Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mano Po 5: Gua Ai Di (2006, Joel Lamangan)

There are still Chinese parents in the Philippines who strictly follow the tradition of pairing off their kids to fellow Chinese. The elders mean well when they keep up with tradition. They only want the best for the kids. But then, we hear stories of Chinese guys marrying Filipina girls. It might be because they have open-minded parents or they have enough courage to fight for their love. What is rare though is the case of a pure Chinese girl marrying a non-Chinese guy.

Mano Po 5 focuses on a forbidden love between a pure Chinese and a non-Chinese. Issues and problems of the Filipino-Chinese community have seen their fair share of screen time in Mother Lily Monteverde’s Mano Po films. While some of the films don’t deserve to be given the Filipino-Chinese slant, the fifth film of the series deals significantly with a uniquely Filipino-Chinese problem.

In this film, culinary student Charity Co (Angel Locsin) is unica hija of a pure Chinese couple. She gets fed up blind dating Chinese guys. One day, the beautiful lady catches the attention of a good-looking veterinarian at a mall. There is a spark that pushes the guy to chase the girl. In a contrived kilig moment, they even get to share an umbrella while rain pours. Soon enough, a montage features even more kilig moments for the couple.

Months pass before Charity gets the courage to present Filipino boyfriend Nathan (Richard Gutierrez) to her family. Nathan’s lack of Chinese ancestors is not only the obstacle that he has to hurdle. He is also born under the sign of Rooster, which in Chinese zodiac is not compatible with Charity’s animal sign Pig.

A bigger obstacle for Nathan is the return of Charity’s childhood friend, Timothy. The latter is well-known across Asia as singer Felix Yan. Successful, good-looking, and Chinese, he is the one that Charity’s mother Yolanda dreams of having as son-in-law. She cooks up a plan to get rid of Nathan.

The movie then follows the Star Cinema template for romance films. Boy and girl split up. Boy moves to a far away place. Time passes by. Boy returns and finds the girl still single. They reconcile. Happy ending… or is it happy ending only for box-office-focused producers such as Regal Films and Star Cinema?

Romance films are routinely made in our country. Several of them are generally well-made but the sad part is most romance films look the same. In order for romance films to really stand out they must have an interesting, intelligent storyline and should excel in most technical aspects of filmmaking.

Mother Lily Monteverde collaborated with several writers on the story of Mano Po 5. It is said that the Mano Po series shows autobiographical details of the Monteverde family. This film takes liberty with Mother Lily’s colorful romantic life. Mother Lily disobeyed her parents by marrying a non-traditionalist Chinese guy. Her parents disliked her husband because of his refusal to pay the dowry.

The film has a unique storyline but failed to show us why Chinese parents prefer Chinese partners for their kids. What is behind that tradition? Is it because of deep concern for a daughter’s future? Is it because of the dowry? Or is it something else? The script is also full of contrived situations. Several characters suddenly have a change of heart. I disliked the stereotyping of Yolanda, the mother of Charity who speaks in atrocious Tagalog. The film’s technical aspects are not something to brag about, too.

Films about the Filipino-Chinese experience have been wanting although I liked Chopsuey. This neglect may come to an end as Cinemalaya 2010 has Chinese-Filipino (Tsinoy) filmmaker Ian-Dean Loreñas as one of its finalist. His entry The Leaving deals with how Tsinoys confront the slow demise of their culture.


  1. Excellent, chinese people should learn a little about this and stop being so racist...
    I will shre this, thanks for share.

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