By TRIXIE DAUZ
All is fair in love and war, but not all is fair when it comes to illnesses and death. If you thinkMagkakabaung is a film just revolving around the irony of a coffinmaker who eventually ends up building a plywood coffin for his daughter because he can’t afford to buy a decent coffin, then think again. Don’t be fooled by the trailer. It is more than just that.
In Magkakabaung, the third feature length film by Jason Laxamana, the politico-economic aspect of passing away is discussed. Though the film is slow-paced, it is meditative and we are not peppered with didacticism. We are instead led by hand to follow Randy (Allen Dizon), the protagonist who’s an impoverished coffinmaker in Sto. Tomas, Pampanga, as he journeys through his everyday life until that fateful day when he administers medicine to his daughter Angeline (Dizon’s real-life daughter) and accidentally kills her because of his ignorance with regards to allergies. Now, who is to blame, is it really him or the pharmacist who gave him the medicine despite the lack of prescription just because she’s obviously too lazy to argue and just wants to get the transaction done with?
What makes this film, which capitalizes on social realism, really work is Laxamana’s touch of adding layers to his characters, even the bit roles or people with just one lines. They are the people you see everyday. Those are the situations you encounter. That’s what adds to our empathy with regards to Randy’s dire situation.
It also explores the capacity of humans to be so apathetic because of their greed and selfishness. The nurses in the hospital kind of bully Randy because they instinctively know that he is a low-class citizen. Now, this part, seriously reminded me of how the staff in general hospitals treat their patients and their visitors because I was privy to those situations. The janitor –cum-cadaver syndicate assistant (Bor Ocampo) together with his boss (Emilio Garcia) pretend to be nice to Randy because of their ulterior motives, with our protagonist almost succumbing to the temptation. Angeline’s mother (Gladys Reyes) just seems to suddenly remember that she has a daughter upon learning of her death, her attitude towards the funeral arrangements akin to that of planning just some corporate function. Neri (Chanel Latorre) just views Randy as a “load machine”, even her consolation is a mere charade, a gesture she felt that was proper, not out of real compassion.
In the end, a hope for Randy to move on is very evident as his daughter watches calmly as he buries her body in the last frame. In the end, we are reminded that one’s burden can drive one to desperation and even blaming one’s self, especially if one is alone, just like all the dead people in their graves.
Magkakabaung recently competed at this year’s HANIFF and took home some awards as well in other international film festivals. It is part of MMFF’s New Wave festival running from Dec. 17 till the 24th at SM Megamall and Glorietta cinemas. For more information with regards to the screening, please visit the Facebook link below: