Minsan Pa (Jeffrey Jeturian, 2004)
English Title: One Moment More
The film Sana Pag-ibig Na (Enter Love, 1998), one of the several films made under Regal Films subsidiary Good Harvest, gave birth to the collaboration between Armando Lao and Jeffrey Jeturian. Before Sana Pag-ibig Na, Lao was then the very much underrated screenwriter of arguably William Pascual and Chito Rono’s best works, Takaw Tukso (1986) and Itanong mo sa Buwan (1988) respectively. Jeturian, on the other hand, served as production designer and art director for Leroy Salvador’s Dear Killer, one of the two episodes in Dear Diary (1989) that was written by Lao (the other being Dear Partyline, directed by Lupita Aquina-Kashiwahara and written by Jose Javier Reyes) and various other films and television shows. After Sana Pag-ibig Na, Lao and Jeturian would collaborate in Pila Balde (Fetch a Pail of Water, 1999) and Tuhog (Larger than Life, 2001), both of which are also critically acclaimed films.
Minsan Pa, Lao and Jeturian’s fourth film together, is more ambitious in scope. Their previous collaborations were clearly smaller. Sana Pag-ibig Na is a family drama set within a middle-class household. Pila Balde is a set in an impoverished community that envelopes a condominium complex and explores the complicated relationship between the haves and the have-nots. Tuhog is a more conceptual affair that pits real reality and movie reality, revealing a cycle of exploitation within a primarily escapist pastime. Minsan Pa is essentially a romance between a Cebu tour guide (Jomari Yllana) and a tourist (Ara Mina). However, more than just unravelling an ordinary love story, Lao and Jeturian set out to unravel not only the lives of the lovers but also the people around them.
The film often drifts away from the central romance, depicting tender episodes of other people’s lives, like the fisherman’s daughter who marries a Japanese tourist, leaving his childhood sweetheart heartbroken in the process, or the performers in a Japanese videographers’ anonymous shoot who become beholden to erstwhile passions and the need to survive. These side stories, told admirably without a sliver of judgment as to actions of these people and how these people lead their lives, contribute to an overall picture of lives existing amidst the lack of permanence.
People come and go, leaving unresolved relationships, obligations, promises and expectations. They strive for constancy, perhaps through by building a permanent home, by finding that one person for whom they can eternally be in love with, by seeking to reunite a family that has become broken by change. The characters Lao crafted and Jeturian fleshed out live lives adjusted to the fleetingness of the world. The only thing constant is heartbreak and disappointment, as when the promise of becoming settled both in life and in love are suddenly snatched not by a stereotypical antagonist but by the very nature of life.
Minsan Pa may be Lao’s masterwork, a piece so lovingly crafted, with characters that feel like they are living and experiencing life’s difficulties with us. There is very little sense of the writer interfering with how the narrative should flow and instead, the story slowly but surely manages to complete itself without succumbing to formula. Jeturian’s job becomes limited to creating the proper mood and atmosphere to finalize the picture. Backdropped by Cebu’s gorgeous sights and vistas, Jeturian expresses the irony of characters appearing and disappearing, completely engulfed by constantly changing emotions, in places that have been there for centuries or even more.
Minsan Pa is the film is fondly remembered as an underseen gem, the film where Ara Mina and Jomari Yllana gave the performances of their careers, the unlikely Filipino romance that did not need to rely on histrionics or cheap thrills to impress. Minsan Pa, however, has an actual place in the history of Philippine cinema. The film barely made enough to recoup the investment put into its production, prompting Lao to rethink the way Filipino films are written and made. Because of the film’s box office failure, Lao would come up with a system of writing films that are apt for Filipino film producers who may not have the capital to gamble into worthwhile but expensive projects that will never be consumed by the ordinary moviegoer.
Because of Minsan Pa, Kubrador (The Bet Collector, 2006), a film written in the manner Lao believes Filipino films should be written, happened. Kubrador won for Jeturian several international accolades and earned for the film’s producer, Joji Alonzo, enough money for her to continue making films despite the economic disaster that was Minsan Pa. Brillante Mendoza then made Masahista (The Masseur, 2005), then Tirador (Slingshot, 2007), then Serbis (Service, 2008) and Kinatay (The Execution of P, 2009). Young filmmakers followed suit, creating a school of filmmaking that positively or negatively changed the landscape of how films are written and made in the country. Who would have thought that Minsan Pa, a glossy film starring famous actors and actresses about heartaches, would stir such a change, opening the Pandora’s box of stories that require absolutely no gloss, no big names, and tackling issues that are closer to the stomach than the heart.
(Cross-published in Lagarista)