Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ploning (2008)

Ploning (Dante Nico Garcia, 2008)

Ploning, a Cuyonon folk song, is essentially a plea from a boy to her lover for the latter to wait for him and remember him as he leaves her for a different land. The final verses of the song bare the boy's wish that the girl keep a stone wrapped with her handkerchief, as reminder that his love for her is undying. It's a lovely song, with a melody that encapsulates the emotional longing that the lack of physical intimacy emboldens. Slow, passionate, and moody, the song functions as both a narrative precursor and musical anthem of Dante Nico Garcia's film with the same title.

Ploning (Judy Ann Santos) is a Cuyonon native who is patiently waiting for the return of Tomas, her boyfriend who journeyed to Manila a few years back and hasn't returned yet. Surrounding Ploning is a variety of women who possess a similar emptiness: Celeste (Mylene Dizon), a city nurse who travels to Cuyo Island and finds there the missing aspect in her life; Alma (Meryll Soriano), a housewife whose only companion is the radio because her husband is working elsewhere; Nieves (Ces Quesada), a happily-married woman who is worried over her son's lofty ambitions for himself.

Most important in Ploning's life is Digo (Cedric Amit), a young boy who fancies Ploning as his surrogate mother since his real mother (Eugene Domingo) is permanently disabled. A few days before the town fiesta, Ploning's plan of journeying to Manila to look for Tomas becomes known to the people around her, causing everyone to examine the inherent value of love, pain, and waiting. Shielded from the normal worries and heartaches of most adults by his age, Digo is the most affected of Ploning's planned departure, forcing him to wrestle with those surging emotions using only his meager view on things.

Shot entirely in Cuyo Island, Ploning makes use of the picturesque vistas, the gorgeous beaches, and the vibrant town proper to great extent. Instead of merely showcasing the beauty of the island as a mere adjunct of the film or a come-on to possible tourists, the visual splendor actually complements the entire spectrum of emotions that the film manages to impart. Cinematographer Charlie Peralta was able to not only make gorgeous visuals, he also impregnated the beauty with melancholy, simple joys, sorrow, hope, and other feelings that the film so fluently speaks with.

The entire cast also effortlessly delivers the myriad of emotions that their characters require. Santos, who is more popular for acting in mainstream romantic comedies or weepy melodramas, was able to showcase restraint that the role requires. While Santos is tremendously effective as the titular character, a bigger amount of satisfaction is derived from the performances of those supporting her, more particularly Soriano who injected her character with a believable mix of simplicity and sincerity, Ronnie Lazaro who for less than five minutes was able to capture the extreme joy of being reunited with someone he has waited for almost hopelessly, Gina Pareño who portrays Tomas' mother Intang who in one scene literally explodes in fury and frustration for being betrayed by God, Spanky Manikan who injects pathos to the character of a Taiwanese fisherman who got attached to Digo for several years but is about to part with him, and Tessie Tomas who flawlessly captures the personality of someone who was bred in the city but has found serenity in the island.

The film basically hinges on Ploning's promise to wait, based predominantly on love. In one scene, Ploning placates Siloy (Lucas Agustin), the heartbroken son of Nieves, by lecturing to him about the intricacies of loving. She proclaims that pain accompanies real love, and the person who gets most hurt in a relationship is the one who loved the most. In a sense, the film approximates the folk song's view about love; that real love is essentially a prison that is blind to time, pain and suffering and that the feeling of love is entirely separate from desire. Ploning becomes the icon of this kind of love, a perpetually suffering and patient woman who stands by a promise of eternal love no matter how painful it becomes. The paradox of this view about love is that it partakes a semblance of womanly virtue, as expressed by Ploning's suffering friends.

is old-fashioned in its depiction of love yet despite that, it is adamantly satisfying since it not only pictures the emotion in its purest and uncompromising sense but also fathoms other aspects of rural life that rarely gets treatment this sincere and beautiful. It meditates on death with unflinching yet purposeful frankness. It lovingly touches on the reconciliation between a father and his once-disobedient daughter. It is this unwavering mix of subtlety and expressiveness that makes Ploning so endearing. It is unabashed in its sentimentality simply because it is as graceful and lyrical as a heartfelt love song.


Anonymous said...

followed your advice and saw the film. and im really glad i did.

it's weird, but i didn't really like the technical aspects of the film. cinematography wasn't as good as i expected considering it was shot on 35mm and in a spectacular location. there were a lot of scenes (daytime) that seemed really flat, and there was this particular scene in the cemetary where it looked "chroma-ish". i dunno, maybe it was overexposed or something and they tried to correct it during post. some shots also just bothered the hell out of me (especially the one where the old Digo finds out where his brother is). the editing was bad, too many jarring cuts, unnecessary transitions, etc. the sound was weird too. have to ask if they shot it on live sound because it kinda sounded like it was dubbed (or maybe it was a problem with the theater). script and story structure was okay, but it sometimes confuses. and i would have really loved it if they told the story through the point of view of the young Digo (although that might totally change the story) because i really ADORED the young (non) actor. the film kinda lost its charm a bit towards the end. juday still sounded unnatural, but she was okay. some scenes looked too blocked/staged. some were just awkward.

sorry for all those criticisms. i just wanted to get all that out of the way because i honestly, LIKED the film. i even cried in some scenes. i think it was very sincere despite all the "gimmicks" and in the end, it really compensated for all its imperfections.

it was really worth watching and i hope more people would see this film.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks anonymous,

Don't be sorry for criticisms, it's all good. I have my own set of complaints which I didn't need to write about (I also hated that scene in the end when the old Digo figured out where to find his brother), and there are a bunch of other things I didnt like. But like you've said, overall, it is a worthwhile effort for both the filmmakers and those who spent time to watch the film. That surpasses all its shortcomings. In the end, it may not be the masterpiece some people claim it to be, but it's still a very good Filipino film.

Ronald said...

I'm dying to see this one. Hopefully this weekend before IRON MAN.

Anonymous said...

i didn't like the film. the attempt to add layers only made it more difficult to comprehend. characters were poorly developed. narrative too tedious. sana mas simple. too much clutter.
i like the music. cinematography is too artificial. too much color and contrast ratio manipulation (dangers of digital intermediate). it's the sincerity of it that makes it worthwhile to watch but it needs a lot of everything to make it work.

jun-jun said...

when love begins ang pinanood ko dahil sa kaseksihan ni anne curtis. everything else in the movie was very unsatisfactory.

masyado lang akong nagduda sa ploning dahil masyadong madaming pagbubuhat at pagaatras ng bangko na naganap. at di ako naniniwalang magiging crucial ang success nito sa so-called future ng independent cinema. madaming magagandang pelikulang nagawa last year (endo, confessional, tirador, voices, etc.) na di kinakailangan isungalngal sa mga lalamunan ng mga mapanuring manonood para makita ang importansya nila. para sakin isang insulto ang garapal na pagpopustura ng pelikulang ito sa sensibilidad ng mga tagasuporta ng pelikulang pilipino.

chard bolisay said...

pero siguro minsan kailangan talaga isungalngal o isupalpal ang ilang pelikula sa mga manunuod para panuorin nila ito. at kung pinanuod nga nila, e di nagtagumpay ang layunin ng prodyuser.

lahat naman ng pelikula may kani-kaniyang "claim" sa sarili nila, kahit direkta o sa ibang paraan man nito sabihin. at kung ikumpara man siya ng ibang tao sa mas magagandang gawa na tila hindi naman makatarungan para sa iba, well, hindi na kasalanan ng pelikula un (o ng direktor for that matter). tao lang naman ang gumagawa ng kritisismo, pelikula ang nagsasalita para sa sarili niya.

Oggs Cruz said...

Well said, Chard...

Let's face it, if it takes that kind of marketing for at least a portion of the population to watch Ploning, then so be it... It already had Iron Man to face, and then When Love Begins is also shown on the same date, if I were the producer of Ploning, I'd be doing anything to survive. In this case, it's not merely survival, it becomes a rousing point against giants. Unfortunately, it has turned off some people, but I'm sure a bit of curiosity over the film has been firmly planted; enough, hopefully, to force viewers to spend time and money on this film.

Guia Gonzales said...

Dear Oggs and everyone else who posted feedbacks in this blog,

Thank you for taking the time to discuss Ploning! ...We're learning a lot from our process and people's insights. Please keep them coming!

All the best,
Guia Gonzales

Anonymous said...

the movie PLONING is beautiful in itself despite some its shortcomings in some aspects.
btw, mr. oggs pwede mag request if u can please post the lyrics of that folksong "ploning" here in ur blog. in its original cuyonon dialect, i would really appreciate it. thanks.

~riz :)

Guerilla Blogger said...

I've just seen the movie Ploning ! It's great ! Let's continue to support Filipino independent film makers ! (Considering also that it has been nomninated in the Oscars)

Chris said...

@ junjun: You have to promote your film to be seen. Even if its sungalngal pa. I hate it when people judge a film when they have not seen it.
@Guerilla Blogger. No it was not nominated in the Oscars. It was just the Phil. entry and it failed the final selection
Lets hope that indie films will be creative (meaning less gay-themed), less pretentious (not trying to be artsy), and not a snorefest (Lav Diaz films)
As for Ploning 4 out of 5 stars.

The Pageman said...

to the one who asked for the Cuyonon lyrics, here it is (from Dante's blog):


The Cuyonon Lyrics:

Nga labing maleban
Ang gegma mo, Ploning
Nga ing kandaduan
Lisensya ko, Ploning
Kung sarang tugutan
Mapamasyar ako
Sa marayeng lugar.

Ploning …
Pobre akong masyado
Ara ako sasalan
Nga mga requerdo
Ara ako bulawan
Ara ako dinero
Solamente, Ploning
Demdemen mo ako.

Pagsarig kanaken
Tedek sa akeng leba
Ang akeng bisara
Tigbas mo sa bato
Kemkemen sa panyo
Indi engued ag kupas
Maski ara ren ang lawas.

The Literal Tagalog translation:

Na ubod ng bait
Pag-ibig mo, Ploning
Na nakakandado
Paalam ko, Ploning
Kung iyong papayagan
Mamamasyal ako
Sa malayong bayan.

Mahirap ako masyado
Walang maiiwan
Na mga ala-ala
Wala akong ginto
Wala akong pera
Pakiusap, Ploning
Isipin mo ako.

Magtiwala ka sa akin
Tapat sa loob ko
Ang mga sinasabi ko
Itaga mo sa bato
Balutin ng panyo
Hinding-hindi kukupas
Kahit wala na ang katawan ko.

The Tagalog translation for the movie:

Labis kitang mahal
Pag-ibig mo, Ploning
Sana’y akin lamang
Paalam ko, Ploning
Nawa ay payagan
Mamamasyal ako
Mangingibang bayan.

Sa aking paglayo
Walang maiiwang
Ala-ala sa iyo.
Wala akong ginto,
Hirap ang tulad ko
Nakikiusap, Ploning
Hintayin mo ako.

Ako’y sumusumpa
Sa puso nagmumula
Sana’y magtiwala…
Itaga sa bato
Balutin ng panyo
Kailanma’y di kukupas
Kahit hanggang wakas.

root.aren said...

do you have quotes for this movie?

thanks and regards

fe p said...

I have seen this film twice. We were at the Palm Springs Film Festival when we saw the film with my daughter Hazel,. Ploning created a buzz in Palm Springs. They had to use another theatre to accomodate more people who want to see the movie. Many of the audience loved the film. For the first time, they said they saw a film about hope and love. It is tough to make it to the Oscars. But Ploning showed those in Los Angeles and Palm Springs that the Philippine cinema is great. Congrats to Direk Ga and Juday.

fe p.

Anonymous said...

thank you for your blog atty. oggs cruz. this is very wonderful. -carl