Film Review: This is not your ordinary road trip — The magic of Cinemalaya’s Angkas

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Cinemalaya continues to break the noise with this year’s entries. Among the 11 full-length feature films in the competition is Rainerio Yamson II’s Angkas.

Unique in its theme, Angkas is a drama mixed with magical realism which heavily completed the gist of the story. Its use of magical elements filled in the gaps in an otherwise incomprehensible plot, but it also left the other parts of the story in want.

Joem Bascon plays the role of Leo, a habal-habal driver who earned the alias Hudas and is the delivery man and ambulance rider in Compostela Valley.


His story unfolds when a man approaches him to retrieve the body of Ditas (Meryll Soriano) in the mountains. To his wife’s dismay, Leo decided to accept the six-hour job, reasoning that it was for the money.

Before setting off on his journey, his estranged friend Miguel (Benjamin Alves) insisted on joining him as a reunion of sorts. It was relayed that Miguel left the province to pursue a better future in the city, and that Leo and Ditas would have ended up together had she not joined the rebels.

On their trip, Miguel succumbs to superstition fuelled by oral stories from his childhood, and the belief that they were being enchanted. In one scene, he saw two women bathing in the river who beckoned him to come to them, and upon diving into the water, he saw gold deposits which he took and almost drowned him. During his near-death experience, Miguel experiences a flashback with Ditas where it was revealed that he was the driving force that convinced Ditas that a revolution was the solution.

With heavy music scoring but effective in its silent moments, Angkas grips its audience with more than just the rumble of the motorcycle’s engine and sounds of the gunshot that pervade the mountains. It was a good call to have the cinematography done by the director as it showcases not just the beauty of the scenery but also the perspective of the characters.

It is also refreshing to see Mercedes Cabral back on the indie scene; she plays the part of Mila, Leo’s wife. Her portrayal of a woman experiencing unrequited love is far from the sizzling roles she became known for. Benjamin Alves gives a remarkable performance of a cowardly sidekick whose guilt ultimately made him make better decisions.

While outstanding in its merits, it’s worth questioning whether a film that can spurt out comments on how the president is the true rebel in this country can be produced by the same director who wants to humanize a dictator’s family. One of Angkas‘ producers is Darryl Yap, the director of Maid in Malacañang, who said in an interview, “I want humanity for the Marcoses. They’ve been projected to be monsters for the longest time.”

Former President Ferdinand Marcos is known for his dictatorial ruling over the Philippines; a period of political repression and violence. His son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos is the current president of the Philippines.

“There are times when we make wrong decisions in life, and we regret deciding on that particular choice. At the end of the day, we have no choice but to move forward and try to repair that mistake,” said the director, Rainerio Yamson II, during Cinemalaya.

Although inspired by a documentary, the film gives a different plot altogether with a flavor of drama delivered by Joem, Meryll, and Benjamin. As a whole, Angkas delivers a storyline of more than just friendship but life choices as well.

The film is a good watch for those who appreciate character-driven stories. Just the performance of the three main characters alone makes it worth a watch and their banter makes the movie easy to like, providing balance to the social issues it attempted to touch on.

Catch Angkas at the 18th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and select cinemas nationwide. 

adobo magazine is an official media partner of Cinemalaya. 

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