other’s necks, but eventually, they warm up with one
another and become the best of friends. Marlon sees Bhoy reunited with his long lost wife (Shyr Valdez) and Bhoy even accompanies Marlon to Olongapo to look for his long lost mother and, later, does an act of supreme sacrifice to save the life of his young ward which is threatened by a crooked cop (Mon Confiado).
The story is set in the filthy slums inside a public cemetery (well established through drone cinematography) in Cavite City, with a dumpsite situated right beside the sea that it can pollute so easily. Bhoy Intsik lives in a rundown shanty built alongside concrete tombs. This is where Marlon, who dabbles as a small time drug courier, eventually joins him when he is thrown out of the dilapidated bus in the junkyard where he used to stay.
The film does not exploit the squalor and penury portrayed on screen, neither is it condescending in its treatment to achieve a contrived effect, it simply shows us what is going on around us, that we may not be aware of, with a compassionate and knowing eye. This will be perfect for foreign audiences in international film festivals who enjoy watching poverty porn in 3rd world countries like ours.
The milieu alone pulses with authenticity and reeks with seedy atmosphere. It made us realize that Manila is a city of two diverse communities: that of the civilized and financially secure who live more comfortable lives served by the law, and a community of outcasts who lead appalling lives of danger and desperation, with violence and death lurking in street corners.
In an ideal world, no one would be allowed to live inside a graveyard like the characters in this story do. The film is also timely in these days of Operation Tokhang since there are people shown dumped in the cemetery, the victims of EJK (extra judicial killings) with signs that say ‘huwag tularan’ as they are drug pushers.
No doubt Francisco shines brightly in the title role. What’s nice is he does not go overboard in his interpretation when it’s so easy to be tempted to make it a funny caricature. Your heart will go out to him in the final scene where he keeps on thanking someone on his cellphone, totally unaware of the impending tragedy and heartbreak that he is about to face. No wonder he won the best actor award in the SinagMaynila Awards Night last Sunday.
Martin also does well as the uncouth, grimy teener who grew up in the streets, but we realize that he’s not acting at all. This is really him. It’s the same kind of portrayal he gave in “Pamilya Ordinaryo”. You wonder if he would be also as convincing if he’d be made to portray a rich kid reared with higher education and good breeding.
Giving good support are Elora Espano as the randy and aggressive girl who has the hots for Marlon, Tony Mabesa as the hypocritical pastor who is Elora’s guardian and Jim Pebanco as Bhoy’s gay flamboyant best friend who is arrested for having sex with a minor. Joel Lamangan wisely uses restraint in a number of potentially mawkish scenes. The reunion scene between Bhoy and his wife is done without any words being exchanged between them. The film could have also ended with a final sequence that is full of caterwauling or “hagulgulan”, but Lamangan consciously avoids this and gives a conclusion that, for us, has a much more heartfelt impact.