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Top 10 Filipino Movies

Cinema is the greatest mirror of humanity’s struggle. You see this alternative world, but you’re part of it. Everybody is part of it. This is our world.” – Lav Diaz.

As someone who grew up watching Filipino films, I have a particular fondness for them. I adore the one-of-a-kind stories created by some of the industry's most creative and accomplished talents, from the directors to actors to writers and everyone else behind the camera and production.

For Buwan ng Wika, some of the film students (Sean Romero, Mark Legaspi, Von Viernes and Ianne Leoncio) from Mapua University rounded up some of the best Filipino movies. Here, we’ve selected both indie and mainstream movies across different genres. We tried choosing Pinoy films that are entertaining or artistically noteworthy and have sociopolitical significance or societal value.

Now, on to the list:

1. Isa Pa, With Feelings

Dir. by Prime Cruz

The film is about emotions and sentiments, as the title suggests. Gali (Carlo Aquino), a deaf sign language teacher who wants to prove that he can dance as well as hearing people, and Mara (Maine Mendoza), a disillusioned intern who failed the board examinations to become a professional architect, express themselves differently. The invisible worlds link people together that exist outside of our sight and cognition, such as the sense of hearing. However, this can also separate and isolate them. And because these are invisible worlds, they aren't generally on our minds; therefore, we don't notice them—at least not until we start paying attention. Not only do we see with our eyes, but we also hear with our ears. Because seeing people isn't enough to comprehend them or make them meaningful, we also need to listen to them.

2. Batch '81

Dir. by Mike De Leon

The Philippines was under political instability when Mike De Leon's 'Batch '81' was released in 1982. The relevance of its authoritarian themes resonates with Filipinos at the time, who had been in solidarity for years over Ferdinand Marcos' execution of Martial Law.

Batch '81 is a coming-of-age film about a group of neophytes who join a fraternity. Still, their acceptance must be accompanied by a series of needless and unjustified challenges/initiation. Some flee, some are killed, but only the strongest will survive the organization's leaders' suffocating presence.

3. Never Not Love You

Dir. by Antoinette Jadaone

We meet someone unexpectedly, everything goes great, and we fall in love. The conventional romance formula may be the foundation of what Antoinette Jadaone describes in her film, but how she narrates what happened between how they first met and how their romance lasted made Never Not Love You one of the most honest depictions of Philippine romance cinema.

Joanne (Nadine Lustre), a committed marketing and sales officer of a top firm in Makati, meets Gio (James Reid), a tattoo artist and freelance graphic designer, in the film. A brewing love amid a brewing promotion and a can't-miss opportunity to go overseas puts the two in a position where their lives are torn between love and career.

4. Bar Boys

Dir. by Kip Oebanda

Kip Oebanda's Bar Boys explores the relationships of friendship and family towards pursuing one's aspirations, evoking both laughter and intrigue in bringing forth the works of a courtroom drama in a behind-the-scenes black comedy. Torran (Rocco Nacino), Chris (Enzo Pineda), Erik (Carlo Aquino), and Josh (Kean Cipriano) are barkadas whose lives evolve from simple egocentric computer games to life fights of family, love relationships, internal rivalries, and peer pressure as they pursue their goals of becoming lawyers.

5. Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Light)

Dir. by Lino Brocka

Maynila: sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag is one of the most influential Filipino films of all time. It is the most outstanding work of Filipino filmmaker Lino Brocka, highlighting his political involvement and tendency to exploit disadvantaged characters who gradually realize their worth. This excellent film noir represents Manila’s horrible truths and harsh reality, from construction worker exploitation to slum regions where children have to search through rubbish to find something to eat, prostitution, and the slave trade.

Julio Madiaga (Bembol Roco), a young man from the province, comes to Manila to hunt for his girlfriend, Ligaya Paraiso (Hilda Koronel), who went to the city months before him. Julio believes Ligaya is in danger because she was only hired as a maid, and all attempts to contact her have been useless. However, finding Ligaya is difficult. Julio tries to make ends meet by working odd construction jobs, bunking with friends, and navigating the city's skin trade.

6. Hintayan ng Langit

Dir. by Dan Villegas

Lisang (Gina Pareño) is one of the souls longing for release from purgatory so she can finally go to heaven. Things become more problematic when her ex-boyfriend Manolo (Eddie Garcia) arrives, who had recently died of heart failure and had become her roommate. Will the two share the same recollection of their postponed love tale and have one last hurrah before entering heaven?

Hintayan Ng Langit employs a straightforward tale to express universal love, second chances, regrets, and choices. These themes are underlined throughout the film, in the discourse of the main characters and the excess baggage they carried till their final moments of life. Without a doubt, Ms. Gina Pareo and Mr. Eddie Garcia owned the film with their outstanding performances.

7. Himala

Dir. by Ishmael Bernal

HIMALA, directed by Ishmael Bernal, is undoubtedly a cinematic masterpiece. It questions our diseased culture of blind faith and challenges us to evaluate what is right rather than being one of the mindless zombies crawling up a hill on its knees.

Ricardo Lee's storyline is inspired by a series of Filipino teens who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary. The film, set in the rural Philippines, addresses the primary themes of Bernal's body of work: human connections, communities, and how they are impacted by outside influences such as politics or faith.

8. Odd Sa Wala

Dir. by Dwein Baltazar

Oda Sa Wala is a daring, deadpan dramedy that ingeniously investigates the essence of depression. Pokwang was given the opportunity to perform some of her most important, compassionate, and laudable work in this film. The seemingly simple story of loneliness is a truly haunting picture of loneliness with an uncomfortably true goal. Sonya's journey takes a deep look at what a lonely person might do to live in her daily life. Overall, it's a satirical dark emotional film that we may think about after seeing it.

9. Seven Sundays

Dir. by Cathy Garcia-Molina

Because we Filipinos value family, the narrative hits close to home because it is about love in the family. It tells the story of Manuel (Ronaldo Valdez), a father dying from lung cancer who requests his four children to spend seven Sundays with him before he dies. The four Bonifacio siblings, Allan (Aga Muhlach), Bryan (Dingdong Dantes), Cha (Cristine Reyes), and Dex (Enrique Gil), each with their own families and lives, come together to spend seven Sundays with their beloved patriarch and try their best to set aside their issues and differences with each other. But as the story progresses, they could mend things for real as they helped support one another's concerns, especially when the father bridged the gap between his children.

10. Signal Rock

Dir. by Chito S. Roño

A massive spaceship plummets from the sky into the rugged coast of a small Philippine island. That is how the signal rock appears. It introduces advanced technology to the lonely land area, much like an alien civilization, because the rock is the only way for the islanders to gain telephone service.

Director Chito Roo demonstrates how a skilled storyteller unfolds their piece and illustrates that story is still king. The film focuses on what life is like for people who remain behind while their loved ones travel overseas. This story is recounted through the eyes of Intoy Abakan (Christian Bables), an errand boy from a small hamlet on the Samar island of Biri.

Philippine Cinema isn’t dead, indeed. We have many Filipino filmmakers and many promoting Filipino movies that aren't featured here that are also noteworthy and commendable. The film industry may be strengthened further by making more films that promote Filipino values, culture, and history, which will be supported financially, technologically, and promotionally if presented abroad. SUPPORT LOCAL!


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