By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento
Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap
Directed by Marius Talampas
PERHAPS the MTRCB wasn’t in on the jokes between the wonderful ensemble cast and their brilliantly demented director and screenwriter Marius Talampas. That may have been why this puckishly politically incorrect feature got the R-16 rating which also effectively restricted its access to screens nationwide. When God closes off a cineplex, Mama Mary opens a cinematheque, and it is along the art house circuit that Mr. Talampas’ first full length feature has found its destination audience.
The film starts off with a gleefully tasteless, but ribaldry funny “Boy Bastos” anecdote told by farmers planting rice and having fun. For those of us steeped in Western pop culture, Boy Bastos, a trickster figure of contemporary Pinoy lore, would be the down and dirtier equivalent of the moron, or Hymie of classic Catskill standup comedy. If seeing farmers this way (not spouting quaint folksy wisdom, toiling away grimly, or suffering nobly) is a paradigm shift, the film’s premise of the feckless and futile quest by three bottom feeders from the fictitious Brgy. Husay, Tondo to win the respect of their community by becoming “hold-uppers” (robbers), is an insanely refreshing spin on the inspirational success story. There is also a father-son family drama between the revered master thief Ka Paeng (Pen Medina) and his half-wit son Eman (Pepe Herrera) who idolizes him, that is actually an earnest lesson in unconditional love.
The aforementioned farmers get entangled with the Tondo version of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, in a convoluted criminal heist which involves illegally fencing buried treasure and unlawfully cutting the government out of their find. This treasure which the farmers dug up, naughtily alludes to the popular souvenir, the wooden barrelman, and sends up the historical hoax of Datu Puti and the Ten Bornean Datus.
Mr. Talampas slaughters sacred cows. His 80-second Clio-award winning ad “Dr. Internet” features a lone Pepe Herrera impersonating the most irritating patients (no sympathies for any of them), as well as the smugly unempathetic physician. Mr. Herrera has been called the millennial Rene Requiestas, but his huge talent and wide range, as well as his high cheekbones and complete set of teeth, are more Dolphy. However, with Mr. Talampas as his writer-director, Mr. Herrera’s characters have much more nuanced complexity than Da King of Comedy’s. His star turn as Tolits in the PETA musicale Rak of Aegis set the benchmark for other Tolits to follow. One wishes that there was more for him to do in Ang Pangarap although his duet with the undercover policeman Nicoy (Paulo Contis) which sweetly savages L.A. Lopez (who was discovered by Dolphy) is wicked genius.
Unlike most comedies where one person gets laughs by insulting others, here our heroes bring it upon themselves simply by being who they are. That they are utterly simple in mind and at heart, is their problem. They are their own worst enemies. The three failed criminals are in such a state of arrested development that they even target children, their true peers, for their schoolbags and baon (pocket money). Toto (Jerald Napoles) hypnotizes himself instead of his intended schoolboy victim. Mr. Napoles relies a little too much on his Ilonggo intonation, punctuated with yudiputa’s (a corruption of hijo de puta or son of a whore), but he owns the movie’s final scene. There are also easy laughs about Carlo’s (Jelson Bay) short stature. His sly dig at Call Center English was spot on.
It seems that the MTRCB committee which rated the film, feared that its low life protagonists would influence the Filipino movie-going public to aspire to become petty criminals. They should be so lucky. Ang Pangarap’s Eman, Toto, and Carlo were content with having enough money to get their daily fix of isaw (a street food treat of barbecued chicken entrails). If only actual criminals, especially in the government, were as easily satisfied.
The film has shining points of ha! ha! funny but also dark reminders of the real-life horrors in the underbelly of Filipino society to which the film’s heroes belong: the farmers graphically threaten the prostitute Marga (Kate Alejandrino) for betraying them, and manhandle her; the local bad guy-usurer Badjao (Raffy Tejada) employs a thug known as Bulag (Dindo Arroyo) to gouge out the eyes of those who can’t pay their loans.
Comedy is hard. Perhaps given much more time and resources, Mr. Talampas might have come up with a tighter, wilder, and crazier film — without the harsh nasty, real life bits. He shines in his ads and in his shorts. There are many such bright spots here, such as when he uses Badjao and Bulag in a riff on his Yung Dilaw o Yung Puti short that was still funny. It worked.