Mayohan (Dan Villegas, 2010)
English Title: Maytime
I remember that afternoon where I first fell in love. This love is not the same as the shallow crushes I had for my dainty homeroom advisor in kindergarten or Alice Dixon from Okay Ka Fairy Ko (You're Ok, My Fairy, 1987-1991) in grade school. This love was, at least during those times, very real especially in terms that she was tangible and the possibility of me being in love with her morphing into us being in love with each other is good. I was just a year past puberty, a dweeb from high school, when I met her. I can recall the details very clearly. She glided down from the third floor of the mall to where she greeted me with the most distinct of smiles. It was a lovely smile, a smile that delicately curves to shape like a tired crescent moon, wrinkling a bit a very special portion of the cheek that is just below her perfectly shaped eyes. She was, at that moment where logic took a backseat and infatuation had me completely intoxicated, a vision of perfection.
Looking back with the jaded and cynical eyes that were developed out of all those loveless years I had to live through, it’s most certain that that afternoon isn’t very special at all. She probably didn’t glide down from the third floor to where I was, but just rode the escalator like everybody else does. Her smile that afternoon most probably wasn’t lovely in that unique way because it held a special meaning, although I insist that her smile up to now has always been lovely, but was just one of the many smiles she would show to new acquaintances. Basically, it was my heart, novice in the enchantments of romantic elation, made everything more than perfect when they were hardly that.
Dan Villegas’s Mayohan (Maytime) tells the story of Nino (Elijah Castillo), a city boy who retreats to the provincial town of Infanta for summer with his aunt. There, he meets a Lilibeth (Lovi Poe), a pretty lass who is soliciting money from the town’s male populace for the mayohan, a unique ball that happens in the end of the month of May where the town’s single ladies are lined up for the men who will invite them for a night of dancing and other merriment. Nino, whose parents were killed in a vehicular accident that left him with a noticeable limp, aside from adjusting to the laidback lifestyle the province which usually involves daily strolls and nightly prayer sessions has to adjust to his own coming-of-age. Enamored by Lilibeth, Nino readies himself for the ball where he, along with the rest of the town’s male populace, would have to compete for a chance at igniting a summer romance.
Sta. Ana’s screenplay shines in its simplicity. Unhampered by lofty aspirations and ambitions of social relevance, Sta. Ana manufactures a plot that pits the admirably innocent admiration of a first-time lover to his loved one with the tainted reputation of that loved one. Lilibeth, reputed to have the same propensity for indiscretions as her mother who became the town mayor’s part-time fling, is depicted by Sta. Ana and Villegas with dual intentions: as the object of desire for young Nino and as a troubled individual, unmindful of and carefree with her morals and on the verge of escape. Notwithstanding the seeming incompatibility of the two natures of Lilibeth that Villegas and Sta. Ana explore, the film still upholds her stature as an indisputable beauty, a prize. Villegas, who started out as a cinematographer with the propensity for romanticism in the way he lights, frames and color-grades his visuals, provides Lilibeth an immaculate sheen, a luster that is equal to the allure of the town’s seaside vistas and other remote locations. It is impossible not to sympathize or at least understand Nino’s persistent and undaunted infatuation.
Thus, Mayohan, much more than a love story between a post-pubescent city boy and a provincial beauty is a portrait of un-jaded love as only youth and lack of worldly experience can produce. Despite its trappings of mining an obscure festivity for cinematic color, the film speaks a universal language, one that has been spoken or is being spoken by anybody who has treaded the path of blindly loving against all odds and against all warnings. It is a love that seems more suited in that stage of our lives where we haven’t found ourselves weary and wary of reality and the cynicism it inflicts. Mayohan, in all its unabashed and unaffected depictions of stubborn youth and his stubborn love, is a lovely little film that knows its limitations, works within them, and as a result, charms more than I thought it could.
(Cross-published in Twitch.)