Hihintayin Kita sa Langit (Carlos Siguion-Reyna, 1991)
English Title: I Will Wait for You in Heaven
Gabriel (Richard Gomez) is a street urchin that was plucked from the streets of Manila by Joaquin Salvador who proceeds to treat him like a son. Milo (Michael de Mesa), Joaquin's real son, who regards Gabriel as competition for his father's love and attention, is sent to Manila after an altercation with Gabriel that left the latter shamed and bruised. Without Milo around, Gabriel is brought up as a Salvador, becoming really close with and eventually falling for Carmina (Dawn Zulueta), Joaquin's daughter. Joaquin suddenly dies of a heart attack, allowing for Milo's return as master of the house, and Gabriel's sudden demotion to servitude. While Gabriel and Carmina still share the same feelings for each other, the promise of the life of a princess which is offered by Alan (Eric Quizon), the wealthy scion of the land-owning Ilustre family, is simply too good to refuse. Thus, Carmina marries Alan as Gabriel disappears to build his own fortune in preparation for his return and revenge.
Upon Gabriel's return, he immediately puts his plan into motion. First, he wins the Salvador property from Milo in a game of cards. Then, he seduces Sandra (Jackie Lou Blanco) into marrying him, in the hopes that his impending wedding would force Carmina decide to just leave Alan to elope with him. Upon learning of this, Alan prevents Carmina from leaving their abode. Gabriel starts to believe that he has totally lost Carmina to Alan, and proceeds with his plan and marries Sandra out of spite for his beloved, weakening Carmina to the point of exhaustion and death.
Ah, Love. Isn’t it just beautiful? At its best, it gives you consummate pleasure, a sudden rush of seemingly perpetual happiness resulting from being overwhelmed by the giddy feeling. At its worst, it hurts without mitigation, even to the point of emotional paralysis and death. Carlos Siguion-Reyna's Hihintayin Kita sa Langit (I Will Wait for You in Heaven), an adaptation of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights by way of William Wyler's 1939 version, exhausts the entire spectrum of the emotion, from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of torture.
It is an impeccably shot film. Cinematographer Romeo Vitug takes advantage of the sprawling hills and the violent shores of Batanes where most of the film was shot. Complementing Vitug’s gorgeous visuals are Ryan Cayabyab’s appropriately swooning musical score and George Canseco’s famous theme song whose lyrics evokes the film’s appreciation of the torturous facet of loving. Gomez, an actor whose chiseled face and physique contemplates the virility of the perfect Filipino man, and Zulueta, an actress whose frequent wide-eyed expressions exemplifies the submissiveness of the traditional Filipina, suit their roles very well. Together, with their undeniable good looks and their matching personalities and characteristics, they represent the perfect romantic couple and the fact that fate and circumstances are pulling them apart, it makes their struggle to stay together even more compelling. The film, from its literary roots down to the minutest technical detail, is designed to create this make-believe world where love is primordial, and everything else becomes subservient to that emotion.
This purposeful romantic sheen heightens the fantasy Siguion-Reyna concocts. It is a fantasy that clearly exploits a nation’s infatuation for larger-than-life struggles, of the downtrodden eventually reversing his fortunes, of victimizers getting their eventual punishment, and of love against all odds. Bronte’s classic work, stripped away of the complexity of its multi-generational narrative, perfectly suits this requirement. Siguion-Reyna shies away from portraying the subtleties of love and instead depicts it in its full grandeur and opulence. We see the emotion depicted in enormous gestures, with the lovers proclaiming their promises against dramatic landscapes, exploding in colossal sobs and tears, and bursting into exuberant expressions of reiterated affections for each other.
Hihintayin Kita sa Langit predictably culminates in the most grandly executed of tragedies. Gabriel, upon learning of Carmina’s condition, rushes to the Ilustre estate where she is kept captive. Carmina, fatally diminished by Alan’s violent jealousy, whittles in Gabriel’s embrace. Gabriel then carries her to the balcony overlooking the ironically serene sea, as they whisper their final apologetic farewells to each other. Alan catches them but his protestations do nothing and he shrinks in the background as the two lovers are consumed by their passions. Siguion-Reyna crafts this scene to perfection: the editing, the Vitug’s precise cinematography, Gomez, Zulueta, Quizon, and Vangie Labalan (who plays Carmina’s nanny) aptly amplified performances, and Cayabyab’s swelling music.
True to its title and to give a semblance of a happy ending, the film leaves its audience with the shot of the two lovers prancing in the hills. This is a direct quote from Wyler’s Wuthering Heights, an ending which director Wyler supposedly disapproved of but producer Samuel Goldwyn insisted on. The ending, awkwardly inserted (segued from the cemetery scene by disembodied laughter; a cinematic device more apt in a ghost story than a romance) making it seem more like an afterthought than anything else, softens the sadness and tames the tragedy. It is not unexpected that Hihintayin Kita sa Langit is regarded today with some reverence, considering that to a certain extent, the film, while not in any way revolutionary, is a competently crafted romance with some moments of absolute beauty, which is something of a rarity at the time it was made.