Pink Halo-Halo (Joselito Altarejos, 2010)
I cannot imagine Pink Halo-Halo being directed by anyone but Joselito Altarejos. Altarejos, who has made a name for himself in Philippine cinema as one of headliners of the burgeoning and bursting gay genre with such films like Ang Lalake sa Parola (The Man in the Lighthouse, 2007), Ang Lihim ni Antonio (Antonio’s Secret, 2008) and Ang Laro ng Buhay ni Juan (The Game of Juan’s Life, 2009). The film, about a boy (Paolo Constantino) whose father (Allen Dizon), a soldier, is detailed to war-torn Mindanao to keep the peace during a special elections, is inspired from Altarejos’ own childhood, one that has been marked by the loss of a father, also a soldier, who was killed in the service of the country.
Set in Altarejos’ native Masbate, Pink Halo-Halo opens with a row of soldiers jogging amidst a serene backdrop of the province. Several boys, running and carrying toy guns, follow suit. As the jogging soldiers leave the frame, Altarejos’ camera follows the boys playing. Altarejos’ gaze, from then on, is focused on the boy. Adult affairs, from domestic issues like the tenuous relationship between the boy’s mother (Angeli Bayani) and her in-laws to more serious matters like the war in Mandanao, are kept in the background, overheard rather than outright dictated. Seemingly uninterested in the world of the adults and therefore free from any discussion of poverty, politics, and other unpopular issue, the tone is consistently and refreshingly light like child’s play.
Life is strictly observed from the boy’s perspective, a perspective that is intriguingly shaped by a blossoming affinity for feminine interests. This intentionally limited point of view that Altarejos insists on enunciates the sheen of safety and tenderness that is rightfully reserved for the boy. Given that, when these adult matters forcibly invade the boy’s innocent world, such as when the boy finds out the fatal predicament of his father in Mindanao on television and discovers firsthand the immediate dangers of the real world, the effect is indisputably heartbreaking. Even in detailing the specifics of personal and familial grief, Altarejos does so with admirable restraint and control. That Altarejos was able to handle the pain and heartbreak with hardly any artifice or flair is a testament to both his passion for the subject matter and his maturity as filmmaker.
Much of the film is fueled not necessarily by spectacle or technical knowhow but by a more appreciable earnestness and simplicity that is quite rare in cinema nowadays. As a matter of fact, Pink Halo-Halo is hardly a perfect film. The film’s infrequent indulgences, from the gratingly saccharine musical score to the occasional directorial hiccups (a far-too-obvious cue here and there), are too apparent to be left unnoticed. However, on the sole basis of poignancy by way of its inherent honesty and sincerity in telling a story that is based on the director’s childhood experiences, the film is a marked revelation of what Altarejos, whose previous works’ merits seem to be limited to queer interests and nothing else, can do with the medium without necessarily losing himself in the process of expanding his artistic horizons. Pink Halo-Halo, notwithstanding its homosexual undertones and its distinct local color, speaks a universal language that is indifferent to gender, creed, and nationality.
(Cross-published on Twitch.)