Friday, February 07, 2014

Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising (Mike de Leon, Metro Manila Film Festival 1977)

I am a huge fan of films megged by Mike de Leon. I've yet to encounter a de Leon film that disappoints me.

De Leon, just like Stanley Kubrick, dabbles into various film genres, turns them inside out, and still comes out with unique, masterful films such as the thriller Kisapmata, the horror pic Itim, the musical-comedy Kakabakaba Ka Ba?, the political film Sister Stella L., the short feature Aliwan Paradise, and the dreamy tale, Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising. The latter can shame most romance films churned out by Star Cinema and GMA Films.

I love Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising for a variety of reasons: the luminous presence of Hilda Koronel, the evolution of Joey's Theme, the romantic Baguio and Sagada settings, the comedic touches, and the sure hand of de Leon's direction.

Hilda Koronel is one of local cinema's loveliest actresses. Boots Anson Roa, in her radio program, said that Koronel and Amalia Fuentes are the only ones that can be cited as picture perfect. Their heavenly faces register well in any camera angle. In this de Leon film, a student gives Ana (Koronel) a rating of 21 out of 21. Breakdown of the scoring is 10 for her beauty and an ace for her sexy body. Indeed, I've never seen Koronel this alluring before. Her initial appearance in the film has her in a bra-less dress. It is no wonder that all eyes are on her.

Ana is a young lady burnt out from an early marriage. She visits her cousin Cecile (Laurice Guillen) in Baguio to get away from her problems and also to finish her term paper. She meets Joey (Christopher de Leon), a direction-less UP Baguio student who is a prime candidate for magna and summa dishonors (ie. magna-nine years / summa-mpung taon sa kolehiyo).

Ana and Joey goes out on friendly dates in romantic Baguio. Cue in scenes showing them sharing an umbrella during a rainy day, having a picnic in mist-covered surroundings, and offering a shoulder to cry on. Add in laugh-out-loud scenes such as the South China Sea-viewing side-trip and Cecile's putdowns of Joey. Sounds like a Star Cinema film? Well, not quite. 

The music scoring plays a key part. The evolving theme song is heard in varying degrees. It reflects the thoughts of the pensive Joey. Every good thing and bad thing that occur becomes fodder for song lyrics. A second viewing or so of the film will reveal the wonder of the song's creation. The beauty of using an original song is the audience doesn't have a clue on how the story ends. On the other hand, titles of Star Cinema movie themes are clear giveaways.

Mike de Leon is a scion of Narcisa 'Sisang' de Leon, head of the LVN film studio. Doña Sisang, along with producer Mother Lily Monteverde, was recently featured in a book of top women in Asian film cinema. Monteverde's Regal Films is responsible for the slew of commercial hits such as the Shake Rattle and Roll films and also critically acclaimed movies such as Manila by Night, Scorpio Nights, and Sister Stella L. On the other hand, Doña Sisang's LVN Pictures is a defunct movie studio known for award-winning films such as Biyaya ng Lupa and Anak Dalita. The company ceased producing film in 1980. The studio's penultimate offering, Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising, is a collaboration of Doña Sisang's son Manny de Leon and his child Mike de Leon.

In an informal survey conducted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2009, Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising was chosen as the best Baguio film by most of the participating movie reviewers and film aficionados. The film's portrait of the city as clean, calm, cool, and romantic must be a big factor in its selection. A participant noted the film's ditching of the tendency to show tourist attractions.The other films mentioned include Bakit Yellow ang Gitna ng Bahaghari?, Dear Heart, and Baby Love. A strong contender but was not mentioned is Dinig Sana Kita. The latter and Baby Love dealt with love happening in the midst of camps in Baguio.

Baguio as a romance magnet? Hmmm, makapunta nga rin.

Original online posting in March 2011

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