Because this was a musical, initially, I was actually expecting and was ready to allow for this to be a little bit silly, a little too colorful, and to be a little too flamboyant. I was ready for this to have its flaws. But the movie eventually impressed me with how minimal the flaws are. Basically, it just tells how it is to live a life of an OFW; both the ups and the downs are exhibited well in such an artful interpretation.
The songs are brilliantly written, to the point that many of them would cause the hairs in my arms to stand up in such glee, and there were also times when they would make my eyes watery in such Filipino golden brown bravissimi. Both lyrics and music blend well in such powerful combinations. For me, it stands out with the scene where Ester (played by Dulce) and Amelia (Frencheska Farr) have a musical exchange, Dulce delivering a hair-raising musical speech about duties and bittersweet retirement from work. There is also a song about rats which has a familiar element of rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar style. And also there's that song, when translated in English, is about the deceitfulness of the moon's beauty; such song has lyrics that have a haunting uniqueness delivered in wondrous sorrow. There is also a song which counts the many Christmases these OFWs spent away from country and family, a surely memorable Christmas anthem for Filipinos working abroad.
Almost all the songs here have a memorable factor; excellent is such an understatement for such musical spectacle. The cast did absolutely well. Frencheska Farr is very much fitting for the role because she has that very "everyday Filipina" look. Her look in the movie was fittingly glamourless, it feels as if you could see how untouched by cosmetics she is, her simple looks makes her a convincing Filipino for just about anybody to relate to. The make-up and wardrobe also did a remarkable job in molding Amelia's look at various ages of her life (she indeed looked exactly as a teenager at one point and when looked like she's around the age of 30 at the later portion of the movie). Dulce, Julia Clarete, Liezl Batucan, Kalila Aguilos, Beverly Salviejo, and Melanie Dujonco were very charming in their roles as Amelia's OFW companions in the royal palace. Jhong Hilario and Sid Lucero also had important roles, but the film left me wanting for a longer, more significant male song (ala "Who Am I" from Les Miserables) and it also left me wanting for a villain song, because everybody in the movie seemed to have great chemistry. Even the extras that have minimal singing roles performed as good as the main characters. I was surprised that even the elderly women in a 3 second scene (weaving some native garments) are skillfully on cue. Song, dance, and cinema is a great formula for Pinoy artistry to indulge in.
The story was also well-written and tackles relevant aspects of the life of an OFW. The usual internal conflicts (jealousy, insecurities at work), relationships with foreigners, relationships in foreign lands, culture clash, how yayas (babysitters/caretakers) tend to culturally influence their alaga (child they take care), and the twists and turns in the story that seemed to be unpredictable at times.
Now for the very minimal flaws. There were a mere one or two scenes wherein which the transition felt a bit awkward. But what stood out as a downer for me is the ending part of the movie which lacked a sort of encore to close it up. Both story-wise and direction-wise, the movie seemed to not know how to end the thing. It just ended without a bang. I would have hoped for a grandiose epilogue song number, maybe an end that would look like the Les Miserables ending wherein all the characters including those who passed away emerge in spirit to sing a final song that formally ends the musical. Instead what we got was a sudden end credit sequence with a mediocre video from a song that does not involve any of the movie characters. Regardless of the same, the movie still remains a strong musical and a Filipino movie to be proud of.
I am upset that the local networks and media have not marketed this masterpiece of a movie the way it should. Not many movies like this come along that does pull up the reputation of Filipino cinema and it saddens me that there is no strong marketing campaign for this. Regardless of such, I am confident that this one will become a landmark in Philippine cinema. A true work of art that has the potential to please all its audiences as immensely possible. Without a doubt, a true obramaestra.
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