Cinemalaya 2011: GAYUMA Review



Gayuma (Pilgrim Lovers) is a film borne out of love and sheer dedication. Armed with a budget that is minuscule even if pitted against other independent productions, director Alvin Yapan and producer Alemberg Ang ventured on to mount a film based on one of Yapan's oldest stories, a concept developed and evolved from an exercise among literary comrades in college who dared each other to come up with a story that ends with the sentence "I love you." The result is evidently imperfect. However, despite its obvious imperfections, the film perseveres with the strength of its story, making it a testament to Yapan's boundless imagination.

 

In a parochial Bicol town, a statue of the Sto Niño suddenly started talking and dancing, prompting the town's parish priest to visit to investigate and to exorcise from the statue whatever spirit that is haunting it. With him is Delfin (Kalil Almonte), his sacristan and assistant, who is advised by the verbose Sto Niño statue to concoct a love potion so that he can easily woo Carla (Mercedes Cabral), a rich girl who is already in love with another man, into leaving her man for him.

 

The film is divided into two parts. The first half focuses on Delfin who is enveloped by his longing for unreachable Carla and therefore takes the Sto Niño statue's advice to easily win the affections of the girl. The second half focuses on Carla. Carla, under the spell of Delfin's love potion, carries Delfin, who mysteriously fell in a coma, through fields, mountains and forests, to a pond that will cure Delfin of his affliction. The two parts are differentiated by mood and feel. With steady visuals, the first half establishes the traditionally masculine conviction and determination of Delfin in his pursuit for Carla's undivided attention. The second half, characterized by markedly jerky camera movements, visualizes Carla's stereotypically feminine confusion and uncertainty as she carries Delfin, inspired either by the sure effects of the love potion or true love.

 

Gayuma is ridden with details that pertain to certain agendas Yapan may or may not be that successful in fleshing out, like a certain extended scene with the gay beautician who fancies Delfin and an extraneous scene with certain rebels who rescue Carla from rapists in the forest (Yapan's commentaries as to how homosexuals and communist rebels, respectively, are being used in Philippine cinema). It also suffers from lacking polish that could have added a little bit more of dread in the earlier part or dreaminess in the middle part or danger in the latter part.

 

However, despite the immense gap between what Yapan wanted to say and his budgetary limitations, the film still manages to communicate the harsh complexities of love and loving within a story that is simple yet brimming with color and flourish. There is poignancy in Delfin's succumbing to ease of romance, and wickedness in Carla's torturous trek towards the healing pond to rescue the man he may or may not actually love. There are no blacks or whites, just damning greys in Yapan's peculiar love story. That "I love you" that was whispered in the film's final second trumps all the "I love you's" carelessly and emptily spoken, shouted, and written in other films I've seen before.


(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention)

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